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Thursday, 28 February 1985
Page: 350


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK(4.39) —In the years immediately following World War II there came into our language an ugly new phase. That phrase was 'the captive nations'. It was an ugly concept born not out of people, regardless of numbers, going into captivity but of whole nations going into captivity. We saw the captivity of three fine nations and their people by a great power, the captivity by means of an agreement made in a war situation by two powers-in other words, the carving up of free and independent nations beyond their capacity to resist.

The Senate joins unanimously in totally rejecting the concept of captive nations. This motion is of profound importance because it is vital that from time to time we remind ourselves of the existing situation. If we look at history we find one thing: That it is all too easy for a de facto situation which we find abhorrent to become de jure simply because we are complacent and apathetic and have not remembered to gird our loins to do something about it. That is the fundamental point that lies behind this motion. It is a reminder to us all that we have a duty never to forget the loss of human freedom, wherever it may be.

We have a very ugly scenario. We have had in many people's lifetimes two great world wars, horrible conflicts fought to preserve and widen human freedom, resulting only in the narrowing of freedom and, in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, in a continuous shrinking of freedom. More and more peoples are coming to live in captivity. The very goal for which this Parliament stands, the one great objective we have that overrides everything else, is that we believe in individual dignity and freedom. We believe in the rights of the free person-the right to be different, to have a different culture, a different religion, a different spirituality, a different economic system. That is what this Parliament stands for. We exchange dialogue across the chamber so that we can remind ourselves continually that that is our goal. That goal ought to be written into everything that is done and said in this place-that we stand for human freedom, that we stand for the actions which will take people out of bondage, wherever they may be, and give them the right to be different.

In much of the free world there has not been a recognition in a de jure fashion that the Baltic states are incorporated in the Soviet system. A de facto situation is in grave danger, through our apathy and our failure to remind ourselves of our duty of becoming entrenched. It is easy to say as the years go by that it looks as though nothing can break this. We, the Western world, have spent the post-war years in decolonisation. It is a great tribute to countries such as Britain, and to ourselves in regard to New Guinea, that one by one we have set the colonies free. We have given them the right to be different, given them their dignity and their freedom. On the other side, there has been a hardening of colonisation, a forcing together of people. As Senator Baume has so aptly said, there has been a compelling of people by military force, a subjugation, causing them to lose their freedom of action in virtually every way. That is really of momentous importance.

It is even more ugly because in recent days we have had cause to discuss in this chamber the overriding issue for mankind, that is, the question of how we as a people can forever stop the development of significant war, whether it be conventional or nuclear war. How can we do something that has never been done by mankind-stop each of the generations being engulfed in some kind of war? We know now that if war of any significance occurs it is likely to escalate into nuclear conflict, and we know now that that could be destructive of the world. I do not want to raise again what has been discussed in recent days, but I do want to say that this ugly nuclear threat that hangs over all of us is, in fact, a political subjugation. Already around the world there are signs of people losing their will to fight, to assert themselves, because of their belief that there is an inevitability about this nuclear blanket.

We have to watch that there is not a loss of will in any country, be it Poland, Hungary or Czechoslovakia. After all, we are talking now of peoples who have had great freedom and who have been subjugated. It so happens that today we are talking about Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. We should remind ourselves of those other countries caught inside the Iron Curtain. Such a country is Czechoslovakia, which was a great democracy. Such a country is Hungary, which had a great culture. Another is Poland, with its remarkable spirit and the hunger for freedom of its people which still persists. It may seem inevitable that their present subjugation, the present fixation of boundaries brought about by the tyranny of might, will exist forever. History is against that. History says that if a man keep his free will and his spiritual desire for freedom, then it will happen. I believe that in the lifetime of the people in the Senate there will be a seeking, a striving and, indeed, an achieving of freedoms on the west European continent.

