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Tuesday, 4 March 1980
Page: 492


Senator BISHOP (South Australia) - Last Thursday, in a very brief introduction to my remarks in this debate, I mentioned the need for the Australian Government to commence taking new initiatives in respect of the Afghanistan issue because members of the Opposition and many other people considered that the debate surrounding the boycott of the Olympic Games was somewhat of a farce. While the Government is acting as it is in respect of major exports to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and while the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and people like him are able to export very valuable cargoes of wool and important minerals to the Soviet Union it is meaningless to argue that an effective boycott of the Olympic Games is the one action which will matter in supporting world opinion against the actions taken by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

I made it clear, as did other Labor members of the Opposition that almost universally members of the Australian Labor Party and the labour movement generally- that is, members of the trade union movement- condemned what the Soviet Union has done. There might be some exceptions, but certainly all Labor members of this Parliament and certainly members of almost all the unions affiliated with the Australian Council of Trade Unions have taken the view, as have other sensible people, that the occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union should be condemned. In condemning the Soviet Union, to some extent we have looked at the reasons for our doing so, which have been mentioned in the Prime Minister's speech. On Thursday I drew attention to matters which were glossed over by Government senators. I drew particular attention to the following reference by the Prime Minister at page 8 of his prepared speech:

The existence of the Soviet Union is a fact we have to live with. What these policies must do is to make it clear to the Soviet Union that if it persists in its occupation of Afghanistan or engages in any other expansionist moves the costs will be prohibitive.

But the Prime Minister made it clear that there should be no intention to humiliate or to outlaw the Soviet Union. Despite the great amount of propaganda which has surrounded this issue as a result of the election campaign of the President of the United States of America, it is clear that the United States Government is prepared quietly, almost secretly, to continue its conventional talks with the Soviet Union. At midday today a Press announcement was made which reinforces the view I have put forward. In the background information provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs we find reference to continuing talks between the Soviet Union and the United States. We know that the whole position has been coloured by President Carter's attempt to gain a clear majority over Senator Kennedy. That was latched on to by our Prime Minister, who seemed to think that the important role he played in Lusaka somehow could be copied if he got behind the American President. But the matter is not as simple as that. Everybody will recall that since this debate commenced there have been a lot of questions regarding whether the Government has taken the advice of its experts, of the professionals. We now know that the assessment from the Office of National Assessments was considered not to be the one upon which the Government should base its attitude. That fact has been revealed in the Press. The Prime Minister dismissed that assessment by saying: 'They are a complacent lot'. We know that a former American ambassador to the Soviet Union, Mr Kennan, has pointed out that great hysteria has been developing within the United States which was damaging to any logical debate on the situation of Russian intervention in Afghanistan. That remark should be repeated. In the Age of 1 4 February 1 980 Mr Kennan wrote:

A war atmosphere has been created. Discussions in Washington have been dominated by talks of American military responses- of the acquisition of bases and facilities, of the creation of a rapid-deployment force, of the cultivation of military ties with other countries all along Russia 's sensitive southern border.

We know today that Mr MacKellar has rebutted the proposition advanced by the Pentagon that the Australian Government should take part with US forces in a rapid deployment force. Fortunately the Australian position has been clarified. That sort of creation of doubt about the expertise, knowledge and professionalism of Mr

Carter and his advisers has been criticised by none other than our ambassador, Mr Parkinson. In a statement released by Laurie Oakes, Mr Parkinson made exactly the point that I am making, that there is some doubt within the American community as to whether the advice that President Carter has given in relation to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan is correct. People are now saying that instead of talking about a boycott of the Olympics we should be trying to follow the Indian and Albanian proposition that if we cannot succeed in getting a neutralised zone there should be non-aligned discussion.

Even though it is very difficult to interpret the Soviet Union's major statements, it is clear to me that there is room in Mr Brezhnev's recent pronouncements to indicate that some discussion should take place. That was the basis of the Socialist International point of view. The Prime Minister and the Government generally have applauded the value of Willy Brandt's defence of the western point of view and the attitude that he has taken in the past. Willy Brandt is a famous man. He was not just protesting against the occupation; he was proposing that the super powers and nations generally should take up where they left off and at some time or other reassess what had gone wrong. It is true to say that what has gone wrong with the Soviet position is not only its great concern regarding Western arrangements in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, but also about the United States Congress holding up the strategic arms limitations talks. But at sometime or other those talks will commence. Australia should be aware of that.

