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Thursday, 18 April 1985
Page: 1399

Mr PEACOCK (Leader of the Opposition)(3.12) —I thank the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) for giving the Opposition a couple of hours forward notice of this statement. I regret that the shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, the honourable member for Goldstein (Mr Macphee), has a severe viral infection, and I, therefore, have not had sufficient time to study the statement in detail which is a matter for regret on a subject such as this. But that was not the fault of the Minister's office by any means. At the outset, by way of an introductory remark, whilst we welcome the recent constitutional reforms and the decision to abandon the Immorality Act and the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act in South Australia-

Mr Young —South Africa.

Mr PEACOCK —In South Africa. I think I am suffering the infection rather than the shadow Minister at the moment.

Mr Cohen —What about-

Mr PEACOCK —I normally respond gently to interjections from the other side but the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment, who has just interjected, seeks constantly to wear his morality on his sleeve. He seeks to imply that he gives strong support to the statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs when near the end of it he spent the greater period of the time lying flat out on the bench trying to go to sleep. As far as I am concerned, that probably indicates the degree of support he is giving.

Mr Cohen —You made that exact remark before. It is totally untrue. I followed every word that was said.

Mr PEACOCK —I am sick of your moral selectivity.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Keogh) —Order! The Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment will resume his seat.

Mr Cohen —I was awake every second and I followed every word he said. Don't you make such statements about me.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The Minister will resume his seat.

Mr PEACOCK —Your selective moral attitude in this Parliament is well known and you gave physical embodiment to that by the way in which you received the speech.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that he is out of order if he reflects on the Minister or any member of this House. He would well know that such a matter may be raised by substantive motion only. I call the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr PEACOCK —I was indicating that, whilst we welcomed the recent constitutional reforms and the decision to abandon the Immorality Act and the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act in South Africa, we nevertheless have grave doubts about how serious the South African Government is in instituting genuine reform and the abolition of apartheid. Both the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia have demonstrated in government their attitude and their repugnance to the policy of apartheid. The South African Government continues to defend its 37-year-old policy of apartheid-a policy which deprives blacks of the right to vote or to own land and denies equality of education and opportunity. None of this has changed with the reforms that have been made to date, welcome as they are. Insufficient governments have welcomed the reforms to date for all that there is much more to be done. No doubt the members of this Parliament regard the system of apartheid as repugnant to all freedom loving people. In Opposition we repeat our condemnation and abhorrence of it. It is a system which perpetuates intolerable injustice for the majority of residents of South Africa.

I make this point in relation to the Minister's statement concerning a code of conduct for companies with commercial interests in South Africa: I note that the code is modelled on the codes of conduct already put in place by the European Economic Community, by Canada and by the Sullivan principles of the United States of America. It may well be that this code will achieve some additional pressure on South Africa. If that is the case that is to be welcomed. At this stage, from our point of view, we would have to insist absolutely that the code be voluntary in every respect. I make that point forcibly because I note that, in the Minister's statement, he possibly quite correctly refers to some in the community who would want such a code to be mandatory. The Opposition could have no truck with the view that a code should be mandatory. I would want to know that such a code, in being determined and followed in a voluntary way, would not have constant government interference and monitoring of the companies' affairs. If such a code is to be effective I wish it well, but on the basis of it being voluntary.

The Minister concluded his remarks by referring to sporting contacts. I simply reiterate the Opposition's point of view that the Government, in effect, is implementing policies which were carried out by the Liberal and National parties when in government. When in government we signed the Gleneagles Agreement and our commitment to it remains, as I have said on this issue outside the House on frequent occasions. However, there is one area of concern that I have with the Minister's statement. For all that I am giving a brief response to his statement now and for all that he was only foreshadowing the question of the United Nations action, I wish to make the following point clear: The Minister, in a relatively brief reference, has indicated that, through our membership of the Security Council, we may be called upon to vote on a question of economic sanctions in respect of South Africa. I have to say on behalf of the Opposition that we cannot agree with economic sanctions being imposed on South Africa. I believe that the vote the Minister has foreshadowed will, in reality, be a meaningless gesture. The United States Administration has made it clear that it is opposed to mandatory economic sanctions on South Africa and it would veto any such proposal. As a result, any such vote by Australia would have little or no effect on Australian trade and investment in South Africa.

But the statement of intention cannot be allowed to go without further comment. The Opposition does not believe that the imposition of mandatory economic sanctions on South Africa is appropriate or that it would contribute to the destruction of apartheid. Rather than contributing to the destruction of apartheid, it would unquestionably severely damage-to the extent that the sanctions would work-the economic well-being of the very people we want to help. It is those impoverished elements in the community who, in these circumstances, suffer a great deal more.

I want the Minister to understand that I am not engaging in a disagreement with him on this issue, as he would know, for the political purpose of wanting to distance the Opposition from the Government. I do not want to do that. Wherever parties can indicate a similar view in these sorts of areas they should do so and I think that is welcome in the field of foreign relations. Equally, having examined the situation, it ill becomes political parties to go along with their opposite number purely for the sake of it. I really do believe that support for economic sanctions will not work and, as I say, they may well impact on the very persons one wishes to help-in this set of circumstances the black community in South Africa. I think that it will have an impact not only on their economic well-being but perhaps on their political well-being.

I do not rule out economic sanctions in all cases. I have been a participant in governments that have called for sanctions from time to time, but in this instance of foreshadowing support for a United Nations resolution in the Security Council to impose economic sanctions, I indicate that the Opposition cannot go along with the Government in that regard. I believe that it may lead to an even more oppressive and determined minority regime in South Africa. It would certainly strengthen the hands of the men of violence on both sides of the political spectrum in South Africa. For those brief reasons at this juncture, I am unable to lend support on behalf of the Opposition to the foreshadowed vote by the Government in the Security Council.