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Tuesday, 29 October 1974
Page: 2091

Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) - Today in the Senate I asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) the following question:

Is it a fact that a draft resolution has been presented to the United Nations which seeks the expulsion of South Africa from that body? Has the Australian Government directed its United Nations representative to support such a measure? What are the reasons for such action?

We know that the Minister indicated in the Senate today that the Australian Government has directed its United Nations representative to vote in favour of the resolution. My understanding from earlier today has been that the resolution is likely to come before the United Nations Security Council today, although there was some doubt that the resolution may be disturbed by way of amendment. The Minister may be able to tell us later whether it has proceeded. I wish to plead with the Government not to . take this action. My understanding is that it would be the first instance in which we had moved along this particular line. I do not think we, in Australia, will be serving our best interests in this part of the world.

Are we to be aligned with the demand that South Africa be expelled? The problems of South Africa both internally and externally have been very great. There are the problems of any community in an advanced society attempting to uplift those of lesser advantage. The problems which can be noted within this nation and certainly within South Africa by those who look on, are not easily resolved. This is to be admitted by all of us. The aim must be for progressive development of any people who are disadvantaged or discriminated against. But Australia has her own problems in these matters. Those problems of race relations and colour relations still exist in this country. It ill befits us to be aligning ourselves with those members of the world community who would be condemning South Africa in the current situation. Would anyone in this country be so bold as to say that Australia has assessed the debt owed to certain of its Aboriginal people? Would our bold moving Minister for Foreign Affairs say that no discrimination of any kind exists in Australia today? Perhaps he may quote the facts to us on the health standards of our black brothers and sisters. We saw a report in recent days of one group in western New South Wales -

Senator Baume - At Collarenebri.

Senator WEBSTER -Yes. That information must have been known to our Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) since he has been in office.

Senator Mulvihill - That is a leak from a Senate Committee.

Senator WEBSTER -It was even known in those days, apparently. Apparently, with the small number of our black brothers in this community that situation must be known to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. What has this Government done in its 2 years of office? I ask honourable senators opposite to stand up and say that the previous government did not do anything sufficient. I accept that we did not do anything sufficient. But I point out to honourable senators opposite that in October, while we as a nation are willing to stand up and criticise South Africa, we have our own problems of apartheid in this country. These problems should be known within the United Nations. When our Minister goes there he should declare our problems before he commences directing Sir Laurence

Mclntyre to vote in a particular way to exclude South Africa.

Our white community has no such problems as the blacks have in housing at present in Australia. Perhaps the Minister may care to quote to the United Nations our lack of provision of adequate housing for our black brothers and sisters. Again, a report within the last few days indicates that there is a disastrous situation. Did the report not say that because of the housing situation, the lack of amenities by way of drainage and other matters, that children would be dying this year?

Senator Milliner - How long were you in power? Twenty-three years?

Senator WEBSTER - We hear the inane comment of a senator from Queensland: 'How long were you in power?' The honourable senator does not wish to examine the matter today and sympathise with me. I am an Australian citizen who knows the problems within our community in regard to the attitude that we take to black people. We have a Minister and a Government directing our representative to vote for the exclusion of South Africa from the United Nations on apartheid grounds. I was formerly a member of the Senate Select Committee on Social Environment which investigated the environmental conditions of Aborigines. I travelled the length and breadth of Australia and know the Aboriginal position reasonably well. The present Chairman of that Committee, Senator Keeffe, would know the current position even better than 1. 1 suggest that he would agree with me that Aboriginals in our community are discriminated against.

Senator Milliner - You say that, do you?

Senator WEBSTER -I say that-yes.

Senator Milliner - Tell us where.

Senator WEBSTER -Did you not listen to Senator Keeffe the other night? The Aboriginals are part of our responsibility. I mentioned the problem of Aborigines in New South Wales. Senator Keeffe mentioned the position in Queensland. There is also a problem in the Northern Territory. Wherever Aborigines exist they are our responsibility. I do not know that the Government of Mr Vorster looks over his shoulder and says: 'What did the previous government do?' We are all responsible for the situation. But surely we should be ashamed that we would stand in the United Nations and say that we should put a nation out of the United Nations because of its apartheid policy. What has the Labor Government done in relation to an apartheid policy in Australia in the last 2 years? This Labor Government is developing apartheid. Is there not, Senator Cavanagh, some area in Sydney where the Government is putting a rope around it and is going to build an entirely Aboriginal area?

Senator Cavanagh - No.

Senator Milliner - You are wrong.

Senator WEBSTER -One could point to statements that have been made previously by Senator Cavanagh. They indicate that an area that was distressed will be upgraded and money will be spent on behalf of the Aboriginal people by the Commonwealth. Money which is greatly deserved will go to an Aboriginal area which is to be separated from the white area in a part of Sydney.

Senator Cavanagh - It is not. You do not know what you are talking about.

Senator WEBSTER - It is very interesting to hear Senator Cavanagh say that we do not know what we are talking about.

Senator Wriedt - He said that you do not know what you are talking about.

