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Tuesday, 10 May 1994
Page: 518

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —I seek leave to make a statement relating to South Africa and to move a motion to take note of that statement.

  Leave granted.

Senator GARETH EVANS —Today's inauguration of Nelson Mandela as the President of the Republic of South Africa marks nothing less than the birth of a new nation—a nation where the scourge of apartheid has been once and for all abolished; a nation where every citizen, whatever his or her race, has equal worth and an equal right to shape the country's future; a South Africa free at last.

  Today is deservedly a day of triumph for Nelson Mandela himself. His election as President; the swearing-in of the wholly non-racial parliament in which the ANC is the clear majority party; and the installation of a government of national unity reflecting not only the ANC but all major streams of opinion in the parliament, are triumphant realisations of the vision and the ideas he has held, and the principles for which he has fought, for so long.

  Nelson Mandela showed in his trial 30 years ago, throughout his 27 years of incarceration, and in the four years since his release, true leadership: a noble vision of justice and equality for all; single-minded determination and total commitment; toughness in negotiations, combined with constant readiness to hold out the hand of friendship; and great personal courage—all combined with an extraordinary personal dignity and an almost awesome absence of personal bitterness.

  Today is also a day to honour those other South Africans who fought so long and hard for so many years to bring it about—those who in many cases, in long and lonely years in gaol or in other ways, suffered as grievously as Nelson Mandela himself; those who in many cases have not, unhappily, survived to savour the triumph. We remember on this occasion people like Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Helen Suzman, Helen Joseph, Desmond Tutu and all those others who have spent their lives, or given their lives, in working to bring dignity to oppressed and disadvantaged South Africans.

  Today is also a day to particularly honour former President F W de Klerk, who had the courage to make the break with the past and who, despite virulent opposition from those who had most to lose by the destruction of apartheid, steadfastly refused to be deflected from the path to non-racial democracy. We admire the grace with which, in conceding defeat in the election, Mr de Klerk pledged not only his cooperation but his friendship to Nelson Mandela.

  Mr President, today is also a day to record the satisfaction which Australians can reasonably feel at the role that our country played in bringing about the new South Africa. Of course, we were never alone in this respect in the international community. But it was the Commonwealth that provided much of the moral and political leadership for the international anti-apartheid movement for many years, and within the Commonwealth it was Australia—at least from the early 1970s on—which played a particularly prominent role, along with, especially, India, Canada, Malaysia and the front-line African states, in giving political and intellectual leadership to that movement.

  Opposition to apartheid has been a bipartisan matter in Australia for many years. It is, therefore, especially appropriate, given the major role which was played by each of their governments, that both Mr Fraser and Mr Hawke should be today representing Australia at the inauguration of President Mandela.

  Sanctions against South Africa have a long history, going back to India's trade ban in 1946. Australia first played a role in this respect when Gough Whitlam announced in December 1972 that sporting teams selected on the basis of race would not be allowed to enter Australia. That sports boycott, strengthened subsequently in 1977 by the Fraser government following Gleneagles and in 1983 by the Hawke government, made—it is now generally acknowledged—a crucial psychological contribution to the change process, by driving home year after year to the sports-mad white South African community just how internationally despised and isolated their country had become as a result of apartheid.

  Similarly, Australia played a leading role in instituting the trade and investment sanctions agreed at the Nassau Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 1985. The first tranche, imposed immediately, included bans on new government loans to the South African government, on the import of krugerrands, on government funding for trade promotion, on the export of computer equipment and on the sale of oil. The second tranche, imposed following the mission to South Africa of the Eminent Persons Group in 1986 which was co-led by Malcolm Fraser, included bans on air links with South Africa, on the import of agricultural products, on new investment or the reinvestment of profits earned in South Africa, and on government procurement from South African sources.

  From 1987 on, attention turned primarily to financial sanctions—the denial or limitation of credit to South African government agencies or companies by other governments and by the private banking sector internationally. It was Prime Minister Bob Hawke at the Vancouver CHOGM in 1987 who initiated the ground-breaking expert study on the impact of financial sanctions which became widely influential in international financial circles, and which subsequently influenced a wider global public still to understand the centrality of these sanctions when it was published—again at Australian initiative—in 1989 as the Penguin book, Apartheid and International Finance, by Keith Ovenden and Tony Cole. Ultimately it was financial sanctions, more than anything else, that drove the South African government to the negotiating table—and this has been frankly acknowledged by South African ministers and officials on many occasions over the last four years.

  Since President de Klerk's historic speech on 2 February 1990 launching the reform process, Australia has continued to be active in supporting the movement to full democracy, right through until last month's elections. Working through the Commonwealth's Committee of Foreign Ministers on Southern Africa, CFMSA, we were active in developing the strategy for phased lifting of sanctions as the reform process proceeded through its various stages.

  We have also used our aid program to provide assistance in building up the skills and expertise that are needed in the country's democratic and political institutions. We have provided education and training especially in relation to the electoral process, economic planning and policy and in the development of the media. I put on record the government's appreciation for the role played by various Australian non-government organisations, including in particular APHEDA, Austcare, the World Council of Churches and its constituent members, and the UNICEF Committee of Australia, in delivering that assistance.

  Australians also played an important and useful part in the election process itself, and I would like to place on record the thanks of the government to all those who contributed in this respect. I mention particularly John Cain, Philip Ruddock, Janine Haines, Professor Duncan Chappell and the Australian Electoral Commissioner, Brian Cox, who participated in the work of the Commonwealth Observer Group. Australia provided staff of the Australian Electoral Commission and the Australian Federal Police to assist the South African Independent Electoral Commission and the Goldstone Commission, and there were many other Australians who served in United Nations observer groups, sometimes in extremely difficult and chaotic circumstances. They all deserve our very warm thanks.

