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Zimbabwe: ministerial statement



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m i n i s t e r f o r f o r e i g n a f f a i r s

M154 i^-j 4 December 1980 Embargoed

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ZIMBABWEg MINISTERIAL STATEMENT

Following is the statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Tony Street, to the House of Representatives on 4 December giving the Government8 s response to the Report of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on Zimbabwe;

Mr Speaker, '

I seek leave to make a statement on the Governmant1 s ·

response to the Report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and

Defence cn Zimbabwe. . . - '

Mr Speaker, the Report of· the Joint Committee cn Foreign

Affairs and Defence cn Zimbabwe was presented to the Parliament cn

22 May 1980. The following terms of reference were given to the Sub­

Committee cn Southern Africa on 2 May 1978:

"That the Sub-Committee consider, investigate and report to

the full Committee on the significance of events in

Southern Africa, with particular reference to the economic,

political, social and strategic implications for Australia".

The Sub-Committee interpreted Southern: Africa to include, for the

purposes of its enquiry, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique,

Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. At the tine

the Sub-Committee began its investigation, Zimbabwe was the focus

of the struggle by Southern Africa's blacks for an end t*o white

domination of their lives and for an opportunity to achieve social and

political equality with whites. The Sub-Committee decided therefore

to concentrate its enquiry initially cn Zimbabwe. This first report

is a result of that enquiry. The Sub-Committee considered that a

detailed examination of the situation in Zimbabwe was important not

only in its own right but for its implications for the region.

The Government has examined the Joint Committee1 s report and

considers it to be a valuable contribution to this Parliament's and the

Australian public's knowledge of Zimbabwe, particularly with its

detailed presentation of its history and of the unique processes by

which majority rule was achieved. Australia was privileged to

contribute to these processes and since independence was attained cn

18 April 1980, has moved to consolidate its relationship with Zimbabwe

to our mutual benefit.

The Government considers that the members of the Joint ' ’

Committee, and in particular its Sub-Committee an Southern Africa,

chaired by the Han. J.D.M. Dobie, M.P., are to be commended for the

thoroughness and dedication with which they pursued their task, One

of the - Committee1s major problems, Mr Speaker, was the difficulty of

preparing its report and formulating conclusions in a situation where

major developments were regularly changing the course of events. As is

pointed out in the Preface to its report, the Sub-Committee began its

enquiry sorts six months after the Internal Settlement Agreement of

3 March 1978. This was followed in April 1979 by the election of the

Government of Bishop Abel Muzorewa, by the Lusaka Agreement of August

1979, the Lancaster House Conference of September-December 1979, the

ceasefire and return to legality last December, new elections in

February 1980 which brought Mr Robert Mugabe’s government to power, and

official independence on 18 April 1980. Each of these steps and its

significance is clearly spelled out in the Committee’s report.

Mr Speaker, the Committee’s report sets out ten "conclusions

and recommendations", almost all of them consistent with the Government's

present policies and practice. In some cases the Committee recommends

courses which the Government has already been following. In these

instances the Committee's endorsement of our position is most encouraging.

In other cases the Committee's conclusions are more in the form of

observations, making no recommendations concerning Government policy.

The Government accepts all the Committee's recommendations and endorses

all its conclusions with one qualification and one exception to which I

will refer later in this statement.

I wish now, Mr Speaker, to consider in turn the "conclusions

and recommendations".

Aid .

· , Conclusions (1) and (2) deal with "General Aid", Conclusions (3)

and; (4) with "Rural aid". Under Conclusion (1) the Committee points out

the urgent need in the early years of Zimbabwe's independence for aid

to enable reconstruction from the damage caused by years of war and to make

a start an removing the legacy of .inequality resulting frqn past racial

policies. The Ccranittee correctly identifies as priority areas for

the new government the resettlement of displaced persons, land reform,

improved medical care, improved conditions of employment for blacks,

better nutrition and improved agricultural practices. The Canai.tee also

welcomes the Prime Minister's announcement at the Independence

Celebrations that Australia would give Zimbabwe development assistance

worth $A5 million over two years, $A1 .5 of which was allocated for the

immediate rehabilitation and expansion of facilities such as schools

and hospitals, and for veterinary work and agricultural rehabilitation.

The Government welcomes and endorses these comments. It is

keeping Zimbabwe's requirements and the means by which Australia can

best help meet them under constant review. In July it doubled to

$A10 million the amount of. aid Australia is to give over the next two

years. The initial contribution of $A1.5 million referred to was handed

over as an accountable cash grant when the Minister for Health and then

Minister assisting the Prime Minister., Mr MacKellar, paid an official

visit to Zimbabwe from 24 to 28 July this year. The;funds 'are

supporting the rehabilitation of medical, educational and agricultural

services. Ways are being examined of disbursing the remainder. Priority

will be given to areas identified by Zimbabwe to be of greatest need and

in which Australia has a capacity to assist. .

Under Conclusion (2), the Committee welcomes Australia's

decision to provide $A1 million to assist the repatriation to Zimbabwe

of refugees from neighbouring countries, and the decision to continue to

sponsor Zimbabwean students in Australia. It also urges the Government

to keep the needs of Zimbabwe under review and to consider sympathetically

any requests from Zimbabwe for additional aid. The Government willingly

accepts these recommendations.

The $A1 million referred "to was a contribution to a United

Nations High Commissioner for Refugees fund for repatriating Zimbabwean

refugees. The UNHCR concentrated its early efforts on returning refugees

of voting age before the February 1980 elections. Repatriation of

. refugees from Botswana was ccnplefc#d, 1 *efore:- the. etectionali.^S|fc|i ' ·

Mozambique by the end of August. All Zimbabweans in Zambia have now also

returned home. The Government monitored closely the progress of the

repatriation process and stood ready throughout to consider sympathetically

any request for further assistance.·

, To help overcome the shortages arising frcm the need for relief

supplies to feed displaced people, Australia is planning to include food

aid in its 1980/81 aid program for .Zimbabwe. .

’ ' . · · · - . ' .

As for continuing sponsorship of Zimbabwean students in

Australia, training aid has now been re-established on a normal bilateral

basis. Two Zimbabwean student diplomats participated in this year's

Foreign Service training course and were later given practical experience

in our missions in New Delhi and Stockholm. The training allocation for

Zimbabwe in 1980/81 has been increased substantially and will allow for

approximately 25 new awards. This too is an area in which Zimbabwe's

needs are being kept under continuing review.

Canelusicn (3). urges· the Government, and others around the world,

to assist in alleviating the hardships of rural poverty in’ Zimbabwe. The

Committee notes that Australia has relevant agricultural expertise and

could do much to assist by providing expertise on the spot as is done in

other African countries. ■

The Government agrees with the committee's comments on the

need to accord priority to alleviating rural poverty in Zimbabwe. The

experience Australia has gained in projects to assist agricultural and

livestock development in other African countries and elsewhere is being

drawn upon in planning an aid program for Zimbabwe. '

Under Conclusion (4), the Committee urges the Government, and I

quote, "to contribute financially to any schemes established to finance

land redistribution and agricultural development in an independent

Zimbabwe, and to provide what other assistance it can".

. . . I referred earlier to the Government's readiness to assist with

agricultural development in Zimbabwe. The Government agrees there may be a

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role for Australia to play in- providing assistance with the *·' ' .

reconstruction and expansion of agricultural and veterinary services

and facilitieso Australian aid officials are currently examining the

feasibility of such assistance . .

No schemes involving foreign participation presently exist to

finance land redistribution in Zimbabwe. If such schemes were set up

and if a contribution were sought from Australia, the Government would

of course give the matter serious consideration. Our response would

depend on the nature of the proposal put. It would, however, be

inconsistent with past Australian development assistance policies and

practice for our aid funds to be used for the purchase of land in

redistribution programs. '

Migration and Refugees

The report contains three items on "Immigrants" and two- on

"Refugees". Conclusion (1) notes, and I quote, that: '

"Should a deterioration of the internal situation lead to a .

mass emigration from Zimbabwe, Australia could be under

pressure to relax its inmigraticn criteria, and might ■

conceivably have to cut back on. immigrants from traditional ·

sources. Charges of racism could arise if most of the

immigrants from Zimbabwe continued to be whites and could

result in divisions in Australian society".

