Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 19 September 1972
Page: 963


Senator SIM (Western Australia) - I have listened to Senator Negus with a great deal of sympathy because I agree that talking will not solve this problem. Having said that, I wish to make 2 or 3 points. Firstly, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee to which this reference will be passed, if that be the will of the Senate, I feel it would be improper for me to engage in discussion of the subject matter of this debate. I feel that I must retain some independence in making decisions on a matter such as this. My friend Senator Georges tells me, by way of interjection to sit down. I will nol oblige him. I do not intend tonight to engage in arguing whether Croatians or some other group are involved in terrorist activities. This would be improper, I suggest. However, I wish to make several points. Firstly, terrorism as practised by various groups in Australia is a problem of great importance and great concern. It is of great importance and great concern not only throughout Australia but throughout the world. Some people have expressed surprise that these events have occurred in Australia. I do not know why they have expressed surprise, because I believe it was inevitable that they would occur here. But they occur not only among migrant groups, be they Croatians or other nationals, they occur among Australians. Senator Negus referred to the fact that 2 young men have been arrested in Melbourne for allegedly having planted a bomb in the office of the Department of Labour and National Service in Perth. They are not members of a national group with some real or imagined grievance, they are Australians. They wished to give expression to what they believed to be a grievance by violence and acts of terrorism.

Therefore, I think that if we are to examine acts of terrorism in Australia the motion should not be concerned only, as is the case with this motion, with one particular group. We should be concerned with all acts of terrorism and all acts of subversion in Australia which include a great number of groups including Australian. I recall that reference has been made today to the feud and the acts of violence and intimidation that are taking place amongst the painters and dockers in Melbourne. Also, I am reminded of the acts of violence, intimidation and terrorism practised by the Builders Workers' Industrial Union in New South Wales and the attacks upon trade union officials, acts of violence and terrorism and the attemps to intimidate them.

These are the facts of what is occurring in this country today. If we are to investigate this then surely the motion which is before the Senate should be expanded to investigate all acts of violence, all acts of terrorism and all acts of intimidation which I suggest always have been foreign to our way of life. It is a matter of great concern to us that these things should be happening. But I do not know how we can be separated from what is happening throughout the world. I am indebted to an article which appeared in the 'London Economist' dated 9th September 1972 which dealt with this matter in a manner which I think should be read by us all. It lays down clearly the issues involved. I shall quote some of the statements made. Unfortunately, it is an unsigned article; so we do not know who wrote it. The report is headed 'They are among us'. Who can deny that they are among us? They are among us in various groups, not only national groups with real or imagined grievances but also, as I have said, they are among groups of Australians. I do not wish to belabour the point, but a prominent member of the Australian Labor Party, the honourable member for Lalor (Dr J. F Cairns) is reported to have said in the daily Press of August 1970: 'I sincerely hope that authority has had its day'. What does this mean? Honourable senators opposite who attempt to interject should remember that I am only quoting from the reports in the Press. If that is not correct, then let it be corrected. This is an invitation to anarchy, terrorism and violence. This is the situation in which we find ourselves. It is world wide. Let me quote from the 'London Economist'. I think that it is a lesson we should all take to heart and words of which we should all take note. This article states:

We are going to have to live with the man in the hood for a long time; certainly until the present generation of terrorists, the Slack September men-

We all know who they are. They are the Arab terrorists who committed the atrocities in Munich which we all deplore. The article continues: . . and the Provos-

I am informed that that is the IRA: . . and the rest, has expended itself in death or defeat; and very likely longer than that, until the force that drives such men, the calculation that such methods can bring them what they want, has been disproved by repeated failure, and they have no more imitators.

Surely this should be a lesson to us. Surely the lesson at Munich is that if you win, others will copy you. May I say that I have great admiration for the Government of Israel in the case of hijacks. We recall what happened at an airport when the aircraft with the hijackers on board was shot at. Any of us could have been among the unfortunate passengers who were on the aircraft. But what the Israelis taught us is that we cannot permit hijackers to be the winners. If this is to continue, somebody must be the loser. The loser must be those who engaged in this sort of intimidation and terrorism. If the innocent suffer, that, unfortunately, is too bad. If we always give in to these people - if, for instance, in Munich they had been surrendered to - the price would be higher. If the Israeli Government had surrendered to the hijackers in Israel the next price would have been higher. As this article says: 'It is the winners who are copied; not the losers'. Surely this must be a lesson to us all. I think we should take note of this article because it is a brilliant one which has lessons for us all. It goes on to state:

This is the new international community of the possessed. It could take years, perhaps even the rest of the lifetime of people who are now barely middle-aged, before this phenomenon is destroyed, or destroys itself. Until then we shall have to live with the possibility of men with concealed faces, and concealed minds, breaking with machine-guns and bombs into the normal life of many people in many different countries.

