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Tuesday, 22 April 1980
Page: 1646

Senator BISHOP (South Australia) -I will take a few minutes to endorse what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) said. This is an important subject. It concerns the dangers that confront the Western world. The Government argues that to a large extent those dangers also confront Australia. Whilst we do not agree, of course, in any way that Australia is faced with a direct threat, it is clear that the position in Iran ought to be negotiated and considered by the great powers. It is surprising that the whole subject is dismissed in a document of a page and a half, recognising that over the last two weeks some very important questions have been put to the Leader of the Government (Senator Carrick) seeking information on the Government's proposed reaction to the United States' pressure on all its allies, including Australia.

I remind the Senate that over the last week official reports from reputable Press sources have stated that the United States President in the year of a presidential election was taking it upon himself to influence the allies in respect of the imposition of sanctions and that this would create a perilous situation. I refer to the statement which has now been accepted as a concrete proposal. President Carter has said that unless the hostages are released by 15 May the United States will consider, if not military action, the mining of Iranian ports. There have also been reports from America that some other supplementary military action might be taken.

We have asked important questions in this place seeking advice on how the Australian Government proposed to respond to the American overtures. Most of us, including Government senators, argue that Australia should take an independent line. We do not want to be seen to be a slave to United States policy. The Opposition heartily agrees with this policy. If we are to take any action which may lead to perilous and warlike circumstances we have to be seen to be doing it because we feel that in some way our sovereignty, independence, economic future and rights are imperilled. I would have expected the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and the Leader of the Government who represents him in this place to have stated the position of the Government. This afternoon Senator Carrick answered questions from honourable senators, including me, most of which supplemented and confirmed reports in the Press in recent days that the Americans are putting pressure on their allies. Those who have read the newspapers today will know about the visit to Tehran by the mother of one of the hostages. The reports confirm a rather conservative attitude within the United States itself on whether it should take any military action and whether this would somehow or other delay the release of the hostages.

I would have expected that the responsible Minister in this place and in the House of Representatives would have dealt more fully with the issues of the day. If the reports are correct Australia will be lead, willingly or unwillingly, into a serious and critical international situation. I hope that in the next day or two the Government will consider the position in a different light and will inform the Parliament more fully about these matters. It should certainly do better than it has done today. It has made a very brief statement on matters which are critical not only to ourselves but also to the history of the world. I hope that the questions which have been asked in the last three or four days will be examined in another light and that information will be given to the Senate in a much more complete fashion than that in which it was given today.

Debate (on motion by Senator Chaney) adjourned.

Motion (by Senator Chaney) proposed:

That the resumption of the debate be made an Order of the day for the next day of sitting.

Senator GEORGES(Queensland) i (5.2) - I regret that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) thought it necessary to adjourn the debate on such an important matter.

For that reason I oppose the motion that the resumption of the debate be made an Order of the Day for the next day of sitting. I suggest that because the matter is so important we should debate it at a later hour this day. I will not move a motion to that effect. I do not think it is necessary for me to go to that length and cause the Senate to divide on this matter. I merely take the opportunity to express the point of view that an important statement of this sort should be debated by both sides of the chamber. It is necessary for the Senate to express an opinion as a whole on the serious situation which the world faces today. On the initiative of the President of the United States we have now moved from a cold war situation to a hot war situation. I believe it is necessary for us to debate whether Australia should be taking an independent line. The safety of the hostages in Iran is a matter of concern. That concern ought to be expressed in this place. The view ought to be put before the Senate today that a very delicate approach is needed to a very sensitive situation in recognition of the danger which faces those hostages. It would be very well for us to support the United States-

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