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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2136


Senator REID(10.30) —At lunch time today I attended a meeting outside Parliament House at which there were some hundreds of Vietnamese and a number of other people. I attended in company with Mr Cadman, the shadow Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Senator Short, and subsequently, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr John Howard, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Neil Brown, and Senator Kilgariff. Addresses were made to the gathering. It was to mark the day of national shame, 30 April 1987, commemorating the communist takeover in Vietnam in 1975. Speakers recalled the plight of Kampuchea and Laos as well. They recalled the tragedy of the thousands upon thousands of Vietnamese who have perished attempting to flee that country. They recounted the oppression and tyranny which exist there at the present time, the labour camps, the gaols, and the total lack of liberties which we take for granted in this country. I met the other night a Laotian woman who had been in this country since before 1972 but who, since 1972, has not directly heard of her husband. She had some brief information about him up until about 1975, but since then has not heard of him. It is hard for any of us in this country to place ourselves in her shoes or to have any comprehension of the life she has led in this country bringing up her four children, the youngest of whom cannot be said to have known his father.

There are many other hundreds of thousands who have grown up in this situation. They have been refugees from their own country. They recalled some of the things that have gone on, some of the horrors that have gone on. But I was particularly pleased to see today that they were supported by other countries with similar histories. The Latvian flag was flying. We recalled the plight of Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania; what occurred in Hungary and Czechoslovakia in days gone by; and particularly what is going on in Afghanistan now and what has been going on there for a number of years. Unfortunately, these stories seem to slip off the front pages of the newspapers and are recalled only intermittently. But the tragedy for the oppressed peoples goes on. I think today we should join with the Vietnamese people who came to Parliament House to recall the plight of people still living in that country and demand that our Government does all it can to see that the communist tyranny is lifted from the shoulders of the Vietnamese people.

We know what has happened at Cam Ranh Bay. It was suggested that it was merely a facility for pleasure boats. That, of course, is nonsense and has been proven to be so. Everybody who has any concern about the well-being of people in these countries should be able to communicate with them in a way that is meaningful, but people are not able to do so at present. We call upon the Hanoi Government to withdraw from Kampuchea and Laos and to allow those countries to return to some dignity and their peoples to lead lives more similar to those which we believe is the right way for human beings to operate and function.

I was pleased to be able to go out there and meet these people today. I was saddened that it was necessary for them to be there. The Polish flag was flying, as well as others. There are many oppressed people in the world and I think we need to spend a little time every now and again doing what we can to assist these people to get back to the countries from which they came and for those countries to be free. At the very minimum they should be allowed to have normal communication with their families who are still there.