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- Start of Business
- REPRESENTATION OF NEW SOUTH WALES
- SENATORS: SWEARING-IN
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Senator NEWMAN, Senator RICHARDSON)
South-East Asia: Investment
(Senator CHILDS, Senator McMULLAN)
(Senator TIERNEY, Senator RICHARDSON)
(Senator DENMAN, Senator SCHACHT)
Australian National Line
(Senator KERNOT, Senator McMULLAN)
(Senator MURPHY, Senator CROWLEY)
(Senator HILL, Senator GARETH EVANS)
(Senator MARGETTS, Senator COOK)
(Senator TAMBLING, Senator COLLINS)
(Senator FOREMAN, Senator RICHARDSON)
Queensland: Drought Relief
(Senator BOSWELL, Senator COLLINS)
Women: Pension Age
(Senator LEES, Senator CROWLEY)
(Senator GIBSON, Senator COOK)
Australian Customs Service
(Senator McKIERNAN, Senator SCHACHT)
(Senator WATSON, Senator COOK)
Member for Canberra
(Senator PARER, Senator McMULLAN)
(Senator BURNS, Senator COOK)
Incorporation in Hansard
Department of Administrative Services: Training
- Unparliamentary Language
- Medicare Levy
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
NOTICES OF MOTION
- Public Service Determination
- Regulations and Ordinances Committee
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- Commonwealth Day
- Regulations and Ordinances Committee
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- Fremantle By-Election
- Breast Cancer
- Higher Education: Quality Assurance Program
- Breast Cancer
- Electoral System
- East Timor
- Breast Cancer
- Electoral System
- Armaments Depot
- Poyntell Pty Ltd
- High Court of Australia
- Commonwealth Day
- ORDER OF BUSINESS
- LEAVE OF ABSENCE
- FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
- MATTERS OF URGENCY
- FIRST SPEECH
- MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS
ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS
Transport and Communications: Training Courses
(Senator Knowles, Senator McMullan)
(Senator Calvert, Senator McMullan)
(Senator Ian Macdonald, Senator McMullan)
(Senator Ian MacDonald, Senator McMullan)
Labour Market Programs
(Senator Spindler, Senator Schacht)
Labour Market Programs
(Senator Spindler, Senator Schacht)
Family Court of Australia: Purchase of Watercolours
(Senator Calvert, Senator Bolkus)
Arts and Administrative Services: Furniture Catalogue
(Senator Calvert, Senator McMullan)
Volunteer Centre of Tasmania
(Senator Calvert, Senator Richardson)
(Senator Bell, Senator Richardson)
Prime Minister and Cabinet: Dasfleet Vehicles
(Senator Campbell, Senator Gareth Evans)
Finance: Dasfleet Vehicles
(Senator Campbell, Senator Cook)
Immigration and Ethnic Affairs: Dasfleet Vehicles
(Senator Campbell, Senator Bolkus)
Employment, Education and Training: Dasfleet Vehicles
(Senator Campbell, Senator Schacht)
Global Positioning Base Station
(Senator Watson, Senator McMullan)
English Language Courses
(Senator Bell, Senator Schacht)
Comptroller-General of Customs
(Senator Watson, Senator Cook)
(Senator Ellison, Senator Robert Ray)
Defence: Shower Curtains
(Senator Calvert, Senator Robert Ray)
Social Security: Personal Computers
(Senator Woodley, Senator Crowley)
Minister for Defence: Credit Card
(Senator Newman, Senator Robert Ray)
Minister for Social Security: Credit Card
(Senator Newman, Senator Crowley)
- Transport and Communications: Training Courses
Monday, 14 March 1994
Senator SHORT (6.12 p.m.) —I support very strongly the words of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Hill. The statement delivered today by Senator Gareth Evans was a rather crude and disingenuous attempt on the part of the government to get itself off a very dangerous hook which I remind the Senate, as did Senator Hill, is entirely of the government's own making. In particular, it is a hook which was baited by the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) two years ago on 3 March 1992 for purely cynical, opportunistic vote-buying reasons. That hook was swallowed and the government was caught on the line of its own opportunism and ineptitude with Senator Evans's statement one month ago on 15 February:
Australia has decided to recognise as an independent state, and to commence discussions on diplomatic relations with, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
As Senator Evans went on to say, that state will be referred to as FYROM, the temporary name used in the United Nations and for membership of some international agencies. In his statement today, Senator Evans specifically acknowledged that, as a result of his statement, further elements of which I shall raise later:
. . . there has been a significant increase in community tension between Australian citizens and residents of, respectively, Greek and FYROM origins.
