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Thursday, 28 February 1985
Page: 341


Senator PETER BAUME(3.37) —by leave-I amend Notice of Motion No. 2 standing in my name, and move:

That the Senate-

(a) having regard:

(i) to the desire of all people to live in peace and freedom and to enjoy basic human rights, including the right to self-determination,

(ii) to Australia's membership of the United Nations and regard for the principles of its Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples adopted by its General Assembly on 14 December 1960 by Resolution 1514 (XV), and the Final Act of the Helsinki Agreement, and

(iii) to the fact that, whilst the Australian people have acquired these rights and freedoms, other peoples are deprived of them; and

(b) taking note:

(i) of the Resolution of the European Parliament on the Situation in the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) adopted on 13 January 1983,

(ii) of the fact that the 3 Baltic States were independent sovereign republics and members of the League of Nations during the years 1918 to 1940, when they were occupied by the Soviet Union in consequence of an agreement between the then German Government under Hitler and the Soviet Government under Stalin (the so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact),

(iii) of the fact that the occupation of these states by the Soviet Union still continues, but that in accord with other democratic governments the Australian Government has not recognized de jure their incorporation into the Soviet Union,

(iv) that the peoples of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are being denied many basic human rights (as indicated in the unanimous Report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence entitled ''Human Rights in the Soviet Union'', presented in November 1979), but that they have not given up their struggle for self-determination and freedom, and

(v) that an intensive process of Russification is taking place in these occupied countries aimed at elimination of the indigenous languages and culture;

(c) resolves:

(i) that Australia, as a member of the United Nations, should fulfil its obligations to promote and encourage respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and should support the European Parliament's Resolution in respect of the Baltic States,

(ii) that in order to do so the Australian Government should, on its own initiative, and by seeking the support of like-minded governments, bring the question of human rights and self-determination for the Baltic States before all appropriate forums of the United Nations, and especially before the United Nations Human Rights Commission, and

(iii) that the Department of Foreign Affairs should be directed to take all necessary steps in order to implement this Resolution.

I sought leave to amend this notice of motion in a minor way, following discussions with the Government, the Australian Democrats and Senator Harradine. The effect of the amendment is to shorten paragraph (c) (ii) and to take out certain words from the original notice of motion which related to a United Nations committee which has already met and to which reference is therefore inappropriate. The motion which I have moved and which I hope the Senate will adopt concerns the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, small countries in north-eastern Europe, situated between the Soviet Union and the Baltic Sea. These nations were briefly independent but have now been forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union.


Senator Lewis —They had an 800-year history of independence.


Senator PETER BAUME —I will talk about their history of independence. It was a brief but glorious 20 years of independence. We seek to have Australia support the resolution of the European Parliament in relation to the Baltic states, a resolution which puts on record in no uncertain terms the view of that body. We seek to have Australia do all it can within the United Nations to promote the cause of the Baltic nations. We ask that the Department of Foreign Affairs be directed to take all appropriate steps to implement any resolution which the Senate may enact. That direction would come from the Government of the day, but the Senate seeks to ask that that direction be given.

These three Baltic nations have had a long history of occupation. Prior to the twentieth century they were conquered and ruled by many foreign groups. During the nineteenth century they were ruled by Czarist Russia. Independence was achieved when the Russian and German empires collapsed during the final stages of World War 1. Despite the lip-service paid before the Russian Revolution to the ideals of national self-determination, the new Soviet Russian regime lost no time in trying to re-conquer the fledging Baltic republics. However, the Soviet Union was repulsed and in 1920 peace treaties were signed. Those treaties put on record that the independence of those states would be maintained 'forever'. Yet despite treaties promising the independence of the Baltic States 'forever', the imperialists of the Soviet Union and the nazi regime together in 1940 signed an infamous document, the Von Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, which carved up north-eastern Europe and allocated the Baltic states to the Soviet sphere of influence. Relying on the security of these treaties in 1940, the Soviet Union occupied the Baltic states by force. It occupied the states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Fraudulent elections were held with the installation of Soviet puppet regimes. This was followed by the formal incorporation of each of the states into the Soviet Union against the will of the people and subsequently with great suffering and loss of liberty.

