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Thursday, 21 February 1980
Page: 251


Mr HOWE (Batman) - I am sure that the House is not going to be persuaded by the kind of rhetoric that we have just heard from the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott). The Government, as we are well aware, is guilty of hypocrisy in terms of this issue. It is, under the guise of rhetoric concerning the Olympic Games, in fact bringing about a major change in Australian foreign policy. Rather than debating that change which is being brought about in serious terms, the Government continues to want to debate the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games are not central. Certainly, they are not central to a government which began by talking about major sanctions and which has progressively reduced those sanctions so that now all it has left to talk about is discrimination against the young people of Australia. As the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) said earlier this afternoon, this Government has a great history of discriminating against the youth of Australia, particularly, we remember, in the Vietnam War.

In my view the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has not presented a convincing case to support his assertion that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which every member of this House condemns, represents in any sense the most serious crisis in international relations since the Second World War. After all, his speech contained no serious assessment of the history of international relations in that period. Instead, it contained a rather one-sided assessment of selective Soviet actions. Indeed, it provided no assessment of the past directions of Australian foreign policy. Furthermore, it is quite clear that Afghanistan, while being an important nation within western Asia, is a nation with which Australia has never had anything more than distant relations. In the 30 years to 1979 we contributed by way of foreign aid the great amount of $3m. We have never maintained an embassy in Kabul. By contrast, Afghanistan is a country which has shared a common border with the Soviet Union and with which the Soviet Union has had the closest relations since the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1917. From the point of view of the United States, Afghanistan has not represented a country of major importance. Indeed, there is evidence that the United States for some time has been prepared to accept that it is a country within the area of Soviet influence and that since 1978 it has been very close to being a Soviet satellite. It can then be argued that on the basis of broad strategic considerations, which are, after all, quite central to the Prime Minister's approach, until the last two weeks Afghanistan has not been a matter of any concern, let alone the gravest concern.

It is for these reasons that this debate has centred on the question of the most appropriate response to events in Afghanistan rather than on the history of that country and/or on the reasons for Soviet intervention late last year. President Carter and Prime Minister Fraser are interested -apart from their interests in re-election- in global political power relations, comparative strategic strengths between the West and the Soviet Union and the question of oil. They are not and cannot be seen to be fighting for the interests of the Afghanistan people. To suggest that anyone on the Government side is really seriously concerned about that is just so much hypocrisy. In my view this perspective, whilst important and arguable, has nevertheless clouded the serious regional and national considerations which are important in western Asia. The Prime Minister, for example, does not take as a matter of prime importance the Islamic movement, whether in terms of the internal crisis which was developing in Afghanistan or in terms of its implications for the western Asian region, including the Soviet Union itself. Nor is he concerned to mention the ethnic and linguistic diversity of the area with its accompanying tendency for loyalties to transcend national boundaries, including the Moslem people in the southern areas of the Soviet Union.

Nor did his speech give serious consideration to the relationships which have existed and which may exist in the future between neighbouring states such as Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India. I submit that the reason for this is that the Prime Minister is primarily concerned with an outdated balance of power theory which still tends to see the world primarily divided between the Soviet Union and the United States with all other relationships forming a sub-set of those dominant relationships. However, the difficulty of achieving any kind of unified response to the events in Afghanistan flows from the fact that there is greater and greater fragmentation in those great power blocs and more and more willingness on the part of nations to determine their policies in consultation with groupings which have increasingly cut across the simplicities of those great power bloc theories.

Thus in determining a response to an event such as the invasion of Afghanistan one has to consider more and more what those nations think is important to any particular country. I believe that it is then significant in Australia's case that the Prime Minister went west to the United States and Europe whereas the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) travelled north and east to consult the nations in our region. I believe that that indicates the complexity of Australian foreign policy. It also indicates alternative directions which our policies might take. I would submit that whereas the Prime Minister went the way of Menzies and Holt, the Foreign Minister went the way of Whitlam, who recognised that in the final analysis, the future of this country depends and will depend more and more on our relationships with the countries of South East Asia and the Pacific. The reality is that the Prime Minister went on his tour largely for reasons of selfaggrandisement rather than on the basis of any special obligations we may have had in the western Asian region. We have no treaties in this region and it is quite clear that the ANZUS pact has never been understood to refer to it.

There has been no demand from the countries of our region for a regional response to the events in western Asia and no endorsement was given to Australia to play a leading role on the part of the region. Indeed, as the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) and others have suggested there is clear evidence that the countries in our region are much more concerned about the situation in Kampuchea and its implications for them than they are about the implications of Soviet actions in Afghanistan. This does not mean that they are not prepared to condemn the Soviet invasion. What it means is that their response will be necessarily limited. In this sense Australia has differed from other countries in our region. We have had our Prime Minister and our Foreign Minister dashing around the world, the Prime Minister presumably making commitments for a very substantial response, when if anything the consensus of our neighbours is that the response should be quite limited. It is this which gives rise to charges of hypocrisy, charges which after all are not new when it comes to Australia, when one thinks in terms of actions in our region. For example, while we offered tremendous moral support to the United States in Vietnam- the United States spent billions of dollars and lost tens of thousands of soldiers- we committed a meagre three battalions. It would seem to me, with the greatest of respect, that the Prime Minister of this country knows little or is pursuing a course which is much more appropriate to great powers such as the United States, Britain or France but which is quite inappropriate to a medium and small sized power such as Australia.