They are his words. That is what he says has been the result of his statement of 15 February 1994. The coalition agrees completely with the minister, to use his words:
This is a serious and deeply unhappy development for a country which, rightly, prides itself as one of the world's great multicultural success stories.
Senator Evans might also have added that Australia is one of the most tolerant, law-abiding and peace loving nations on earth. The minister rightly calls for calm and cool heads to prevail. He rightly demands the cessation of attacks on churches and property by whoever are the perpetrators, including those who for their own ugly reasons may be seeking to ignite ethnic tensions—again to use the words of Senator Evans. He says that those actions and those people are contemptible, cowardly and utterly un-Australian. Senator Evans rightly asks that all of us who make our permanent homes in this country—and, I interpose, whatever our country of origin, whether we are fifth generation, first generation or overseas born Australians—to quote Senator Evans, `have an overriding and unifying commitment to Australia first and foremost'.
Such a fundamental principle has always been the cornerstone of the Liberal-National Party policy in this area. Within that overriding, unifying commitment, however, we also freely accept that all people in Australia have the right to preserve and disseminate their cultural heritage. But the term `cultural heritage' can surely never be interpreted to include wanton acts of violence. I know of no Australian resident or citizen who thinks otherwise. Senator Evans said:
It is time for everyone, politicians included, to stop making inflammatory and provocative statements.
I agree. From his answers to questions in the Senate two weeks ago, it is clear that he would put coalition spokesmen, including me, in the category of persons having made such statements. I categorically refute such assertions. Senator Evans has always been a great one for blaming everyone else when something goes wrong, and this particular issue has gone badly wrong since his statement on 15 February 1994. He can never accept that his government might indeed be the prime culprit.
I have news for Senator Evans: on this issue, it is the government alone—and Senator Evans and the Prime Minister in particular—which has been directly, solely responsible for the damaging, dangerous, repugnant and totally unacceptable increase in community tension and acts of violence. This has been as a result of the handling by the Prime Minister and Senator Evans of the extremely sensitive and delicate subject of the use of the word `Macedonia' and the recognition of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, FYROM.
Let me emphasise unequivocally that the root of this problem is not the taking of sides between Greece on the one hand and FYROM on the other. It is not about supporting in Australia either Australians of Greek origin or Australians of FYROM origin. It is not about whether Australia recognises states rather than governments. It is not about whether, in the case of FYROM, the four internationally accepted objective criteria for recognition of states—namely, clearly defined territorial boundaries; a permanent population; an established government; and a capacity to conduct international relations—have been satisfied as I believe they have. The central issue is not about those things. The central issue is the fact that the Keating government, through the statement of Senator Evans on 15 February, broke a solemn promise that it made two years ago to the Australian community as a whole but directed particularly to the Australian community of Greek background that Australia would recognise FYROM only if three additional preconditions were met.
Those preconditions were laid down in writing by the then relatively new Prime Minister, Mr Keating, on 3 March 1992. Those three conditions, I remind the Senate, were, firstly, the use of the word `Macedonia' being settled in a way that does not cause further tension with Greece; secondly, Greece's concern about possible territorial claims or aspirations being fully met; and, thirdly, the international community's concern about the protection of minorities being fully satisfied.
The Prime Minister had no compelling reason to lay down these additional preconditions for recognition other than the base political reason that he was seeking to shore up the vote of the Greek Australian community. That is what it was all about—simple, basic, base, opportunistic, cynical politics. It is all very well for Senator Gareth Evans to come in here today in his normal arrogant, pompous, pious way and proclaim to us that the government's responsibility is:
to conduct our foreign policy in Australia's national interests, not those of any other country, just as it is our responsibility to govern for the benefit of all Australians, whatever their sex, race, or ethnic origin.
Senator Evans is correct; that is the responsibility of the government. The only problem is that in this government's hands those fine sentiments are just so many hollow words. To the government's great shame and to Australia's great misfortune, those words are observed in the breach by this government. `Say one thing, do the opposite'. That is the hallmark, that is the stamp, of this government. `Do not worry about solemn promises; just make them, then break them whenever the politics of opportunism demands'.
In the end, governments that act in this way get caught out. That is precisely what has happened to this government over its promised preconditions to recognition of FYROM. The government on 15 February 1994 recognised FYROM, despite the fact that the Prime Minister's three absolutely self-imposed preconditions had not been met—certainly not in their entirety and arguably not at all.