Since that time the Baltic people have suffered massive invasions of their human rights. They have experienced mass deportations, mass imprisonment, executions and arbitrary terror. In fact, between 1940 and 1953 good estimates are that the Baltic states suffered a population drop of 26 per cent. It is interesting to work out how that figure came about. Was it as a result of direct casualities in war? Was it because all the people fled to the West? Let us examine the figures. Three per cent of that figure of 26 per cent related to casualties directly related to war; 5 per cent were the victims of nazi persecution-mainly Jews-from the Baltic states. Four per cent were refugees who fled to the West, but the majority of the population lost, 14 per cent, were the victims of Soviet execution, Soviet imprisonment and Soviet deportation. In moving this motion I express the concern of my New South Wales Senate colleagues, Senators Sir John Carrick, Lajovic and Puplick, about what is happening in these three countries.

The invasions of human rights and the climate of fear and terror which has operated in the Baltic States rank with some of the worst that have been experienced in human history. Some senators joined me last night in seeing a moving film about one genocide that occurred a generation ago when six million Jews lost their lives in Europe. The people who are concerned about that genocide might also concern themselves about what has happened since then in the countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The identities of these Baltic states have been submerged to the interests of the conquering Soviet regime, with the elimination of all the Baltic national, political, military, cultural and economic institutions. This is not meant to be a merely historical account as these things are continuing today. I want to set out for the Senate some of the deprivations and atrocities which are going on today and which have brought such horror to the people in the Baltic states.

I wish to talk first about the denial of freedom and rights. One can look at the general violations of human rights in the Baltic states today, but this is based on the understanding that the fundamental problem in these countries remains one of denial of national self-determination and independence. Is it wrong for people to yearn after these goals? The Estonians, the Latvians and the Lithuanians face all the problems faced by the Soviet people under the existing regime, but they face extra problems because of the sense that they are deprived of their own identity and are subjugated nations. I shall say more about that special problem later.

The general lack of freedom under which these people labour today, the lack of rights in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, can be outlined in the following way. First, there is no right to emigrate or to visit abroad. Permission to do so is sometimes granted by the regime, but this is at the absolute discretion of the government. That sits poorly with the situation in this country or in other democracies. In the Baltic states there is no right of peaceful political opposition or of peaceful political assembly. There is no freedom of association-a basic right that we hold dear. No independent form of mass media is permitted in the Baltic states. All radio, television and newspapers are controlled by the state, and they put out what the state decrees. There is no independent judicial system in the Baltic states; there is no freedom from coercion by the state or freedom from arbitrary arrest. The government and the Communist Party are virtually immune from legal liability concerning any of their actions, whether past or present. No free trade unions are allowed and the regime's monopoly on employment means that genuine job mobility does not exist. Citizens are not permitted to establish their own businesses, except in very limited circumstances, and only in relation to very small private plots of land. Censorship of mail exists, as does censorship of art and especially of literature. Both areas of art and literature are required to be kept clear of anything judged by the regime to possess anti-Soviet content.

The education system in the Baltic states is tightly bound by the constraints of the regime's political ideology. To give an example, it is virtually impossible in Latvia, Lithuania or Estonia for a medical or engineering student to obtain a final degree without passing an examination in Marxism-Leninism and without taking a course on the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The practice of religion is severely restricted in the Baltic states. Because of the regime's monopoly over most spheres of life, such restrictions may be unofficial and indirect. For example, although there is no formal ban on Bibles, the regime ensures that supplies are minimal because the regime denies access to printing facilities, paper and so on. Similarly, proper facilities are unavailable for the training of clergymen.

In discussing human rights, it is necessary to distinguish between the time of Stalin's mass terror-that is, the years between 1940 and 1953 when things were unbelievably bad-and the period since then. But even in the period since then the restrictions on the rights of individuals-rights we consider basic-remain as I have described them. Persecution remains acute, even though it is now directed more at individuals than at groups. No longer are the Jews as a group being taken off. No longer are the kulaks, the small farmers, being killed as a group for state political reasons, but individuals suffer all the terror I have been describing. Furthermore, the gulag, the Soviet concentration system, survived Stalin and shows no signs of withering away today.

