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Wednesday, 16 November 1983
Page: 2777

Mr BILNEY —My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, relates to the forthcoming visits he is to make to Bangkok and to New Delhi for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. I preface my question by saying that the Prime Minister is well aware that there have been unsuccessful attempts in this place to foment ill will between member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations and Australia. Does the Prime Minister expect that his forthcoming visits to Bangkok and New Delhi will lead to a better understanding between Australia and its ASEAN neighbours?

Mr HAWKE —I am certainly looking forward very much to my visit to Thailand with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and to my talks there with Prime Minister Prem, Foreign Minister Siddhi and other Thai leaders. Of course, I am also expecting to have very useful talks at CHOGM with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee and the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, Musa Hitam. Following the talks that the Foreign Minister and I will have in Bangkok, the Foreign Minister will return via Rangoon to Jakarta, where the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Dr Mochtar, has, at very short notice, kindly agreed to see him. Obviously, I believe at this stage that further exchanges with ASEAN over Cambodia should be carried out privately in those talks and through normal diplomatic channels. I am perfectly confident that, as a result of the talks that the Foreign Minister and I will have in Bangkok, the talks that the Foreign Minister will have in Jakarta and the talks that I will have with leaders in New Delhi, there will be an understanding of the Australian position and a further improvement in our already good relations with the ASEAN countries.

I should, however, observe that over recent days public opinion in this country , particularly as expressed in editorials in major newspapers, has shown a very commendable degree of maturity and understanding of Australia's need to base its foreign policy on Australian national interests as independently determined by the Australian Government. I can certainly understand the concern of Opposition members because no doubt they will have read these editorials to which I intend to refer.

Recent editorials in the Age, the West Australian, the Adelaide Advertiser, the Brisbane Courier-Mail and the Australian Financial Review are compelling evidence of the great degree of support and understanding for the Government's position in this matter. Indeed, the maturity and the good sense of national self-respect and dignity shown by the Australian media in these matters stand in very strong contrast to the pathetic performance of the Opposition, particularly its leader and the shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. I can understand why they are upset. Let me remind the House of the editorial in the Adelaide Advertiser of 11 November. This is what the Adelaide Advertiser had to say:

. . . the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Peacock, must take the bad taste award for using this interchange as an opportunity for party politicking. In foreign affairs, especially, there is a need for consensus as Australia seeks to maintain that influence which is not only of political, cultural, commercial and strategic importance, but a matter of moral principle.

The editorial in the Australian Financial Review of 14 November went even further when it had this to say:

The Opposition in the Australian Parliament has shown an appalling lack of concern for Australia's independence and sovereignty by trying to make petty political capital out of what should be a bipartisan issue.

The Australian Financial Review editorial went on to say:

It is even worse that Mr Peacock, the Leader of the Opposition, as a former Foreign Minister, ought to know better. If he does not it must be taken as a reflection on the manner in which he performed his duties as Foreign Minister.

The Opposition, however, should not despair.

Mr Hodgman —What do they say in Pravda and Tass?

Mr HAWKE —I can give the honourable member the exact equivalent. While the Opposition is rejected totally by Australian editorial opinion, it has found comfort and support for its position in another quarter. Let me quote from the reports of the Khmer Rouge Radio. I cannot give honourable members--

Mr Sinclair —Mr Acting Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable gentleman has been answering this question for about five minutes. There is no reason for him to take an interminable time in his response. As you suggested yesterday, Mr Acting Speaker, questions should be brief and those who are questioned should respond in a reasonable time.

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order.

Mr HAWKE —As I said, I regret that I cannot quote Pravda but I shall quote the Khmer Rouge Radio. The Khmer Rouge Radio-that is, the radio of the butchering Pol Pot regime-monitored in Bangkok, said that the Hawke Government had adopted a policy on Kampuchea which ran 'completely counter to that of all peace and justice loving countries'. According to the Pol Pot radio, 'the Government of Australia is turning from the principles of international law and becoming a rogue nation seeking a gentleman's agreement concerning Vietnam aggression in Kampuchea'. As I said, I cannot quote Pravda but I can quote the Khmer Rouge Radio. Perhaps now the Opposition, consistent with its policy, will move a motion of censure against the Government for having lost the confidence of the Pol Pot Government.