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Wednesday, 27 February 1980
Page: 442


Mr COHEN (Robertson) -This is the most contemptible motion that I have ever seen proposed by the Government in the 1 1 years that I have been in this Parliament. Just before the suspension of the sitting we heard one Government supporter, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman), go very close to accusing honourable members on this side of the chamber of being traitors.


Mr Baillieu - Well, that is true.


Mr COHEN - Mr Deputy Speaker,I wonder whether you heard that interjection by the honourable member for La Trobe.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar -The Chair did hear the remark but could not identify its source. If the honourable member who made the remark acknowledges his fault I require him to stand and withdraw.


Mr Baillieu - I withdraw it.


Mr COHEN -The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has talked about having a bipartisan attitude on the question of Afghanistan. This debate has nothing to do with that whatsoever. It has a lot to do with the sort of headline that appeared in yesterday's Melbourne Age: Hayden Flays Fraser'. After yesterday's debate and the debacle of last week's debate it has been perfectly obvious to Government supporters that, in the public's view, they are losing this debate. Because a newspaper such as the Melbourne Age has come out and told the Australian people what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) did to the Prime Minister he has had today to find some way in which to rally the troops behind him. This is about squeezing the last drop of political blood out of Afghanistan. It is about dividing the nation and dividing the Parliament.

Earlier today the Leader of the House (Mr Viner) quoted the statements of a number of honourable members including my own. I would like to repeat what I said in the House last Wednesday. I will not read it all. I said in part:

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan the Australian Labor Party joined with the Government in condemning the outrageous interference and aggression towards that country.

I said further:

The aggression of the Soviet Union has served to remind us just what sort of country we are dealing with. It is a country in which basic human rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to strike, free elections and a free Press are totally denied to its people. It has not hesitated to use brutal military force, as it did against Hungary and Czechoslovakia when it felt that one of its satellites was taking an independent line. Honourable members should make no mistake about the Opposition's resolve toward the Soviet Union. We hold it in deep, full and abiding contempt. When this recent outrage by the Soviet Union occurred and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) called for embargoes and boycotts, our first reaction was that the Prime Minister really believed what he was saying about the Russians' aggression and was prepared to call upon all Australians to make sacrifices. Economic, cultural and sporting embargoes were to be imposed that would be shared equally by the Australian people.

What really has happened? I do not harbour any inflated views about Australia's position in the world. If ever that was brought home to me it was brought home on my recent trip to the United States. I was in Hawaii just before the Prime Minister arrived, and in Los Angeles just before he arrived. I went to Mexico and came back. He had just left. I went to Washington just after he had left and was back in San Francisco. The American people would not have had a clue that he was there. It is not because he is Mr Fraser, although that probably has something to do with it. No Australian Prime Minister would get much coverage in the United States, least of all this one. There was not a word in the media. One would not have known that we were in the country.

When I came back I read the Australian newspapers. One would have thought that only three national leaders in the world were considering the question of Afghanistan- President Carter, Mr Brezhnev and Prime Minister Fraser. What a laugh! We just do not rate. We are a very ordinary, middle order power. For our newspapers to present it in this way is, frankly, laughable. We now know that it was done for one reason and one reason only. This Prime Minister needed an issue in order to take the disastrous economic policies of this Government off the front pages.

The Prime Minister desperately needed a khaki election. The old faithful- foreign affairswas trotted out because it has been such a winner in the past. Government supporters said: 'Let us repeat the success of the 1950s and 1960s- of the Petrov affair; of the 1 963 election and the confrontation with Indonesia, in the course of which we had to rush out and buy all those Fill aircraft; of the 1 966 election; of Harold Holt and the Vietnam election; of the downward thrust of China, a people whom we now find are our staunchest friends and allies. How long ago was it that if a Labor Party member even went near China he was considered a traitor? Now Government supporters are falling over each other trying to rush there. They love the Chinese; they are wonderful people. Recently we had the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) doing a bit of kite flying for the Government. He was going to have six weeks conscription for every Australian. This is the last throw of the dice as the Government goes down the chute. Unemployment has reached 473,000, Inflation has reached 10 or 11 per cent. Interest rates are up again today. Car sales are down again today. The stock market is falling. For the last week we have been told what great economic managers this mob are. It is a joke.

During the debate last week we were fascinated to hear that unless we agreed that this was the greatest crisis since World War II we were traitors. What about the Berlin airlift? Was that a crisis that could have led to World War III? What about Hungary? Was that any different from this crisis? Was not Hungary just as bad? What about the Suez crisis of 1956? Could that not have brought about World War III? What about the Cuban missile crisis? We were told for days that the world teetered on the brink of war. In my view the Cuban missile crisis was a much worse crisis than is the present one. What about the Six-Day War of 1967? What about Czechoslovakia in 1968? What about the Yom Kippur War of 1 973? I will agree that the present crisis is one of a series that have occurred but to say that we are wrong when we do not agree with the Government that it is the only crisis is nothing short of absurd. It may be a debating point. We can argue the merits of each crisis, but the arguments that Government supporters put forward last week were patently ludicrous.