  Mr President, the elections held in the last two weeks of April were a truly remarkable event in the all too fragile history of democratic elections. I know honourable senators will agree that watching the elections, even from thousands of miles away, was an inspiring experience. The overall impression was of an irrepressible groundswell of popular support for the election process, with millions of people queuing, often for interminable periods, to cast their votes. As the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) said in his statement last week, it was the spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness shown by all parties, especially those who have been victims of apartheid, which made these elections so remarkable.

  Certainly there were organisational problems, both in the conduct of the elections and in the counting which followed. But there can be no doubt that they were, as certified by Judge Kriegler, the head of the Independent Electoral Commission, `substantially free and fair'; and they certainly amounted to a quite unequivocal expression of the people's will.

  Transcending all the administrative difficulties was the pervading spirit of joy and freedom that accompanied the voting. The election brought with it a measure of calm and a significant reduction in the level of political violence. There was remarkable patience all round and, for perhaps cynical and election-weary Australians, this election—like the Cambodian election before it last year—was a powerful reminder of the value of, and the weight placed by ordinary people in every country upon, that basic democratic freedom, the right to vote.

  Today, following those elections, the new government of national unity assumes the awesome responsibility of addressing the daunting challenges facing the new South Africa. It will be faced with the task of developing new law enforcement structures and strategies to combat the violence which has claimed, tragically, so many lives in recent years.

  It will have to oversee the establishment of new national and provincial government structures; it will have to resolve the problems that still exist in KwaZulu-Natal; and it will have to deal somehow with the pressures that still exist, dwindling though they may be, for a white Volkstaat.

  The government will, of course, also have to begin to tackle the massive task of redressing the economic and social inequalities of the apartheid legacy. The success of the new South Africa will to a great extent depend on whether the government can pursue sound economic policies at the same time as responding positively and constructively to the pent up expectations of disadvantaged South Africans—many of them no doubt now unrealistically high—for better housing, education, health services and job opportunities.

  Mr President, recognising the huge task now facing South Africa as it finds its feet as a new nation, and the difficulties involved in even beginning to satisfy expectations from the country's own internal resources, the international community has to continue to provide significant assistance—so that South Africa can develop the new structures of government that are required, do something to meet the demands for social justice that are so pent up, and begin creating the conditions for long-term economic growth.

  Australia welcomes the announcements that have been made over the last few days by the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan, among others, that they are to increase their economic assistance to South Africa. I am pleased to now announce that the Australian government will also be increasing its aid to South Africa. We have decided to undertake a new aid program which will involve the expenditure of $30 million over the next three years. This represents a 35 per cent increase in aid flows to South Africa over those which have applied in previous years. This level of assistance will allow us to consolidate and continue the important nation-building assistance and skills development we have extended to date. It will also enable the development of new programs of assistance in the vitally important area of providing basic needs and infrastructure for the underprivileged majority so grossly disadvantaged for so long by apartheid. Australia will take an active part in the international coordination of the substantial resources that will need to be mobilised to achieve the economic objectives of the new government.

  We will be moving quickly to arrange for discussions with the new Government of National Unity on the early implementation and detail of this new program. Our current thinking is that our new program should consist of three main components:

good governance—that is to say, building the capacity of blacks and institutional strengthening, which would include continuing support for the media and economic policy and planning, and developing public sector management skills at the national, regional and local level;

human resource development, including training awards in Australia, short-term in-country training, and support for the programs of international organisations such as the Commonwealth; and

helping meet the basic needs of disadvantaged people, including programs to provide low cost housing, safe water and sanitation, prefabricated buildings, urban and rural settlement planning and design, and infrastructure planning, particularly in the health sector.

  In providing our assistance to South Africa, I believe there will be an important role—and opportunity—for the Australian private sector in contributing its technology and expertise, particularly in areas such as low cost housing, sanitation and safe water, health care, roads and electricity.   More generally, Australian companies will be looking to take advantage of the new trade opportunities that the full return of South Africa to the international community, and the expected faster growth of the country, will now bring. We clearly should not have unrealistic expectations about this, not least because the basic structure of the South African economy is more competitive than complementary to our own, but the opportunities will be there and it will be in the interests of both countries if we make the most of them.

  Over the longer term, Australia will be looking to develop a new partnership not only with South Africa but with India and the other countries of south Asia, and other Indian Ocean rim countries, in developing a new sense of regional identity and regional cooperation in economic and political development.

  The new South African Government of National Unity will obviously be largely preoccupied with the country's domestic agenda in the short and medium term. However, I am confident that from today, with the burden of shame lifted, South Africa will be able to play an increasingly important international role, providing leadership not only on the African continent but in the Indian Ocean region and more generally in the global community.

  Mr President, in just a few hours Nelson Mandela will become President of a newly liberated South Africa. It is a day for celebration of an immense achievement. It is a day of great hope. It is a day to mark the full return of a country to the embrace of the international community. It is a day when I am sure that all senators—indeed, all Australians—will embrace Nelson Mandela's prayer that the healing and reconciliation that is now taking place in South Africa will continue. It is a day when all of us in Australia wish the new President, and all the people of South Africa, a future of equality, peace and prosperity, for which so many of them have so desperately, and so justly, yearned for so long. I move:

  That the Senate take note of the statement.