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Wednesday, 2 November 1983
Page: 2193

Mr FREE —My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I preface it by noting that the Leader of the Opposition stated yesterday that the Government had abused and denigrated the Commonwealth in its reaction to the recent events in Grenada. I ask the Prime Minister: Has the Commonwealth Secretary-General responded in any way to the Australian Government's position? If so, what was the nature of the response?

Mr HAWKE —The pathetic performance of the Leader of the Opposition has become a matter of much comment around Australia. Although honourable members no doubt thought it impossible, yesterday the Leader of the Opposition even plumbed new depths of hopelessness. In his attack upon our excellent Foreign Minister who, as everyone other than the members of the Opposition knows, is doing an outstanding job, he succeeded in achieving the almost impossible by saying that we had attacked the Commonwealth and we had put ourselves out of step with the Commonwealth. So that all Australians can understand yet again the hopelessness, the inaccuracy-indeed, the pathetic nature-of the Leader Opposition's comments, let me inform the House of what the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth has said since, as I say, the pathetic observations of the Leader Opposition were made. A letter to me from the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth has come in over night.

Mr Keogh —Read it.

Mr HAWKE —I cannot read it all, but if the House insists I will read part of it. In the latter part of the letter, the Secretary-General says:

I shall try to speak to you directly by telephone but you should know that your positive action in calling for the withdrawal of the American forces has been much admired around the Commonwealth.

This is the organisation that the Leader Opposition said we were departing from. The Secretary-General says what we have done is much admired. He also says:

I am sure there are going to be roles for Australia to play in helping to get the situation back on track in Grenada.

As though that is not enough, let me quote to the House what Sonny Ramphal had to say on this issue on AM this morning. I quote from the transcript:

The Secretariat itself is not thinking in terms of a peace-keeping force as such.

So said the Secretary-General: The Secretariat is not thinking of a peacekeeping force as such. As I have said, no one really takes any notice any longer of the Leader of the Opposition. The Commonwealth Secretary-General was then asked:

So has the Australian Government perhaps acted prematurely in ruling out a participation in a particular type of force.

The answer from the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth was in these terms:

I wouldn't have thought that. What the Australian Government has perhaps done is indicate to me that they didn't think a peace-keeping force is the kind of force we needed. That happens to square with my own thinking.

Those are the words of the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth. He went on to say:

No, I won't be inhibited in going to Australia and asking for assistance by virtue of anything in the statement. In fact, the statement was very supportive of Commonwealth efforts to help Grenada back on the tracks.

There are the facts. The action of the Foreign Minister on behalf of the Government has been completely in line with the sentiment, the hopes and the expectations of the Commonwealth. The action of this Government is totally in line with and is admired and respected by the Commonwealth and its Secretary- General.

Mr Sinclair —Mr Speaker, I ask that the honourable gentleman table the document from which he was quoting.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Deputy Leader of the National Party has requested that the document be tabled. I have to ask two questions of the Prime Minister. Was the Prime Minister quoting from a document on public affairs?

Mr HAWKE —I was quoting from two documents, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER —Are the documents confidential?

Mr HAWKE —Yes. The second one is not confidential. The second one is a transcript of AM. We have not reached the stage where we want to make that confidential.

Mr SPEAKER —Is the first document confidential?

Mr HAWKE —Yes, the first document is confidential. But let me say this-

Mr SPEAKER —Order! There is a request that the papers be tabled. If one of them is confidential it cannot be tabled but the other, the transcipt of AM, can be tabled.