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Friday, 19 April 1985
Page: 1258

Senator CHIPP —I ask a question of the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Does the Australian Government intend to support in the United Nations an economic boycott of Pretoria? Has Mr Hayden announced the launching of a voluntary code of conduct for Australian companies in South Africa? Is it not a fact that the Prime Minister has offered government legal and financial support to any cricketer facing an action for backing out of a contract to tour South Africa? At the same time, has the Department of Housing and Construction given a prize contract for the paving of the new Brisbane Airport to L.T.A. Doval Constructions, a subsidiary company 65 per cent owned by a wholly South African owned conglomerate and partly controlled by De Beers Consolidated Mines? How can the Government justify such outrageous double standards? How can it reconcile awarding such a tender to a South African company, given that the nearest totally Australian tender was within a mere $40,000 of the L.T.A. Doval Constructions tender, at a time when the Government is making such a virtue of its anti-apartheid policy?

Senator BUTTON —There are a number of sub-questions-I do not derogate from their intellectual content-in Senator Chipp's main question. The first relates to--

Senator Durack —Have you become an examiner of questions to give them a mark?

Senator BUTTON —The honourable senator has been thinking about that issue since he was touched last week. I am sure he has. Some people never get over it; that is the point.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Button, can you come back to Senator Chipp's question?

Senator BUTTON —Certainly, Mr President. The point I was making is that there are several parts to Senator Chipp's question. The first relates to a United Nations boycott of Pretoria. As I understand it, the Government has not made a decision on that matter, but I will obtain instructions from the Minister for Foreign Affairs as soon as I can. Yes, it is true that Mr Hayden has announced, and the Government has determined, a voluntary code of conduct for Australian companies operating in South Africa. As Senator Chipp said, the Prime Minister said that legal aid would be available to cricketers who sought to back out of a contract to tour in South Africa.

The last two parts of Senator Chipp's question relate to the alleged letting of a contract for work at Brisbane Airport. That was the subject of a question from Senator Parer yesterday. Senator Ryan undertook to obtain information from the relevant department. She has not yet been able to do so but will do so as soon as possible. That information will be available perhaps at the end of Question Time. I shall comment on the double standards alleged in the question.

Senator Chipp —Double standards only if it is true; that is what I am asking.

Senator BUTTON —I understand that; but in a way the question of double standards goes further than that in regard to our position with South Africa. A number of Australian companies are trading in South Africa. That was the point of the voluntary code of conduct in relation to South African companies. There is a reasonably strong trading relationship with South Africa which has existed in the life of a number of previous governments and is continuing. In a sense, any contract let for work at Brisbane Airport is, I suppose, in the same moral relationship-if Senator Chipp would prefer me to put it in those terms-as other trading activities between the two countries.

Senator Chipp —Fair go!

Senator BUTTON —It is not 'fair go' at all.

Senator Chipp —You are asking cricketers to give up two hundred grand and you are letting contracts to South Africans.

Senator BUTTON —The honourable senator misunderstands me. I am saying that, insofar as that represents a business transaction between a South African company and an Australian government instrumentality, it has exactly the same status as a normal trading relationship of an Australian company selling goods in South Africa. If one wishes to draw moral fine lines, I do not think there is one to be drawn between those situations. I concede that there is a difference between sporting contracts and the status which has been accorded trading relationships between South Africa and Australia. If the honourable senator is alleging hypocrisy and double standards on that issue, that is in a sense something he is quite entitled to do. We will make available as soon as possible information on the factual aspects of the last part of the question.