Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 9 November 1983
Page: 2495

Mr HAYDEN (Minister for Foreign Affairs)(3.16) —This matter of public importance, with some slight variation but effectively the same, has been before the Parliament several times. At least there is much more consistency in the speech of the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar). It does not seem to change; so there will not be much need for me to dwell on the contents of his speech. However, there are other matters which are related to this general topic which I want to raise. One or two points raised by the honourable member for Warringah do require some quick attention. There is a dominating confusion in his mind as to the distinction between co-sponsorship of the resolution put before the United Nations on the situation in Kampuchea and actual support for it. That was mainfestly clear in the way in which he sought to condemn this Government. For instance he stated that the United States of America supported the resolution. He then went on to outline the reasons why it supported the resolution. For the information of the honourable member this Government also supported the resolution. We like the United States, did not co-sponsor the resolution.

This matter raised by the Opposition has come up several times. There is no dispute about it as I will make clear in a few minutes. Especially in the last several hours, a rather jagged, rough cutting edge has been introduced into public commentary on this issue. It has not been introduced by the Government. It has certainly not been introduced by me. I invite honourable members to address themselves to the record in recent months as this matter has developed. They will note that the provocative commentary has not come from the Government; it has largely come from outside this country. Again, it has been taken up in a predictable opportunistic way by the Opposition. It is not without its problems for a Government addressing itself to something that has attracted some sensitivity internationally because the robust style of exchange in debate in this Parliament goes beyond what generally takes place in international forums. However, I note for the record that the exchange which has come most recently from international forum, that of Mr Dhanabalan, the Foreign Minister for Singapore, certainly introduces all of the element of robustness to which we are used and more. I intend to address myself to that matter in a few ticks.

However, the honourable member for Warringah sought to labour two points, as he has in the past. He does this in company with some of our friends of the Association of South East Asian Nations. I stress the word 'friends' in spite of our differences of the moment. They have referred either to our failure to co- sponsor the resolution on Kampuchea or our alleged failure to condemn the Vietnamese occupation of Kampuchea. On the former, we believe that we had sound ground for not co-sponsoring and in our statement to the United Nations we alluded to it in terms which were developed after consultation with ASEAN partners. I stress that so that there is no misunderstanding as to the style of that statement. As a sovereign nation, if we make a determination as to a certain course of action being in the best interests of this nation or of objectives we are seeking to promote, no matter how modest they may be, we stand firmly by our right to make a decision on such matters.

I want to come back to the general implications for foreign policy to be found in the statement of the honourable member for Warringah. To use the argument that if some other country does not like what we are doing and that is if it criticises and protests we have to change, implies some awesome consequences. The other matter he laboured was our alleged failure to condemn the occupation of Kampuchea by Vietnamese forces. That has been condemned by me to ASEAN partners at the post-ASEAN conference. It has been condemned in other public and private fora. It has been condemned by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and it was condemned again at the United Nations in a statement by Mr Woolcott, our representative there. That statement was authorised by me and delivered on 26 October of this year.

In spite of all that evidence the Opposition and certain spokesmen in other parts of the world not too far distant continue to resort to the assertion that we failed to condemn the occupation of Vietnam. Additionally, they fail to recall, although we have mentioned it often enough, that the record shows that the occupation of Kampuchea has never been condemned at the United Nations by Foreign Ministers of the previous Government on any of the occasions when this matter came up. It was not condemned by the honourable member for Corangamite ( Mr Street) or the current Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) when they held the portfolio of Minister for Foreign Affairs. My statement was no less strong than the strongest of their statements, and much stronger than the general views which have been presented by them. Again, I suggest that the record speaks for itself. We have to look beyond these statements for their motivation, and I must say I find myself somewhat confused on this matter.

