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Tuesday, 30 October 1956

Dr EVATT (Barton) (Leader of the Opposition) . - by leave - The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was good enough to hand to me, a minute or two before the House met, a copy of the document that he has read. It might be of some help to the House if I add a word or two to what he has said.

I do not accept for a moment the view that what has happened in Hungary is outside the jurisdiction of the United Nations on the ground that it is essentially a domestic matter. As a matter of fact, the clauses of the peace treaty with Hungary were, to a substantial extent, prepared by Australian representatives during the period of office of Mr. Chifley's Government. I was present at the making of this treaty. Australia took the lead in securing the insertion of the clause which provides that Hungary shall take all measures necessary to enable persons within Hungary to enjoy human rights and liberties. That clause was intended, not merely for the benefit of Hungarians, but for the benefit of all people in Hungary.

I remind honorable members that Hungary had been a satellite of Hitler. The peace treaty with Hungary was one of what were called the satellite treaties, concluded in Paris in 1946. Hungary, Italy, Austria, Finland and Roumania all entered into similar treaties. If a dispute arises about an obligation under one of the treaties, it cannot be essentially a domestic matter, subject only to domestic jurisdiction, because the source of the obligation is an international treaty.

That is only a part of the story. Underlying it is the deep tragedy of the Hungarian people, who, almost continually since World War I., have been under tyrannical, totalitarian governments, sometimes of the right and sometimes of the left. The Hungarian people have not had a chance. They are the people whom the great Kossuth led in a struggle for freedom in the early portion of the last century. Even in those days, men like Gladstone and Palmerston knew that the Hungarian people were rightly struggling to be free.

Mr Calwell - That was in 1848.

Dr EVATT - Yes. Kossuth ultimately found refuge in Great Britain. This dispute or situation, whatever it is called, is before the Security Council. The Security Council has decided to take cognisance of the dispute, as it is clearly entitled to do. I agree with the Prime Minister that the contention that the dispute is outside the jurisdiction of the United Nations is not tenable. In fact, there are very few disputes of this kind which are matters purely for domestic jurisdiction. If they involve obligations under a treaty or rights such as those for which provision is made in the Declaration of Human Rights, they involve so important an international principle that trie United Nations must take them up, at - the level of either the Security Council or the General Assembly, in order to prevent bloodshed, stop fighting or ensure that rights shall be preserved.

During the period of office of the Chifley Government, I was deputed by that Government to put before the United Nations a case in favour of some people in central Europe. A group of people in Bulgaria and a well-known church leader in Hungary were being denied their rights under treaties. The group was composed of Lutheran pastors and the well-known church leader was Cardinal Mindszenty. We fought the cases on the basis of provisions in the treaties - one of them was the very treaty we are considering now - and the United Nations decided that they were not cases of purely domestic jurisdiction. In other words, they were recognized as being of international concern.

In my opinion, this matter should go before the Security Council and, if a veto is exercised there, it should go before the General Assembly, where no veto can be exercised. I should like to see a thorough investigation made to ascertain the facts of the case. All that we have at the moment are newspaper reports. Whatever delays might be involved in ascertaining the facts, that course would hold out great hopes to people who are struggling for freedom and for a better world, according to their own consciences and their own views of what is right for their country.

I say, first, that the United Nations clearly has jurisdiction in this matter; secondly, that although the Security Council has decided to exercise that jurisdiction, it could be exercised by the General Assembly; and thirdly, that it is vital to have a full knowledge of the facts which have led up to these events, because such know.lege is necessary before the United Nations can pass judgment.

Mr Osborne - What could the United Nations do, having passed judgment?

Dr EVATT - That is a rather frivolous observation. I think that the verdict of the United Nations in matters such as these is respected throughout the world. To take the opposite view is to deny the worth of what the Government is doing. The Government is actually putting this matter before the United Nations and is voting for it. In that respect, it has done the right thing.

Mr Killen - I ask the House for leave to address a question, without notice, to the Prime Minister relevant to the statement made by him.

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