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Tuesday, 11 October 1983
Page: 1539

Mr KENT —Is the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs aware that Croatian House, opened by a former Minister, Mr Macphee, in Whitehall Street, Footscray, flies the Ustashi flag and carries the name of Dr Ante Pavelic on a large inscription on the facade? Can the Minister inform the House whether Dr Ante Pavelic was the fuhrer of the wartime puppet state of Croatia, installed by the nazis? Was he the Ustashi leader who, according to Sir Fitzroy MacLean, a personal emissary of Sir Winston Churchill to Yugoslavia during the Second World War, decreed that Croatia must be purged not only of Jews and gypsies but also of Serbs, who amounted to one-third of the population? Is this the same Ante Pavelic under whose rule more than 800,000--

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Hotham is allowed to supply some information in his question to make it intelligible to the Minister. He is using this opportunity to give information rather than seek it.

Mr KENT —I am asking: Is it correct that this is the same Ante Pavelic under whose rule more than 800,000 Serbs, Croats, Jews and gypsies were slaughtered in Croatia between 1941 and 1945? Does the Minister consider the inscription on this building to be offensive? If so, would he take up the matter with the Attorney-General to see that the sign is removed?

Mr WEST —Yes, I am aware that Croatian House in Victoria displays the coat of arms of one Dr Ante Pavelic. The House will be aware that in World War II Pavelic was the leader of the State of Croatia set up under the connivance of the Axis powers. I suppose honourable members will be aware also that many people of Yugoslav descent who hold permanent residence and citizenship in Australia find this completely offensive, and I can understand that. I understand that the Ethnic Affairs Commission of Victoria has informed the Croatian Australian Association that this display causes offence to many Australians, but the Association's requests and information have not been to any effect. I do not approve of the public flaunting of former Axis collaborators' coats of arms within Australia. I believe that does cause division and that it is very negative and backward looking. I think the majority of public opinion supports my view. However, I cannot and will not take authoritarian action in this regard because the Government believes in the free expression of political views within Australia, providing that that free expression creates no risk of political violence or terrorism within Australia. I think the best way for this matter to be resolved is for those people who are displaying the emblem of the former State of Croatia to realise that they do not have public approval for it, that public opinion is against them and that they should turn away from old conflicts and negative behaviour. I ask that the supporters of Dr Pavelic take those views into consideration.