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Wednesday, 2 May 1973
Page: 1573

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes (CORIO, VICTORIA) - Order! The honourable member for Prospect has been interjecting continuously throughout this debate. I would suggest that he remain silent.

Mr GORTON - I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, but it was an interesting interjection on which I might comment. These men were arrested in June and the then Government was informed that they were all killed in June.

Mr Enderby - The then Government did nothing.

Mr GORTON - It could do nothing after they were killed. These men were supposed to have been killed, not executed - not judicially murdered. The present Government is prepared to take that, but the' Opposition is not. To keep the record straight, because it has been blurred by speakers from the Government side, these men were tried during the time of this present Government. They were killed during the time of this present Government. The Opposition objects to what has been done by the Government since then. There is a lack of forecast by the Government concerning what it intends to do should such a serious situation occur again. I do not blame the present Government for not being able to discover - although the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) claims it did-that these men were in gaol, because there was no way by which that- information could get to it any more than there was a way by which it could get to the previous Government. But I blame the Government for supinely accepting the circumstances which happened when it was made known that these people had been tried and had been killed.

Honourable members should examine the situation. There was a visit by the Yugoslav Prime Minister to Australia - to this Government. He had left his country long after the trial of these 3 men and after the sentences had been passed on them. He arrived in Australia a matter of days after these Australians had been stood against a wall and shot. Yesterday we heard our Prime Minister attempting to excuse him by saying: 'Perhaps he did not know'. A Prime Minister in his country at the time of the conviction of foreign citizens and in Australia at the time of the murder of citizens of this country surely would be expected to raise this matter during the full, free and frank discussions with the Australian Prime Minister about which we have been told. Unquestionably this was an instance of the Yugoslav Prime Minister treating our Prime Minister and Australia with contempt in this instance. But there has been no complaint about that. There has been no accusation of wrong treatment by the Yugoslav Prime Minister of another Prime Minister, and there should have been in these circumstances.

There should also have been a most serious complaint about the attitude of the representative of the Yugoslav Government in Australia - the Yugoslav Ambassador. Everybody knows that an ambassador who has information of significance to impart goes to the Department of Foreign Affairs and imparts it if he cannot get to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, which very often he cannot do for good reasons. He goes to the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and gives him the message from his government. This did not happen in this case. In a case involving the lives of Australian citizens the representative of the Yugoslav Government did not go to the Prime Minister, did not go to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister (Senator Willesee) and did not go. to the Department of Foreign Affairs but for some strange and inexplicable reason went to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy) and then, according to the Attorney-General, said: 'Do not tell anybody about what I am telling you because it is unofficial'. This is no way for a sovereign government to be treated by the representative of another country when the lives of Australians are at stake. Yet there has been no complaint about that and no suggestion that proper and strong action will be taken against the Government which has treated Australia in this way.

Of course, it is too late to do anything about the lives of those men who are now dead, but it is not too late to try to make well known to the Yugoslavs the approach of the Australian Government so that in future this will not occur again and so that in future Australians will not be subjected to the treatment and the killing to which they have been subjected without proper complaint by the Australian Government. What we ought to get from the Government, if it treats this seriously, is a firm statement that in the future if any Australian citizens are arrested in Yugoslavia, brought to trial in Yugoslavia, sought to be punished in Yugoslavia, this Government ought to be informed immediately that takes place so that it can take care of the rights of those people according to Australian law, so that they are properly represented, so that they are not railroaded to the kind of death to which these 3 men have been railroaded. The Government should make a statement that it insists on that, and that if it does not get that proper undertaking from the Yugoslav Government there is little point in continuing relations with such a Government.

What is the reason for this softness. Why is there such a different approach in this case from the approach we are sure would have been made had the same circumstances occurred in, say, South Africa, Rhodesia or some other country of the Right as distinct from the Left?

Mr Martin - What about Greece?

Mr GORTON - Or Greece, if you like. Why not? Certainly. Take any country. The honourable member is apparently agreeing that if it is reasonable for one country it ought to be reasonable for all, and I commend him for it. What do honourable members think the reason can be for this softness in approach? Is it part of a pattern of moving further and further into being unduly friendly with extremely left wing countries? I think it may be. Is it part of the pattern of recognising Communist China, with the Prime Minister misleading and misinforming this Parliament as to the terms on which that recognition was extended - a very serious misleading of this Parliament and of the people? Is it part of a pattern of seeing Vietcong brought to Australia by No. 3 Minister in this Government, placed in front of a huge portrait of Ho Chi Minh, flanked by great Vietcong flags and treated with a red carpet being rolled out to them? Incidentally, in passing, it is interesting to recall that only a week or so ago the Prime Minister was waxing very pompous about how terrible it was for a Croatian flag to be shown in Australia because it might upset some Australians; how frightful it was for a photograph to be shown in Croatian clubs because it might upset some Australians. I thought at the time it was a little odd from someone who had made a practice of speaking to crowds speckled with Vietcong flags at the time Australia was still fighting them. But even now we have this instance, and if anything is designed really to upset Australians it is to see that being done by No. 3 Minister in this Government and that being shown in the Press of this country on the same day as we see photographs of the widows of people who had been killed by the Vietcong, who still are making war. 1 think it may be a matter of a pattern in this matter. I suggest that unless and until this Government gets a full undertaking from the Yugoslav Government that this Government will be informed when Australians are arrested, tried or condemned, and kept fully informed, it is not learning the lessons from this tragic incident and it is letting down the people of this country.

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