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Tuesday, 23 November 1971
Page: 3510

Mr NIXON (Gippsland) (Minister for Shipping and Transport) - It was only on about 20th lune of this year that we heard the somewhat petulant outbursts from the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). He described in somewhat sarcastic terms the rejection by the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party of any sort of rural policy that he had been trying to put together. That the honourable member for Dawson could come into this chamber and have the monstrous gall to criticise the activities of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) in face of the fact that he himself has no rural policy whatsoever to offer to Australian farmers shows the hide of the man. J want to commend the initiative of the Prime Minister in undertaking this recent mission to the United States of America and to Britain, and I congratulate him on his success. Nowhere from the Prime Minister's mission came any of the insults to other nations that came out of the mission to China by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and his infamous interview with Chou En-lai. He ingratiated himself with Chou by insulting a great number of countries in the region, such as Japan, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines.

Indeed, from the statement which the Prime Minister has made in this Parliament tonight and from discussions in the Government following his mission, there is no doubt whatsoever that his mission was soundly conceived and well executed, with fruitful results for Australia in its international relationships. But the Opposition has sought to denigrate the Prime Minister and his mission for reasons which are blatantly and plainly party political. In essence, the situation boils down to the difference between the Government and the Opposition on the defence of Australia, and the difference of international approach between the businesslike attitude of the Government and the showy public relations exercises of the Leader of the Opposition. The fact is that some important changes in the world power situation are occurring, and it is essential that close communication should be maintained between the leaders of allied countries. There is no better way of doing this than by personal contact, built up by private conversations and mutual respect. In this changing world, matters of defence, trade, and foreign affairs are paramount topics and it would be an abrogation of ils responsibilities foi thU Government not to engage in regular dialogue and contact with its friends.

There has been a claim raised that it was unnecessary for the Prime Minister to go to the United States to seek an affirmation of the ANZUS Treaty, because the United States had given an affirmation to the former Prime Minister. It is perfectly true that President Nixon did affirm this Treaty to the former Prime Minister, but that was in May 1969. Since then what has become known as the Nixon Doctrine has been propounded by President Nixon. Basically, this Doctrine, as applied to the Asian area, sets a style of diplomacy, a way of conducting America's programmes abroad, which reduces America's direct responsibility and calls upon the nations of the area, individually and collectively, to assume an increasing role in providing tor themselves. This means that in the case of countries with mutual defence pacts with the United States substantial reductions of United States armed forces personnel have been occurring. America says its objective under the Nixon Doctrine is to ensure United States national security and thai of its allies, but at the same time permitting the reduction of United States forces abroad and reducing the likelihood of having combat ground forces in the future.

The effects of the Doctrine can be seen in comparing 1969 with today. In January 1969 there were 740,000 United States military personnel in east Asia. Now it is down to around 400,000. Most of that reduction has occurred in Vietnam - which indicates the success of the Vietnamisation programme - but significant cuts have taken place in Korea, Thailand and elsewhere. This reduction has been accompanied by increases in other types of aid to enable the relevant country to take over missions which the United States has been performing. In its effect and potential, therefore, the Nixon Doctrine is a momentous change in America's Asian outlook, and one which is of particular concern to Australians, especially in regard to defence. Thus it was obviously important with a new Prime Minister in the chair that he should take an early opportunity to confer with the President of the United States. Official communications between governments are fine in their way, but there is no substitute for personal contact in getting down to cause and effect, and the Prime Minister has won a ringing reaffirmation of the ANZUS Treaty and a wide ranging expression of faith from the President. The President said:

I believe this Treaty is one of the fundamental pillars of our policy for peace in the Pacific . . This Treaty goes far beyond simply that piece ot paper.

What a great guarantee of alliance in defence are the President's words, yet it is the sort of guarantee which the Australian Labor Party seeks to wave airily aside. Of course, the Opposition's defence attitude, or rather its lack of a viable defence policy, is well known. There was the recent public difference of opinion on forward defence between the Leader of the Opposition and the Singapore Prime Minister. Recently the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) was at some pains to scoff at the Prime Minister's talks on the Russian presence in the Indian Ocean in both the United States and Britain. The approach of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is that there are not man Soviet vessels in the Indian Ocean, and that the Prime Minister has been seeking to throw a scare into the Australian people. This dangerous view of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition needs to be exposed, and in saying that I am not indulging in party politics, because let us compare the. view of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition with other international defence views. The military advisers of the South East Asia Treaty Organisation said in a communique that the Russian presence in the Indian Ocean was causing the alliance considerable anxiety. In London last month Sir Edward Ashmore, the British Navy's Commander-in-Chief and a senior commander in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, said that the Russian naval build-up in the Indian Ocean was a most disturbing factor. Then in Canberra this month Air Chief-Marshal Sir Brian Burnett, Britain's retiring CommanderinChief in the Far East, indicated that the Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean was comparable with that formerly in the Mediterranean. Finally we have the statement by the Deputy Defence Secretary of the United Slates, Mr David Packard. Against that background of their statements, the Australian people will be able to judge for themselves the value of the remarks and I he policies of the Deputy Leader of the