Senator WEBSTER -Honourable senators on the other side laugh and interject. Yet I am having cross-fire with a Minister who is willing to say under some circumstances that the Labor Government's policy in relation to Aborigines in this country has been a disaster.

Senator Cavanagh - I have never said that in my life.

Senator WEBSTER -I hope we get the right words. I hope I misrepresent the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. It is a pity that the Minister does not make a statement in the Senate about what he did say. I saw a report in the Press the week before last concerning a black parliament. I do not know whether those words were used. But it was reported that a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, in pursuit of apartheid in this country, had set up an Aboriginal council or a black parliament on the grounds that it was only Aboriginals who should advise the Government on policies for Aboriginals. Is that a suggestion that apartheid is encouraged by the Minister? I would like the Minister to tell me whether I am misrepresenting him or whether the Press report misrepresented him. Did he alert the Press that he had been wrong when he said that this council which the Labor Party has set up was not representative of the Aboriginal people?

Senator Cavanagh - You cannot read straight.

Senator WEBSTER -Did I make a mistake in that interpretation?

Senator Cavanagh - You have been making mistakes ever since you stood up.

Senator WEBSTER - You have not denied that you said it, have you?

Senator Cavanagh - What am I alleged to have said now?

Senator WEBSTER - You are alleged to have said that the Aboriginal council is not representative of the Aboriginal people.

Senator Cavanagh - All right.

Senator WEBSTER - All right! Well I hope that is reported in Hansard as 'all right'. The Minister is vocal in telling me everything is wrong. Apparently we can nail him on that comment. The Aboriginal black apartheid council which this Labor Party has set up is apparently not representative of the Aboriginal people. But it is a matter of grave importance from which I should not be taken away by those vocal clowns on the Government side. This matter is one at which we need to look to examine the policies that we are pursuing in Australia. Indeed, one article in the Press said that those in glass houses should not throw stones. I hope to quote that article later on. But certainly I, knowing the situation as a parliamentarian in Australia, am aware that there is a great deal that we must do for the black people in our society before we ever equate them to our own white society. I doubt whether any member of the Government Party would disagree with that statement. The position has been known over the years. One can recognise the left wing attitude of the Government. It is evident in a letter which was placed on the desks of all honourable senators, although I do not know from exactly where the letter came. It is headed: 'Copy of letter addressed to managing directors of all Australian companies which have subsidiaries or associated firms in South Africa'. It commences with the words 'Dear Sir' and concludes with the words ' D. R. Willesee '.

I am interested to know exactly where our allegiance ties in this matter. I know that it does not lie with Great Britain. If one enters Senator Willesee 's office, the first picture one sees on the wall is that of Ho Chi Minh; one does not see a picture which would indicate any other allegiance. I think that that in itself is regrettable. Perhaps the hanging of that picture could be attributed to staff and not to Senator Willesee. The document to which I have referred is signed by the Minister and indicates the type of attitude the Government is taking. There is not encouragement of investment by Australians in South Africa for the benefit of the coloured people or the deprived people of that country; rather there is an indication that managing directors and businesses should look to their policies to see that they are upgraded in reasonable terms and higher standards are applied. It is certainly not a letter that I believe would be embraced by everybody in the community. But it does contain one interesting paragraph. The letter states, inter alia:

To date no other developed nations have imposed such sanctions and Australia will not curtail trade with South Africa unilaterally.

I wonder what other developed nations are doing in regard to their vote at this time. It will be interesting to see where Australia aligns herself in this matter. I believe that a statement made by Ambassador Botha in the Security Council on Thursday, 24 October 1974, is of interest. My understanding is that it is addressed from the Permanent South African Mission to the United Nations. I say to all honourable senators that they should read this document. Let me quote some parts of it. I would dearly love to have it all included in the record. It is very important statement.

Senator McAuliffe - Why do you not read it all?

Senator WEBSTER -I will take some time to read some parts of it. It states:

Mr President,the Council has been asked to review the relationship between the United Nations and South Africa in the light of our alleged violation of the principles of the Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

What valid reason can be advanced for singling out South Africa's relations with the United Nations for review by the Security Council? There is none. This is really just a political move in the vendetta being conducted by certain members of the United Nations against my Government.

I ask you to consider briefly some of the developments in the world in the period since the United Nations has been concerning itself with South Africa's affairs. Several wars have been fought on four continents; numerous governments have been forced from office by unconstitutional means, frequently involving violence and bloodshed; countries have been occupied by the armed forces of foreign powers; population groups in a number of countries have turned on each other with ferocity, and so on. In the most important spheres of human life the world is faced with a number of crisesunderdevelopment, illiteracy, famine, pollution and many related socio-economic problems to which the world's most responsible and best qualified commentators foresee no immediate or viable solution. Many think we may be on the brink of a world economic catastrophe of unprecendented proportions and incalculable consequences, political as well as socio-economic.

It is towards such situations and matters, Mr President, that one would expect this Council to turn its urgent attentionnot towards South Africa which in no way constitutes a threat to international peace, and where, although we have our problems, we are well on our way to solving them in a peaceful manner.

