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Thursday, 13 October 1983
Page: 1787

Mr WHITE(9.33) —In rising in the debate on the estimates of the Department of Foreign Affairs I wish to raise two matters: The first is the Australian-Association of South East Asian Nations relationship and the second is in relation to Australia's attitude to South Africa. I will deal firstly with the matter of Australian-ASEAN relationships. It must be said that the relationship between that bloc and ours has reached a low ebb, probably the lowest ebb ever because unfortunately greater weight has been given to the interests of Vietnam as distinct from the interests of our ASEAN neighbours. Honourable members have to look only at recent decisions not to support the ASEAN resolution in the United Nations and at previous statements by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) of his desire to resume aid to Vietnam. Public disapproval of Australia's policies by the Singapore Foreign Minister in recent days and the Thai Foreign Minister and the refusal by these ASEAN countries to attend the Australian-ASEAN forum must be a matter of concern for all Australians. Quite simply it is a matter of deciding where Australia's interests lie and who our friends are.

Mr Steedman —Not fascist dictatorships.

Mr WHITE —It is obvious that if the honourable member is not going to support his friends and allies he is in favour of supporting some of the communist countries to the north. The fact is that our interests lie with ASEAN and not with Vietnam. This is for two very good reasons. If the honourable member keeps quiet long enough he might learn something. The first reason is our strategic and the other is very sensible economically. Why we got out of our way to create tensions with ASEAN countries is something that I fail to undertstand although I have read the Foreign Minister's speeches closely. I understand some of the reasoning behind it, but I certainly do not agree with it. In strategic matters, the fact is that ASEAN is still the major bulwark for this country against communist countries in South East Asia. I see the Foreign Minister turning away. Perhaps he does not believe that this threat still exists.

Mr Steedman —What about the fascists?

Mr WHITE —We still have more than a passing interest in containing communism in the area in which we live. I remind the honourable member of Australia's involvement in the last 30 years in containing communism in this part of the world. A considerable number of Australian lives have been lost in Korea, Malaya and Vietnam, making this country relatively safe for the honourable member opposite to sit in this House. I will not stand here and hear him denigrate the people who have gone out there to make this country safe for him.

Mr Steedman —I have never denigrated anyone who has gone out to fight; I have denigrated the politicians who sent them there.

Mr WHITE —I happen to have been there on two of those occasions. So the honourable member might withdraw that remark for a start. The fact is that there are many left wing elements in this country, a few of them sitting on the honourable member's side of the House, who, rightly or wrongly in their hearts, support and encourage communist incursions in this part of the world. The fact is that it does exist. If the honourable member wants some evidene for it he should go and see what is happening in Kampuchea and go and see what the Vietnamese are doing in Laos and then come back and discuss this matter sensibly . It is interesting that some honourable members here can well recall that, when Australian troops were actively engaged in Vietnam, people in the Australian Labor Party were actively encouraging the other side. That is something that I personally will never forget.

I turn now to economic matters. It is true that Australia is becoming increasingly irrelevant to the ASEAN countries. Something like two per cent of its trade is with Australia. But the fact is that the ASEAN countries are becoming more and more important to Australia. That is the direction in which our future lies. It is a massive growth area, both in size and development and a market for our own products. It is estimated that by the year 2000 we will be exporting, if we are sensible, some 85 per cent of our exports to that area. We have to decide whether we will support ASEAN interests or Vietnam interests. We cannot do both. Earlier statements by the Foreign Minister indicated that he was going to seek closer ties with ASEAN countries, but the ASEAN perception, rightly or wrongly, is that in recent months Australia has turned its back against them. We have a lot of ground to make up. I support showing disapproval of the Khmer Rouge. But important though that may be, it has to be admitted that the Vietnamese are equally as brutal in the regime that they are setting up. As I understand it, they are employing a considerable number of ex-Khmer Rouge officials in their administration. I can do no better than to quote from the Australian of 7 October:

If any European power were still behaving in Indo-China as is Vietnam, we would not fail to condemn it. Whether the question is approached from a basis of principle or a standpoint of self-interest, we have much to lose and little, if anything, to gain by sacrificing the friendship of ASEAN for the passing gratitude of a totalitarian government whose international ambitions are totally opposed to our own.

I will spend a few minutes on Australian-South African relations. Our relations have been bedevilled for a number of years by apartheid. People, and rightly so, have strong views on this question. I might add that many South Africans have strong views on the question of apartheid. Many people in South Africa are striving for a more equal society. The problem is that unless the other countries recognise that efforts and progress are being made, the people who are striving for that equality and progress will become dis- heartened. We must be careful to condemn apartheid and not South Africa. I am grateful to see the Government is undertaking a review of our relations with that country. I hope very much it will be for the better for some very good reasons: Firstly, it should recognise and encourage progress that is being made in that country; and secondly, it should recognise the inconsistencies of some of our present policies, many of which were put in place by the previous Government, my Government. For example, cricket has become almost wholly integrated.

I will spend a couple of minutes on Qantas Airways Ltd flights to South Africa. Some 30 international airlines fly to South Africa. It now takes something like four months to make a booking with South African Airways to fly from South Africa to Australia or from Australia to South Africa. It should be noted that four members of the Australian Labor Party are planning a visit to South Africa within the next few weeks. Two have already been told that they will have to fly with Qantas. All of them, despite how they are going to Africa, are going to South Africa. One of them is going through the communist country of Mozambique to get there. I ask the Foreign Minister: What other airlines will the Government warn its members of? Communist airlines fly freely around the world and freely into South Africa. Are those airlines to be banned to ALP members as well? All of this indicates-I hope that the Government will take note of this- that the question of banning Qantas flights direct to South Africa is no longer relevant. I expect that the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), by forbidding honourable members from flying with South African Airways and forcing them to fly with Qantas, has indicated some recognition that it is time Qantas flew to South Africa.

The third reason why we should review our policy is a recognition of the importance of South Africa to the total African economy. South Africa provides considerable food, power, manufactured goods and jobs to neighbouring countries. The fourth reason is the containment of communism which, if Australian Labor Party members do not mind my mentioning that word again, is rampant throughout Africa with Russian, Cuban and East African troops--

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Millar) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired .