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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2497

Senator WEST —I direct my question to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. What is the Government's attitude to yesterday's actions of the South African authorities against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Richard Carleton and his team? What do these actions tell us about the nature of the apartheid regime?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The expulsion of Richard Carleton and Jennifer Ainge by the South African authorities is another example of the lengths to which the South African Government is prepared to go to stifle reporting on the internal situation although, seen against the draconian laws which apply to South African journalists and the media, expulsion is probably relatively mild. My understanding of the facts surrounding the case is that Carleton had completed an interview sequence with two academics-Professor Philips, a political scientist from Natal University, and Professor Werchers, a professor of constitutional law. A third participant in the program, a Mr Otto Krause, a supporter of the governing National Party, took exception to some of Mr Carleton's introductory remarks-a not unusual state of affairs for those of us who have spent some time with him-and left the program. The program continued, as many others have in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation studios in Northbourne Avenue, without the gentleman in question.

Mr Carleton was confronted by four South African Broadcasting Corporation officials at the end of the interview, including the Director-General. He was accused of telling lies about South Africa and was advised that the SABC was withdrawing all its facilities for the team, including the transmission of the interview. Carleton was later taken to police headquarters and questioned by police.

Senator Chaney —Was he beaten?

Senator GARETH EVANS —No such luck-on available evidence. His work permit was withdrawn and he was advised that he would be expelled. He was escorted-I am not sure whether his arm was held behind his back--

Senator Ryan —He will tell us.

Senator GARETH EVANS —He will tell us in due course-by police to the airport for departure on a flight to Harare. His introduction to the segment which was objected to so strongly included comments-there is never a shortage of comments in Mr Carleton's introductions-on censorship, townships, demonstrations and the role of the police and the army which are, of course, realities of daily life under the state of emergency which has been in force since June last year.

I repeat a proposition that has been advanced often enough, at least on this side of the chamber: The Government roundly deplores the trivial and petty actions of the South African authorities in this instance. It is a sad but revealing commentary on any country that it has to resort to such desperate measures to stifle legitimate reporting of events, all the more so in one such as South Africa which purports to represent, unpersuasively though it may be, Western values. I might also indicate for the record, as I think the Prime Minister announced earlier today, that when the South African Ambassador to Australia returns from Wagga, where he is now gracing the halls of various conferences being organised by the forces of the New Right in this country, he will be called to the Department of Foreign Affairs to receive an official protest over what has been clearly a quite disgraceful and a quite unjustified form of treatment meted out to Richard Carleton.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I ask the Minister to table the document from which he quoted.

The PRESIDENT —Will the Minister table the document from which he quoted?

Senator Gareth Evans —In general, I object to tabling documents. However, in this instance it is so manifestly inconsequential that it cannot possibly do any damage.