The article continues - this should be noted:

The world itself is no worse than usual; but the obsessed are prepared to do worse things to have their way about it. Modern weapons help them; the day will come when suicidal urban terrorists of a kind the world has not yet seen will have a nuclear device at their disposal. The very sophistication of the modern society that has mounted this year's Olympics helps them. The immediacy, of world communications, especially the television coverage on which all terrorists have come to rely, helps them immeasurably. That is what ls new. And so long as they have reason to believe that the methods they use will bring the results they want, the terrorists will go on with their campaigns.

I am reminded that in the 19th century there was a group of wandering terrorists which believed that it could destroy European society by the use of bombs and threats. The members of that group failed. There is nothing new about this. What is new is the methods used - the communications. This is what is new and this is what is so frightening. I echo the words of the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) who said today - these may not have been his exact words - that these people are not patriots; they are criminals and the whole force of the law should be brought against them, even to the extent of the death penalty. I do not believe that we should retreat from this ultimate penalty. If these people are as bad as we believe they are and as bad as I believe they are, this is the ultimate penalty that they should suffer. If they can succeed and if they believe that the penalties imposed upon them are such that their crimes will be worthwhile, they will continue to commit these crimes. The challenge to society today is such that the penalty must destroy them. They must be led to believe that they cannot succeed. It has always been my view that it is the naive hope of many Australians that we can be immune from the events which are occurring in the world today and that they cannot happen here. It was inevitable that it would happen here.

I said at the outset that I would not involve myself in an argument as to the rights or wrongs of this case. I believe, rightly or wrongly, that it would be improper for me to do so. Should it be the will of the Senate that this matter be referred to the committee of which I am the chairman, 1 give the assurance that the inquiry would be carried with vigour and with vigilance. That is the least I can do. My opposition to this proposed reference is that I believe it is inappropriate for a Senate or parliamentary committee. The Attorney-General set out certain views on this matter and, having heard him, I find myself in agreement with him. I believe at this stage that this is a matter for the police and the judiciary of this country. It should be pursued with vigour by the police until these people are brought to trial.

It is very easy to say that the police have not brought anybody to trial. Of course, they have brought some people to trial. Some people have been arrested, tried and found guilty. Whether the penalties imposed on them are sufficient is a matter of opinion, and if I may venture an opinion I suggest that the penalties have been inadequate. Nevertheless some people have been brought to trial. A parliamentary committee could not pursue this matter in an atmosphere such as that which exists today so as to produce the results that all of us desire. If the police, both State and Commonwealth, cannot produce results within a reasonable time I would support a royal commission. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) today, I understand, expressed himself as not being opposed eventually to a royal commission which I believe would be the proper way to pursue this matter if these people are not found and tried.


Senator Georges - What is a reasonable time?


Senator SIM - I will not argue about what is a reasonable time. As Senator Georges knows full well - I do not refer to this in any partisan way - men, painters and dockers, have been murdered in Melbourne and others have been shot. Others are missing and are believed to have been murdered. As one of my colleagues said, on one occasion a man was murdered in the presence of 30 or 40 people and none of them knew anything about it. The police have been unable to find the criminal. Very serious problems are involved. It is of no use pointing to the police and saying that they have not discovered the culprits involved in the bombings in Sydney. That was a dastardly act for which I can find no sympathy. I say again that the ultimate penalty should be provided for those responsible. It is horrifying that these things should happen in this country or in any country. However, if the police have problems, because of a lack of cooperation among other members of the union, in finding those responsible for shooting and murdering trade unionists it is logical to assume that they will have great problems in the matter before us because of a lack of co-operation. Maybe the lack of co-operation is due to fear; maybe it is because of other reasons. Therefore I cannot define what is a reasonable time. So long as the police are pursuing this matter with vigour and to the best of their ability - I believe they are and I would not suggest otherwise - I have so much confidence in them that I believe that those responsible ultimately will be brought to trial. If they are found guilty, I hope that the penalty will be such that it will deter others from attempting the same thing.

There is nothing new about these sorts of activities. They occurred in Montreal with the French secessionists when a Canadian Minister was kidnapped and murdered. Bombs were planted which killed and maimed citizens of France. We have seen the Black September movement amongst the Arabs, and we know of the horrifying situation in Ulster today. These are matters of great concern not only to the people of Canada and of Israel; they are of concern to people throughout the world. Therefore, I believe that the matter referred to in this motion properly belongs to the police for investigation. It is not the role of Parliament to take over investigations of this type. I do not believe that that can be done. I said that should this matter be referred to the Committee I, as Chairman, would carry it out to the very best of my ability. I give that assurance to the Senate. I would do it. However, I do not underestimate the problems involved. I do not underestimate the problem of protecting witnesses or of protecting members of the Committee. However if. it is the will of the Senate we must face up to that. I do not believe that anybody doubts my sincerity about these matters, and I say with great sincerity that at this stage this would be an impossible task for a Senate Committee to undertake.


Senator Milliner - Why is that?


