The Australian Labor Party has firmly rejected proposals by its 'Socialist Left' faction that would have required Australia to withdraw from the ANZUS defense alliance with the United States and New Zealand, and to close down US bases in Australia.
It also refused to adopt a policy that would have prevented the visit of nuclear-powered ships to Australia. These decisions were made at the National Conference of the Australian Labor Party, which can set policies that must be followed by Labor governments in Australia.
But proceedings at the conference have shown Prime Minister Robert Hawke, his Cabinet ministers, and their supporters have firm control of the party apparatus. The conference was persuaded to agree to some changes in the party's platform which will help improve relations between Australia and Indonesia.
Those relations have been strained in recent years over Indonesia's takeover of East Timor, and because of border problems between the Indonesian province of West Irian and the former Australian teritory of Papua New Guinea. The conference abandoned previous Labor Party policy which called on the Labor government to withdraw recognition of the Indonesian absorption of the former Portuguese territory of East Timor.
Nevertheless, the conference expressed concern about the problems of East Timor. It adopted a resolution expressing its ''grave concern at reports of renewed fighting in East Timor and about the threats to human life and safety there, and calls on the Indonesian government to give free access to humanitarian relief teams, to international organizations such as Red Cross, Amnesty (International), and the Commission of Jurists, and to allow an independent international mission to enter the territory to make an independent and impartial report on conditions.''
It also called on the Australian government to support ''international initiatives (including the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General) that have the aim of achieving a settlement of the Timor problem.''
Immediately after the conclusion of the debate on foreign policy, Foreign Minister William Hayden flew off to Jakarta for talks with Indonesian ministers and Army leaders.
The conference decisions on relations with the United States resulted in some concern being expressed by senior ministers about some aspects of the US bases operating in Australia. Sen. Don Grimes, a senior minister and deputy leader of the government in the Senate, called for more information to be made public on the nature of the bases operated by the US in Australia.
''It seems to me that we have to take a much more open approach to the problems of the American bases, and in the future, as part of the evolution of that policy, that we must be willing as a party to provide much more information than has been given in the past,'' he said.
He told the conference it was quite ''farcical'' that information was obtainable on the bases from US official sources ''which we are not privy to.''
It is only a few weeks since Prime Minister Hawke delivered a statement to Federal Parliament in which he outlined the functions of the bases at Nurrungar, Pine Gap, and North West Cape, in which he said the facilities were vital to give the US early warning of nuclear attack and to underpin its strategy of deterrence.
Another matter on which the conference expressed some concern was the increasing use by American ships of Australian ports. The Australian government has not approved the ''home-porting'' of US ships at Australian naval bases, but Western Australian delegates at the conference complained that the number of visits by US naval ships had increased to such an extent that they were virtually using several ports in this way.
The conference passed a resolution to require the government to ensure ''in consultation with its allies, that the frequency and pattern of naval visits to Australian ports is not such as to constitute in practice the home-porting of such vessels in Australia.''