The whole crunch, the reason why honourable members on this side of the House are so critical of the Government, comes down to three things- wool, wheat and rutile. That is why the Australian people now hold the Government in complete contempt. It is happy to boycott the Olympics but not one cent will Government supporters give up from the pockets of its friends and business associates. They say: 'Oh, no; sell them wool, sell them wheat, sell them rutile'. Everyone is talking about wool, but I happen to think that rutile presents the worst case. From rutile comes titanium a low weight high strength material that is used in the construction of jet missiles and planes. Do Government supporters have any understanding of why the Australian people are swinging against them? If they cannot see it, God help them. I have talked about this matter to hundreds of people, most of whom are not Labor supporters. They say that the Government is off its rocker, is not fair dinkum. That is why the polls show that 70 per cent of the people do not agree with the Government's policy. Anyone who questions the gung-ho rhetoric of this Government on Afghanistan is now to be labelled as a traitor. That is what it amounts to.

Let me turn to the subject of the Olympic Games. It comes down to this: The only people to carry the can are the athletes. When the question was raised as to whether the athletes should get compensation for their efforts we were told; Steady, whoa back. We will give the wool growers, the wheat growers and the sand miners compensation if it comes to that, but not people such as young Peter Hadfield who spent $12,000 of his money, with his wife, last year in training'. He is about the fifth or sixth in the rankings of decathlon athletes in the world and has a great chance of taking out a gold medal for Australia. He did not even receive an Olympic Games grant, not even a miserable $2,500. 1 repeat, he is one of the finest athletes that this country has ever produced. Will the Government compensate the athletes for the time, effort and money they have expended? I repeat, last year Peter Hadfield spent $12,000 in Europe just to bring glory to this country. So far, the only major nations to withdraw from the Olympic Games have been the United States -


Mr Scholes - They haven't done it yet.


Mr COHEN - The honourable member for Corio is quite right. The United States Government has instructed that this be done and I think it may be sure that it will be. Other countries are China, Chile, Kenya -


Mr Ruddock - Saudi Arabia.


Mr COHEN -We have just had a brilliant interjection by the sporting spokesman for the electorate of Dundas. He referred to Saudi Arabia- a truly powerful sporting nation. I do not know very much about that country's sporting achievements.


Mr Bourchier - I am sorry to interrupt, but really the Leader of the Opposition did point out that it was not whether it was the major powers, as long as there was an effective boycott.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -The Honourable member for Bendigo must not engage in specious points of order or the Chair will be required to deal with him.


Mr COHEN -Let us look at the countries which have not yet withdrawn. I am talking about the big sporting nations. Great Britain has not withdrawn. Japan has not withdrawn. France has not withdrawn.


Mr Bourchier - It will.


Mr COHEN -I would not hold my breath about France withdrawing. I do not think that France has ever withdrawn from anything if there has been some advantage in it for France. Canada has not withdrawn. In fact the new Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, has indicated that he does not want Canada to withdraw. West Germany, the best sporting nation outside the United States has not withdrawn. Brazil and a whole range of countries have not withdrawn. Neither does the Australian Olympic Federation want to withdraw. So the chances of an Olympic boycott are virtually nil. I have not heard anybody mention in this debate the hypocrisy of the United States- I have the greatest respect for the United States- in continuing with the winter Olympics at Lake Placid while at the same time withdrawing from the Moscow Olympics. If the Americans really believe this was a matter of great international moment and if they want to punish the Russians, why did they not cancel the Games in their own country and say: 'It is off, we do not want the Russians or the East Germans?' They are the two most powerful winter sporting nations. They took 1 8 of the gold medals in the winter Olympics. No, that did not happen. The people of this country have a basic common sense and they have shown by their reaction to the behaviour of Government supporters that they regard them as a bunch of humbugs and a bunch of hypocrites. They are not terribly amused also by the performance of the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) and the rest of the Government in the coercion that is being used.


Mr Nixon - He made you look an idiot.


Mr COHEN - I hope he has a few more victories like that. We will walk into government next time. The Minister for Home Affairs said: There has been no coercion. They can go if they want to. We have just heavied the Commonwealth Bank to pull out $500,000. We have given them half a million dollars for the Olympic Games but we do not want them to spend it on the Olympic Games'. Recently in the House he said that there was only one organisation in this country responsible for foreign relations and that that was the Government. He said that if the Government did not want our Olympic Games team to go, he believed it would not go. If that is not heavying or coercion, I do not know what is.

There has been talk that Qantas Airways Ltd will not be allowed to fly our athletes to the

Games. There has been talk about sponsors being written to and being leaned on. All I know is what I read in the newspapers and there has been very strong evidence that this has occurred. Even if that has not occurred, all the other things I have said are certainly correct. We have reached the situation of absolute absurdity. As I said previously, the people hold the Government in contempt because of what it is saying. They will not swallow its cant and humbug when it says: 'Let the athletes be the ones who make the sacrifice', while it continues to sell wool, wheat andfutile to the Soviet Union.







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