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Tuesday, 19 February 1980
Page: 61


Mr UREN (Reid) - If people care to examine our statements over the years they will find a basic consistency of position. It is one which is held not only by me but also by the majority of the progressive thinking people in this country. Whether it has been the Soviet Union's invasion of Czechoslovakia, the United States of America's military involvement in Vietnam, Indonesia's military takeover of East Timor, or any other intervention of a foreign power in the affairs of another nation, we have stood firm in defence of the rights of people to selfdetermination within their own borders free from external interference. I assert that principle now in relation to the events in Afghanistan.

No nation, and especially a major power, has the right to impose its own interests on another nation, whether by political, economic or military means. Each time there has been such an intervention, a variety of reasons has been put forward in an attempt to justify the actions of the aggressor. Of course, every situation is unique, but when the excuses are washed away one fact remains: The rights of a people to selfdetermination have been violated. The aggressor has then to contend with inevitable resistance and the struggle of the people who have been invaded. In Afghanistan, with its rugged terrain and complex history of tribal, religious and colonial conflict, it seems to me that the Soviet Union will suffer long a drain on its human and physical resources if it continues its present military occupation.

The background to the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan is complex, though it has been oversimplified and distorted by those who seek to exploit the present situation for their own narrow interests. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) are two such people. Those interests include an opportunistic attempt by the Australian Government to distract attention from the severe economic problems faced by a great many Australians as a result of the Government 's priorities, in spite of what the Prime Minister says, the majority of people see through the shallowness of this Government's hypocritical stance in an election year.

The Prime Minister has said that the Soviet Union's action in Afghanistan is 'an act of aggression' which has as its objective the penetration of the Persian Gulf, the control of Western oil supplies, the domination of the Indian Ocean and the precipitation of a third world war. Might I question that assumption? There is scant evidence to support this view. We know that, prior to the drawing up of the existing borders there was a long history of tribal and religious conflict in the western Asian region, It might be argued, though in my view it is not defensible, that the Soviet leadership would have become concerned about the implications for stability along its borders of the growing disturbances among this population.

In answer to the charge by the Prime Minister and the honourable member for Lilley concerning the thrust of the Soviet Union into the Persian Gulf, I suggest that the Soviet Union has no apparent need to gain access to the oil supplies of the Persian Gulf. The Soviet Union exports energy resources equivalent to 35 per cent of the United States daily imports. Western Europe imports from the Soviet Union oil, natural gas, coal and electric power. If the aim of the Soviet Union were to disrupt the Western economy it would have been more effective for it to cut back on these exports- I stress that- than to provoke this strong reaction by military expansionism into Afghanistan.

The Australian Prime Minister has said that the Soviet forces had removed Amin to install a Marxist leader, Karmal, as the puppet of the Soviet leadership. Both Amin and Karmal were leading Marxists and members of the People's Democratic Party, which was the controlling party in Afghanistan. Karmal was the leader of a Pacham faction that followed a policy of broad alliance. Both were members of the Afghan elite. Amin, first as Premier under Taraki and later as President, pursued what is generally recognised as a ruthless and sectarian line. He alienated the majority of the population of Afghanistan, especially the conservative Moslems. He was unable to maintain order in Afghanistan. In the second half of 1979, 80 per cent of the territory was considered uncontrollable. Karmal 's present policies are based on respect for lslam, for the family, for the principle of private ownership and for the political, economic and social rights of the people. To be sure, the Soviet Union was protecting its own interests in supporting the policies of Karmal.

At the same time it could be asserted that his approach seemed more likely to resolve the internal conflicts and to promote stability than the approach taken by the then President, Amin- a sectarian and ruthless leader- whom our Prime Minister strongly supports. But while the Soviet military presence is maintained Karmal 's ability to reach a new settlement is jeopardised and, I believe, is very questionable. I do not make these points in any attempt to justify the Soviet action in Afghanistan. I merely want to point out how misleading is the hysteria that the Australian Government is actively whipping up on, I might say, very false assumptions. This hysteria is extremely dangerous. There are only a few governments on the world scene at present which are as active as the Australian Government and the United States Government in promoting this aggressive role. We have to ask why they are doing it?