Senator SIM - For many reasons. We would be involved in a highly emotional matter. People would be defamed. People would make allegations, perhaps founded and perhaps unfounded, and people's names would be blackened and they would have little redress. May I put. an administrative problem to the Senate: We would have great problems in finding people.

Honourable senators who have sat on Senate committees would realise - it is obvious - that the strength and ability of a committee to carry out an investigation depends firstly on the quality of the people it has to do the necessary research and to act as consultants. We would have to find somebody who was fluent in the languages of the countries concerned and that person would have to be independent of all the disputes and conflicts in that part of the world.

We need only look at history. We need only look back to the spark - the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand - which started the First World War. We remember also the assassination of King Alexander in Marseilles in 1934. What has happened since? There have been tremendous conflicts in the Balkans and, so far as this issue is concerned, particularly between the Serbs and the Croats and the people who live in Yugoslavia. It is not for us to pass judgment on these conflicts. They are real - more than real - in the minds of those who live there. They believe that they have the right of self-determination and of independence. A parliamentary committee investigating these matters would have to find someone who was independent of ail these conflicts to advise it; someone who could speak the languages and could interpret the evidence because we would find that the English of many of the witnesses was imperfect. We would need to have someone to translate documents. I understand from the AttorneyGenera] that at present the Commonwealth police are having tremendous difficulty in finding people capable of translating documents seized in raids carried out already by Commonwealth and State police in an effort to pin down the culprits responsible for these actions.

I cannot understand the proposed terms of reference. They refer to one element only, the so-called Ustasha. I know nothing about these people. Maybe they exist. If they do, I am sure that no honourable senator would support them. But what about those people who engage in acts of violence and terrorism against the Croats? There are some such people. We have had instances of bombing and intimidation of those people. Why are they not included in this motion? Why should we not investigate them as well? Why should this be a one-sided investigation? If this matter is to be investigated in a manner which would satisfy the Parliament and the people of Australia, surely the investigation should be widened to include all acts of terrorism, violence and intimidation. This is not a matter to be investigated by a parliamentary committee in a highly-charged political atmosphere. I venture to suggest that eventually the correct procedure will be for the matter to be examined by a royal commission rather than a parliamentary inquiry. If it becomes necessary to investigate the matter I will support the setting up of a royal commission for this purpose.

At this stage I wonder whether we should have a Senate committee probing into police investigations. I have far more faith in Commonwealth and State police than perhaps some honourable senators opposite have. It would be a matter for the committee to decide whether evidence should be given in public. Are the police to be required, perhaps in public, to provide information as to the progress of their investigations? If they are required to do so that could well prejudice their investigations^ - indeed, it would do so.

I believe that matters of great and vital importance are involved in this. I give no support to terrorists of any kind. I believe that if they are found - I sincerely hope that they will be found - the full rigour of the law should be brought upon them and, if the penalties provided by law are insufficient, that the parliaments of this country, State or Federal, should provide for penalties which are sufficient to act as a deterrent against actions of this kind. We do not want the people who committed these acts to be regarded as patriots. They are not patriots. They are criminals and they should be regarded as criminals. I cannot accept the argument that because they are fighting for something in which they believe they should be regarded as patriots. We do not want the ancient enmities of Europe, from the Balkans or elsewhere, brought to light in Australia. If these people bring their enmities to Australia and offend against the laws of this country or against the principles of our society, society should provide penalties that will deter them from continuing with acts of this kind.

I repeat my belief that it is inappropriate, for a number of reasons, many of which have been stated by the AttorneyGeneral, for this matter to be the subject of a parliamentary inquiry at this stage. I believe that an inquiry of this nature may well prejudice the situation, quite apart from the physical difficulties of carrying out an urgent inquiry. 1 believe that my Committee would approach an inquiry into this matter with the greatest goodwill in the world and would treat it as a matter of great importance. But if it were charged with the responsibility of conducting an inquiry, regardless of what it found, by the time it reported to the Parliament it would be too late. This is so for many reasons, one of which is the situation in which we find ourselves today with elections coming on. If one were to make a haphazard guess - it can be no more than that - with the greatest goodwill in the world the Committee would not be able to report before the middle of next year. That could be too late. This matter is of greater urgency than that. There is an urgency about finding the criminals and bringing them to justice.

It should be the endeavour of each and every one of us to assist the Commonwealth and State police to bring these people to justice and to expose them to the full rigour of the law. This is the attitude that I take and it is for this reason that I oppose the motion. If the police fail - 1 repeat that I do not believe they will fail - a royal commission would then be the appropriate means to investigate this matter and to bring to light all the evidence and facts available. A parliamentary committee would not be appropriate for this purpose. As a great supporter and advocate of parliamentary committees - I do not think anybody would deny that 1 am that - it is my judgment that this is not an appropriate matter for a parliamentary committee. However, should the police investigations fail I would support the setting up of a royal commission for this purpose.







Suggest corrections