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Tuesday, 8 November 1983
Page: 2365

Ms MAYER —Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware that in September of this year Miss Catherine Hunter, a student at Witwatersrand University in South Africa, was detained by the South African security police? I understand that Miss Hunter is still being held without trial. Does the Minister have any further information about Miss Hunter?

Mr HAYDEN —I have to remove my spectacles for concentration.

Mr Hodgman —The first dixer of the day.

Mr HAYDEN —When I remove them the honourable member for Denison disappears into a blur like a blancmange exposed to the midday sun in summer. I am grateful to the honourable member for mentioning to me earlier in the day her very serious concern about this matter. Accordingly, I took the opportunity to obtain what substantial facts I could on it. As a result of that, I am able to tell the House that on 7 September 1983 Miss Catherine Hunter, a 23-year-old student at the University of Witwatersrand, was detained by South African security police in Johannesburg. I understand she is being held to appear as a witness at the trial this month of another student from the University of Witwatersrand, Mr Karl Niehaus, who has been charged with treason. Those of us familiar with the legal standards in these matters in South Africa realise that by our standards, civilised standards, an extraordinarily thin case is frequently sufficient to substantiate such charges. I understand that Miss Hunter is being held under the Internal Security Act, under the provisions of which she is not entitled to access to a lawyer or allowed to communicate with anyone other than the police or other state officials. She could be held indefinitely without being brought to trial. According to the South African Press, Miss Hunter is the fifteenth student from the University of Witwatersrand to be detained this year. Thirteen of those students have been released without charges being laid against them.

Miss Hunter's detention in solitary confinement came to public attention on 31 October when her mother, Mrs Lucienne Hunter, questioned the South African Prime Minister, Mr Botha, at a recent referendum rally in Johannesburg. Mrs Hunter asked the Prime Minister to ensure justice for state witnesses under the new constitution. Mr Botha is reported to have replied that state witnesses were sometimes held in solitary confinement to protect them from intimidation. The Prime Minister provided no further information about Miss Hunter's detention. I conclude by pointing out that the Australian Government is most concerned that people can be held in detention without trial and without proper process of law in South Africa. The Australian Embassy in Pretoria is keeping me informed of developments in this case.