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Wednesday, 2 May 1973
Page: 1563


Mr KILLEN (Moreton) - The raising of this matter seeks to draw public attention to what I would describe as the supine attitude of the Government concerning the arrest, trial and execution of 3 Australian citizens. It is not a squabble about the personal differences between the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy). The Prime Minister yesterday informed the House that he first heard of this matter some days after the Attorney-General had heard about it. When he informed the House that this was the case he told us that he assumed this was the position of the Attorney-General. The Attorney-General assumed that the Department of Foreign Affairs had been informed and had in turn informed the Prime Minister, and vice versa. To use his own language, the Prime Minister said:

.   . The Yugoslav Ambassador did not give the information to me or to the Department of Foreign Affairs. Each should have done so; each assumed the other had. 1 just want to say this to the honourable gentleman: If assumption is now to be a new element in the conduct of foreign affairs, a new peril has been added to our existence.

It seems incredible to think that the Attorney-General of this Government can be informed unofficially about the execution of 3 Australian citizens. One is left with the impression that if that does not rouse a person to a sense of indignation, nothing will. One is left with the impression that it is almost an everyday affair - you do not even bother to mention it. I say to the honourable gentleman that the explanation he gave to the House yesterday afternoon was one of the most unsatisfying that the honourable gentleman has ever given in his career on any subject. To say in this matter that the Attorney-General is deserving of a mild, gentle impeachment seems to me to be a rather quaint attitude to take. Putting it in homely language, the Prime Minister should have called for the Attorney-General's resignation, and that would have been an indication as to where he stands and where his Government stands.

This issue is not to be confined to the differences between the honourable gentleman and his colleague, grave as they may be. The gravity of this matter goes to another area of activity - 3 Australian citizens arrested, tried and executed, and done in secret. Surely this is the distinguishing characteristic of the servile state where the processes of law and justice are conducted in secret without any regard to security matters in the strict sense. I am sure that I speak for the great majority of people in this country when I say it is that which has caused a deep sense of offence to those who live in our community. Yesterday the honourable gentleman, in seeking to exculpate in advance himself and his Government from the predicament into which they have been thrust, adverted to some correspondence which passed between 2 Ministers in the last Government - between the then Attorney-General and the then Minister for Foreign Affairs. I hope that the honourable gentlemen will not be upset if I say that I thought that represented a breach of an undertaking which he had given to this House some little time ago when I asked him whether he accepted the convention that correspondence passing between Ministers should not be released until the time provided by law. If 1 remember the honourable gentleman's reply aright, he said: Yes, it should be breached only in exceptional circumstances. This is the second occasion on which it has been breached by a government which has been in office for a matter of 6 months.

However, the honourable gentleman has not sought to argue the case of exception again. I hope that he will be persuaded to tell us the basis upon which he makes this further exception, but anticipating some of the argument that he will no doubt press upon us may I say that the matter to which the correspondence between the former Attorney-General and the former Minister for Foreign Affairs relates is entirely distinguishable from the matter we are discussing. The previous case in the correspondence relates to a matter where the Australian ambassador in Belgrade was aware of what had happened and the Government was aware of what had happened. There was, as it were, an exchange or argument between 2 Ministers as to what attitude should be adopted and a decision was made.

We are informed that 3 Australian citizens have been executed. I say to the honourable gentleman that I do not think that he is on secure grounds when he says the differences which occurred between Ministers, of course, indict the Opposition because it composed the Government until December last. What is the gravamen of this matter? I have suggested the fact that these people were tried in secret. They were arrested and presumably tried in December last and the executions were carried out, I gather, on 17th March. At least 3 months elapsed between the trial and execution. What an extraordinary performance for a sovereign power to indulge in, to hold 3 nationals of another country in prison with the prospect of execution and not seek to inform the country to which they belonged. That would be strange in itself, but what becomes literally offensive is the fact that the head of state of that country visited this country and dined with the honourable gentleman and some of his colleagues and no mention was made of it. I want to say to the honourable gentleman that suggestions of building up mutuality between this country and any other country simply are not on the board if that is the sense of candour to be shown in the conduct of affairs. I understand that the honourable gentleman has received an invitation to visit Yugoslavia. If that be true and if his response to that invitation is in the affirmative then I invite the honourable gentleman, having regard to what has happened, to say to the Yugoslav Government: 'I now must decline to go'.

Yesterday the honourable gentleman adverted to dual nationality which is, of course, a matter of great complexity and gives rise to some impressive problems'. As I understand the history of this case; 3 Croatians came to Australia. In tile course of time they were naturalised and received Australian citizenship. However, their previous nationality had not been extinguished. -This is a classic case of dual nationality. The master nationality would be the nationality they first had. It is the first case that I have encountered involving dual nationality where the master national state has not sought to inform the other state that it is holding within its power people who hold themselves out as being citizens of that state. I believe the honourable gentleman carries a grave responsibility to see there is appropriately registered in an appropriate way the sense of indignation which this country holds. We are not discussing some abstract point of international law. If citizens who have come to live amongst us are faced with the prospect, if they ever return to their own country, of being tried for an offence and their new country knows nothing about it then all I can say is that the prospect of attaining genuine peace in the world declines even further from our sight.

I say to the honourable gentleman that this issue is not to be dispatched by saying 'Senator Murphy and I had some mild disagreement. He assumed that certain matters were taking place. The Department of Foreign Affairs was in a certain position. The Yugoslav Ambassador assumed that something else had happened'. Here is a clear case of 3 Australian nationals who have been executed. The honourable gentleman also said yesterday that he did not think that certain information could reach this country until the tenth of this month and he gave as a reason for that the fact that there is the May Day holiday. Really and truly that is not a formidable excuse to give to the national Parliament. We are to wait another week before we have further information about it! Am I to understand from the honourable gentleman that there are no telephones in Yugoslavia? I have never been there. I have been in States bordering it but I have never been to Yugoslavia. It seems to me a completely unacceptable excuse to give. So I say to the honourable gentleman: Why does not he as the Minister for Foreign Affairs and as the head of the Australian Government get on the telephone himself and say: 'We want this information'? 1 also understand that there is a suggestion that the Yugoslav Government is preparing to sponsor Australia to take part in a conference of non-aligned nations later this year. What is this supposed to be? We have heard nothing else about it. I invite the honourable gentleman to tell us about it this afternoon. I also invite him to consider the consequences of accepting sponsorship from a nation which has resorted to such infamy in the conduct of its affairs. There is a limit, surely, beyond which any government must say it is not prepared to go. 1 can understand the Prime Ministers eagerness, in which we all share, to bring some measure of concert into the conduct of affairs in this world and, in consequence, to reduce the prospects of another war being visited upon mankind. But if frankness is to be abandoned in reaching for that goal then the prospects of it, I submit, do in fact decline. So I say to the honourable gentleman that to advance the argument that dual nationality confers insuperable difficulties is not satisfying as far as Australian people are concerned.

I ask the honourable gentleman to let us have a genuine display and to say to the Yugoslav Government, if an invitation has in fact been extended: 'In the circumstances 1 decline. I am the Prime Minister of a country that takes a firm but a quiet pride in the fact that its citizens when they go abroad are entitled to be protected and that they are entitled to look upon their activities as commanding respect'. In this case this country's reputation has been sullied. I ask the Prime

Minister to see what he can do to bring some lustre back to it.







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