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Tuesday, 8 November 1983
Page: 2436


Mr HAND(10.54) —On Wednesday, 19 October, the Prime Minister of Grenada, Maurice Bishop, three of his Ministers, two trade union leaders and an unknown number of citizens were killed in St George's, the country's capital. The political character and allegiances of those responsible for the killings have since been the subject of much speculation in the Press and, in my view, has yet to be established with any certainty. But what is beyond doubt is that those who murdered the leadership of the New Jewel Movement, Grenada's ruling party until 19 October, dealt a savage blow to the cause of social justice not only in the Caribbean but also throughout the world.

In 1981 I had the privilege of meeting members of the New Jewel Movement when Prime Minister Bishop, Foreign Minister Unison Whiteman and Education Minister Jacqueline Creft attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Melbourne. I regret to say that all three are now dead. Like other Australian Labor Party members, trade unionists and community leaders I was impressed by their humanity, energy and vision. Maurice Bishop, in particular, was an immensely popular man, not only in his own country but throughout the Caribbean. But I do not wish to dwell on the personal qualities of these fellow socialists. It is not for these that they will be chiefly remembered, but for their achievements during the brief four and a half years of their government.

Maurice Bishop and his supporters came to power in March 1979 when they led a popular insurrection against the dictator, Eric Gairy-black magic devotee and would-be world expert on UFOs. One of the first acts of the new Government was the abolition of labour laws which had deprived 11 categories of workers of the right to strike. The right to form and join trade unions and to strike was recognised by law. Before 1979, unemployment among women was running at around 70 per cent.

The New Jewel Movement introduced legislation guaranteeing equal pay for equal work; encouraged the employment of women in non- traditional areas; and, in 1980 , proclaimed the maternity leave law, which gave women the right to paid leave during pregnancy, and to job security. When Maurice Bishop visited the United States of America in June this year and was shunned, incidentally, by those leaders who now lament his death, he was able to report to the United States that unemployment had been reduced to 12 per cent.

Grenada now has-or it had until the last week or so-a free health service and a free educational system. Grenada's economic and social development under the leadership of the New Jewel Movement brought it the commendation of the World Bank, which reported last year on the impressive growth of the island's economy. The report gave the Bank's blessing to the Government's international airport project-the very same airport which, with sad irony, has been cited by the United States as evidence of Grenada's militaristic and terroristic inclinations .

More recently, during his June visit to the United States, Maurice Bishop described Grenada as being the object of the Central Intelligence Agency pyramid plan: At the base, propaganda destabilisation; at the top, military destabilisation and terrorism. He claimed that an invasion of Grenada was increasingly likely, but went on to add:

. . . they will discover that our people will fight back, and even in Grenada, they will be shocked to see the cost in manpower required to overthrow the revolution.

Today, these predictions have become realities. The armed forces of the richest and most powerful nation in the world are now occupying the territory of the smallest nation ever to embark on a course of socialist development. International law has been swept aside and a precedent set which poses a grave threat to progressive movements in the region and throughout the world.

I consider it the responsibility of our Government to draw to the notice of the Australian people and of the world the achievements of the New Jewel Movement, and to do whatever we can to ensure that the gains of the last four and a half years of Grenada's history are protected and extended by any future government in that country. I can think of no more fitting tribute to the memory of those fellow members of the Commonwealth and of the Socialist International.