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Tuesday, 19 February 1980
Page: 38

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) (Minister for Trade and Resources) - At a time when the world is shaken by the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, when Western countries and nonaligned countries all realise that this is part of the Marxist philosophy towards world domination, we have the Labor Party in this country trying to capitalise on the situation. I had hoped that we could have a bipartisan approach on such a serious international issue; but all we have had from the Labor Party are destructive comments aimed at trying to embarrass the Government over actions which it is taking to build up the will and resistance of the free world to this continual aggression and brutality that we are seeing from the Soviet Union. Indeed, after listening to the rhetoric of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) today, he seemed much more comfortable and at home finding reasons to justify the Soviet Union's action and for finding reasons to criticise other people around the world.

The whole focus of attention should be on this aggression in Afghanistan and the intentions of the Soviet Union in pursuing its international domination. As I listen to the lexicon of phrases that are being poured out here today I shudder when I recall those days of Vietnam. Exactly the same sort of thing was going on then. Yet today, look at the misery, look at the flow of refugees which is being caused by that aggression of North Vietnam. Who was that aggression sponsored and supported by? It was sponsored and supported by none other than the Soviet Union. Today it is supporting the same cause. Yet the Labor Party seems to take pleasure in being able to take the same sort of line in relation to Afghanistan.

The words which have come from the Opposition today show one thing very clearly- that the Labor Party is an absolutely bankrupt party. It is bankrupt of ideas, it is bankrupt of morality and it is bankrupt of courage. Indeed, the only positive statement that came out of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition today was that a more independent stance should be taken by Australia that we should integrate more with the

South East Asian countries and that our response should be one of reasonableness and firmness. That is the only positive statement that came out of his speech. His speech contained virtually no ideas other than carping criticism of every action the Government takes. There has been stronger condemnation of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan by the socialist parties, and indeed by communist parties, of Europe than we have seen from the Australian Labor Party. The Leader of the Opposition has not made one concrete proposal aimed at driving home the free world's protest against the Soviet's invasion of Afghanistan. He has tried to undermine every action that this Government has taken, and indeed, every action that, the governments of the United States and other countries have taken, to try to drive home their protest. Instead of a stand on the invasion of Afghanistan which would have demonstrated the Labor Party's commitment to fighting oppression, it has made only wishy-washy criticism of the Soviet invasion. The Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues have shied away nervously from taking any action whatsoever. They have condemned the most telling single blow of a non-military nature that the free world could strike at the Soviets; that is, an Olympic boycott.

Instead of showing political courage, the Labor Party has unveiled a shabby, counterfeit policy- a policy of hypocrisy and political opportunism. This counterfeit policy opposes the most effective action Australia could take against the Soviet Union, and even attempts to sabotage it. This policy is Bill's 10c collection. The Opposition seeks to buy a few votes by criticising the Government for not imposing trade bans, while at the same time saying that such bans would not work. Mr Deputy Speaker, I understand that in view of the current internal problems within the Labor Party it would be hard for it to have any consistent policy whatsoever. However, I believe that its counterfeit policy ought to be exposed. The Labor Party has been a major force in the politics of this country for a century but now it seems to pride itself on whinging and complaining, on opposing anything and everything the Government does just for the sake of opposition. Today, with all this rhetoric, what did we hear? We heard more abuse of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) than any analytical discussion of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The Labor Party's response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is counterfeit and cowardly. It ignores the deaths of thousands of people under the Soviet puppet regime in Afghanistan; it ignores the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from the Soviet invasion; it ignores Austrafia 's international responsibilities; and it ignores the current threat to world peace.

Let me go back to the start of the year when the extent and scale of the Soviet action in Afghanistan was becoming known to the world. On 4 January the Government announced that it was reviewing relations between Australia and the Soviet Union. A few days later the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) announced that he had directed that Australia participate in the urgent debate in the Union Nations Security Council on the invasion. In his statement in this debate the Australian representative, Mr David Anderson, said:

What we have witnessed over the past 10 days has been an intolerable and continuing act of interference by military force on the part of the Soviet Union in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.

He continued:

This action has greatly increased the already serious instability of the general region. It constitutes a dramatic and undisguised threat to international peace and security.

Those words were chosen well. The commitment behind them was echoed at the United Nations later in January when a vote of 104 countries to 18 called for the immediate withdrawal of Soviet troops and deplored the Soviet invasion. That was a most significant vote of international condemnation. Yet what do we hear from the Australian Labor Party? We hear qualified phrases all the time.