I direct my remarks to this motion. I believe it to be fundamental. It would be a great thing, and I agree with Senator Mason, if the Senate could be unanimous on this matter. It is all right for us to fight about a mechanism for the achievement of peace. We should fight with all the vigour on earth and be willing to be friends afterwards. But when we are stating something that is fundamental to the human spirit, the human principle, can we not all agree? We ought all to agree that if there is to be a message it must not be mealy-mouthed. It must not be seen to be complacent and apathetic, a do-nothing thing. I plead with the Australian Labor Party; I do not want to be combative on this matter. We as a combined Senate are aiming to send a message. Indeed, paragraph (c) (ii) of Senator Baume's motion states:

That in order to do so--

that is, in order to achieve what we want-

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 . . .

Is there a person in the Senate who disagrees that, in order to do these things, we should seek the support of like-minded nations? Who disagrees that we should bring this matter to those fora? What does the Labor Party propose? It does not propose that we should do that. It proposes some utterly ambivalent kind of wordage that says that we might and we might not; perhaps we will and perhaps we will not. The amendment of the Government states:

That the Australian Government should keep under review the possibility of intervention, through appropriate channels, for example, the United Nations Human Rights Commission, on the matter of human rights . . .

My goodness gracious me! What a dissent from any kind of determination or free will. What do we say to these good people whom so many honourable senators have rightly commended, who have come to this country as refugees from war and have made and helped to shape the cultures and the strength of this country? Do we say to them that we might or might not act that perhaps we will or perhaps we will not? That is not the kind of message one expects from this Parliament at all. That is the fundamental of this amendment. The Labor Party's amendment would take out these words in paragraph (c) (i), for instance:

that Australia, as a member of the United Nations, should fulfil its obligations . . .

What is wrong with fulfilling obligations? Paragraph (c) (i) goes on:

. . . 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 . . .

I cannot conceive of a government of this country that would want, as this Government does in this amendment, to reject the assertion that Australia should accept its obligations to do things and that we should support the European Parliament's resolution in respect of the Baltic states. Does that mean that the Government does not support the European Parliament's resolution in respect of the Baltic states? Are we to read it in this way? Are we to say that because it is not here there must be a reason for not doing it? Once again, I am utterly mystified.

I come to the one point which the Government has raised. I must say that the Government's arguments lack any veracity and any substance. The Government has said that paragraph (c) (iii) cannot stand because it is contrary to the rights of this chamber to do this. Paragraph (c) (iii) states:

That the Department of Foreign Affairs should be directed to take all the necessary steps in order to implement this Resolution.

The Government does not say 'be directed'; it says 'we resolve that it should be'. There is no direction here at all. It is merely an expression of view of this Senate directed to the Executive and to the Minister. It is that in the view of this Senate they should do so and so. It is not ordering anybody through the Executive, through the Department at all. My goodness, there is an essential humbug in this matter. Day after day over the years in this Senate we have had addenda to motions for the second reading of Bills stating that in the opinion of the Senate something should be. Similar addenda and attachments have always been carried. Never before to my knowledge has this objection been raised. Of course the argument raised that (c) (iii) is a directive is really a deliberate attempt to misunderstand the English language. All we are doing is resolving that the Department of Foreign Affairs be directed. We are saying to the Minister that in our view the Department should be directed. There is absolutely no substance in what the Government is saying.

If the Government were, by any device at all, to run away from this matter, that would be in concert with what it has done with the rest of the motion-that is, seeking to emasculate it. It is not just those other matters that emasculate the motion; the deletion of the whole of paragraph (c) does that. It is the deletion of the words:

(i) that Australia, as a member of the United Nations, should fulfil its obligations . . . and should support the European Parliament's Resolution-

That will be deleted if the Australian Labor Party has its way. The Government seeks to take away our initiative to do certain things, for example, getting the support of like-minded governments. This would be gone. The Government wishes to take away our right to bring the matter before all appropriate forums as a priority, especially before the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

Let us not forget that not only does the Government propose to delete (c) (i) but also it proposes to replace (c) (ii) by 'perhaps we might say', 'perhaps we might not say', 'perhaps we might do' kind of wording. All I say to those people from the Baltic states-from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia-who are in Australia today or who are in their captive nations, is that that is certainly not the viewpoint of the Liberal and National Opposition. Nor do I see it as the viewpoint of the Australian Democrats nor, indeed, of Senator Harradine. There needs to be a clear message go out from those honourable senators speaking in this debate that we are not wishy-washy about this matter at all. We see a great harm being done to human freedom. We see a national bondage which we find absolutely objectionable. We are prepared to state categorically where we stand and what action should be taken. That is the difference between us and the Government.

