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Tuesday, 10 October 1972
Page: 2309

Mr MacKELLAR (Warringah) - I was interested to hear the remarks of the honourable member for Kingston (Dr Gun). He talked about the situation in Papua New Guinea and brought to our attention some of the very real changes which will occur in this area of our immediate environment. I should like to extend the situation and talk about the South 'East Asian area. I believe that this area is probably the most exciting, in terms of changes and potential for the future, of any area in the world. In my view the opportunities are enormous and the difficulties are enormous, and I believe very sincerely that Australia has a very great part to play in the future organisation and the future happenings in this area.

There is no doubt that in the last 5 to 7 years the situation in South East Asia has changed dramatically. As we know, the British military presence in this area has diminished to a very great extent. The British are becoming very concerned with their entry into the European Common Market. Whilst their economic influence in our region remains very Strong there can be no argument, in my view, that the absolute military security which they once presented for us is no longer there. The United States, whilst filling the vacuum created by the withdrawal of Britain for some time, over the last few years has shown a marked change pf attitude towards its foreign policy. The Nixon doctrine, as we all know, placed a very much greater emphasis on the need for countries to maintain to a much greater extent the responsibility for their own defence.

I believe that the visit of President Nixon to Peking earlier this year in itself had a very great effect on the quickening pace of change in South East Asia. One of the areas in which it had a particular effect - the country in which it had perhaps the greatest effect - was Japan. Everybody is tremendously preocupied with China. There is no doubt that a country of more than 800 million people has a certain magnetic attraction. But let us not forget for a moment that we should not be deluded into thinking that China will become a great trading nation in the near future. This simply will not happen. Anybody who thinks that simply by recognising China Australia will avail itself of vast trading opportunities just does not know the facts. However, of course, the position of China is one of the imponderables in the area.

In this context I mention the effect President Nixon's visit had in helping to bring about to a much greater degree the emergence of China into the concert of nations. The effect on China was not as strong as it was on Japan. I regard Japan as a country to which everybody in the South East Asian area should look for all sorts of developments in the future. We can see these changes occurring very rapidly. The previous Prime Minister of Japan, in my view, retired prematurely following the visit of President Nixon to Peking. He was replaced, not in my view, by his chosen successor, but by the present Prime Minister of Japan who in my view has adopted a very different foreign policy for Japan.

We have seen already the very quick movements which have taken place between Japan and China. I noticed today a newspaper report which stated that the Japanese Parliament had doubled Japan's military expenditure. There is very little doubt in my mind that in the next 5 to 7 years Japan will devote an increasing proportion of its vast economic resources to military expenditure. This is not necessarily bad. J am particularly hopeful that Japan will play a much more significant part in the political life of the South East Asian area. I do not think that it is realistic to suppose that a nation should continue as an economic giant and a power pigmy. 1 think this situation must change.

The position of Russia, of course, is open to a lot of conjecture. I believe that the Indo-Russian entente will have a very great influence on the patterns of power shifts which will take place in our region. We can see that being offset to some extent by the Chinese relationship with Pakistan. Taiwan is a country which enjoys, to my mind, a somewhat peculiar situation. It is always dangerous to speculate about the future, but I see 2 possibilities. I do not see them really taking place until the present situation of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek resolves itself. I think Taiwan under his successor will be a very different place. It could move gradually towards incorporation within China or alternatively the Taiwanese - as opposed to the Chinese on Taiwan - could assert their independence and say that they have no particular wish 10 become absorbed within China and in fact could work towards becoming an independent nation. These, very briefly of course, are some of the imponderables in our region at the moment.

One might ask what this has to do with Australia. We are here and I think that our background and our present economic and political stability place us in a very real position of influence simply because we do not have a history of violent antipathy towards any of the groupings within this area of the world. We do not have the history of conflict that exists between various of the groups within South East Asia. That has put us in a peculiarly strong position. I believe that we can and should utilise this unique position to act as an honest broker, as a trusted ally, as a country that has a very real interest in strengthening and preserving the economic and political stability of the region. It is only through the preservation and strengthening of the economic and political stability of the region that real progress can be made.

In the time available I want to mention briefly something that has occurred over the last 2 days which I believe has not been stressed sufficiently. I refer to the agreement reached between Australia and Indonesia with respect to the sea boundaries between the 2 countries. It is surprising that the media have not placed a greater emphasis on what I regard as a truly historic decision achieved with a minimum of rancour. Who could possibly have expected this as little as 7 years ago. It is a very real tribute to the officers of the various departments who have taken part in the negotiations and it is a very real tribute to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen) and to Australia as a whole that this decision has been made. Similar decisions have been the cause of major international conflicts particularly in respect of sea boundaries. Today sea boundaries have assumed even greater importance because of the doubts and the unresolved questions about sovereignty over sea beds. I think that the officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Minister deserve the highest possible credit and the highest possible praise for making what I regard as a very major breakthrough in terms of settling possible areas of dispute between Indonesia and ourselves.

The CHAIRMAN - Order- The honourable member's time has expired.

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