Mr Keating - We condemn it, too.

Mr ANTHONY -The honourable member for Blaxland, who is interjecting, saw the invasion almost as a Government plot. He told the annual conference of the Young Labor Movement in Sydney:

It is so far away from our area of interest and Australia is not threatened, so we should leave it to the big powers.

He went on:

It is extremely unlikely that the Soviet Union will attack Pakistan or Iran. After all, who would want Pakistan? Or for that matter, who would want Afghanistan?

The Leader of the Opposition was quoted in similar terms, saying that Afghanistan was many thousands of kilometres away from Australia. This impression of how serious a threat the invasion posed was quite clear. The contrast in the approaches by the Government and the Opposition was also quite clear. In mid-January the Government announced its response to the review of Soviet-Australian relations, which included a range of actions designed to demonstrate to Soviet leaders, in clear terms, that Australia was strongly opposed to the invasion. The Prime Minister also announced plans for a visit to the United States and Great Britain for talks on the Western world's response to the invasion- a visit which was widened to take in France and West Germany. Before the Prime Minister left Australia on this important mission, the Government decided to review exports of Australian raw materials to the Soviet Union. As events progressed and the significance of the Soviet invasion became clear even to the Australian Labor Party, its leaders were shamed into recognising how serious the Soviet threat was.

On 7 January the Leader of the Opposition issued a statement saying that the Russian intervention in Afghanistan deserved the strongest international censure. He said that in one paragraph of 28 words. The rest of his 10-paragraph statement criticised the Government. Forgetting that only a few days earlier he had been saying that Afghanistan was too far away to matter, he criticised this Government and that of the United States for not acting earlier to prevent the Soviet invasion. For that effort he was described by my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs as the candidate for the award of hypocrite of the decade. That is a judgment that I totally agree with. The Leader of the Opposition also sounded off a lot about trade embargoes. He said:

For Australia to announce a trade embargo on additional wheat sales to the USSR would be an empty gesture.

When the Prime Minister returned from his mission overseas the Government announced its decision to review raw material exports. I have said that the review took into account the current attitudes of other countries, including the United States, and the likely effects of any embargo on Australia and its effect on world markets. I would like to say a little more on that in a moment. Firstly, let me say that, given the attitude on trade embargoes already expressed by the Leader of the Opposition, I might have expected him to accept responsibly the decision we had made that there were no point in having an embargo on these raw materials as they were not considered strategic materials. Instead he brushed aside all that. The Labor Party's leaders went on with a cry of hypocrisy, scandal, and anything else that came into their mouths. The real hypocrisy and the real political cowardice lies with them and their inability to come to grips with the current world situation.

We have seen the same sort of thing happen over the issue of the Olympic Games boycott. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), on his return from overseas, said that it was important that the non-communist showed the Soviet Union that its behaviour would not be tolerated. Within a day or two- of course, he was pulled into line-we were told that the boycott was not a good idea. On 22 January the Leader of the Opposition said:

An effective boycott of the Moscow Olympics undoubtedly would be a major psychological weapon deployed against the Soviet Union.

Then on 13 February he said:

Persisting with a futile boycott will only serve to make Australia an absurdity among the sporting nations of the world.

I would suggest that the only absurdity here is the Leader of the Opposition. At a time of world concern over the intentions of the Soviet Union, the contrast between the approach to the issue by the Government and the Opposition cannot be better demonstrated than by looking at the actions of the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister. While the Leader of the Opposition issued reams of paper, condemning this and criticising that, the Prime Minister acted. By his actions he enhanced the standing and reputation of this country with our friends and allies. His talks in Washington, London, Paris and Bonn were an important part of the consultations among Western nations on a coherent response to the crisis cause by Afghanistan. The Prime Minister ensured that Australia's concern was made known to the leaders of the great powers and was able to communicate the views of European leaders to the President of the United States. He also gained, for Australia, first hand knowledge of the views of Western governments and their assessments of the Afghanistan situation.

I believe, as the Government believes, that the Prime Minister's talks with Western leaders were the most significant in such terms as this world crisis and regional security as there has been since the post-war years. The Prime Minister's statement has detailed and underlined a concern of fundamental importance to all Australians. The Australian Government has condemned the invasion as totally without justification and a violation of acceptable international standards of conduct.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order!The right honourable gentleman's time has expired.

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