Matter of Urgency
Database Senate Hansard
Date 11-09-1984
Source Senate
Parl No. 33
Electorate VIC
Interjector The PRESIDENT
Senator Elstob
Senator Chipp
Page 788
Party LP
Speaker Senator HAMER
Context Matter of Urgency
System Id chamber/hansards/1984-09-11/0046

ANZUS TREATY - Matter of Urgency

Senator HAMER(4.02) —The Senate is debating a matter of urgency, namely:

The need to demonstrate Australia's commitment to the ANZUS Treaty by maintaining joint defence facilities and guaranteeing port access to allied naval units regardless of means of propulsion or armament.

I did not agree with much of what Senator Chipp said but I did agree with his description, though I think he was setting up a straw man, of the fundamental limitation of the ANZUS Treaty. It does not provide, and as far as I know no person on this side of the chamber has ever said that it does, an automatic guarantee of support. It provides a mechanism for consultation and action according to constitutional processes that may or may not result in support. The basis on which America will come to our aid if we are ever threatened is that it must think it is in its strategic interest to do so. When we think about it, it would be highly improper for America to support us on any other basis. But if we were threatened, we would very much welcome that support.

I draw the Senate's attention to a remark made by a Labor Prime Minister, Mr John Curtin, on 27 December 1941, when we were threatened. He said:

Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America.

I think if we got into a similar situation again, many of the people who seem to spend most of their time trying to kick the Americans in the teeth would be the most craven supplicants for the sort of support we would then desperately need from the United States. ANZUS is not a guarantee of support. It is a deterrent and it may be a mechanism-I will come to this in a moment-through which that support can be provided and without which the support would be much less effective.

I put it to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that the benefits to Australia of the ANZUS Treaty do not include the guarantee of support. The Treaty first provides a mechanism by which we can have joint defence exercises, exercising our forces in techniques we would not otherwise be able to employ. That is valuable to the efficiency of our Defence Force. In 1942, we were trying to co- operate with the Americans without these sorts of preliminaries and it was very difficult indeed. We had no common doctrine and no common communications systems . All these problems can be overcome only by holding joint exercises to prove the methods and prove the tactical doctrines. That is the first great advantage of the ANZUS Treaty to us.

Secondly, the Treaty provides a method through which there can be an exchange of intelligence. Of course, intelligence is exchanged only between allies, and the ANZUS Treaty is the basis of our exchange of invaluable intelligence-we give some to America and we get much more from it. It is a great advantage in the defence of this country. The third benefit that the ANZUS Treaty provides for Australia is that it enables commissioned officers and senior non-commissioned officers to serve in particular types of United States forces in order to keep techniques and skills alive in the Australian Defence Force. That benefit could not conceivably be provided except to an ally. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the ANZUS Treaty enables us to be integrated into the United States logistic network. It provides enormous overhead savings in our whole defence support effort. Without that our defence would be either very much less effective or very much more costly. These are all great advantages for Australia .

In addition, the ANZUS Treaty provides other advantages to both countries. It enables the Americans to have three facilities in this country-the communications stations at North West Cape, Pine Gap and Nurrungar. Senator Chipp talked as though these bases increased the risk of nuclear war. They are all concerned with deterrence. The North West Cape communications station communicates with Poseidon-armed, missile-firing submarines which are second strike weapons designed, by their existence and their invulnerability, to make a surprise attack, on the United States in particular, inconceivable. I accept that there is no such thing as a winnable nuclear war. We must try to prevent one starting and the existence and use of North West Cape, the electronic intelligence station at Pine Gap and the early warning station at Nurrungar, which can detect missiles launched in a surprise attack and give warning, so making that launching almost inconceivable, are great contributions to the prevention of an outbreak of nuclear war. They are therefore very much in Australia's interest. In my view it does not matter very much whether they are targets. If they are targets, it means nuclear holocaust has started, and that would mean the end of civilisation on earth. The more deeply we feel that, as Senator Chipp seems to feel, the more determined we must be to do everything in our power to prevent the outbreak of such a war. Members of the Australian Labor Party have the Americans, understandably, very worried about their attitude to the continuation of the use of these facilities in Australia.

Senator Elstob —That is nonsense.

Senator HAMER —I will come to that and Senator Elstob may contradict me if I am wrong. The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has this view; joint Australia-United States defence facilities in Australia directly contribute to Australia's security, that their operations in no way derogate from Australian sovereignty and that the removal of the facilities would dash hopes of ordinary men and women for peace and disarmament because of the contribution of those facilities to stability in the strategic relationship between the super-powers. I agree with that, but not all members of the Labor Party do. Twenty-eight members of Parliament, including 11 senators, have dissented from that. For Senator Elstob' s information, the senators were Senator Child, Senator McIntosh, Senator Coates , Senator Giles, Senator Coleman, Senator Georges, Senator Hearn, Senator Primmer, Senator Zakharov, Senator Reynolds and Senator Bolkus. They wanted to express their deep concern about the content, timing and manner in which the statement of their own Prime Minister was made. They said:

We do not believe that the Prime Minister's statement adequately addresses these issues.