I believe the advice from the professionals. The Office of National Assessments has put this information to the Government and the Government has chosen not to follow it because the Prime Minister somehow or for some reason believes that the only effective action one can take is to boycott the Olympic Games. What happens after the Olympic Games? Our own athletes of course want to go to the Games. In the long run it would seem to me that there would be no stopping them. Some people will stay away. Generally speaking, what will the Government do when the Games are over? Does the Government think that in the arena of the Olympic Games a great political and international debate will take place? It is arguable as to whether a protest within Moscow would be effective. Both Senator Georges and I, who have visited the Soviet Union, have been asked questions on this matter and we have always taken an independent line. The Government should respect that independent line, lt is true, as the media have stated, that there are some restrictions placed on people within the Soviet Union. 1 believe that a news report today regarding Afghanistan shows that Russia is prepared to communicate with the Americans.

Honourable senators will remember that Rumania some weeks ago talked about the need to consider a neutral zone. That idea was instantly supported by the US President and the British Government, and it was floated amongst a number of their friendly neighbours to see to what extent it might be a purposeful debate. I am not sure of the Russian reaction and whether they are interested or not, but we know that Mrs Gandhi and the Government of Albania have had talks with the Soviet Union about a nonaligned Afghanistan. Of course the area is very complex and it is not as simple as proposing an Olympic ban. The area is something like Vietnam. One country is dependent upon the other. One cannot propose a solution for Afghanistan without reconciling the interests- of the Soviet Union, Iran, Pakistan and to some extent China.

It will be a very complex thing to set out to provide a vehicle for international discussion, as it was during the Vietnam war when Laos and Cambodia were involved in a necessary settlement. It would be more fruitful for the Government to talk about carrying out those initiatives, to talk to India and to the countries that are nearest Afghanistan which do not want to be too greatly disturbed by a servile attitude of the Australian Government. On the one hand the Australian Government is anxious to get completely alongside the United States but on the other hand it is looking properly at the experts in the area and trying to assume a role within the Asian area which will indicate that Australia is not tied to America 's apron strings and that it is prepared to work within the Association of South East Asian Nations countries to pursue a role which is, if not unaligned, certainly not servile to a major power.

That is the background as the Australian Labor Party sees it. Not only have people such as Lawrie Oakes and McKennan talked about this hysteria that has taken place in America, but also in Australia recently Dr Robert O'Neill, who is a specialist in the subject and who is presently the head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University- he was an intelligence officer in Vietnam in 1 967- said this:

A mad element has entered the strategic debate in Australia in the past two weeks. It is typified by calls Tor the reintroduction of national service, for the purging of intelligence staffs and defence analysts and for the immediate acquisition of equipment to deal with a Russian threat to Western Australia. Australia's role in the Western alliance is not a spectacular one, nor can it be. We do not need to distort existing defence plans to be able to perform our task. What we must do is to implement them.

Then he went on to add his criticism of previous governments not providing the funds for defence as had been promised. So we have a situation where not only the socialist movement throughout the world including the Labor Party in Australia but also most of the intelligence sources of most Western countries would like to see some solution. They do not see the solution as being simply a protest about the Olympics. They see rather the necessity for setting a platform to get the Soviet Union and the United States and other people concerned talking again about the important things. The intelligence base of the Government's policies has been debated along the lines that I have mentioned, and it has been queried. On the other side of the Senate, Senator Sim and Senator Knight created something like the same sort of atmosphere and they gave the same sort of interpretation about which I am speaking. Their considerations were quite different from those which the Government seems to be hanging on to. This is certainly so in the debates in the other place and to some extent this applies to the debates in this place. We should ask ourselves what will be more worthwhile? Will it be a situation where we will let the athletes decide the question as to whether they will go to the Games, because it is clear that many of them will leave Australia? They should not be impeded by the Government. We should decide whether we will accept the expert advice of the professionals who are employed by the Parliament and by the Government and see to what extent we can start to support new moves. I believe the move that was mentioned last week has been rejected by the ruling group in Afghanistan. The neutrality zone might be difficult to achieve. But at least the matter could be discussed. I am sure that if we could confer with India and other nations, including the British Government, we could find that we would be able to support some new moves. Having done that, having decided that option, we should speak about it. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), instead of wasting his time talking about a boycott and refuting the claims of the unions and the Labor Party that his wool is going to the Soviet Union, should take up the issue about which I have spoken.

