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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 1203


Mr COBB(10.16) —If there is one policy where this Government has got totally wrong is its stance on trade sanctions with and investment in South Africa. Recently I returned from South Africa and, after talking to a whole host of people every day from sun up to midnight for three weeks, I can report that I did not meet one white, one black, one coloured person or one Indian who was in favour of Australia's policy on trade sanctions and disinvestment. The blacks I spoke to covered a wide range of interests from tribal people to trade union leaders, businessmen, ordinary workers and politicians.

I even had lunch with the Mayor of Soweto, Nelson Botile, and Soweto's Chairman of the Management Committee, Mr Radebe. They all totally rejected sanctions and disinvestment of any shape or form whatsoever. Most of them spoke bitterly of the damage it would do to all of them and to black people in particular. They would ask me: `When a factory closes down from sanctions who do you think suffers? Who will lose the most jobs? Who will be in the worst position to get another job? It won't be the whites; it will be the blacks'. I argued that Bishop Tutu, Malcolm Fraser and the Australian Labor Party tell me that black people are prepared to suffer through the disruption and chaos that sanctions would cause so that the Government would be brought to its senses and so abolish the remaining remnants of apartheid.


Mr Slipper —What does Buthelezi say?


Mr COBB —The opposite. They would reply to me incredulously: `How can putting a black man out of a job help him? His strength will come from economic strength. The Government of Ethiopia survives more comfortably than ever, yet millions are suffering from starvation. How can your Government advocate such a stupid policy? It is a crazy policy, based on ignorance, and will have the opposite effect to what is intended'. They added: `It is amazing, isn't it, that of those who advocate sanctions none will lose their jobs or be affected in any way at all. Tutu or Fraser or your Government have never come to us and sought a mandate from us for what we want. Never. They only patronise us by telling us what they think is best for us, not what we think would be best for us'.

It really became apparent to me on my trip that trade and investment, far from propping up apartheid, were the enemies of apartheid. The jobs they create mean that whites have to work alongside blacks. With the wealth that is created from these jobs, South Africa now has the only black middle class on the whole of the African continent. The political power and economic strength of the black people in South Africa, while still having a long way to go, are nevertheless increasing daily. It is common to see blacks in South Africa walking around in two- and three-piece suits, with a pair of $200 shoes on, and it is not uncommon to see them driving Mercedes and BMWs around the streets. Certainly none of them are starving, as tragically they are in many of the black-ruled States to the north.

What did surprise me about the black South Africans was that, even though they were all anti-government and anti-sanctions, they were also all anti-sporting boycotts. I had expected a range of opinions on this issue. They told me that sports boycotts were not only ridiculous but also anti-black. They would say: `Look at the South African soccer team. It is totally black. A soccer ball to a black South African is like a cricket bat to a West Indian. We would love to have our national team play against Liverpool or Tottenham Hotspur or an Australian XI, as we would fill every ground in South Africa. But we are not allowed to. It would give black South Africans something to aspire to; it would give our children heroes to look up to and it would give us stature and money, but that is denied us'. Personally, I would love to see a South African boxing team come to Australia. Probably seven out of the 10 or so weight divisions would be filled by black people because they are superior to whites in this area. However, this Government will not allow this to occur.


Mr Slipper —Did you know that Tambo is staying with Fraser?


Mr COBB —He is. I know that this Government thinks that sporting boycotts, trade sanctions and disinvestment are the correct policies as they will hurt South African whites, and to some extent they do. But the blacks are harmed too and usually far more than the whites. The whites can, and will, survive this nonsense, but the blacks often cannot. I ask this Government to ask the average ordinary South African blacks whether they want sanctions and boycotts. If one did, I can tell the House that the answer would be a resounding no. It should be obvious to everyone that if the blacks really wanted to bring down South African industry they could do this simply by voluntarily withdrawing their labour permanently.


Mr Slipper —But they haven't.


Mr COBB —Of course not. The reason they do not do this is that they do not want that to occur. When South Africa prospers everyone prospers, including blacks. But if our Government consulted with Buthelezi or Botile, or the average blacks it would realise that. Instead it chooses to consult with the Tutus and the Tambos who represent no one. The Government's policy is wrong and the coalition will abolish trade sanctions.


MADAM SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.