It is said that we have disregarded resolutions of United Nations organs. But next to nothing is said of the nature and quality of the information and documentation upon which those resolutions were based. Closer analysis will show that the material in question was unbelievably onesided, that is uniformly hostile to South Africa, that it was often completely unsubstantiated, and that much of it emanated from persons and bodies known for their biased opposition to South Africa's policies. Information favourable to South Africa was simply ignored.

In consequence, the resolutions in question were based on inadequate, prejudiced and often grossly distorted information

The statement goes on. I take it up again on page 5, where it states:

It is no exaggeration, Sir, to say that this is the picture which emerges from the sources to which I have referred. But surely not even the most prejudiced members of the United Nations can believe that a picture of such unmitigated terror and oppression can really be true. For how can such a picture possibly be reconciled with the observable conditions prevailing in South Africa, with readily available and indisputable facts and figures, many of which emanate from technical and statistical documentation of this Organization itself?

Why is it, if the position of the blacks in South Africa is really so intolerable, that hundreds of thousands of black workers from other countries of Africa voluntarily come to South Africa for employment- many of them entering the country illegally for that purpose?

Why is it that according to figures as at 1 January 1972, released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there were a mere 300 refugees from South Africa out of a total of 988,000 refugees in Africa?

Can it be denied that the wage gap between black and white is being continually narrowed and that it is the Government itself which is taking an active lead in the matter? The figures will show it.

Is it denied that black leaders, chosen by majorities of their own people, freely and often criticise the South African Government, in public and in private, on many aspects of its policies? This Organisation seizes upon such criticism. But let such a leader come to the General Assembly as a member of the South African delegation, and he suddenly becomes a stooge 'ora' puppet '.

Is it not manifest that millions and millions of rands are spent in South Africa to provide free or virtually free medical services to the blacks? In the financial year 1972-73, $282m was expended by public undertakings on health services for the Black, Coloured and Indian peoples.

Need it be recorded that South Africa has never experienced famine? South Africa is virtually self sufficient in foodstuffs of a quality comparable with the world 's best.

I could go on and say -

Senator Primmer - Why do you think people are leaving South Africa?

Senator WEBSTER -An honourable senator interjects to say that black labour is -

Senator Primmer - Why are such people coming to Australia? Is it because they fear that the position will blow up?

Senator WEBSTER - Why does the honourable senator believe people are leaving Australia? Is it because they feel that it is a rotten place under Labor? That is probably why.

Senator Poyser - You are obviously going completely mental.

Senator WEBSTER -I will take a trip on a bus and the honourable senator can be the conductor. I will quote at length from 2 articles. One appeared in the 'Canberra Times' newspaper. It is a criticism of all of us. I do not blame the Government if it takes this action in the United Nations while we sit idly by. We are all involved in this horrible action. The editorial in the 'Canberra Times' of Saturday, 26 October, which is headed 'Bigotry at UN' explains our situation. It states:

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee, and more particularly the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, would do well to remember that it is just as unwise to throw stones in glass houses as to stow thrones in grass houses. No criticism of other nations is acceptable unless it is objective, realistic, and informed by a modicum of humility. Australian criticism of racial discrimination in South Africa, and the Government 's unofficial proposal to vote in the UN Security Council for the expulsion of South Africa, either choose to ignore facts that are being given wide publicity or to interpret them as gimmicks and window-dressing. South Africa's Ambassador to the UN, Mr Botha, made admissions on Thursday of discrimination and promises to improve. It is better to steadfastly hold Mr Botha's government to its word than to disbelieve it merely to satisfy self-righteousness and an entirely negative hate.

The facts are increasing multi-racial sport and some multiracial diplomatic staffs, official moves to gradually get away from colour discrimination, and preparations for the complete independence of the Bantu homelands. South Africa is not yet a paradise but neither are Uganda, Burundi, Nigeria, or Ethiopia.

May I interrupt my reading to say that I do not remember hearing any great criticism from our Minister for Foreign Affairs of the day when President Amin took some of his racial discrimination to heart and proceeded to act in a reverse way. The editorial continues:

But to slam the door which is just creaking open reeks of the same bigotry that sustains the system of apartheid.

The lack of realism lies in the belief that the entire South African social and political system, along with the anti-black prejudices of the whites, can be changed overnight. It would be just as easy to ignore the official pronouncements of the Australian Government and to focus exclusively on the discrimination which the white Australians practise against the black Australians.

If the Government of South Africa is expelled from the UN who will represent there the 14 million non-whites Mr Whitlam is supposed to be so concerned about? Membership of the UN, like marriage, is for better or for worse.

Without delaying the Senate, I refer it to the leading article in the 'Sydney Morning Herald' of Wednesday, 23 October, on South Africa and the United Nations. This article, too, subjects us to criticism. I do not see how we can avoid this criticism that will be levelled at us in future years if we take this action to vote in the United Nations for the expulsion of South Africa. Our interests in this area of the world will increasingly he with South Africa. It is a wonderful country. It is a country which has ranged through the problems of racial discrimination. We have seen the same thing practised in this country. If we were excluded from the United Nations on some of the grounds I have raised we could be criticised as we are criticising South Africa. I plead with the Minister to direct his official at the United Nations not to take this action.

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