Let me move on to statements which were attributed to Mr Dhanabalan in the Age of this morning. I shall not go over all of it. He declares four stipulations, and says that they are matters which will have to be addressed satisfactorily by the Prime Minister of Australia when he visits Bangkok in a little over a week's time. I find the statements extraordinary on two grounds: First of all Mr Dhanabalan, who is Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs, is declaring publicly the standards which will be required of the Thai Government, not of the Singaporean Government. He has taken it upon himself to state quite forcefully and with crystal clarity what the Thai Government should do. That is an extraordinary principle to introduce into foreign policy. The second matter is that he creates an intolerable set of conditions for the Prime Minister of Australia. He says: 'Here are four matters'. The Prime Minister of Australia will come to Bangkok and will be required to address himself to these questions and to give an explanation. It is quite clear from what Mr Dhanabalan says that if the explanation is satisfactory, the Prime Minister of Australia will be sent away with a merit badge to wear. That is fine, except that it is offensive. If the explanation is not satisfactory, he will be sent packing without his lunch, and that is even more offensive.

Mr Dhanabalan has laid down conditions for the visit of the No. 1 government figure of this country, the elected leader of the Government-the Prime Minister. I find it quite extraordinary. I have never heard of such conditions ever before being stipulated in regard to relationships between countries anywhere, least of all between friendly ones. Therefore I say quite bluntly: I am not surprised to have received cables in the course of this morning covering views from some ASEAN sources expressing concern that this matter is getting out of hand, that it has gone too far. It is not getting out of hand because of me and it is not going too far because of me. I have acted with restraint. The comments have been coming from elsewhere. Let us look at the four examination questions which will be set for the Prime Minister. The first one is:

An undertaking that Australia would give no aid to Vietnam unless it agreed to withdraw its forces from Kampuchea.

With the greatest of respect, I find this extraordinary. Our attitude on aid for Vietnam is well known to all the ASEAN countries. I have explained it to them. I have discussed it with them. Aid has not been resumed. I have made it clear that were we to contemplate that-and we do not have that contemplation before us now and I do not see it in the near future, given other initiatives we have been seeking to promote-we would consult with them.

Putting humanitarian aid to one side, and no one quibbles with that, I find it extraordinary that this quite overt pressure is being applied to the Australian Government to determine what its policies will be. This is regardless of what the Australian Government might conclude in the context of its domestic environment and how it sees the national interest being best promoted, to such things as stability in its region, international obligations and a whole range of things. I find it extraordinary that the ante has been lifted in this way. The next condition is:

Continued Australian aid to displaced Kampucheans along the Thai-Kampuchea border and no development aid within Kampuchea itself, only humanitarian aid.

May I have the indulgence of the honourable member for Warringah to have a table included in Hansard, otherwise I shall not have enough time? The table I am seeking leave to have incorporated in Hansard shows that insofar as aid to Kampuchea and the border is concerned we are following the same policy that the last Government followed.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-



Thai/Cambodian Border

Inside Cambodia

1982-83 $5.09m

$2.42m for displaced Cambodians on border comprising $580,000 to ICRC, $1.8m to UNBRO, $37,000 to Catholic Relief, plus $1m for UNHCR holding camps

$1.67m comprising $910,000 to UNHCR for Cambodian returnees, $762,000 to Australian NGOs

1983-84 $3.5m ($4m if UNHCR food aid approved)

$500,000 to ICRC for displaced Cambodians on border. Under consideration-$500, 000 for high protein biscuits for UNHCR holding camps

$3m comprising $1m to UNHCR for Cambodian returnees, $500,000 to Australian NGOs , $1.5m to UNICEF for health and water supply projects

Note: All aid is of a humanitarian nature-no economic development assistance projects inside Cambodia are involved. But see attached material on the balance between border and internal aid. To date about 300,000 Cambodians have voluntarily returned to Cambodia, including about 13,000 so far this year with another 60,000 estimated to return in the remainder of the year, Australia's $1m to UNHCR for these returnees is to take the form of food-milk powder, rice, infant formula, soya beans, wheat flour high protein biscuits.