One of the things that the debate has done, I suppose, has been to reactivate the general discussion in relation to defence in this country. Before I conclude, I make one point. The sorts of things that we on this side have been talking about- myself in particular, and those of us comprising the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence- relate to the need for Australia to develop an industrial capacity which will stand us, and the peace loving people of the world, in good stead in case of either a minor or major conflict. I draw to the attention of the Senate, as did Senator Kilgariff in a small way, the recommendations which were made in the two reports submitted, by that Committee. Senator Hamer, our colleague on the other side of the chamber, was the chairman of a committee in 1 977, and I was his deputy, which drew attention to these matters. At that time not much notice was taken of its recommendations. A report was put before the Government. An answer was requested from the Government, but it took a long time before the Government agreed that a response would be given to reports within six months. I suppose the only result which has come from that report has been an awareness in industry generally. This report has been supported by two recent meetings of people in industry. 1 refer to the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures and the metal industries group which met the Prime Minister and other Ministers last week. For many months the Victorian group has been advocating that there should be a new deal in relation to defence equipment with participation or co-partnership by Australian industry. In a general way we know that our defence industries in Australia have been allowed to run down. But there is a passing interest in some areas. I certainly acknowledge what has been done with regard to the replenishment vessel which has been approved. Based upon an agreement with the trade unions, which were asked for their views and support for the program, this vessel is to be built in Australia.

I should like to refer to the rejection of the proposals for ship building at the Newcastle and Whyalla shipyards, which Senator Hamer will well remember. I think we commenced our inquiries in 1977. We proposed that there should be a package deal worked out with the trade unions. That suggestion was rejected. We had evidence from the unions. They later responded to the New South Wales Government in the way that I have indicated in relation to more recent vessel production. I think that at this stage that project ought to be re-examined to see to what extent our shipbuilding capacity within

Australia, and in particular in my State of South Australia, might be given a new birth, with a new attitude being adopted by the Government. It is true that this matter has reactivated discussion and the Prime Minister has said a number of favourable things. But I am dubious as to whether the comments made in his statement will ever be carried out. At page 1 7 of the document given to us, the Prime Minister said:

There will need to be increased civilian manpower not only in defence but also in our Government factories and dockyards.

It is likely that in the purchases which will be made in the future, the policies of the Government and its supporting departmental officers, will be similar to those adopted by the groups which went overseas previously. In almost all cases, with the exception of some civilian aviation work, not sufficient co-production policies were demanded from the supplier country. That situation should be changed. In relation to the equipment we are buying we should insist that there should be active participation by Australian industry. Where possible we should be required to make a part of the vehicle, a part of the aircraft or a part of the vessel. If this does not occur it is true that our capacity will decline. The evidence given to the Committee about which I am speaking, and to the second Committee which was chaired by Mr Katter, from all industry groups was almost the same. In particular, the electronic group said unanimously that it was getting a decreasing amount of work in its area.

Over the years defence statements have said something about the need to keep a minimum capacity in the country. That statement has been repeated year after year. The defence programs which are supposed to have been expanded are largely old programs brought up to date. But it is clear from any sort of evidence that this is the position. If we talk to employers, to industry, to the Government Aircraft Factories, or to the Hawker Siddeley company, we find that they tell us the same thing, namely, that if we do not shake ourselves up, we will lose that necessary expertise. What better defence is there for this country than having people able to not only make these things but also design them. Senator Hamer will know- he has had more expert opinions on these matters than I have- that naval surveyors are almost extinct in Australia. That is what I remembered of the evidence. Many of the specialised people have left Australia. We would be hard put if we had to do these things in a hurry.

I summarise my views on the matter. We should quickly get away from this nonsense about boycotting the Moscow Olympic Games. We should be considering practical moves internationally and by agreement with friendly countries. That is the way to do things. We should be trying to open doors to see that the position created by the Russian occupation of Afghanistan is not extended. We should also be trying to ensure that, if the United States takes up the options to continue those talks which were disbanded because of the threat to world peace, we support those talks where we can. Having done that, we should then ensure that we have a new look at the importance of Australia's capacity to produce material for defence otherwise we will lose this expertise. If we do not do this we will be subject to interruptions if there are incidents, and minor or major wars, and the country could well be isolated. That seems to me to be the commonsense position.

I know that the debate has carried on for a long time in the Parliament and in the Senate. But it is true that the debate will continue outside. The Australian Government and the Australian people will get a lot further in this matter if they start to talk along the lines suggested by the Leader of the Opposition in the other place who said that he was prepared to sit around a table and work out what might be a bipartisan policy in relation to this matter. That offer has been rejected. There was no attempt to take up the offer. But it is not too late for us in the Senate to argue that the Government should take new and more effective initiatives than those which I have mentioned.







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