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Wednesday, 7 December 1983
Page: 3410


Mr MacKELLAR —by leave-The report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on the subject of 'Power in Indo-China since 1975' was concluded on 11 June 1981. It remains a valuable account, but it clearly lacks, inevitably, the qualities of authority that it otherwise would have because it is now dated by two years. During that two years, Vietnam has demonstrated great resistance to the idea of international negotiations over Cambodia, particularly United Nations sponsored negotiations which could open the door for a settlement leading to absence of foreign occupation and the establishment of a non-aligned Cambodia responsive to the wishes of the people.

I refer honourable members to page 78 of the report before the House. Honourable members will note that in 1980, President Suharto of Indonesia and Prime Minister Hussein Onn of Malaysia issued a declaration calling for Indo- China to take steps to free itself from undue influences of Russia and China. At the United Nations General Assembly in September of that year the Vietnamese maintained their condemnation of the Association of South East Asian Nations resolution, but the Foreign Minister of Vietnam referring, inter alia, to the Kuantan declaration, announced that his Government 'was ready to hold immediate discussions with the ASEAN countries . . .' There appeared to be emerging prospects favourable to negotiations based on an implicit recognition by ASEAN that Vietnam had legitimate security interests. I point out that the resolution in the United Nations sponsored by ASEAN included a statement that an international conference should 'guarantee that an independent and sovereign Kampuchea will not be a threat to its neighbours'. Clearly, any inference to be drawn from the actions and statements of this Government that ASEAN had a totally negative policy to the issue of Vietnam is not borne out by this report, dated though it is. ASEAN earnestly sought then, and still seeks now, to go down the path of negotiation. The statements that the Minister for Foreign Affairs ( Mr Hayden) has made have tended to create that presumption and implicitly the assumption that the previous Government had missed opportunities by its strong backing for ASEAN diplomatic initiatives.

There is another lesson to be learned. There is no evidence to show that ASEAN had failed to give scope to any Vietnamese interest in a settlement. It is clear that Vietnam decided to withhold itself from pressing issues to a settlement. I mention this because earlier this year the Government from time to time gave the impression that its diplomacy had the potential to encourage Vietnam to think again and that this prospect more than justified the problems that were opening up for Australian relations with ASEAN. Thus, for the best part of the life of this Government, great emphasis has been given to a process which, as the Foreign Minister himself has admitted again today, has very little prospect of bearing fruit.

The dissenting report from members of the then Opposition was optomistic about a solution if the Government took steps to move Vietnam from a postion of isolation. They adduced no evidence for this point of view, but it was considered that Australian aid would hold a key for an improved relationship with Vietnam, which in turn would unlock the doors to negotiation and accommodation between Vietnam and ASEAN. It is this view which caused the Committee, in the report before the House, to divide on a crucial point of party line. The reality is that Vietnam receives from the Soviet Union $3m to $5m a day. In addition, there are strong party and philosophical links. Moreover, the present Secretary-General has a reputation for holding strong pro-Soviet views. Therefore, regettably, there is very little evidence to suggest that the people in power are restive about their relations with the Soviet Union.

Let us look more closely at Vietnam's candidature for conciliation. It has the fourth largest army in the world. It is backed by massive Soviet aid. It has a defence treaty with the Soviet Union, which has access to a major naval facility and air fields. It insists on dominating Cambodia and Laos. It is run by a small pro-Soviet clique of which one of the great strongmen is Le Duan, the Secretary- General. In a recent paper given by a scholar at an Australian National University seminar the basic strength of Le Duan was assessed. His family connections are powerful. His elder son reportedly runs the secret police. Another son is in charge of the missile system. A brother-in-law runs the intelligence system. The brother-in-law's brother runs the entire television, radio and propaganda services and controls ideological education. His son-in-law is commander of the air force.

The issue is that Vietnam has military forces of up to 180,000 in Cambodia and 40,000 to 50,000 in Laos. I mention Laos because the Minister, in his statement, seems to have forgotten about it entirely. I recall for the House an answer to a question I asked him in this House last week about the continued occupation of Laos by Vietnamese forces. On page 3050 of Hansard of 30 November this year the Foreign Minister is recorded as having said:

First of all, there are no problems about the Vietnamese troops being in Laos. There is no dispute that I am aware of in any part of the region in connection with that.

Mr Anthony interjected:

No problems?

Mr Hayden replied:

They are there by invitation of the Government of Laos.

I just quote the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence entitled 'Power in Indo China since 1975' which the Minister has commended today . I quote from page 38 of the historical section of that report, dealing with Laos:

The danger to the Lao Government would be more serious if the 40-50,000 Vietnamese stationed in the country were to withdraw.

A footnote states:

The presence of these troops was 'legitimised' in 1977 when Vietnam and Laos signed a Twenty-Five-Year Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation, which included a provision relating to mutual military assistance. The Vietnamese troops had in fact been in Laos since the 1960s.

The dissenting report by the then Opposition members headed by the then honourable member for Swan (Mr Beazley) stated:

Given continuing instability in Indo China, the historical factors associated with Vietnamese military occupation of Laos and Kampuchea, and the Soviet willingness to provide a level of aid that permits continuing Vietnamese occupation . . .

I just mention those points to bring to the attention of the House the fact that Vietnamese troops are occupying Laos. Some sort of stood-over treaty may allow them to have some semblance of authority for being there, but the fact remains that 40,000 to 50,000 occupying troops remain in Laos, and that was completely dismissed by the Minister in his response today.