Senator Evans has been at pains today and on previous occasions to attempt to defend the indefensible by asserting that those three preconditions have actually been fulfilled. I will not insult the Senate by repeating these patent falsehoods. My colleague Senator Hill has already refuted them admirably and comprehensively. But I draw the Senate's attention to one or two aspects of Senator Evans's attempted defence of the government's actions. On page 4 of the statement, on the question of territorial aspirations, the minister said:
. . . we believe that argument based on the language of the FYROM Constitution should reasonably have been put fully to rest by the amendment formally adopted in 1992, which proclaimed that the country "has no territorial pretensions towards any neighbouring states".
Senator Evans goes on in the next sentence of his statement to say:
But to the extent that there are some continuing Greek concerns based on references in the Preamble to forebears of the present state, and references in Article 49 to dealings with people of FYROM-origin living outside the state, the Australian Government does believe it would be helpful for the FYROM Government to address these concerns. Here as elsewhere, suspicions which might otherwise have been muted have been fuelled by the continued proliferation of offensive irredentist propaganda, especially maps of "Greater Macedonia", and the most helpful step of all would be for the spreading of that propaganda to be curbed.
Senator Teague —Evans contradicts himself.
Senator Knowles —That's right.
Senator SHORT —My friends Senator Teague and Senator Knowles pointed out what I was about to point out. There is a basic internal contradiction. He has contradicted himself. There is a tacit acceptance in what Senator Evans has said that this precondition on the question of territorial aspirations has not been met. Yet day in and day out the Prime Minister and Senator Evans assert baldly that all the preconditions have been met and therefore there were no broken promises on the government's part. The minister in his own statement contradicts that view. The following paragraph in his statement deals with the name issue. He says:
Most of the criticism of the Australian government has focused on our moving to recognition in circumstances where the name issue has manifestly not been resolved to Greece's current satisfaction.
He goes on:
But it needs to be remembered what the precise terms of the commitment made by the Prime Minister were: that Australia would not proceed to recognition without `the use of the word Macedonia being settled in a way that does not cause further tension with Greece'.
Again, there seems to me to be a monumental internal inconsistency in what the minister is saying. He goes on to justify the argument by saying we have not heard `more than purely formal expressions of displeasure from Athens'. What weasel words are they? They are designed to deliberately mislead the Australian community as to what the actual situation is. It is quite clear that the first precondition of the Prime Minister, namely, that the name situation not cause further tensions for Greece, has not been met. He accepts here that that has not been met.
One can go on finding similar internal inconsistencies in what the minister has said. But not only has the government broken its promises to the Australian community of Greek origin; it has also now deeply offended many Australians whose background lies in FYROM. Both the Australian community of Greek origin and the Australian community of FYROM origin are understandably dismayed and hurt—and rightly so—that this arrogant government went ahead with its recognition of FYROM on 15 February without any meaningful prior consultation at all with either community. It then took more than three weeks before the Prime Minister, Senator Evans and Senator Bolkus condescended even to meet with the representatives of the Greek-Australian community, and it took another week, until this morning, to meet with representatives of the Australian community of FYROM background.
That was a purely token meeting because the government had already decided what Senator Evans was going to say in his statement this afternoon. So I say to members of the Australian community of FYROM background that it has been desperately let down on two counts: it was not consulted, and when it eventually was consulted, what the government was going to say was a fait accompli and nothing that the community could have said to the government this morning would have had any meaningful effect on changing the government's statement of this afternoon.
As a result of the arrogance of the government's approach in this matter, we now have a situation where this government is dictating to government agencies and departments that the word to be used in relation to Australians of FYROM background will be Slav-Macedonians. That is a very deeply offensive term to all of those people but, in particular—
Senator Teague —It is offensive to the minorities, for sure.
Senator SHORT —In particular it is offensive to the minorities who comprise up to 40 per cent of the population of the state. The Albanian community comprises well in excess of 20 per cent, and there are other minorities as well. If one adds them together, it will give one a figure in the order of 30 to 40 per cent. I find it absolutely extraordinary and offensive to call them all `Slav-Macedonians' and do it on the basis that has been done today by Senator Evans. I deeply deplore it.
A spokesman from the community, Mr Jim Tomev, was quoted last week as saying—when it looked as if this was what was going to happen—the government was creating an act of `cultural genocide'. It is a very strong term, and I do not know whether I would necessarily use it, but it is one which shows just how deeply offended the community in Australia is.
There are other comments in the minister's statement which I will refer to briefly. Senator Evans is either quite off the rails or he is telling less than the full truth. For example, on page 3 under the sub-heading, `The Act of Recognition' he says:
Australia moved to recognise the FYROM only after 58 other countries had done so, including every member of the European Union and the United States. Moreover, we acted only after the state had been admitted to the UN, with Greece itself one of the 63 co-sponsors, and Greece itself prepared to accept the name "FYROM" as appropriate for this purpose.
