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Monday, 30 March 1987
Page: 1441


Senator MacGIBBON —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. What criteria does the Hawke Labor Government apply when it is inviting people such as Mr Oliver Tambo to visit Australia with all fares and expenses paid by the Australian taxpayer? Is there a threshold number of murders for a terrorist to have committed, and is membership of the Communist Party mandatory or merely desirable?


Senator GARETH EVANS —A question like that is an abuse of Question Time and typical of the sort of thing we expect from the apologists for apartheid that exist over the other side of this chamber. Mr Tambo has been invited to this country under the special overseas visitors program and that part of it which I referred to in the chamber last week that is specifically designed to encourage information and understanding of the South African problem. Mr Tambo is acknowledged world-wide to be the legitimate leader of a movement within that country that has a long and honourable record of resisting oppression and, as such, deserves the support of civilised countries around the world and the support of people with some claim to morality and intelligence in this chamber. The fact that Senator MacGibbon satisfies neither of those descriptions is his problem, not ours.


Senator MacGIBBON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Am I to understand the Minister to have said that Mr Tambo had a long and honourable record?


Senator GARETH EVANS —I have nothing to add to my reply.


Senator Puplick —Mr President, I raise a point of order in relation to Senator Gareth Evans's answer to Senator MacGibbon. Senator Evans described senators on this side of the chamber as apologists for apartheid. Mr President, I take-


Senator Elstob —He said `some'.


Senator Puplick —He did not. He said `apologists for apartheid'. Mr President, I take exception to that. I regard it as personally insulting. I believe that I am entitled to an apology in that regard; or, if indeed Senator Evans did not have the guts or the courage to specify the people that he particularly had in mind, he should be called to order for at least being a moral coward if nothing else.


The PRESIDENT —I am placed in a difficult position in that I did not hear exactly what Senator Evans said--


Senator Gareth Evans —I acknowledge that it was in the terms that Senator Puplick described.


The PRESIDENT —And whether it was to all members or some--


Senator Gareth Evans —No, sorry. I said `some'. Others are merely fellow travellers.


Senator MacGibbon —Mr President, I will take a point of order on this, because I have never ever supported apartheid. I am a well known opponent of it. I refuse to be lumped by an irresponsible Minister such as that as an apologist for apartheid, and I demand an apology from him.


The PRESIDENT —Senator MacGibbon, as I said, it is a difficult point of order because you were not named. If the Minister said `some'--


Senator MacGibbon —He said `all'.


The PRESIDENT —There is really no point of order on which I can make Senator Evans withdraw. However, I realise how sensitive a subject this is and I would ask him to be aware of that when he is answering questions similar to this in future.


Senator Puplick —Mr President, on the point of order: Senator Evans has said that there are on this side some apologists for apartheid and that the others are fellow travellers. Since, as a result, he obviously includes me in one or other of those descriptions-either as an apologist or as a fellow traveller-I regard that as a grave reflection, and I require an apology.


Senator GARETH EVANS —If it were not for the rude bit at the end of Senator Puplick's last contribution, I would have expressly excluded him. I do so now, and the same applies to anyone else who gets to his or her feet and expressly separates himself or herself from either of those two descriptions about the regime.


Senator Chaney —I raise a point of order, Mr President. Again, this is a clear abuse of this place and, indeed, of the Opposition. There is no way that the Minister should be able to put the Opposition in a position in which we are expected to stand up one by one to exempt ourselves from his insults. Mr President, you might reflect on the capacity of a Minister to render this place unworkable if you permit him to get away with that last bit of stupidity.


The PRESIDENT —I can remember a similar circumstance when, at the end of Question Time, just about every member of the then Opposition stood up and made personal explanations. In the circumstances, and because we want the place to work, I ask Senator Evans whether he would consider withdrawing the remarks.


Senator GARETH EVANS —In light of that plea, Mr President, I withdraw.