There are two apparent effects on the Australian people. Firstly, the commitment to a higher level of military spending will be paid for by the ordinary Australian people. The majority, who have already suffered major cut-backs in social services and in the social wage, will suffer even more because of this action by the Government. The funds that could be spent on improved living standards, on better social services and on a more humane living environment will be transferred to the overseas corporate sector which controls the military-industrial complex. Secondly, the cold war mentality that is being promoted by the actions of the Australian Government is furthering conditions that will intimidate those progressive people, those unionists, who oppose the economic and social policies of the Fraser Government.

Since 1975 we have seen this Government build up an armoury of repressive civil and industrial legislation. The attitudes that it is expressing at present indicate that we may see more of this type of legislation and a renewed effort to use it. It has been used not only by the Fraser Government but also by many State governments. In Australia we have a tragic history of discrimination on political grounds. All that was achieved formerly was a polarisation in the community. That polarisation was used as a divide and rule tactic of social control. These are the responses of a government that is presiding over a major restructuring of the Australian economy which is causing long term problems of unemployment, population dislocation, segregation and inequality. These are the attitudes of a government that is not prepared to address the problems aggravated by its policies in the areas of taxation, wage levels, funding of social programs and the protection of our environment.

But there are broader reasons which concern the corporate sector in the United States even more than they concern the ruling elite in Australia. In recent years the United States has lost the political and economic leadership that it developed after the Second World War because the economies of West Germany and Japan have stolen the lead from the United States in technology production and in other key sectors. Within the United States there are elements which are struggling to regain the leadership which the United States has lost by making opportunities for the expansion of the armament industries in which the United States is still the major leader in the Western world. The competition for oil in the Persian Gulf is more intense among those Western nations- I stress this- than between the Soviet Union and the United States. We should recall that the two previous World Wars were caused fundamentally by economic rivalries between nations competing for access to resources and to markets. Surely the honourable member for Lilley, who made those charges, should understand that. He is one who should understand that situation. The Soviet Union has a trading relationship with Western Europe and is not trying to cut off energy supplies to Western Europe. That is the falsity of his whole argument about this so-called thrust to cut off the West's oil supplies from the Persian Gulf. The United States has lost not only economic power but also its credibility as the major military power has been reduced. The United States suffered an enormous defeat in Vietnam. After that long war, which bled it for so long, it was humiliated in Iran. Surely the humiliation that is going on now gives honourable members some understanding. The United States now needs to rally back its allies to regain its former political leadership and military credibility. For some time there has been a group within the United States attempting to adopt a hard and aggressive military posture. The great tragedy of this whole issue is that the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan has provided this hard line group with an opportunity to come to the forefront and has given it the necessary ammunition. That is a sad action.

Frankly, I condemn the Soviet Union's action, as I condemn the militarists who are trying to build it up to another world war. They are now advocating a rearmament-led recovery as a solution to the economic problems of the United States and of the Western nations in general. They view the expansion of one military production section as a means for the United States to reassert its political, economic and military leadership. The United States President, regrettably, is too willing in an election year to adopt this high risk strategy. It is a highly dangerous strategy. I warn all honourable members of this House that the stability of western Asia is threatened by United States military aid to Pakistan, for example, where a dictatorial military regime maintains control through the oppression of the people. Renewed hostility between India and Pakistan may be caused. The rearmament strategy threatens an end to detente and greatly increases the risk of nuclear war. It is deeply disturbing that the Fraser Government is willing to supply Australian uranium to fuel nuclear reactors in the unstable regions of the Middle East and Asia, with possible diversion to nuclear weapons production. The Australian Government is now intent on increasing military spending in a way which will integrate Australia even more into the United States global military strategy. We are already too deeply involved in preparation for nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile warfare.

Let me turn briefly to the defence of Australia. I believe that the Australian people should feel secure and we must prepare ourselves for that security. I am not advocating military rearmament. Military re-armament threatens the security not only of Australian people but of all people. The Australian people must have the right to adequate security, especially within the volatile region of the Pacific basin. We should consider the regional insecurity that lies to the north, particularly in countries such as Indonesia. The Indonesian militarists have already shown by their ruthless military takeover of East Timor that they have expansionary interests in our region. At present it is impractical to believe that Australia can be totally self-reliant in terms of defence. But it is also dangerous to lock our defence system into a dependence on one foreign military ally alone. We need to develop a defence system appropriate to Australia's conditions. In particular we need to stress coastal and land defence. For that we need a viable, selfsufficient ship building industry and a motor vehicle industry for the production of rolling mill stock. We need an electronics industry. We need a wide diversity of basic industry to support our defence program.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.







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