Since the beginning of January the Prime Minister has been retreating on bis commitments and in the end this must be recognised overseas. Furthermore, he is allowing Australia to share responsibilities in western Asia which may in the end prove to be disastrous for that region.

I wish to refer particularly to the commitments that have been made by the United States to President Zia's regime in Pakistan. Perhaps the most serious response from the United States has been its commitment to provide massive military assistance to Pakistan. This, not the Olympic Games, is likely to become the centre of the real foreign affairs debate. The United States initially offered to President Zia $400m to purchase arms which President Zia described as chicken feed. Negotiations are currently continuing about the level and type of aid, which are unlikely to result in less than what was initially offered. Given the sympathetic interest of Saudi Arabia, with whom there are religious links, it may be very much larger.

Massive military aid to Pakistan is inevitably controversial for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the' nature of the regime which President Carter is- planning to support. As Tariq Ali pointed out in. the Guardian on 20 January 1980, it is not exactly a free world bastion. Indeed, there were world wide protests only last year when General Zia executed the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr Bhutto. Furthermore, the Government led by General Zia, which came to power in a coup in 1977, has operated a military dictatorship since, postponing promised elections on four occasions, the most recent being in October 1979 when they were postponed indefinitely. The regime has no widespread support among the masses, by comparison with the former Government based on the Pakistan People's Party, which has continued to receive widespread support in each of the four provinces. There is continuing opposition to the government from the Pakistan People's Party despite the gaoling of its leadership, including the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Bhutto's family. There is also continuing opposition from the important ethnic groupings; that is, the Pathans, the Baluchis, and the Sindhis, all of whom are extremely critical of the army, which is regarded by the Baluchis in particular as an army of occupation.

It would appear once again, despite the historical lessons that should by now have been learned, that President Carter, with the support of the Australian Prime Minister, is about to provide massive backing for an unpopular military regime which represents the most reactionary forces in his country. We are inevitably reminded of earlier United States support for successive governments of Vietnam. As Renouf has pointed out Eisenhower initially sought to link military aid to South Vietnam to social and economic reforms after the accession to leadership by President Diem in 1954. However, despite Diem's resistance to the substance, if not the spirit of reforms, the United States in February 1955 committed itself to continued and expanded aid.

It would appear that President Carter, confronted with the need to secure re-election, has similarly decided to jettison his earlier public commitment to human rights for the sake of short term political gains. This problem will not even arise in the case of our own Prime Minister who has never displayed a superficial commitment to such human rights, as is evidenced by bis ignoring of the genocide of the East Timorese people at the hands of the Indonesians and the repressive acts of most of the governments with which he is advocating closer economic and political ties; for example, the Park regime in South Korea and its successor, the Philippines and President Marcos. The prinicipal argument which could be used to question the United States strategic response to events in Pakistan flows not from the internal instability of the Zia regime, but from the heightened instability and potential conflict which might occur in a region where the boundaries of four major powers intersect, the Soviet Union, China, Pakistan and India.

The United States response to events in Afghanistan appears to be devised without effective consideration of these dangers. Indeed she appears to be insensitive to simply what is involved in disturbing the delicate relationships which currently exist between Pakistan and her much larger neighbour, India. The possible consequences of this destabilisation could include the following: We could have the end of the restrictions in terms of non-proliferation policies and the further development of nuclear facilities in both countries, including the development of nuclear weapons; the use of Western supplied arms by President Zia against Baluchi, Pathan and Sindhi minorities as well as their possible deployment in Afghanistan; the indefinite extension of military rule in that country. So much for 'the free world'. There could be a redirection of resources away from social and economic development programs in both India and Pakistan, despite the incredibly low standard of living of both countries; the further development of antipathy to the West and the United States and her allies as a result of what would be seen to be in the region her continuing support for reactionary forces. This, in my view, is the inevitable result of a policy which focusses on large scale military support for what is little more than a fascist regime which will result in increased tension between the two major countries in middle Asia.

If one looks at the history of the Australian foreign policy it is in the first instance a history of dependence upon other great powers. In particular it has been a history of dependence on the United States. We have been drawn in our great willingness to rush across the world providing support, into supporting those policies, which have been almost invariably insensitive to the domestic, national and regional considerations that are involved in a particular situation. We are being inevitably drawn, at the present time, I would submit, into a situation in western Asia which will make the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan seem like a very minor event indeed. Considerable countries with massive populations with annual per capita incomes of little more than $100 per annum are being drawn into a situation where massive Western armaments and technology can be used to promote war either internally within those countries or between countries.

It is this insensitivity to the social fabric of South East Asia which has been a characteristic of Australian governments and Australian foreign policy for so long. In the brief period of the Whitlam Government there was a shift of direction and the Government did attempt to understand in a different way and come to terms with relationships in the region so that we could begin to understand what is happening in a country like Indonesia and what that meant for us in our long term security. One hoped that that would be continued. The reality is that we are turning away from our region to greater dependence on the United States. We are being drawn into a rearmament program which must mean massive diversion of resources away from the developing countries of the world and which the Third World cannot possibly in the long run support. The Prime Minister who has postured so much about relationships with the Third World in fact is sacrificing those relationships for the sake of a domestic election in Australia and for the protection of the United States.







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