Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 26 March 1985
Page: 810


Senator SIBRAA(5.20) —I welcome the remarks made by Senator Chaney. Earlier this year the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) appointed me to lead the Australian delegation to the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference, SADCC, which was held in Swaziland. In order to travel there it was necessary for me to travel through South Africa. At my request the Australian Embassy in Pretoria arranged a program of meetings and visits during the one and a half days that I was there. These included meetings with a number of organisations. I was pleased to find that a number of senators who have taken an interest in human rights, especially Senator Missen, were well known to those organisations. I was driven to Soweto and to Sharpeville and saw for myself the misery and degradation that exist in these townships. Soweto is not really a township but a city-one of the largest black cities in Africa-yet it does not appear on a map of South Africa. I experienced at first hand the suspicion and tension that existed when the Australian Embassy officials and I drove through the streets. I saw how the children stopped playing and averted their heads when they saw Europeans passing by. One could see the distrust.

Within this environment I find it, as the Foreign Minister finds it, almost beyond belief that the South African police should have killed at least 17 people-I think that 19 is the latest count-on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the infamous Sharpeville massacre. What a way to celebrate an anniversary, but at least they are being consistent! The recent incident is yet another example of the current unrest that is taking place in South Africa. At the Crossroads settlement near Capetown 18 people were killed and more than 200 injured very recently. Yet the South African Government continues to talk about constitutional changes aimed at limited power sharing, as if it is making progress towards real democracy in South Africa. At the same time 23 million blacks-that is 77 per cent of the population-are deliberately excluded from the political life of their country.

The Australian Government correctly rejects as hollow pretence any claims that democratic progress has been made in South Africa. Let me give some telling statistics about South Africa. South Africa has the highest per capita prison population in the Western world. Estimates are that less than 3 per cent of the inmates are white. Some 95 per cent of the Western world's executions are carried out in South Africa. For example, in 1980, 130 hangings took place and only one of the victims was white. More people were detained by police last year than in a number of previous years. The figures were recently on the front page of the Rand Daily Mail in Johannesburg-a newspaper that has been forced to close because of government pressure on advertisers.

The Australian Government will continue to reject apartheid. South Africa is the only country in the world which explicitly enshrines racism in its constitutional provisions and its structures of government. There have been a number of excellent articles recently in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age about the problems in South Africa which I believe all senators should read. The economy of South Africa is reeling, the black trade unions are flexing their muscles, the cost of the continuing war in South West Africa-about $1m a day-is increasing and the policy of destabilising the surrounding countries continues despite the stated policy of the Government. South Africa is also experiencing the disastrous drought affecting the region and recent reports suggest that South Africa has been purchasing surplus maize from Zimbabwe-an ironic twist of fate. I mention these things because I believe that the time is ripe for Western countries to pressure South Africa, to show their outrage at the recent killings and to call upon the South African Government to act immediately to initiate a process of peaceful transition to democratic government for all races in South Africa.

There are a number of issues which could be debated and which the Senate should debate. Unfortunately we do not have time this afternoon. For example, I mention sporting links with South Africa and the proposal for a world rugby cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand. I was pleased to see that both the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and the Foreign Minister stated unequivocally that no South African team would receive visas to come to Australia to play. Another example is South African Airlines, which has one of the most lucrative airline routes in the world into Australia. This Government should look seriously at giving SAA one year's notice to get off the route. I am convinced that if Qantas were to fly people who wish to travel to South Africa into Mauritius and Harare, South African Airlines would be forced to pick them up. I look forward to having a full debate in the Senate on the tragedy that is occurring at present in southern Africa because I believe that what is likely to occur in South Africa in the future will make events in other African countries look like a Sunday school picnic.