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Thursday, 8 September 1983
Page: 582

Mr DOBIE —by leave-I thank the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) for the statement he has just made relative to the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, of which I was proud to be Chairman. I was also proud to be Chairman of that Committee when it brought in its report on the Middle East. At the beginning I would like to say that I am appreciative of the bipartisan approach adopted by the Minister. I wish him well in maintaining his moderate line on all foreign affairs issues which he has shown to date. I know that it is not going to be an easy task, but I wish him well.

Mr Jacobi —A very difficult one.

Mr DOBIE —As the honourable member for Hawker points out-and he would know-it is a very difficult task for the Minister to perform. It should be emphasised that the Namibian issue remains one of the longest-standing problems within the whole United Nations calendar, but I think breaks are being made and I am hopeful that settlements will be made in the near future. When the report was presented a year ago members of the Committee were of the view that negotiations 'appeared on the verge of a breakthrough'. However, events since then have not met this expectation. Along with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, I was encouraged by the visit of the Secretary-General, Senor Perez de Cuellar, to Southern Africa to secure agreement on some of the technical matters. Whichever way we look at it, it is quite clear now that any solution to the situation on the subcontinent of Southern Africa, centres on the presence of Cuban troops in Angola. Perhaps we should be looking then with equal concern to the situation within Angola and the 40,000 troops now reported to be there. When we presented the report the figure was said to be 20,000, and here we have, within a year, reasonably authentic calculations that the figure has risen to 40,000-a most alarming situation.

I am pleased to see that the Foreign Minister said that the present Prime Minister has reacted positively to endorse the decision by the former Liberal Government to supply forces for the military component of the United Nations Transition Assistance Group to be established under the United Nations plan to monitor the ceasefire prior to elections in Namibia. I trust that the Minister maintains this resolve and is not deterred from this most practical expression of Australia's bipartisan commitment to an internationally agreed settlement on Namibia by any sections of this Parliament or his own party. I was pleased to see too that the present Government has moved quite firmly and positively into not recognising the South West Africa People's Organisation as the sole representative. I refer the House to page 96 of the report under review:

The Committee sees merit in the reported SWAPO offer at the pre-implementation meeting in 1981--

now, of course, two years ago-

to give up on its United Nations-assigned status as 'sole and authentic' representative of the Namibian people during the transition period prior to independence . . .

As one of the few members of this House who have actually visited Namibia, I can say that to presume that SWAPO represents the Namibian cause for independence is infantile and totally out of character and does not bear any relationship to reality. When I presented the report of the joint committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on Namibia to the chamber on 24 August last year, I pointed out that the longer the guerilla war continues in Namibia the greater will be the opportunity for unrest and a possible increase in Soviet influence in this region'. I said that while the front line states would like a Namibian settlement and were pressing this on SWAPO, as they still are, some analysts have argued that SWAPO is also under pressure from the Soviet Union, as its main backer and supplier of weapons, to delay negotiations in order to continue destabilisation of the region.

I again wish the Minister for Foreign Affairs strength and courage in his resolve to meet the problems within his own Party. It is a matter at which we should be looking most carefully. While not moving away from the difficulties that are being put in the way of an international settlement of the Namibian issue by the Republic of South Africa, I believe we should be equally aware that there are other sinister forces in the sub-continent of southern Africa and that the Soviet Union-no friend of the Foreign Minister-is not exactly leaving the matter undone and without concern. I continue with the report. We agree that the institutionalised racial discrimination in southern Africa has been a problem. We hope that that too will be resolved. I also noticed that the attitude of an independent Namibia to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, would be of particular interest to Australia. I would also point out to the Minister for Territories and Local Government (Mr Uren) that on page 128 of the report it mentions that in 1979 in Namibia a total of 16.72 million tonnes of uranium ore were milled, producing 4,980 tonnes of yellowcake. I suspect that some of the concern for Namibian independence-the route along which it is going-and the role of the Soviet Union in this area is not quite a pure one in its relationship to the independence of the Namibian people. Perhaps I am cynical, but I suspect that it had some relationship to the fact that Namibia is a major producer of yellowcake in the world. I suspect that this is the cause for left wing concern with the settlement and perhaps left wing confrontation and obstruction in this matter. I pointed out that the problems that are now existing in Zimbabwe and the problems that are existing in Botswana and, I believe, confronting the people of Angola, are related not just to the fight for freedom of these people. I believe the whole of the southern African continent is very much in the sights of the Soviet Union and its satellites. As I said earlier, I believe that, most regrettably, we must reach the conclusion that now the problem in Namibia must be related, contrary to the view we had in the report only 12 months ago, we must be of the opinion that a presence of the doubling of the number of Cuban troops in Angola should be something that concerns not just the honourable members in this House or the members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. I hope those members from this House and the Senate who are going to the United Nations General Assembly this year will bear in mind that the presence of the Soviet Union is not just in sensitive military areas in Korea, as we have discovered this week, or in fermenting trouble in the Middle East, as we have heard in the last report, but is well established and well founded, to the great distress of the Western world, in southern Africa.

As I said earlier, I wish the Foreign Minister success in his resolve within his own Government. He has the Prime Minister on side to have this multinational force in Namibia before an election following a ceasefire. I wish him equal success-we have had encouragement from honourable members on his own side during my speech this afternoon-in withstanding the pressures, which I noticed during a recent visit to Timor, when it concerns what the Government is really going to do about helping the people of Namibia. I thank the Foreign Minister, in a spirit of bi-partisan friendship, for his kind remarks about the character of the report upon which he has now commented. (Quorum formed)