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Thursday, 10 May 1984
Page: 1925


Senator LAJOVIC(1.31) —Earlier in this first reading debate we heard Senator Coleman speaking about Chile and the tribulations and plight of Chilean citizens of the lack of democracy and the lack of human rights in Chile. She mentioned a report by a journalist describing what is happening in Chile today and the demonstrations in Chile by unemployed, hungry people. She also mentioned that the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the present Government, Mr Hayden, has strongly protested twice to the Chilean Government regarding the lack of freedom in that country. She mentioned also that in the 1982 scale issued by Amnesty International Chile rated six out of eight. Unfortunately she did not mention which country was seven or eight, but I can assure honourable senators that if she had such a list and if the scale were to go beyond eight, one of the countries which would appear as sixteen, not six, would be Bulgaria. Nobody speaks or hears about the freedom of the Press, depression, unemployment, living standards, human relations or human rights in Bulgaria. Honourable senators might wonder why. I know the answer. Bulgaria is one of those countries where humane socialism reigns. It is not a fascist country. It is a socialist democracy. It is a one party state where human rights are totally ignored, where demonstrations are not allowed, where individuals are treated as no one.

I have a case before me for this Senate. I am doing as Senator Coleman suggested. This chamber should bring to the attention of this nation and to other nations what is happening to the citizens of countries where democracy does not exist. In the gallery today we have Mr Jordan Manolov Georgiev, a Bulgarian who left Bulgaria four years ago, who came to Australia three years ago, who is a naturalised Australian now. He has been unfortunate that when he left Bulgaria he was not able to bring with him his wife and two children. Anyone who understands what is happening in those free democratic countries like Bulgaria knows that when a person gets a passport the family is never allowed to go with him. That is why Mr Georgiev's family is still in Bulgaria today.

How can anyone understand why, after so many years of pleading, asking, begging , appealing to everyone, a government-a so-called humane, socialist democratic government-would not allow a man's wife and two young children to join him when he is living outside that paradise? Mr Georgiev has tried everything. He is not a millionaire; he is a poor man. It is strange that when he sends parcels to his family the parcels disappear, the family does not get them; they are returned with a note 'not present at this address'; or they are sent to a completely different place, even if the address is correct. They are returned from that place after many, many months-after he complains. In many cases the contents of those parcels have been tampered with. The fact is that his family has been living at the same address for the last four and a half years. They have not moved. He sent some money to his wife-a cheque for $350. It is missing. Nobody knows where it is. She did not get it.

What kind of society is that? What kind of government is that? We do not hear the songs about it that we hear about Chile. There is constant reference in all the papers to the lack of human rights in Chile. Nobody talks about Bulgaria, Mr Georgiev and what is happening there. How can a man, or any person, stay healthy , sane and reasonable if he is separated from a wife and two young children? The fact is-I have seen the doctor's certificate-that Mr Georgiev's health has deteriorated. I am not surprised at that. For someone who has experienced that kind of separation, I am surprised that Mr Georgiev is still in the shape he is. He has a petition, signed by 6,000 Australians from all walks of life- politicians on both sides of the political spectrum, trade union leaders. Everybody signed that petition. We have done what Senator Coleman said. We have done one other thing which we in this chamber thought the proper thing to do. We wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of Bulgaria on 15 December 1983. Mr Acting Deputy President, I seek leave to have this letter incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows.

AUSTRALIAN SENATE

Canberra, A.C.T.

December 15, 1983

Mr Todor Zivkov,

Prime Minister of the People's Republic of Bulgaria,

Sofia, Bulgaria

Prime Minister, We, the undersigned, being Senators of the Australian Parliament elected by the Australian people, respectfully urge you and your Government to respond positively to the plea made by Jordan Georgiev now an Australian Citizen , to allow his wife, Stefka, and his young sons, Manoi and Georgi, to join him in Australia.

As you will be aware, Jordan Georgiev left Bulgaria in October 1979, was admitted as a migrant to Australia and is now an Australian Citizen. For four years he has unremittedly sought reunion with his family in Australia, and the refusal to allow this course has been a source of considerable distress to all members of this family. We are informed that his wife urgently desires to come to Australia with their children.

Successive Australian Governments have supported his plea and many leading Australians have joined in the humanitarian request that reunion be permitted, in accordance with those human rights to which most Governments are committed.

We seek an early reply and a positive response to our request.

Yours sincerely,


Senator LAJOVIC —This was signed by 27 senators, among them Senator Susan Ryan, a Minister of the Crown, and Senator Gareth Evans, Attorney-General of this Government. There was no reply. Nobody contacted any of the signatories to this letter. So on 16 March 1984 I wrote a follow-up letter to the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, simply asking him for an answer to our original letter or an acknowledgment that he received the letter. By the way, both letters were registered. But there was no reply. I feel that this Government should do something like what it intends to do or is doing in the case of Chile. It should voice its strongest protest against a country treating an Australian citizen in such a way: Keeping his family in Bulgaria, incommunicado; intercepting the parcels; intercepting the moneys which he is sending to them; and totally ignoring his plea, made for a simple, humanitarian reason-that his wife and two children might join him in this country.