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Thursday, 18 April 1985
Page: 1403


Mr SINCLAIR (Leader of the National Party of Australia)(3.37) —Nobody within this House supports apartheid. It is a policy which has brought very considerable suffering to so many people. Certainly, some of the horrific events which have occurred in the name of that racial policy are such that no sane-minded person would support them. I certainly endorse the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock), who has outlined his response to this statement. There are several reasons why I wish to speak on this matter. The first is that it somewhat sickens me that this Government seems to pursue selective morality. There are very many countries around the world whose policies do not accord with what those of us who believe in civil liberties see as correct. For example, it is quite ludicrous that we have heard so little about what is happening in Afghanistan. We find it quite impossible that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden), who made this statement, is sympathetic to what is happening in Vietnam and seems to be pursuing a policy which we view with apprehension in terms of his separate intervention to try to establish some form of a peace process within Kampuchea. We apprehend that the 'hate South Africa' cause is one that he believes has more sexy, if one likes, political overtones. It concerns me that there are so many other countries in the world towards which, if we are to express moral attitudes towards racist policies, this Government might appropriately express its attitude.

With respect to movements within South Africa, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, we on this side of the House welcome the abandonment of the immorality legislation and some minimal moves that there seem to be towards greater recognition of the equality of the people within that country. But, while apartheid continues, no sane-minded person would accept that the policies of the South African Government should be endorsed.

Establishing this Australian code of conduct on a voluntary basis is a significant step which I believe the business world, and certainly the Opposition, would like to have an opportunity to consider carefully. While it is true that in the normal course the appropriate notice of this statement has been given to the Opposition, the issues within the establishment of a new code of conduct, involving yet more government intervention in business, are such that they need to be considered very carefully. I noticed, for example, within the Minister's statement, that there is to be a reporting format, a requirement for companies adhering to the voluntary code to report annually to the Australian Government on their compliance with the code, which will be monitored. Frankly, any intervention by this Government makes me suspicious. We already know the degree to which it has walked away from trying to assist in regard to the companies on the Australian Council of Trade Unions hit list, identified as a result of the Queensland power dispute. We see so many areas where, in the conduct of business, the sticky fingers of Labor seem to be prepared to intrude to the deprivation of the rights of the individual and the opportunities for private investment. Therefore, we are concerned that this code of conduct should be voluntary. I believe that, more appropriately, the code could have been laid on the table of the House, which would have allowed members of this place and of the business community to examine it and assess its implications so that we might know a little more than two hours consideration of a barefaced statement permits.

The very nature of the new code in the conduct of companies, business in South Africa strikes me as a matter which is of profound importance, one which can barely adequately be considered in this type of brief debate on a ministerial statement. I am apprehensive. While noting, as we all did, that the Minister for Foreign Affairs referred to precedents, for example, the European Community code, the Canadian code and the Sullivan principles in the United States of America, he has suggested that the Australian code will pick up the standards set down in those codes. He has also suggested, however, that there will be some differences, making the code more relevant to Australian companies. The Australian code needs to be considered by business. I hope that if business seeks to introduce modifications to that code for valid reasons, they will be considered properly and the code modified accordingly.

The Leader of the Opposition mentioned our opposition to the support the Government has indicated it may be giving to a resolution, were it to be presented to the United Nations Security Council, with respect to mandatory economic sanctions. Certainly, the members of the Opposition are concerned that those who suffer from such economic sanctions are the very people who are worst affected by the apartheid laws. It seems to us to be incongruous for the Government to lend its support to a measure which would hurt so much those people whom it purports to be representing by these new measures it has announced to the Parliament. Therefore, the Opposition says to the Government that rather than give carte blanche support to such a resolution, as it has, it would be more appropriate if it were to consider carefully the implications of the introduction of economic sanctions. It would see that they are not the way in which the racist laws in South Africa can be modified.

This whole matter is one which, at a time of a decision by the New Zealand Rugby Board, has highlighted the extent to which the Gleneagles Agreement and the code set down therein are coming under increasing scrutiny. As one who for many years has been involved in rugby, I very much regret that, because of the racist laws in South Africa, the Springboks team is not able to participate in international football contests in the way that lovers of the code would wish. Nonetheless, the Gleneagles code does permit some regulation of sport interchange. I hope that it is possible at some future stage for the involvement of politics in sport to be removed. It seems to me very sad that those who have no more than their love for a particular code of sport should find that love prejudiced because of the way in which politics has intruded on it. However, the Opposition parties adhere to the Gleneagles code and, in government, would, of course, want to examine the extent to which we could encourage the South Africans in other ways to move away from their apartheid policy than by the procedures and practices that the Government has outlined in this statement today. In particular, we are concerned that there should be a recognition that, sadly, there are many countries whose laws and attitudes to democracy and civil liberties are such that they should be condemned. There are too few democracies in this world. All that can be done-not only in South Africa but also in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and other countries-to modify their attitudes to human beings is something that we on this side of the House would welcome. We therefore think that to suggest that support should be given to mandatory economic sanctions within the United Nations would be a very regrettable step and certainly would be very vigorously opposed by the Opposition.

Debate (on motion by Mr Humphreys) adjourned.