Opposition. Certainly these views are not shared by the United States, which told the Prime Minister that it intended to maintain forces in the Indian Ocean. Indeed, a Western presence in the Indian Ocean would seem common sense to all but the Opposition as a logical back-up to our ANZUS and SEATO Treaties and the 5-power agreements for the defence of the Singapore-Malaysia area.

The Prime Minister also took the opportunity of discussing the People's Republic of China. After years of isolation, China is emerging into the outside world. The attitudes of other nations, including ourselves, are undergoing change. Australia welcomes the advent of China into the world community, but at the same time we believe that it can be only to Australia's advantage for mutual attitudes to be explored between the President and the. Prime Minister.

I want to say something now about the Prime Minister's discussion on Britain's entry into the European Common Market and the serious effects this will have on some of our great farming industries. Until tonight the Opposition has been monumentally silent on this aspect of the Prime Minister'^ mission and this, of course, should cause little surprise. It has one or two carpetbaggers masquerading as rural representatives but I am unable to recall any farmer among its ranks in this House.

As I said before, at the Australian Labor Party Federal Conference, the Party's rural spokesman was utterly repudiated under the weight of city-based trade union leadership. The honourable member for Dawson said that any policy he had had been totally disowned by the ALP Federal Conference. The Labor Party's lack of interest in and ignorance of the farming industries is underlined by the fact that during the recent Labor Party mid-term publicity campaign conducted by the Leader of the Opposition there was not one segment devoted to rural matters. That is how much it cares about the rural industries and this is at a time when the honourable member for Dawson both inside and outside this House makes destructive criticism of the efforts of the Government to resolve the rural problems. As is well known, the Government's atti tude is entirely different. It cares about what happens to the rural industries and the people in the rural industries.

The decision by the British Parliament in favour of entry into the European Economic Community is a momentous one. It represents a major change in the relations between Australia and Britain and the European Economic Community itself. With the entry of Britain, the European Economic Community will become by far the largest trading entity in the world. Britain will be part of a system which, when its expansion has been completed, will -account for over 40 per cent of world trade. Others will have preferred entry to the British market but we who have enjoyed trade preferences in Britain for many years will within 5 years have no preferred position in the British market. Nevertheless, continuing entry to such an enormous market must remain a major objective of Australian trade policy. As the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) has said, we hope that Britain's entry brings to the Community a new sense of responsibility for the wellbeing of world trade as a whole. We, as a nation importantly dependent on trade, need to come to terms with this new trading giant. I am sure that we will be able to do so.

Britain's decision is a major change in its orientation; it is moving away from the Commonwealth and towards Europe. There are problems for Australia in Britain's decision, particularly for our dairying, meat, sugar and fruit industries. These have been brought to the attention of Britain and the European Community before and during the negotiations by a succession of Australian Ministers and officials.. As events turned out, Australia believes Britain could have done more for Australia during the negotiations; but notwithstanding this, Britain did succeed in obtaining some safeguards to mitigate the effects on countries such as Australia if serious disruption is threatened. Thus with Britain set on the path to Europe, the time was obviously opportune for the Prime Minister to confer with the British Prime Minister, not only about our market interests but also on the wider international implications which spread beyond commercial relationships. For its part, the British Government has assured the Prime Minister that it will watch our interests, industry by industry, in the transitional period of Britain's entry to the European Economic Community. The point I made earlier about the Prim, Minister's visit to Washington is equally valid in relation to his visit to Britain. Government to government communcations are fine, but there is no substitute for 2 leaders getting together in a private room and saying: 'Look, this is the score as we see it'. In his mission the Prime Minister covered 3 vital fields - defence, trade and the international monetary situation. He has placed Australia's views squarely before the leaders of the United States and Britain. The Prime Minister went because it was in Australia's national interest for him to do so and I commend the success of his mission.

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