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Tuesday, 29 October 1974
Page: 2098

Senator WILLESEE (Western AustraliaMinister for Foreign Affairs) - Tonight Senator Webster raised a matter in relation to the answer which I gave this morning about a vote which will come up in the Security Council, probably tomorrow, in relation to South Africa. Senator Webster quoted from several newspapers which suited him. He did not quote from other newspapers which had taken rather a different line. He took the South African case completely and placed it before us. He even quoted from Mr Botha's statement in the Security Council. He criticised Australia's attitude towards Aborigines. This seemed to be the one reason he gave why we should not vote the way I have instructed Sir Laurence Mclntyre to vote at the Security Council. He further criticised me because I did not criticise Uganda and such other countries. It seemed to me that in some way- I did not quite follow it- this was related to the action I am about to take at the Security Council. The fact is that I do not go around criticising every other country, because that is hardly a way to improve relationships.

It is quite right that any country can criticise another country. Other countries can criticise us. They can find plenty to criticise, particularly on the Aboriginal question. The fact is that because we are on the Security Council and because we will be there for another 2 months we have had placed before us fairly and squarely by the General Assembly the question of South Africa. It was referred to the Security Council overwhelmingly by the General Assembly. We have to make up our minds how we will vote on this matter. There could be a debate which would go on forever. But what is the correct thing to do? One of the arguments which come forward is that we may harden South Africa in its attitudes and that this would make apartheid even worse than it is today, if this is possible; South Africa would not do any of those things which we want it to do. That is one angle that can be taken. That is one argument which I have seen advanced. That is one argument which some of the people at the Security Council will advance.

But when we sit down and analyse this matter, as we had to do, we found that there had been no movement in apartheid- not for one or two years, but for 25 years. South Africa has consistently defied the United Nations, the resolutions which it has passed, and the pressures which have been put on South Africa. One of the first reports which come in at the United Nations is the report of the Credentials Committee. Up until this year that Committee would make the recommendation that the United Nations accept South Africa and a group of nations would move that the credentials be accepted, with the exception of those of South Africa. This was always carried. Under a ruling which was referred to as the Hambro ruling- it was given by Mr President Hambro- the vote was to be taken as a condemnation of South African policies but it did not affect the right of participation in the Assembly. So this was done every year as a condemnation of South Africa.

Because those sorts of moves were not getting anywhere, this year the procedure was reversed. When the report came from the Credentials Committee the recommendation was to exclude South Africa. A vote was taken on that and it was carried overwhelmingly. Another vote was taken which was to refer this matter to the General Assembly. That was carried by 125 for to one against- South Africa, of course- with 9 abstentions. So it was an overwhelming vote indeed which sent the matter to this body. We are faced with the position of what we are going to do about it. As I explained in answer to Senator Webster this morning, because of South Africa's persistency over 25 years, because there has been no movement towards what the United Nations has asked South Africa to do in relation to apartheid and because there has been no change in its policy, I believe that now there is only one thing for Australia to do. Because of the stand we have taken, because of the stand which the previous Government took and because of the things we have said about racism, we believe it is time to vote for the expulsion of South Africa. One of the nations could use its power of veto. There is no indication at the moment whether that power of veto will be used. It is not true to say that anybody can vote with safety on this sort of matter knowing full well that South Africa will not be expelled. That is not certain at all. The African countries are pushing this matter and will take the main responsibility. Australia will take its responsibility because of the way we will vote.

The honourable senator asked: Will expulsion make South Africa worse? Nobody really knows. Senator Webster has pointed out that Ambassador Botha said that South Africa will get rid of apartheid and there will be an improvement in sport. Does that not suggest the opposite? Does that not suggest that at long last, when it is put on the line, after 25 years of pious resolutions, when the matter is before the Security Council that one is starting to get some action from South Africa? There is no real movement in sport in South Africa because at the club level where sport starts, not necessarily at the international level, there is still segregation and discrimination. Mr Vorster made a speech which has been answered by Mr Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia in the last few days, but it is very late in the day. This matter could have been raised quite a long time ago.

I come to the question of whether by excluding South Africa one will weaken the United Nations. That is one argument. On the other hand, how much more will one weaken the United Nations if South Africa defiantly and consistently over a quarter of a century has completely ignored the United Nations resolutions. One can argue both ways, but it seems to me that the correct thing is being done and that the pressure suggested by some of the newspapers which Senator Webster did not quote must be kept up so that at least these words which have come out only in the last few days while the Security Council has been meeting can be put into action.

The question of Aborigines was raised. In fact it just about took over.

Senator Jessop - So it should.

Senator WILLESEE - Maybe it should have.

Senator Webster - One would think we would not criticise others when we are as bad ourselves.

Senator WILLESEE -I am coming to that point, and I acknowledge that it was Senator Webster's point. The honourable senator acknowledged in turn that the reason that we should vote against South Africa is that we have not clean hands on the question of social discrimination. Of course we have not. The Minister said that. The attitude of Australian governments and the Australian people as regards Aborigines is vastly different to the attitudes in South Africa. A few years ago in Australia a referendum was supported by all parties and was carried overwhelmingly. The previous Government in its dying days was starting to step up its expenditure on Aborigines. Under this Government for the first time in our history we have a full time Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. That is the opposite to moving towards apartheid. Whatever faults we still have this Government is backed by a referendum of the people. Let me acknowledge that the previous Government was starting to move towards a greater expenditure on Aboriginal people. So it is the complete opposite to what is happening in South Africa.

I disagree with Senator Bonner when he took up Senator Webster's attitude because I would have thought that if we had not condemned apartheid in South Africa we would have been condemned by the Aboriginal people. I would say that that would have been the attitude of the Aboriginal people. How can we in Australia say that we are trying to get rid of racial discrimination and that we believe we should not judge one another because of the colour of our skins, yet turn round and vote the other way when it conies to South Africa? I disagree with my friend Senator Bonner. I think that that Aboriginal attitude would be vastly different to what he said it is. Senator Webster said that I wrote a letter to all companies in Australia which have subsidiaries or brother organisations in South Africa. He said that this was a left wing move. I do not quite know how he works that out because all that this letter did was to say: 'Look, it is for everybody's benefit to be a good employer and these are some of the suggestions we can make. ' I found to my dismay that the United Kingdom and the United States of America had done it some dme before. So my motivation was hardly left wing because the United Kingdom and the United States had done a lot more than we had done.

I think many irrelevances came into the debate. I do not think the Aboriginal question is relevant. We are doing the opposite to South Africa. We are passing laws and establishing departments to assist and uplift and to get away from racial discrimination. The opposite is being done in South Africa today and has been done persistently for 25 years. I do not think that the position is analogous at all. For years the previous Govement voted in the United Nations against apartheid. Now that Australia is a member of the Security Council surely it does not expect us to do less.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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