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Thursday, 24 May 1973
Page: 2668


Mr JAMES (Hunter) - I rise tonight because I particularly want to congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on his brilliant and sincere address to the Parliament and the nation on the achievements of the Government's foreign policy and its changes since attaining office on 2 December last. The Prime Minister has created history. In future the Whitlam Labor Government will be marked as the most realistic and progressive that this nation has had since federation because it has faced up to the realities of the times and has given overall benefits to the Australian people today and for generations to come. I was deeply proud to hear the Prime Minister in his address on international affairs say:

In the same spirit, the Government has decided to establish diplomatic relations with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the German Democratic Republic, Cyprus, Poland and the Vatican, and to make informal contacts with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Similarly we have decided that on commercial trade with the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Cuba, North Korea, North Vietnam and China, . . .

I was particularly proud to know that our Government is to recognise little Cuba in respect of trade. I hope that the new diplomatic relations that have been established with the Vatican may be used to liberate little Cuba from the sadistic economic embargo at the hands of certain hawkish influences that seem to have some control over successive United States governments.

I am one of the few members of this Parliament who have had the privilege of visiting little Cuba. I visited Cuba in 1962, 10 days before the missile crisis, and from that day onwards I have taken some interest in Cuba's history. It is a sad history. Cuba was under the tyrannical rule of Spain from 1492 and fell into the hands of American big business after the Spanish-American war. What was found after the successful revolution of Fidel Castro - a Jesuit who had a very strict upbringing and was reared in the teaching order of the Roman Catholic church? This little country of 80 per cent Roman Catholics has suffered too much for too long. After the revolution it was actually found that there were 650,000 permanently unemployed in a population of 6} million.


Mr King - Where did you get all this information?


Mr JAMES - 1 got the information from reading numerous books and the verbatim speech which Fidel Castro made before the United Nations. There were 650,000 permanently unemployed in a population of 6} million people. Rents and telephone charges were the highest in the world. Seventy per cent of the farmers' crops had to be paid in rent to the landlords. Organised crime was the order of the day. The mortality rate of children between the ages of 7 and 12 was among the highest in the world and a frequent killer was hookworm which could easily have been rectified had the unfortunate parents of those children been able to afford medical attention.

I want to place great credit and praise on the Roman Catholic bishops charged with the responsibility for Latin America. Today, the Roman Catholic bishops are organised in exerting pressure on the United States Government to lift their ruthless embargo against little Cuba. The American Government in about 1962 told the world that it was going to implement a savage economic embargo against Cuba but was not going to employ sanctions against Cuba in connection with necessary drugs to save human life. But this was proved to be an outrageous lie, because after the unsuccessful Bay of Pigs invasion during which some hundreds of American mercenaries were arrested by the Cuban defence forces and were imprisoned, the Cuban Government told the American authorities that they would let their prisoners out of gaol if certain life saving drugs were sent to Cuba. In the United States the hat was taken around and some thousands of United States dollars were collected to supply the necessary drugs. On 7 June 1972 the Division for Latin America of the United States Catholic Conference issued the following statement on the United States embargo of Cuba:

For 10 years our government has observed a total economic embargo against Cuba. Whatever reasons argued for such a policy in 1962, no compelling justification has been offered for its continuance in recent years. On the contrary, one overwhelming argument against it has sounded with increasing force and urgency - it is simply wrong to impose needless hardships and suffering on those most directly affected by this policy: The poor, the sick, the aged and the very young.

Insofar as the embargo has had discernible political effects, they seem quite different from those intended.

The real effects of the embargo, however, are to be measured not in political but in human terms. It causes, in the words of the bishops of Cuba, unnecessary suffering and should therefore be ended.

April 10 marked the third anniversary of a major statement from the Church in Cuba, the collective pastoral letter signed by all the bishop? of Cuba, which said in part:

Who among us does not know of all kinds of difficulties that are blocking the way that leads to development . . . external difficulties arising from complications that govern the current direction and fabric of international relations among peoples. These causes have unjustly led to adverse conditions for the weak, small and underdeveloped countries.

Is this not the case with the economic blockade to which our country has been subjected . . .?

In seeking the common good of our people and our faithful, in serving the poor among them, according to the comand of Jesus ... we denounce the unjust conditions of the blockade, which is contributing to unnecessary suffering, and to making all efforts at development more difficult. Therefore, we are appealing to the conscience of all those in the position to solve this problem to initiate decided and efficient action aimed at the lifting of the blockade'.

We join with the bishops and people of Cuba in calling for an end to this embargo ... we appeal to the conscience of all who are in a position to solve this problem to do so as quickly as possible.

Therefore I urge my Government to continue the progress in foreign affairs which it indicated tonight it will do. I would applaud our Government as loudly as I possibly can if it sent to Cuba now a ship with the goods which are necessary to help that country overcome the sadness and tragedy which have been imposed upon it by the savagery of the United States embargo. I agree with the Roman Catholic Bishops of Cuba and the United States Roman Catholic Bishops whom I applaud for their actions in seeking to end the economic embargo against this small country in the Caribbean.







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