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Wednesday, 27 May 1987
Page: 3415

Mr HICKS(3.23) —Very few people, if any, in this House will condone the actions of Lieutenant-Colonel Rabuka in staging a coup against the legitimate, democratically elected Fijian Government of Dr Bavadra. Certainly most of my colleagues and I do not. I acknowledge that both sides in the dispute have very real grievances and that, therefore, the Federal Government has, in one regard, acted responsibly by being wary of the action it has taken in response to this serious matter, although some would argue, I suppose, that it really does not know what to do about it. The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) seemed to develop some confusion by asking the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) to stay overseas so that he could take the front running on the matter. I would say that he is now sorry for that decision. I was interested to hear comments by a number of Commonwealth delegates at a conference I attended. When they heard of New Zealand warships going to Fiji and of other actions being taken, they were most alarmed that any Commonwealth country would take any action at all in the affairs of another country.

Despite the Government's decision not to take decisive action, particularly in regard to sanctions, we find that its master, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, has decided to take matters into its own hands. As well as determining internal national policy in Australia, it is now again dominating our foreign policy by applying sanctions against Fiji.

I draw honourable members' attention to the interests of the ACTU in the Pacific region. We know that John Halfpenny-he has already been mentioned in this House a number of times-of the left wing Amalgamated Metals Foundry and Shipwrights Union, helped to found the Pacific trade union community in 1980-81. That organisation has helped to link left wing unions in Australia, Japan, New Zealand and a number of Pacific nations, including Fiji. Mr Halfpenny has continued to play a key organising role in the Pacific trade union community. After securing the support of the ACTU for that organisation, Mr Halfpenny's political ally, Bill Richardson, formerly Assistant Secretary of the ACTU, succeeded him as convenor of the organisation while Mr Halfpenny became organising secretary. So we can see the ACTU link, and unfortunately for the security of the Pacific region, the Fijian coup has played right into the hands of those anti-Western influences in Australasia and the Pacific, even though it was apparently one of Lieutenant-Colonel Rabuka's intention to rid Fiji of what was conceived to be a left-leaning government. I remind all Australians that Mr Halfpenny was formerly a member of the Communist Party and is now a member of the Australian Labor Party and a Victorian Senate candidate. Can the House believe that? If this is the case, heaven help Australia. I was pleased to hear the statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs that action was under way that would soon lift the sanctions. Anyone who thinks that this Labor Government is not dominated by people such as Mr Halfpenny needs to look again. I will read to the House a message that came from the National Farmers Federation. The message reads:

Consider then, the entry of the ACTU into the arena after the Prime Minister announced there would be no `Rambo' style reaction to the coup in Fiji. Tas Bull, that well known ambassador for the waterfront, made the judgment without it seems, reference to the Prime Minister, that millions of dollars worth of export contracts with Fiji could go to the wall while the Waterside Workers Federation and the Seamen's Union black banned any export or import activity with Fiji. It was, they claimed, to support their union brothers on the friendly isles.

Contrast that reaction with NFF's reaction to expulsion of the Libyans. We supported the Government. The trade unions decided they knew better.

But where's the tough Government response to Mr Bull and his comrades?

I've got no doubt that if NFF had adopted a different line to the government over Libya, we'd have been pilloried up hill and down dale. We might even have been branded as traitors.

There's been no such Government reaction to the activities of the Waterside Workers and the Seaman's union over Fiji.

That situation only reinforces general concern amongst employers in this country that there's one set of rules for the Government's mates in the trade union movement and another set of rules for the rest of the community.