The military activities of the Vietnamese in Cambodia have created a massive refugee problem which consumes a great deal of international concern and, further, has destabilised the border with Thailand as armed resistance groups have decided to make a stand there. The Government has, in the process of exposing its policy, taken an inexplicable position with ASEAN. In Bangkok in June the Foreign Minister not only told ASEAN that it was futile to support military resistance to the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia but also made it public to the Press that he had done so. This action was taken before the Minister embarked on his visit to Hanoi. It was very like Joseph Kennedy in war- time London telling President Roosevelt that Hitler would win the war. It is this aspect of the Minister's position which set alight ASEAN concerns and it has come to the surface over the issue of the co-sponsorship of the resolution. Much attention has been paid to the consequential issue of co-sponsorship but, clearly, to tell ASEAN in effect that Vietnam will win and to make that view public had a most fundamental bearing on ASEAN concern.

Let us look at this coalition issue. Prince Sihanouk is now occupying the Democratic Kampuchea seat in the United Nations. The effect of this development might be gauged by a reference to page 78 of the report which predicts that increasing adverse international feeling about the Khmer Rouge would lead to a decline in support for excluding the Heng Samrin regime. But in fact, this year, in 1983, Vietnam and its Soviet bloc allies felt so weakened that it did not even press for the credentials to vote in the General Assembly.

In this statement the Minister has the effrontery to imply that this Opposition is departing from policies adopted by the Fraser Government. The Fraser Government withdrew recognition from Pol Pot. When the coalition concept emerged it did not reject it; it made the decision to monitor developments and, in the light of those developments, evaluate its position on the ASEAN backing for coalition. But it is not a coalition except on paper. The non-communist resistance which the Foreign Minister chooses to say should not be supported by ASEAN has never been denounced by the Fraser Government. Who are we to discourage and undermine the efforts of a sacrificial resistance, a non- communist resistance by Khmer people to the occupation of their homeland by Vietnam? The Minister totally misrepresents the practical separation that exists between the Son Sann resistance and the Khmer Rouge. He says:

It is regrettable that they--

Son Sann and Prince Sihanouk -

have locked themselves into a military situation which relies on, and can only be sustained by, the co-operation of the Khmer Rouge.

I repeat that this is a totally unsubstantiated statement which does not reflect the reality on the ground or diplomatically. It is this kind of inaccuracy which bedevils the Government's approach to ASEAN and to its understanding of the work done by the previous Government. I repeat that ASEAN efforts to negotiate with Vietnam were supported by the Fraser Government. ASEAN efforts to give support to non-communist resistance to Vietnamese occupation were never publicly discouraged or discounted. The crucial thing is that the Government opposes all efforts to resist physically the occupation of Cambodia by Vietnam. It discredits deliberately, as it does in this statement, the efforts of Prince Sihanouk and Son Sann to preserve a Khmer resistance to what is occurring in its homeland at the hands of the Vietnamese. The Fraser Government never had any such discreditable policy and if the Minister has been so advised he has been advised wrongly. Let him not push the fiction borne of this delusion that the policy he is enforcing on ASEAN is a Fraser policy. It is not. It is tragic in Australian history when the Australian Government sets out to misconstrue, misrepresent and undermine the sacrificial efforts of non-communist Cambodians to resist with all the resources they can command the occupation of their country.

How can we accept without reserve the Government's efforts to discount the fears of the Khmer leaders and ASEAN leaders that the settlement policy that Vietnam has announced is essentially benign? In the face of concern and claims that Vietnam is settling Vietnamese in Cambodia as a policy of occupation, the Government is saying that all that is happening is that the Vietnamese formerly in Cambodia are returning. In this House I put down a series of questions designed to discover the degree of authority behind the Government's views. It appears that the Australian position which is being communicated to this Parliament and internationally is the position described to the Foreign Minister by his Vietnamese counterpart, Co Thach. In Hansard of 1 December this year this Minister, in answer to a question without notice, is reported as saying:

The reports of these government directives and of an influx of Vietnamese settlers into Cambodia led me to raise that issue with the Vietnamese Foreign Minister, Nguyen Co Thach, during my visit to Hanoi earlier this year. Our information is that most of these Vietnamese settlers were in Cambodia before 1970 and have been returning under a resettlement arrangement. There were approximately 500,000 Vietnamese settlers in Cambodia before 1970. We would be deeply disturbed if reports of an influx of Vietnamese settlers in a deliberate and sustained program to disturb the balance in Cambodia's population were to be substantiated.

So it is open for any reasonable person to assume the Minister received reassurances from Co Thach and that until the Government had evidence, which is clearly very elusive, that these reassurances were not valid he would take the best view of the situation. The report before the Parliament contains a critical difference between the position of the Labor Party and that of the parties in opposition in this chamber. This difference has been carried into government by the Labor Party and in the process of the application of Labor Party policy great problems were created for our relations with ASEAN. The Minister claims Australia has pursued its policies soberly and responsibly. I leave it to honourable members to judge whether the uncomfortable public dialogue, involving at times all members of ASEAN, can be reasonably held to be the work of sobriety and responsibility. On this matter I draw on the view of a Singapore academic who was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald last week. He said:

In the flurry of generally strong media reaction from the ASEAN region to Canberra's recent action, it is easy for Australia to forget that the worst of all possible worlds is to have to deal with ASEAN countries collectively when they have been antagonised individually.

It is pure cheek for the Minister to allow himself the luxury of asserting that the Opposition departed from previous policies. I have endeavoured to illustrate the problems of this deliberately propagated misconception. It is clear that ASEAN has not behaved out of a concern that the Government was applying the policy of its predecessors. It recognises the difference. I am sure that if this were true the Government would not have hesitated to say so but, unfortunately, it is without scruples when it comes to deceiving the people of Australia. The statement by the Minister attests to this fact.