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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 1042

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE(10.33) —I rise to comment on the Government's rather bizarre foreign policy on immigration from South Africa and the policy which provides that visas shall not be processed or granted from Pretoria. In the event that people wish to travel from South Africa to Australia they are required, first, to travel to Harare, Zimbabwe, to have their visa processed. That in itself causes enormous inconvenience to all involved. The delay in the granting of visas presently averages slightly in excess of 27 weeks. Because of the very considerable backlog, the amount of work involved and the fact that the Government has chosen not to provide additional staff in Zimbabwe to process the applications, a number of the applications are forwarded to Australia House in London. The net result is that there is a backlog in London and therefore, English people seeking to travel to Australia are finding themselves inconvenienced. So the backlog goes on and on.

What one finds particularly objectionable about the policy is that when one approaches the Government to highlight the effects and the inconvenience it is causing the response, invariably and inevitably, is that if it is causing inconvenience, difficulty and hardship the policy is obviously working; that is the object of it. The object is to cause those difficulties for South African nationals. The nice irony of the policy is that it does not discriminate between whites, coloureds and blacks. Recently, when coloured people have applied for a visa to visit relations in Australia, they have been told that they cannot be granted a visa from Pretoria. When they ask why the Government responds: `Because we are here to help you. What we are seeking to do is to cause you so much inconvenience, trouble, anxiety and anguish that ultimately your Government will be enlightened as a result of this difficulty and change its total attitude towards apartheid'. I find it absolutely bizarre that a country's foreign policy would be such that it would visit hardship upon those to whom it seeks, allegedly, to provide relief.

There are the inevitable and invariable reasons why people in South Africa seek visas to visit Australia. By and large, the reason is that they have relations in Australia. South African nationals, of whatever race, have relations in Australia and they seek to visit them. From my experience, the reason primarily, is for special events, such as the birth of a relation, the marriage of a relation or the illness and perhaps on some occasions the subsequent death of a relation. If it gives any comfort the Government ought to be aware that, in a number of cases, relations in South Africa have sought to visit Australia to be beside their loved ones who are suffering illness but the delay in the granting of the visa has been such that the relation has died before they arrived. The occasions on which people have sought to visit Australia for the purpose of attending the marriage of their close relations are well documented and well known to the Government because, on the occasions that it has been contacted by people who have been inconvenienced and sought relief on compassionate grounds, invariably the Government has denied them any relief.

It seems to me that the policy reflects the global attitude of this Government towards foreign affairs, particularly regarding countries such as South Africa. It is a reflection of its prejudice, subjectivity, small-mindedness and lack of understanding of what is likely to motivate South Africa to move away from apartheid and separate development. I find it absolutely amazing that any Australian government of whatever persuasion or colour should introduce a policy that visits upon the very people that it seeks ultimately to help--

Senator Button —You are not suggesting that we are black, are you?

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —You mean your constituents?

Senator Button —You are not suggesting that governments are blacks. You said any government of any colour.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Any political colour, Senator. In Senator Button's case, it would be pink, not black.

Senator Robertson —Most Anglo-Saxons are.

Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Some bleed blue blood and some bleed pink blood. The Government has a policy, presumably for consumption by Third World countries, which denies the very people it seeks to help-the coloureds and the blacks-entry into this country, unless their name is Oliver Tambo. Then they can get in with government assistance, government cars and government funding as official government guests, without any inconvenience. But if one happens to be an ordinary poor old coloured from outer Johannesburg or a black from Soweto, one cannot get in because one cannot get a visa. I find it absolutely absurd and bizarre.