The Government endorses these comments. Should developments in

Zimbabwe be such as to precipitate mass emigration and if this led to

pressure far Australia to accept some of those leaving, the Government

would respond to the situation in a manner consistent with our global

nan-discriminatory policies in such matters. In these circumstances, even

if the majority of those applying and being accepted were white, charges of

racism would be demonstrably incorrect and refutable. The Government notes

that while some whites remain apprehensive about their future under a

black majority government, the speculated "mass exodus" has not occurred.

The government of Zimbabwe is clearly mindful of the importance of retaining

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the skills of its white residents, and both in its public statements

and by.the practical measures it has taken to date, has shown

sensitivity to the need to allay white apprehensions about changes

which may occur in Zimbabwe as a consequence of majority rule. As an

example, the government's, first budget brought down in late July, placed

considerable emphasis on the need, not only to promote recovery from the

destruction of war, but to provide incentives to local businessmen and

foreign investors. Mr Mugabe has emphasised on a number of occasions -

including his visit to North America in August and at an Economic

Resources Conference held in Zimbabwe in September - the importance he

attaches to an ongoing role for domestic and foreign private capital.

It is important to stress that apart from the absence of a

general mass exodus there is also no evidence to suggest that a large

flow of Zimbabwean immigrants to Australia is occurring or imminent.

In fact settler arrivals from Zimbabwe fell from 595 in 1978/79 to 421

in 1979/80. Settler arrivals in the first quarter of 1980/81

totalled 124. However, enquiries about migration to Australia have

risen in recent months, reaching 777 in October. Application rates

also rose sharply from 246 persons in April to peak in July at 551 but

have since fallen gradually. ■

Approvals are running at about 50 percent of applications.

Present indications are that, in the absence of major

deterioration in the internal political situation, the white population

should stabilise at around 150,000 and remain at this level for sane

time. (The present white population is estimated to be around 220,000).

Australia's ncn-discriminatary policy requires that all migration

applications be assessed according to the same globally-accepted

criteria. This important principle continues to be applied in the case

of Zimbabwe. Australia should not however appear to be contributing

to any loss through emigration of Zimbabwe's scarce skilled manpower.

When Mr MacKellar met Mr Mugabe in Salisbury in July he raised this matter

at the Prime Minister's request„ Mr MacKellar assured Mr Mugfabe that

Australia would not seek to attract migrants from Zimbabwe:: any

applicant for emigration to Australia would be considered, but '

Australia would not attempt to recruit migrants from there. . Mr Mugabe

expressed his appreciation for these remarks.

In Conclusion (2) the Committee states that it found that the

majority of Zimbabwean immigrants tended to' integrate into the

community fairly quickly, particularly as most had skills which helped

them obtain employment and particularly as there were no language or cultural

barriers to cross. Zimbabwean settlers tended, on the whole, to be fairly

self-reliant and the Sub-committee received no evidence of any being a

burden on the community, . ' .

Conclusion (3) notes that a number of black people in Zimbabwe,

particularly in rural areas, were married polygamously, and on this basis

would be excluded from immigrating to Australia under principle (vi) of the

immigration criteria. In circumstances where Australia may be faced with

applications to immigrate from polygamously married persons, the Committee

considers that this restriction should be re-examined.

Zimbabwe is of course not the only country..practising polygamy.

Present Government policy states that eligibility and suitability

standards for migrants should reflect Australian social mores as well as

Australian law. The exclusion of more than one spouse from classes of

persons eligible to immigrate to Australia relates to the' fact that

under the Marriage Act 1961, only monogamous marriages can be solemnised

in Australia. Polygamous marriages validly entered into under the laws

of ai overseas country will be recognised in Australia provided that the

parties involved had the necessary capacity under their ante-nuptial

domicile to enter into the marriage. Such recognition of polygamous

marriages is for the purposes of the Family Law Act 1975 only and, applies

to all proceedings under the Act, including maintenance, custody and

property rights. ·

It is open to the Government to alter Australia's irrmigraticn

criteria to allow migrants to enter Australia with more than one spouse.

However, strong resistance to this course could be expected in a country

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to which the practice of polygamy is quite alien. This could have - .

implications both for the acceptance of polygamously married migrants into

the Australian community and for Australian attitudes to migration and

migrants in general. There would also be legal complications. Notwithstanding

the recognition accorded polygamous marriage under the Family Law Act, I foresee

problems with recognition under both federal and State law in such areas as

taxation, inheritance “and social security matters. In all the

circumstances it would seem inadvisable at the present time to remove

current restrictions on the entry to Australia of more than one spouse.

