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Friday, 3 April 1987
Page: 1821

Senator COLEMAN —My question relates in part to the previous question that was asked of Senator Gareth Evans. I refer the Minister representing the Attorney-General to the repulsive and, I might add, very expensive full-page advertisement in a major Australian newspaper yesterday concerning the visit of the African National Congress leader, Oliver Tambo. The advertisement appears under the authorship of a group calling itself the International Freedom Foundation, which is apparently dedicated to harassing Mr Tambo wherever he travels. Does the Minister have any information about this group or, more importantly, who is really behind it? Does he consider such a development a healthy contribution to the world-wide concern and debate over the future of apartheid in South Africa? Given the further publicity in today's newspaper and, I understand, also on a morning television program about the gentleman who proclaims that he represents the International Freedom Foundation, what action will the Government take to ensure that if Mr Geoff Pandin does open an information office in Australia he operates it in accordance with the laws of Australia and not with the laws of gay abandon?

Senator GARETH EVANS —It is the case that an organisation calling itself the International Freedom Foundation took out a full page advertisement in the Australian on 2 April which was critical of the ANC and Mr Tambo in particular. That is a considerable understatement, I suppose, because it is a grotesque and repulsive advertisement, as Senator Coleman said. At this stage there is very little public information available about the IFF. Press reports today claim that it was founded six months ago in the United States by a Mr Jack Abramoff and has since established offices in Tel Aviv, London and Johannesburg, and has plans to establish an office in Melbourne. A visiting United States citizen, Mr Pandin, who has taken part in demonstrations in Australia against Mr Tambo's visit, is reportedly a spokesman for this organisation.

The background to Mr Tambo's visit and the auspices under which he is in Australia have been frequently stated by the Foreign Minister, and by me in this place. He is in Australia at the invitation of the Foreign Minister to put his views to the Australian public on an issue of major international importance-the future of southern Africa. People do, of course, have the right to express their views freely, and that would be the overriding consideration in any government reaction to the opening of an office by this organisation in Australia and the behaviour of spokesmen for it. The advertisement taken out by the IFF obviously does not contribute to serious, constructive or dispassionate debate about the future of black political rights in South Africa of the kind that this Government seeks to foster. We would deplore contributions to the debate that continue to be made in such strident and emotional terms. Of course, it will be the case that such an operation would have to be maintained within the law as it presently stands. While I do not imagine that the Government will take any special steps in this respect to oversight what is going on in respect of this organisation, clearly, if there is any question of it stepping beyond the bounds of the law, the Government will react accordingly.