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Wednesday, 25 February 1987
Page: 754

Mr CLEELAND(7.51) —I rise tonight both as a member of this House and as a member of the Victorian branch of the Returned Services League of Australia. I rise in that dual capacity to express my concern at remarks made by the State President of the RSL, Mr Bruce Ruxton. I am pleased to rise tonight because Mr Ruxton has yet again been proved to be wrong-indeed, one may say very wrong. We all recall that when Archbishop Tutu arrived in Australia unseemly matters were raised by Mr Ruxton and I regret that language was used which made Australia a laughing stock throughout the world and which created an appearance for many people throughout the world that we were a very racist nation. I am sad that the Press in fact took the time and trouble to report the nonsense that Mr Ruxton said and gave it so much notoriety in the media at the time.

But, of course, when Mr Ruxton was attacked on his statement, what did he say? He had the gall to say that he was representing the views of Australians-the majority of Australians. He said that he was also representing the views of members of the RSL-not just the Victorian branch or the Victorian executive, but the views of all members of the RSL and the views of the majority of Australians. He had the gall to say that and to put it through the media. Of course, Mr Ruxton is wrong on all counts, because he does not represent the views of all members of the RSL. He does not represent the views of all members of the RSL in Victoria, let alone in Australia. I believe Sir William Keys was quite correct in coming out and saying that Mr Ruxton is wrong and that he does not represent the views of the RSL.

Perhaps more importantly, in tonight's Melbourne Herald there is a report of an Australian public opinion poll, a gallup poll, which asked questions throughout Australia on whether Australians supported Mr Ruxton's views. The report is very interesting because the poll, conducted over the first two weeks of February, found that 64 per cent of Australians disagreed with Mr Ruxton's criticisms of black immigration and of the archbishop. I might add that the attack on the archbishop was not just an attack on him as an individual; it was an attack on the Anglican Church and on all members of that Church, which made the attack even more disgraceful.

What was interesting about this poll was that 72 per cent of those people aged 16 to 39 years of age disagreed with Mr Ruxton. I might add that it makes me very proud to be an Australian here in this House tonight to think that so much good common sense and so much decency exists in Australia and that Mr Ruxton has been so shattered and proved so wrong in his statements. But of course, he does not finish there. The report goes on to say this:

Mr Ruxton today seemed surprised by the result of the Poll.

Mr Ruxton said:

I don't know where they took this poll. Was it in Richmond, Springvale, or somewhere in Cabramatta?

Let us just analyse what this man has said. He is suggesting that somehow people in Richmond or Springvale in Victoria or Cabramatta in New South Wales are not Australian. According to the poll he is saying that if 64 per cent of Australians disagree with him those people-Australians who live in those suburbs-are not Australians and they do not agree with the rest of Australia; they are somehow different people. This man's views and comments are most alarming. Obviously he speaks from the top of his head and does not think about what he says. He is an absolute embarrassment to the Returned Services League. The man should learn to think before he speaks. In winding up let me say this: The most pleasing thing about the poll is that it says one thing to Mr Ruxton: `You are wrong, wrong, wrong'.