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Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1449


Dr EVERINGHAM —My question is directed to the Deputy Prime Minister. Has the Government expressed a view of the award of the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize to the Polish campaigner for workers' rights, Mr Lech Walesa? Does the Government accept the reported view of Polish authorities that the award to Mr Walesa is an abuse of the Prize?


Mr LIONEL BOWEN —The Government is delighted to know that the Prize has been awarded to Mr Walesa. The Prime Minister has sent a message this day on behalf of the Government, the Parliament and the people of Australia to congratulate Mr Walesa. I think it ought to be placed on record that Mr Walesa formed the first registered communist trade union in 1980. That, of course, made him world famous . I think it is to be deplored that the fact that the award was made to him has brought some criticisms from the Polish authorities. I think that criticism was demeaning and I do not think it was in accordance with the spirit of that Prize. It is interesting to note that the Nobel Prize is awarded in a number of fields but also for what is called the good of humanity. One can think of no better cause for the good of humanity than the cause of peace.

I notice that the Peace Prize is awarded by a committee of the Norwegian Parliament. That Prize was awarded to Mr Walesa by that committee. I think we are all very appreciative of the work done by Mr Walesa in establishing the trade union movement in Poland. It is a communist country; freedom is not readily available. Mr Walesa has had to put up with no end of pressures and problems which he has been able to counteract. Honourable members should look at the struggle of workers throughout the world. They are only ever encouraged by trade union solidarity. If we look at the nations of the world where there are no trade unions, or where trade unions are not encouraged, we will see that there is no freedom and that there are always dictatorships.

Walesa and his workers are experiencing a tremendous problem in Poland. I hope, the Government hopes and, I am sure, the Parliament hopes that the award of this Prize will give heart to all those in Poland to continue the struggle for human rights. It is our hope that the Polish authorities will allow Mr Walesa, who is a true patriot in every respect, to travel to Norway to collect the Prize and then to return to Poland to carry on the work for which he has undoubted talents . It is not without precedent for the Prize to be given for such efforts. Last year Garcia Robles of Mexico won the Prize for his work in respect of nuclear arms control. The whole concept of supporting the work of Solidarity is to guarantee that trade union movements throughout the world will flourish and, therefore, that human rights will flourish and prospects for peace will certainly be improved.