What are the issues? One which is not really relevant to this debate is whether or not we should export uranium. I put it briefly that by becoming a uranium exporter we have a chance to influence the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. That is a subject for a separate debate. It is a very important point and a very strong reason why we must be responsible exporters of uranium.

Senator Chipp —It has nothing to do with dollars?

Senator HAMER —The dollars help, but I would be in favour of it even if we received no dollars for it because it represents a very important contribution to world peace. We receive no dollars out of North West Cape, but I like that because it contributes to world peace. Likewise, the export of uranium-although a couple of thousand million dollars a year is very welcome-is still a contribution to world peace. I accept the point that this stability of balance of terror is a terrifying situation. Fifty thousand nuclear weapons, even in the hands of the super-powers, may start a nuclear war by mistake, accident or even by madness. That can happen. What we must do is try to reduce the level, try to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons into new fields. We must try to prevent the development of new types of nuclear weapons. We can help to do this because such an agreement will never work unless there is adequate verification. The stations at Pine Gap and Nurrungar provide the possibility of verification that if some sort of limitation treaty comes into existence it is not being broken. That is a very important contribution which Australia has the capability of making to the reduction of the level or the stability of terror with which we have lived for over 30 years.

What else is this Government doing about the ANZUS treaty and these issues? Take the case of the British aircraft carrier HMS Invincible. Britain is not a member of ANZUS. Nevertheless, the absurdly clumsy handling by the Minister for Defence (Mr Scholes) of that incident showed the attitude of this Government to ships that carry nuclear weapons. The Invincible is powered by gas turbines; it is not nuclear powered. I accept that probably it does carry nuclear weapons. Because of the bizarre handling by the Minister for Defence (Mr Scholes) of the whole episode when it wished to dock and after long negotiations, we slipped back only to the position that existed before the Invincible arrived. Seeking guarantees that the situation had been corrected, I asked the Attorney-General ( Senator Gareth Evans) whether, under the new rules and understandings which the Government had announced, if the Invincible arrived in exactly the same state as she had arrived in last year, she would be docked. The Attorney-General refused to answer a hypothetical question. We are no better off. We still have the same Minister for Defence, with the same confused mind, with the same capacity for creating chaos with our allies, and we have got no further forward to a firm understanding that we have obligations to our friends and our allies. We renege on those at our peril.

We have also seen the bizarre episode of the Premier of Victoria, Mr Cain, trying to conduct his own foreign policy, trying to ban United States naval visits to Melbourne and trying to tell the ports not to co-operate with the visits of the US warships because he thought they might be carrying nuclear weapons. It is not for a State Labor Premier to conduct his own foreign policy. I think that Mr Cain was told correctly by the then Liberal Government not to behave in that silly way. Nevertheless, this silliness does infect the whole of this debate and it permeates the Labor Party. Forty per cent of the major warships of the United States are now nuclear powered. I suggest that probably all of the major warships carry nuclear weapons, but we will never know because it is a matter of principle which cannot in any way be changed. Governments will never announce what their weapon outfit is. They will never say whether their ships do or do not carry nuclear weapons. If we expect them to say that they do not and do not admit them to our ports unless they say they do not, we will not permit any of the ships of Britain, America and France, our allies or friends, to come to this country. In my view that is an absurd proposition.

I turn briefly to the attitudes of members of the Labour Party in New Zealand, of which there are echoes in the Australian Labor Party, as I pointed out, and also in the Australian Democrats-in fact, Senator Chipp spoke strongly in favour of them-who are refusing to allow the visits of all American warships. That is what they are doing. They cannot be serious members of an alliance if they take that attitude towards their commitments. Quite frankly, the contribution of New Zealand to ANZUS is very small. Any value which New Zealand gets out of it could be provided adequately by joint bilateral defence relations between Australia and New Zealand. There is a great danger in the attitude of New Zealand. It is very damaging to all the treaty relations in the Western alliance if a country is permitted to opt out. The example of Denmark was given. That was very damaging to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It was not a thing that was lightly conceded by the Americans. Countries prepared to opt out of their responsibilities while still remaining a member of an alliance undercut the whole network of alliances which unites the Western world.

I believe, in view of the world-wide dangers of New Zealand's behaviour and the great political difficulties for the United States in taking an initiative without seeming to be bullying a small country, the Australian Government has to take action to renegotiate a new bilateral treaty with the Americans which would continue the benefits to both parties of the present ANZUS alliance, which would exclude New Zealand initially but would permit it to become associated if and when it was prepared to accept the responsibilities of such an alliance. What the New Zealand Labour Party has done, which is echoed in the Labor Party here and in the Democrats, is very damaging to ANZUS and is also potentially damaging to Australia and the Western alliance. The Australian Labor Government has power to take action to correct the situation. Instead, it supinely wrings its hands while looking for a feeble consensus.