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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2143

Senator TATE (Special Minister of State)(11.04) —I thank honourable senators for their contributions to the adjournment debate. I will be brief in reply. I will take Senator Jessop first, though out of sequence, because I do not think the matters he raised require any sort of answer on the part of the Government. He defended his raising of several questions concerning the support given by the Australian Council of Churches in particular-although he also mentioned some other donating organisations within the Australian Christian communities-who he said had made donations, so called in his terms, in the form of humanitarian aid to groups associated with and which support terrorists or violent revolutionary movements in Sri Lanka and the Philippines. Senator Jessop thought that the questions that he was raising were about the, as he put it, diversion of resources donated by people who were perhaps not fully conversant with the sort of list of organisations to which these donations are made and which he listed for the benefit of the Senate. I think he invited honourable sen- ators to assess the list of donations for themselves. I am sure senators will take into account his remarks along with other information in making their assessments.

Senators Reid and Kilgariff mentioned the fact that today outside Parliament House there was a day of commemoration of the twelfth anniversary-according to the brochure circulated throughout the demonstration-of the fall of Vietnam to communist tyranny. Senator Reid, I think, made very good points about the obvious links that must exist between those who come to Australia as refugees from such a war-torn country and from the experience of authoritarian, not to say totalitarian regimes, and their families back in Vietnam.

It is understandable that in that very heart-rending situation where family reunion is as delayed as it has been over the past 10 or 12 years, emotions run as high as they evidently do within the Vietnamese community in Australia. As I say, Senator Reid, later joined by Senator Kilgariff, made the point that within the Australian community we have now a large group of Vietnamese who will not allow the memory of what has happened in their homeland to be expunged from our collective consciousness here in Australia.

I think that it is quite proper for people who come to Australia as migrants or refugees to have a memory of and an affection for their homeland and perhaps a great sadness for what may have occurred there. But as for the solution and how a better society back in their former homeland might be achieved, I do not think it is simply a matter of protests, demonstrations or commemorations of a peaceful kind, here in Australia.

Although it is outside my field, it is quite clear that so much depends on the Soviet Union in this instance. Certainly, if the Soviet Union wants to establish less threatened relations with democratic nations that are associated with the Western Alliance, as it is sometimes called, of course it must be required, as part of the process-it should also, of course, involve that country getting out of Afghanistan-to use its influence to bring about a withdrawal of Vietnamese forces from other countries in Indo-China as an accompaniment to an act of self-determination by the people of, for example, Kampuchea. In so doing, of course, there may be a recognition of the rights of self-determination of people which may even have an influence on the authoritarian mode of thinking which, of course, always accompanies a Marxist-Leninist group in political power.

As far as the Australian Vietnamese community is concerned, however, I think it must be reiterated that it is the policy of the Australian Government-and it is a bipartisan policy-that the enmities and hatreds, which can be readily understood by us, must not be so exacerbated here in Australia so as to lead to violent confrontation between groups within the Australian community and within the Vietnamese community in Australia in this instance. Also, we must resist those claims that are often made in moments of fervour that young members of these refugee groups-whether they be from eastern Europe or South-East Asia-should take up arms and go back to their former homelands in order to overthrow the government there. That sometimes happens. We know it happened very tragically in relation to-was it Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia?

The PRESIDENT —Yugoslavia, I think.

Senator TATE —I am sorry, Mr President. Perhaps, according to proper decorum, I should not ask you that question. But we recall that a few years ago some young Australians went back to Yugoslavia to liberate their former homeland and, of course, were killed almost instantly upon crossing the border. I just issue a caution in that regard because I know that some of the rhetoric on these occasions-even today-is somewhat along those lines at times. Nevertheless, I think in general we understand the sentiments and it is quite right that those who have fled as refugees from Vietnam remind us of the plight of that country.

Paradoxically I think, Senator Brownhill's contribution in the end reinforced my remarks and the bipartisan attitude of Australian governments to the question of the proper stance that migrants, and particularly refugees, should adopt when he said that in an address in his home town the Reverend John Fincher spoke of the need for reconciliation and healing. In particular, in the address which has now been incorporated in Hansard, he spoke of an instance where German and British members of opposing armed forces were able to forge a friendship in the height of warfare which was sustained over many years. It enabled them to experience a sense of forgiveness, as I think it would have been put in the address by the vicar.

I think that is an important element to keep in mind and it should be kept in mind by those who have had members of families and, indeed their whole country, ravaged by warfare. There is always that possibility if we remember our common humanity.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 11.10 p.m.