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Wednesday, 7 March 1973
Page: 330

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister for Education (Mr

Beazley) is always easy to listen to, even when he is talking about matters that are not before the Parliament at the time. At present we have before us a motion to take note of the statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard). I was interested to hear the views of the Minister for Education on Indonesia under Sukarno, or even the value of the Polaris missile as a weapon of defence, and would be quite happy to debate those subjects with the Minister at some appropriate time. I think it would make an interesting debate. Tonight we are discussing the statement made by the Minister for Defence about United States bases in Australia and the amendment which has been proposed by the Opposition. The statement by the Minister for Defence covered 5 installations, of which the North West Cape naval communication station was only one. Another 2 were at Amberley and Alice Springs. As far as I am aware those bases have not been the subject of any serious questioning by either side of this House. It is clear from the Minister's statement that there is no foundation for any complaint whatever about either of these installations, either under the previous Government or under the present Government which intends to continue them.

There has been considerable complaint in the past by the Australian Labor Party concerning the North West Cape naval communication station. Honourable members will recall that at the time the base was established the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Calwell, and the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, had to wait upon the Australian Labor Party's Federal Conference for a decision about what their attitude should be towards the North West Cape station. They were instructed by the ALP Conference to oppose its installation, and they did oppose it. It is now quite clear from what the Minister for Defence has said that the present Government no longer holds that view, but rather holds the view which the previous Government held about the North West Cape installation, that it should be maintained, subject only to one qualification, that is, Article 3, the only relevant matter on which the Minister for Education dwelt.

The Minister for Defence certainly has made the point that he will consult the United States Government to ensure that the agreement between the United States and Australia regarding North West Cape is literally applied and that letters exchanged 10 years ago interpreting Article 3 will in some way be altered or superseded. This is a minor matter, but great play was made by the Minister for Education about Sir Garfield Barwick agreeing that the word 'consult' in Article 3 meant consult. 1 would not have thought that was very surprising. I should think that anyone who believes it does not mean consult but means control would have a job ahead of him. However, I do not object to the Government's saying that at least it will talk to the United States about the meaning of Article 3. Sir Garfield Barwick as a lawyer was not a man who easily gave very much away on the interpretation of words. Article 3, if any honourable member wishes to read it, says: 'We will consult'. That meant, and the letters exchanged said we agreed that it meant, consult. 'Consult' does not bind either party to take notice of what is said in the consultation. I should have thought that went almost without saying. I do not object to the fact that 10 years later the Government wants to make a great point of the meaning of the word 'consult', or suggests that it means perhaps a little more, perhaps a sharing of control. If the Government can get that, good luck to it.

The Government should not suggest that Sir Garfield Barwick was giving anything away on the interpretation of the agreement. The fact is that the title to and sovereignty of the land on which the signal station is situated belongs to Australia and remains vested in the Australian Government. Furthermore, as I understand it, busloads of tourists are shown over the base from time to time. 1 have visited it myself. North West Cape is not one of those highly crucial and highly secret stations that need to be the deep concern that it has been in the complaints so far made by the Australian Labor Party. I do not think the present Minister for Defence has suggested that there is this objection to it. For all the noise that was made by the Minister for Education, it is not that type of base, lt is clear that the past complaints of the Australian Labor Party were lacking in any foundation apart from some kind of militant antiAmericanism which motivated them.

I refer now to the 2 more recent installations, those at Pine Gap and Woomera. Many honourable members will recall the relatively frenetic complaints that were made about them in this House by various members of the Australian Labor Party. These complaints were persisted in, notwithstanding that the Government at the time made 3 points quite clear, lt made it quite clear that these installations were not part of a weapons system and were not able to be used to attack any country. It made it clear that the Australian national interest and independence were not jeopardised by the agreements under which these installations were allowed on Australian soil. It made it clear that it was necessary to preserve secrecy with respect to certain aspects of these installations. The previous Government's assurances on these points seemed only to drive the Australian Labor Party critics in the Parliament to increased frenzy in their complaints. Yet the Minister's present statement adopts these 3 points as the reasons for present Government policy. It certainly offers access to members of this Parliament - that would be a difference - but his statement makes it quite clear that the matters of secrecy will continue to be withheld from honourable members and the public as before and this apparent concession is really only a marginal alteration of the previous Government's attitude.

In the broad, the Minister's statement regarding the 2 bases in central Australia confirms the attitude of the previous Government. I am not complaining about this. On the contrary, the Minister who is now in the seat of responsibility has a sense of responsibility in recognising the correctness of the previous Government's policy on these bases. I only hope that in the interests of Australia the Minister for Defence will be able to stand up to the perfervid critics within his own Party who have shown their dislike of America and who criticised the policy of my Party when it was in Government and who may now, I fear, become his critics because he has given precisely the same reasons as my Party gave. I believe the House should take the opportunity afforded by the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition to make clear its views on these bases so that there may be an end to this sniping and criticism of the bases. In this way the world in general and the United States in particular will know where Australia stands in relation to these bases. Honourable members should give the Minister that much support and pass this amendment so that we will have, in substance, a bipartisan policy on this important matter. Perhaps it could serve as an example and a precedent for other defence and foreign affairs subjects because this is an area where in a democratic country, it is certainly in the interests of the country if the contending political parties can arrive at bipartisan policies. Let me cite some other examples. The Minister for Defence puts forward in his statement precisely the reasons that the Opposition put forward earlier. I only suggested to him that we wanted to give him support.

Mr Barnard - I was not giving support to you.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Do not talk about irrelevancies. There are other instances where this applies. Before the last election the Australian Labor Party deleted from its platform all reference to the South East Asia Treaty Organisation. It was described by the then Opposition's spokesman on foreign affairs, the honourable member for St George (Mr Morrison), as an irrelevant dead horse. I can understand this view being held by academics and by the honourable member. After all, there were the obvious changes which anyone taking a superficial look at the world could have been impressed by at once. France and Pakistan had virtually left SEATO. The world, particularly South East Asia, had changed since SEATO was entered into.

Yet since attaining Government the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has had talks with the Prime Minister of New Zealand which I understand covered SEATO among other topics. It appears that now that the Government has the responsibility, it is looking in depth at this matter and has a greater appreciation of the current residual significance of the Manila Treaty. Senator Willesee, Special Minister of State and Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in an address given at Perth University on 19th January this year, spoke of the Government's recognition of the importance which certain members continued to attach to the Treaty. He indicated that the Government did not propose to make any significant changes without first consulting especially with Thailand, the Philippines and the United States. This is almost a return to the bi-partisan policy followed previously by the present Opposition when in government. From my own experience as Foreign Minister, I know what these countries would say if they were consulted. It may be that here too is an area where, if real responsibility is assumed, there is a measure of agreement between us and an end to the previous criticisms so much based on political grounds.

As to the Five-Power Arrangements, it seems that there is a new found disposition, at least on the part of the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence, to appreciate for the first time the significance of these regional arrangements. As to the continued stationing of some support troops in Singapore, it is not yet clear what the outcome will be. Perhaps we will not know what the policy of the Government is on this matter until the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party at Surfers Paradise in July tells the Government what it must do. But at least the Prime Minister's visit to Indonesia and the gentle admonition on this matter given to him by the Indonesian Foreign Minister. Mr Adam Malik, can have left the Prime Minister in no doubt about the views of our nearest and largest neighbour on the significance of the stationing of Australian troops in Singapore under the Five-Power Arrangements. So, I suggest to the House that we should welcome the substance of the approach adopted by the Minister for Defence as outlined in his statement which is the subject of this debate. We can give effective expression to that view by carrying the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition.

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