I ask the House to consider the ACTU imposed sanctions in humanitarian terms. How dare any Australian place hardship on the Fijian people? Not only will the indigenous Fijian people suffer when food supplies start to become scarce, but the Indian Fijian will suffer. We know that all Fijians will suffer. I wonder whether the Bollinger socialists on the other side of the House have ever been hungry or even known what it is like to be hungry. I would say that they have not. The majority of Fijians are totally innocent of the coup, yet apparently it is the intention of the ACTU to cause unrest which in turn will lead to turmoil, which has, so far, mostly been avoided. The troublemakers who wish hardship on our traditional friends, the Fijians, stand condemned. Apart from the humanitarian aspects of the situation, it may not be known by all honourable members that Australia provides 34 per cent of Fiji's total trade, amounting to $205m. Wheat sales alone represent $10m, and fresh foods $7m. Australia provides 50 per cent of Fiji's imports; Japan, 16 per cent; and Singapore, 5 per cent. Four hundred people a week travel to Fiji from Australia on Qantas Airways Ltd and 90,000 people per year-or 43 per cent-of the tourist trade on the island is Australian.

As honourable members will know, wheat, flour and rice constitute basic dietary components for Fijians. Supplies are drawn largely from the milling in Fiji of Australian wheat and rice. As reported in today's Australian Financial Review, our wheat trade of $10m is being threatened. Fiji is waiting for a shipment of about 8,000 tonnes of Australian wheat which is in a ship also holding supplies destined for Noumea. Fiji has been purchasing its annual requirement of 60,000 tonnes of wheat from Australia but, with less than seven days of supplies left, local millers have already received offers from the United States of America to replace Australia's shipment. The United States offers were being made at the very time that Australia was requesting members of Congress in Washington not to damage Australian agricultural markets. Bans by maritime and stevedoring unions have been requested by Fiji's trade union movement, and the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) has announced that, once limitations on trade unions in Fiji were lifted, shipping bans here would similarly be lifted. No wonder people believe that the trade union movement is running this nation.

Another important export industry for Australia is the rice industry. That industry has sent a number of messages to the Australian Council of Trade Unions and Federal Labor Ministers, knowing of their close affiliation with that organisation, and have asked that the motor vessel Capitaire Wallis, which has been waiting to load rice and wheat in Geelong for a number of days, be allowed to load. The vessel also carries containerised cargo to Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji. A message from the Ricegrowers Co-operative Ltd to the ACTU reads:

On Friday 22 May our telex sought your assistance in removal of union bans to enable loading of rice and wheat destined for Fiji. Those bans remain in force. We wish to meet our contracts for Fiji because we do not believe that creation of basic food shortages will help remedy the regrettable political situation in Fiji. We believe food shortages will occur soon unless the cargo is loaded promptly. Food shortages will harm the ordinary Fijian and the reputation and reliability of Australia as a long term supplier. Grain suppliers in other countries are ready and able to step in and meet the need-indeed they will welcome the chance. Following today's Sydney Morning Herald article re food shortages, our Fiji buyers have been offered prompt deliveries of rice from Thailand. There is also talk in Fiji of food aid from the USA.

There is no need to tell the House about the problems presently facing the Australian rice industry, as the honourable member for Farrer (Mr Tim Fischer) and the honourable member for Dawson (Mr Braithwaite) and I have raised the matter many times before. Honourable members can be assured that this policy of the ACTU will only further damage the industry. Markets will be lost, as I am sure the United States will be only too pleased to provide wheat, rice and any other commodities requested by those governing Fiji.

What an affront it was to the people of Australia when the Government introduced into the Parliament legislation that would further strengthen the hand of the ACTU, an organisation that already determines our domestic and foreign policy. What more does the ACTU want? Thankfully, the Government has withdrawn that industrial relations legislation, being worried about its adverse impact in the forthcoming election campaign. However, the people of Australia know that, if the Australian Labor Party is re-elected, that piece of legislation will be re-introduced. If the Government determines that sanctions have to be imposed, that decision will rest on its head but until that time I ask the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) to have some intestinal fortitude-or guts, as we call it-in determining along with his Party his own foreign policy and then have the good sense, for the welfare of this nation, to ensure that those decisions are carried out.