Mr HAYDEN —I thank the House. The aid which we are making available is provided largely through international agencies, the exceptions being some of the non- government organisations. Let us make it crystal clear-we do not want any ambiguity about this-our conclusion is this: If aid is provided only at the border there will be an incentive for people in Kampuchea to move towards the border in large numbers. That will add to the pressures, the instability and to the level of tension and conflict there. Therefore it seems to me to make more sense to provide the sort of humanitarian aid which the last conservative government provided, which we are now providing, and to provide it also in Kampuchea. It escapes some people, not all of them in this country, that there is also the matter of common compassion and humanitarianism. We make no apologies for being influenced by those values. The third point made by Mr Dhanabalan calls for:

A clear indication to Vietnam that unless it agreed to pull its forces out of Kampuchea it could not count on Australian sympathy.

We made that clear. We are not squandering sympathy or spending it, not even austerely, on Vietnam. We have stipulated many times to Vietnam that our whole commitment is predicated on a withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from Kampuchea. The fourth point calls for:

An end to public ''denigration'' by Australia of the Kampuchean coalition Government linking the ousted Khmer Rouge regime and two non-communist groups . . .

I will not read the rest. It is on the record. The comments which have been made by the Prime Minister, in the United Nations by our representatives there, by me and by spokesmen of the Australian Labor Party condemning Pol Pot are justified. I would not have made this next observation except for the provocation caused by this comment.

We are justified in having reservations about the situation on the border in relation to the coalition forces. What is not known and has not been published before, as far as I am aware-it should be after this-is that the Khmer Rouge turns its guns on the Khmer People's National Liberation Front-the Son Sann forces-and not infrequently. A struggle for power is going on there. I know we are used to internecine brawling in the coalition forces of the Queensland Liberal-National Party. Metaphorically speaking, that can be pretty bloody, but this struggle is destructive and terminal. Why should our good friends in Singapore or elsewhere expect us to remain silent in the face of the provocation of their Foreign Minister in the statement which he consciously released last night? Why should we remain silent on the sort of information which is available to us?

Let me quickly make a couple of other points. If it is accepted by the Opposition that criticism determines we should not be doing something, freezing in policy a change in policy, does this mean that, because the Malaysians do not like our policy on Antarctica and are taking a different line, we do not do anything? Again there is concern in the community that $90m of taxpayers' money is funding the education of Asian students who receive higher education. They are largely from South East Asia and many of them come from wealthy homes. The distribution of the tax burden in this country means that in many cases Australians who are poor are subsidising that education. Does this mean that if we want to review this situation and make some decisions we cannot do so if those decisions are criticised? We may not review it. I can see strong reasons for keeping it going. At the moment we want to know what we are funding. Does this mean that if for defence reasons-we have not addressed ourselves to this matter yet-we decided that more than the $1,000m invested in a squadron of FA18s should stay in Australia, we could not implement that decision if the Opposition said that someone else said that we should not? (Extension of time granted) I am grateful for the indulgence of the Deputy Leader of the National Party (Mr Sinclair). I am sure that he has reasons for proposing an extension of time. Least among them would be the intent to be helpful.

In the conditions about which I am talking a situation has been developed which obviously is creating some stress. It should not have happened. I have sought to avoid it. Our initiative in this matter has been relatively modest. We have always acknowledged the difficulties of the task and almost overwhelmingly the likelihood of its failure. Until quite recently there appeared to be no problems about this. Our ASEAN friends certainly expressed some reservations about certain aspects of it. But all of a sudden, because we exercised our independent , sovereign right about co-sponsorship we found this reaction. Secondly, it is claimed quite falsely that we have failed to condemn the Vietnamese occupation of Kampuchea. We have done so and the record shows it. These sorts of experiences are not novel. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) resigned from the Ministry on 28 April 1981. On that date he made a statement in the Parliament. He made a number of points as to why he resigned. One of the main points related to a matter not dissimilar to that which we are discussing. He said:

I now give an account of events illustrating a pattern of the Prime Minister's conduct which contributed to my resignation.

He then referred to the Government of Kampuchea. Referring to 10 September he went on:

On that night the Prime Minister, despite his undertaking, issued, on Mr Lee's behalf, a Press statement dealing with the Kampuchean question.

