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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1919


Senator PETER RAE(1.00) —I rise to support in general terms what Senator Coleman has said and to acknowledge her long-standing interest in human rights and her credentials in relation to the matters about which she spoke. The Opposition supports the expression of abhorrence to all forms of repression of human rights which takes place in a regrettably large number of countries throughout the world. I am particularly motivated to rise to speak by a conversation which I had several years ago with an Indian member of parliament who told me how much it meant to them when they were imprisoned to receive by various means a copy of the Hansard record of what had been said in this chamber in relation to their plight and the fact that they were supported in their time of trouble, in their time of great personal concern, when they were being subjected to totally unjustified political repression. Therefore, I believe it is important that this chamber should from time to time express its concern. When Senator Coleman indicated that she wanted to send back to Chile a copy of the remarks that have been made, I felt that it was as well if there were a wider expression of support of the general abhorrence of Australia as a democracy, as a parliamentary democracy, to all attacks on human rights.

I would like to mention just a couple of other countries and indicate our abhorrence of torture, which has become part of the system of government in so many countries. One would have hoped that by the twentieth century, by this stage when we are able to put people on the moon, man's thoughts-mankind's, personkind's thoughts-might have got to the stage of being able to exclude as a conceivable, permissable approach to government the use of torture; but not so, regrettably. We have reports of the bloodbath in Matabeleland. We have had a debate about Zimbabwe and what might happen, and how regrettable it is to find that there are repeated reports of political repression, of slaughter, of imprisonment, of torture and of actual physical defilement of people-I use that term in the broad sense-taking place in Zimbabwe.

As I have mentioned previously, according to a Scandinavian team which visited Vietnam and studied the situation there, and produced a film in relation to it, no fewer than 15,000-its estimate is that it is up to 200,000-political prisoners are still held without trial nearly 10 years after the completion of the war in Vietnam. I am sure that no one, whatever view he or she may have had as to the rights or wrongs of the Vietnam war itself, could conceivably support the continued detention without trial after this time of people who were on the losing side in that battle. We have the extraordinary, and I regard as lamentable, behaviour of the Ayotollah and his Government in Iran in relation to the Baha'ists. As I have said in this chamber before, one would have great difficulty in finding a religion which was more based upon peace and upon non- interference in government, non-interference with the processes of government, than the Baha'i religion. Yet its supporters are persecuted by that Government because they preach something which is more to do with love than hate and it does not suit the hate-inducing Government of Iran to have people in the community who might stir up any thought other than hatred as a basis for operation.

One could go on to talk about Argentina; one could talk about a variety of countries. Regrettably, almost certainly, the list of 98 countries to which Senator Coleman referred, which is set out in a report, is by no means complete. But it gives some indication of the enormity of the problem which we face in the world-that of trying to civilise government, to civilise the people of the world , and to improve standards of behaviour. If by any reference that can be made in this chamber people are heartened in their time of travail, if people are encouraged to stand up against this sort of behaviour and to stand for human rights, I think we ought to be saying what has been said this afternoon. I support Senator Coleman in what she said and compliment her on it.