Concerning refugees, the report notes (Conelusion (4)) that, in

the course of its inquiry the Sub-Committee received considerable

evidence on the refugee situation existing inside and outside of Zimbabwe

prior to the settlement agreed at the Lancaster House conference. It also

notes that much of this evidence was overtaken by events and lost its

direct relevance as, with the ceasefire, refugees began to return to

Zimbabwe and resettlement programs ccmnenced. Nevertheless, the Committee

canvassed some of the .issues because of their possible..relevance to other

refugee situations which may occur in the Southern Africa region at sene

future time and its comments in Chapter 9 > of the report are a very useful -

record.

In my earlier comments on "General aid" Conclusion (2) I

mentioned the aid Australia has provided to Zimbabwean refugees, and pointed

cut that the Government was continuing to monitor Zimbabwe's needs and would

consider sympathetically any request for further aid. The report's comments

on this topic, despite their new historical character, are nonetheless

valuable. While it is not possible to judge in advance the best means of

handling refugee problems, the Government watches developments in Southern

Africa closely to obtain the earliest possible warning of possible

refugee situations. “

' The Committee goes on in Conclusion (5) to state its firm

opinion that Australia should accept refugees or displaced persons from

Southern Africa should the need arise. It also endorses the non-

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discriminatory aspects of Australia's refugee policy and re-emphasises

that racial considerations must never enter into the selection of refugees

Should the situation arise, Australia would assess its response

to the needs of refugees or displaced persons.from Southern Africa in

accordance with its present global ncn-discriminatory. policy. It

welcomes the Committee's endorsement of this policy, an important part of

which is the principle that racial considerations are not important to the

selection of refugees. -

Under a section entitled "White Zimbabwean' immigrants and

racism" the Committee states that on the evidence available, it rejects

the contention that all whites from Zimbabwe are racists. It goes on to

say, and I quote, that "the majority of white Zimbabweans who have

immigrated to Australia to date have integrated into the Australian '

community without any major problems involving racism. Nor have any

. complaints of racial discrimination against white Zimbabweans featured

in any of the reports of the Commissioner for Community Relations since

his office was established under the Racial Discrimination Act- 1975.

NO person's political or racial views can be safely inferred

from his membership of a racial group or his country of birth or ·

residence. A blanket exclusion of immigrants or refugees because they were

white and came from Zimbabwe would show an intolerance no different from

that of the racists being condemned. The Committee believes, however,

that caution should be exercised so that people of overt extremist

racist views are not admitted to Australia thereby damaging the racial

harmony of this country," . .

The Government endorses these comments. There is general

agreement that migrants from Zimbabwe have few settlement problems. and

that there is no evidence that their presence does or would provoke

conflict with racial minorities in Australia. Present immigration

policy makes provision for. the thorough screening of intended migrants

and persons of "overt extremist racist views" would not meet selection

requirements for migration to Australia. .

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In suinnary, Mr Speaker, the Joint Committee's report is a

useful and thorough compendium of basic data and historical information

which deserves to be widely read. - - i

To conclude, Mr Speaker, I would like to say that Australia

has been pleased to have been able to contribute to the unique

processes which led to the attainment of majority rule in Zimbabwe

and to the new nation's development efforts since Independence. We have

been encouraged by the determination of the Mugabe Government to pursue

policies designed to promote reconciliation and reconstruct ion. This is

not, however, to underestimate the problems facing Zimbabwe and demonstrated

by the clashes which have occurred during the current campaign far municipal

elections. It i s .to be hoped that Mr Mugabe, in consultation with the

leaders of all involved factions, will succeed in defusing the current

tensions and in preventing the spread of open conflict and the diversion

of national energies from the important tasks of reconstruction and

development on which an encouraging beginning has already been made.

The Government will continue to follow the progress of the _ V .

newest U.N. and Commonwealth member with sympathetic interest and

continue to do what it can to be of practical assistance in helping

Zimbabwe achieve its development goals and the establishment of an

harmonious multi-racial society.