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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 2108

Mr FRYDENBERG (KooyongParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) (18:43): I follow the very telling and moving words of my colleague and friend the member for Forrest, who has joined many people in this chamber in paying their respects following the passing of Nelson Mandela. In life most heroes are anonymous, but Nelson Mandela was a hero who was far from anonymous. His public struggle for true democracy and freedom in his country, South Africa, was a struggle that galvanised supporters around the world. He truly was a great man who, passing at the age of 95, has left the world a better place than it was when he found it.

To think that he was imprisoned for 27 years! His sole job in prison was to break rocks. He was allowed one visitor every six months. He was a man of letters, but he was only allowed to write or receive one letter every six months. His eyesight was diminished by the glare of the quarry beneath his cell. It would have been easy for a man in that position to simply give up the struggle or to negotiate his principles away so that he could get out of incarceration. But Nelson Mandela said no to such overtures. Nelson Mandela did his time till he was released in 1990, and from there he became President of South Africa. The 'from prisoner to president' story knows no better example than that told by the life and times of Nelson Mandela.

What strikes me about this man's character is his dignity, his forbearance and his ability to look beyond the hardship of his years and the nature of his imprisonment and the attacks which he had to confront throughout his whole life. He was able to rise above all these things and to reach out to the white rulers in South Africa and plot a path forward together with them. With FW de Klerk, who I believe deserves a lot of credit too, he formed a new South Africa without a bullet being fired. Democracy was awakened and a pluralistic country born which stands as an example to the world of what can be achieved through the ballot box as opposed to the end of a rifle.

I believe that Nelson Mandela is an inspiration to a generation of black, white and coloured people—and to humanity in general. I look up on my wall in my office here in parliament to a portrait of Abraham Lincoln as a man whose example stands the test of time. So too will the successors to me and my colleagues in this place be talking in 50 or 100 or 150 years' time about the achievements and the life of Nelson Mandela. There are not many people in the world who have had the impact of the same size and nature as the impact that Nelson Mandela has had.

There is a graphic example of the brilliance of this man. It is the way that he inspired his nation to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup by embracing the overwhelmingly white South African rugby team and leading the country off the battlefield while Francois Pienaar and others led it on the battlefield to victory in the World Cup. And we will never forget that picture of him wearing the cap from the Springboks, wearing the jumper of the Springboks and leading the rejoicing from the stadium.

I want to conclude by saying that we do celebrate Nelson Mandela's life. We do understand that he was a man, as my friend the member for Forrest said, who had strengths and, of course, as any person does, human frailties. We celebrate his contribution to humanity but we also understand that it is his legacy that must be protected, and we cannot be complacent about the harmony that may exist today in South Africa or indeed that exists around the world. As you know, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker, not only was Nelson Mandela an honorary Companion of the Order of Australia but he was also a Nobel Prize winner. In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in 1993 he said about the struggle against apartheid and the people who got behind that struggle against apartheid the following:

These countless human beings, both inside and outside our country, had the nobility of spirit to stand in the path of tyranny and injustice, without seeking selfish gain. They recognised that an injury to one is an injury to all and therefore acted together in defense of justice and a common human decency.

I say to you, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker, that that is a paragraph that can be extended far beyond its application to just South Africa and apartheid rule there.

So we remember on this day Nelson Mandela. We thank him for his service. We say to the people of South Africa that we, Australia, are with you. We are proud that we played a small but significant role in the anti-apartheid movement and we look forward to a world in which Mandela's legacy is not only strengthened but is remembered in the best possible way.

Debate adjourned.