At best, that is a half truth. For a start, as Senator Hill rightly said, it ignores something like two-thirds of the members of the United Nations who have not accepted or recognised FYROM, including particularly Canada. It also omits to say that the present Papandreou Greek government, which was not in office at the time Greece jointly co-sponsored admission to the UN, is violently opposed to the situation.
At the very least, Senator Evans should do this chamber the courtesy of making that clear. To pick up another statement, Senator Evans also went on to say:
Australia, like many other countries, delayed recognition primarily because it was thought this would encourage early resolution of the outstanding matters in dispute between the FYROM and Greece. But by 15 February this year, so many countries had recognised the state—including effectively all those with any influence on the situation—that it was impossible to pretend that Australia's withholding recognition could amount to any form of effective leverage.
I do not know whether that is right or not—it may be—but whether it is is quite irrelevant because the Prime Minister and the government should have thought of that point before it laid down its three self-imposed preconditions two years ago. If that was going to be one of the key factors in the government's thinking, then either it was very foolish when it laid down those preconditions in March 1992, or it should have had the honesty to spell out its motivations at the same time.
I will not take up the time of the Senate much longer, but I want to stress two other points from the document. On page 6, under the heading of `Diplomatic Relations', the minister says:
Australia has no present intention to enter into diplomatic relations with FYROM: although (as made clear in my statement on 15 February) we have indicated our willingness to enter into discussions about such relations, it would be premature to address this issue until the consular question is resolved.
That is not what the 15 February statement said. The first sentence said, `We have decided today, No. 1, to recognise FYROM, and No. 2, to commence discussions on diplomatic relations with FYROM'. I repeat: to commence discussions on diplomatic relations with FYROM.
There is a world of difference between that and what the minister said today. Today he was saying that we have no present intention of entering into diplomatic relations with FYROM. That is the same as saying that we have no present intention to enter into discussions. Surely that is the only reasonable interpretation that one could make.
So I do not know whether the minister had a mental block about what he said on 15 February, two months ago, when he started this whole dreadful situation, but it is totally misleading to make such a statement today. I am absolutely amazed, and I deplore the fact that he has made such a gross misrepresentation—for whatever reason he may have done it.
The only other comment about his statement that I would pick up is his remark on page 7, under the sub-heading of `Community Relations Activity'. In the course of his words there he says that Senator Bolkus:
. . . is in the process of developing some community relations initiatives aimed generally at getting a better understanding on all sides of the issues and principles involved . . .
And so it goes on. For that we should read that Senator Bolkus is developing some initiatives that are basically designed to be straight Labor propaganda to win back the Greek Australian vote and the vote of Australians of FYROM background that its deplorable handling of this situation over the last month and more must surely have lost.
So, in summary, as a result of the government's opportunistic, totally politically driven approach to this issue of the recognition of FYROM, going back to the Prime Minister's statement of 3 March 1992, the government has effectively let down the Australian community of Greek background; it has let down in an equally offensive way—indeed in some ways more offensively—the Australian community whose background is in the region of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. It has let down the whole Australian community, because the whole Australian community is vitally interested in this matter.
This is not a matter that just affects certain sections of the Australian community; it is a matter that affects the whole of the Australian community. It goes to the core of our unity as a nation, and it goes to the whole core of Australia as a truly multicultural society. The government's handling of this matter has put a very grave dent in community perceptions and the reality of our multicultural society—a society for which the government continually seeks to claim the credit, despite the fact, I might point out, that it was the former Liberal-National Party governments, and particularly the Fraser government, to which much of that credit is due.
Senator Richardson —What?
Senator SHORT —Senator Richardson might say, `What?', but the real development of a multicultural society in Australia so far as government policy is concerned occurred during the Fraser years from 1977 to 1983. If Senator Richardson does not believe that he can go back and read the history and developments of that time. He can have a look at the Galbally report and at the fact that the Fraser government which commissioned the Galbally report accepted the whole of it.
Senator Knowles —History is being rewritten again.
Senator SHORT —So, as Senator Knowles said, Senator Richardson is out on yet another attempt to rewrite the history of this country, which he is increasingly being caught out on. Having said those things, I endorse Senator Evans's comments and appeal for calm and reason to be the hallmark of where we go from here in looking at this issue. As I say, I think the causes of the problem rest wholly and solely with the government and its handling of the matter. Regardless of that, we all have a responsibility. Regardless of where we come from to Australia, we are all Australians. We all have a total commitment to solve this problem in a way that will reflect upon the very tolerant, peace-loving, law-abiding society that we have always been, that we pride ourselves on and that, in the handling of this, we must ensure that we continue to be.