The Baltic states as subjugated countries have special problems. First, the Soviet rulers have instituted compulsory military service in the Baltic states. That service is spent in the Soviet armed forces, and is particularly objectionable to a conquered people. There is no right of conscientious objection, and they have to watch their young men and women taking part in so-called police actions, such as the police action in Czechoslovakia, or in the invasion of Afghanistan which occurred more recently. The education system which has control of their young for 10, 12 or 15 years is being exploited to indoctrinate Baltic people with rewritten history and with false ideologies. Further, there is an active program of Russification going on. The language and culture of the Baltic States is being suppressed. Everyone is required to use the Russian language.

The population is being replaced by mass immigration of non-Baltic people into these countries. The impact of large scale immigration from the Soviet Union to the Baltic states has caused the non-Baltic population to rise dramatically. Between 1940, when independence was lost, and the early 1970s the non-Estonian population of Estonia rose by 8 per cent to 40 per cent. Almost half of the population of Estonia is non-Estonian. The non-Lithuanian population of Lithuania rose from 16 per cent to 20 per cent and the non-Latvian population of Latvia rose from 25 per cent to 43 per cent.

The situation is particularly acute in the main cities. Latvians now constitute a minority in their own capital city, Riga. There is a systematic policy to assimilate and Russify the Baltic people. Certainly during the early stages of Soviet rule the regime wished to dilute the local population with more reliable elements. However, recent immigration may be due to other more economic reasons-for example, they want to import large numbers of specialists or technicians. Whatever the reason, the effect is devastating.

The motion before the Senate is in three parts. The first part asks the Senate to have regard to certain historical facts and background and to the desires and aspirations of people to be free. The second part of the motion sets out some of the historical matters I have raised today, some of the facts which underline the tragic loss by the Baltic people of their freedom, their liberty and their rights. The third part of the motion asks that certain things be done. It is part (c) of the motion, the third part, which relates to what action might be appropriate. As I said earlier, we are asking that Australia do all it can to fulfil its obligations and to promote the rights of individuals. Also, the Australian Government should take initiatives with like-minded governments to try to promote certain desirable goals which I have set out in the motion. Finally, the administrative arm of our Government, the Department of Foreign Affairs, should be directed by its Minister not to ignore this expression of view of the Australian people, this expression of view of the elected parliament, but to take action to put the sentiments contained in the motion into effect. I hope the Senate will see fit to support the motion which is before it today.

Australia responded with generosity to the plight of the Baltic refugees who made up a large part of the first great wave of post-war migration to this country. The Baltic immigrants bore the brunt of the difficulties immigrants faced in finding acceptance in their generous but narrow-minded new home. I think it was a narrow-minded home when they came here. Even today some of my Baltic friends tell me with a wry smile that in the 1950s they were, to use their words, 'bloody Balts'. I remember well the struggle they had as they fanned out from the migrant reception camps like those in the Hunter Valley and Greta in New South Wales, areas in my State, to make their way in their new land. Citizens of Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian birth are today proud, loyal, patriotic and successful Australian citizens. This is their land and this is their children's home, but they are determined not to forget the land of their origin, their languages and culture. Together with my colleagues-Senator Sir John Carrick, Senator Lajovic, Senator Puplick and other honourable senators-it is my privilege on occasions to join them in their celebrations and festivals and to share with them the longing they have for the freedom that they know in their lifetime but which they have lost. The sense of outrage and injustice about what happened remains with them and they ask, through the Baltic Council of Australia, that we support this motion to place on the record the view of the Australian Senate, to set down what we believe needs to be achieved to restore to the Baltic people some sense of hope, some sense that they may yet be able to achieve that freedom about which we talk so easily from our own secure democracy. I invite the Senate to give them that support. (Quorum formed)