If the Labor Party will not support that proposition it must be shown to people in Australia and elsewhere that the Labor Party, because it has deleted these paragraphs, does not believe there should be Australian initiatives, does not want to support the European Parliament's resolution and does not take our initiative and seek the support of like-minded governments and deliberately go into fora. Why is it that it has proposed its amendments? There can be only one reason-it does not agree with the motion. If the Labor Party rejects our motion and attempts to carry its amendment it will be attempting to emasculate that motion. It will be doing the very things that I have said are a danger to this world. The Government will be saying: 'Let us take a complacent view about this. What is it all about? The Australian Government should keep it under review'. I guess Australian governments of the past have had tens of thousands of issues kept under review. What should be kept under review? The possibility of intervention should be kept under review. It is not considering whether we will intervene in the Human Rights Commission or whether we will get the support of like-minded governments.

I cannot believe that any government in Australia, faced with the history of the post-war years, would move such an emasculating amendment. I cannot believe that the Government would want to say-no Opposition senator who has actively been amongst captive nations would say-this: 'All we want to do is perhaps think about the possibility of intervening'. That is the message here. Let the Senate not forget it. If the Government votes in this way what it is saying to all those good people in Australia is: 'Look here, the best we can do is to say we will keep it under review'. What will the Government keep under review? It will keep under review the possibility of intervention. This is despite the fact that the Government knows that all history shows that the keeping under review of the possibility of intervention means the entrenchment of tyranny. If ever there were a message to be learnt from history it relates to those governments of appeasement of the past.


Senator Robertson —You are the one to talk about appeasing governments.


Senator Sir JOHN CARRICK —If honourable senators opposite want to play politics on this I will remind them of a few home truths. For example, I remind the Government that its wartime leader, Mr Curtin, less than 10 months before World War II broke out, in this Parliament, as recorded in Hansard, called for the reduction of arms in Australia. There is no point in trading that kind of nonsense here. What I am saying is that of course all governments throughout history have been wrong. That has been my message.

Why is the Labor Party so sensitive to this? I had to touch this sensitive area because indeed that is the only lesson that the Labor Party understands. I am pleading that the Government understand that all history has shown that appeasement-the Neville Chamberlain kind of peace in our time appeasement-is not right. I am talking about the attitude that things will be all right; for example, the retreat from a stand in Czechoslavakia. If we had not retreated from that stand before the arming of Hitler, 40 million people from both sides of the Iron Curtain would not have died. That is what I am talking about. I am not talking about Labor governments; I am talking about governments of all kinds. Let us not have those cheap kinds of interjections because for every thrust there is a counter-thrust to pink the Labor Party.

Today we have a chance to stand on our feet and to say to captive people, whether in Australia or elsewhere throughout the world, that we have not forgotten them. We have the opportunity to say that we understand, appreciate and emphasise their right to their very distinctive and wonderful cultures, their freedoms and their systems of law. We appreciate that they are different. We are not going to fall for the error of history. We are not going to allow complacency, apathy and the lack of human spirit to allow something that is de facto to become entrenched forever de jure.

The Liberal Party, the National Party, the Australian Democrats and Senator Harradine have said that this motion is unobjectionable. The Opposition says that the amendment moved by the Labor Party is mealy mouthed, wishy washy and weak, and commits all the errors of judgment of past governments, no matter what political philosophies they may have held. For Lord's sake, let us not take that journey again. For Lord's sake, let us, for once in our lives, join together and vote for a motion which ought to have the full support of all Australians.

Amendment negatived.

Question resolved in the affirmative.