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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 127

Mr RONALD EDWARDS —I direct a question to the Prime Minister. I preface it by referring to his recent commemoration of the Ben-Gurion Memorial Park in Perth and the enthusiasm this generated amongst the Perth Jewish community. Can the Prime Minister inform the House about Government efforts on behalf of the Jews in the Soviet Union?

Mr HAWKE —I think it is well known that since coming to office the Government has taken every opportunity available to it to raise its concerns about the plight of the Soviet Jewry both in bilateral discussions and in appropriate international forums such as the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Mr Hayden, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, raised the matter directly with the Soviet authorities in Moscow in 1984. I think it is well known that I have raised it on occasions with the Soviet Ambassador. Madam Speaker, as you will clearly recall, the parliamentary delegation to the Soviet Union which you led last year again raised the question with high level authorities. You made a new appeal for the release of Jewish activists still imprisoned in the Soviet Union. Especially, you mentioned, Madam Speaker, the case of Dr Joseph Begun in detention for having taught Hebrew in the Soviet Union. I am very pleased to say that last month in Israel I had the opportunity to reaffirm-in meetings with Prime Minister Shamir and also in a very touching meeting with a group of refusenik representatives, who between them represented some 200 mothers separated from their children and grandchildren-that I would raise at every appropriate opportunity, the issue of the Soviet treatment of Jews.

I am very pleased to say that there has been a development from that. In that meeting with the representatives of the refuseniks I was most particularly moved by the case of Sophia Landver, a woman whom I would judge to be about 40 years of age, who wished to enter the Soviet Union to visit her terminally ill mother. As a result of that meeting in Jerusalem I immediately had representations made here in Canberra and in the Soviet Union. On her behalf last Wednesday here in Canberra I raised the matter directly with the Ambassador of the Soviet Union. I am delighted to be able to report that permission for Mrs Landver to visit her mother was granted last Thursday. I have thanked the Ambassador for this. We have also been heartened to learn that Dr Begun is among a group of refuseniks released from detention in the last few days. I think it is fair to say-and I guess no one has been more consistent in criticisms on this matter than me-that there are some encouraging signs in Soviet policy on human rights, but very much remains to be done before the situation can be considered acceptable. This Government will continue to make representations to the Soviet Government to this end in the knowledge that our efforts and those of other democracies can produce some positive results.