He then condemned that statement and said that it was a statement of Mr Lee's, circulated by the Prime Minister. He made it clear that that statement was designed to undermine him on the issue as to whether Australia continued to recognise the claims of the Pol Pot Government to a seat in the United Nations. That statement undermined him so seriously that it was the major cause for his resignation from the Ministry.

When the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, now Leader of the Opposition, had problems in relation to that issue, we did not seek to make cheap political capital out of it. We realised how important that issue was to this country's national interest. Similarly, quite recently, the Leader of the National Party while in New Zealand was decent enough to acknowledge that we did not seek to take political opportunity at the expense of the former Government when it was having difficulties negotiating the agreement on closer economic relations. We did not because we recognised those difficulties. We recognised how a certain prominent figure, who was also extraordinarily robust in his expressions in New Zealand, sought to wrong-foot the Australian Government in the hope that the then Opposition would take advantage of it. We did not. I suggest that the conduct of this debate should proceed at perhaps a lower level of intensity in this Parliament because then the national interest could be served.

I say a couple of final things. According to some newspaper comments this morning it is claimed that the Prime Minister did two things: Firstly, he instructed me not to issue an aide-memoir to ASEAN heads of mission represented in Canberra who were then called to the Department of Foreign Affairs. That is wrong. Secondly, it is claimed that I was asked to dilute the expressions which were in the guidelines for the discussion with those heads of mission. That, too , is wrong. The statement which was delivered orally to those heads of mission was very much in accord with the statement which the Prime Minister had seen. More than that, the Prime Minister declared that he was on all fours with me on this issue and backed me. I repeat that now-

Mr MacKellar —When did he say that?

Mr HAYDEN —Yesterday afternoon just before the ASEAN heads of mission went to the Foreign Affairs Department.

Mr MacKellar —He did not say it in the Parliament.

Mr HAYDEN —It is clearly on the record now and the Prime Minister will confirm it. I want to read from a statement, which I decided not to release yesterday, concerning that meeting. I decided to release it today because of the tactic which has been adopted, I think quite objectionably, by Mr Dhanabalan in his comments reported in the Press this morning. The statement, which is dated 9 November 1983, reads:

In response to questions concerning a meeting on Tuesday 8 November 1983 between ASEAN Heads of Mission and the Secretary of my Department, Mr Peter Henderson, and the First Assistant Secretary, South East Asia and Pacific Division, Mr Gerry Nutter, the following is a summary of the points made at that meeting.

Honourable members should bear in mind that the Prime Minister saw this summary and endorsed it. The statement continued:

The Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs spoke to ASEAN Heads of Mission on the afternoon of 8 November in response to reports following the ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting in Jakarta from 6 to 7 November. He told the Heads of Mission that there were several implications in those reports which, if correct, were not acceptable to the Australian Government. He referred to the continuing criticism from ASEAN countries that in his UNGA General Debate statement Mr Hayden failed to mention Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. He reminded the ASEAN Heads of Mission that General Debate statements by previous Australian Foreign Ministers had also not made this reference and that the Australian position on the Vietnamese invasion had been made clear on many occasions, including when Mr Hayden met ASEAN Foreign Ministers in July 1983 in Bangkok. The Secretary told the Heads of Mission that continued ASEAN criticism of Australia's Cambodia policy was not likely to result in any change of that policy, particularly in relation to Australia's attitude towards the Khmers Rouges. The Secretary also said that the implications in the reports that an explanation of Australia's foreign policy would be demanded of the Australian Prime Minister during his forthcoming visit to Bangkok was not conducive to establishing a good atmosphere for the visit which was, after all, designed to promote the bilateral relationship between Australia and Thailand.

I implore-I expect totally unproductively; but nonetheless I implore-the Opposition to bear in mind the implications of the opportunistic exercises that it undertakes in this Parliament. It is not serving the national interests of this country. It is seeking to disadvantage this country by playing up statements which have come from elsewhere; statements which do not have the united support of all the ASEAN partners, at least according to the cable traffic that I have seen today.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! The honourable Minister's time has expired.