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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9204

Dr JENSEN (Tangney) (21:30): I hope you will join with me today in roundly condemning the massacre which occurred at the Lonmin Platinum Mine in Marikana, South Africa over the weekend. I care—not because they are from the land of my birth, though they are, but for a more noble a reason: I can speak and they cannot.

Eighty per cent of the world's known platinum reserves are within South African borders. The average wage of a platinum miner in South Africa is 5,000 rand, or approximately $486 a month. Had that same worker won the ovarian lottery and been born here in Australia, he could have been guaranteed several times that wage every week. There have been 44 deaths in the space of 14 days, and all for protesting—for putting in a claim for a fairer share of their treasure.

Yes, I realise that this is a complex issue with many parts. But the fact remains that it is wrong and reprehensible that 34 miners should die and 78 be wounded. Add to this total the 10 deaths earlier in the week, and the total rises to 44. That is what has occurred.

I am calling on all sides to take an interest and bring Lonmin to book on its bullying tactics. It is not acceptable that a major multinational corporation use its might to break the spine and spirit, and dash the dreams, of a people. It would appear from reports that the Lonmin Corporation is issuing an ultimatum: go back to work by Sunday or lose your job.

Here in Australia we talk about the fair go. The miners are asking for comparable treatment to their colleagues in the gold mines. In the gold mines pay is higher, accommodation is on site, and life is better. I am not saying the workers are without blame. I appreciate that the police made some attempts at non-lethal suppression, but when no-one is to blame, usually all are to blame—that is, the unions, mine management, police and government. The resultant images struck me as similar to the ones I saw on the tired old TV my grandmother used to own. How is Lonmin going to sit alongside Soweto and Sharpeville?

I never overlook the deep friendship and history of our two countries, and to the people of South Africa I say, 'When you hurt we feel your pain.' We fought together in many wars and stand together in the peace. We look not down on you today but up, to your historic achievements in the steps out of apartheid.

Australia can do more and should do more. The police forces need training; we have the skills and willingness to help. How long will the national commission of inquiry installed by President Zuma have for the investigation? Who will they be, and how much power will they have? Mark Bristow, chief executive of Randgold Resources Limited, said mixed messages from the government regarding the mining industry had compounded the frustration on the ground. 'South Africa has never got to a formula where everyone feels part of the business,' said Mr Bristow. 'It is always them and us.' He went on:

There is still a nationalization debate ... the whole South African issue is still looking at distribution and redistribution rather than looking at the hard business of building value and profitability.

We urge the South African government to do not what is easy but what is difficult, because we know they can do it, again. What is difficult now is to reaffirm a commitment to a capitalism that works for all. What people want most of all is a vision and certainty. In the absence of real leaders demagogues and dictators will fill the void.

Nearly two decades ago Nelson Mandela brought down the wall of apartheid in Johannesburg, saying, 'Free at last.' How do these actions honour Mandela's creed? There is only one way to bring real freedom, and that is through economic freedom, where the rising tide lifts all boats.

Loss and the sorrows of too many mothers has been the shame of that great and colourful nation. The events in Marikana added to that. Right and wrong are not for blacks or for whites. Right is not about colour. It is within our power to say to the world simply, for the good and honest people of South Africa, 'Our politics is to see suffering and try to end it, to see hurt and try to heal it, and to see wrong and try to right it.' That is the type of leadership needed from the mines, unions and government. Again, we have had to say, 'Never again.'