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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1867

Mr RUDDOCK —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I have noted statements outside the Parliament on the Government's attitude to the African National Congress and violence in pursuit of political objectives. Can the Prime Minister assure this Parliament that he has asserted, and will continue to assert, on behalf of the Government and all Australians, an abhorrence of the practice of apartheid and an abhorrence of the use and advocacy of violence in pursuit of political objectives?

Mr HAWKE —I thank the honourable member for his question. It has, as I think the honourable member would accept, a particular relevance in the context of the visit to this country of Oliver Tambo, the head of the ANC. The Government believes that Australia has a strong moral obligation to play its part, and to play a prominent part, in international efforts to bring about peaceful change in South Africa. I know that the honourable member who asked the question shares that belief. In the context of that abhorrence, the Government established a program in 1983 under which prominent opponents of apartheid visit Australia. Mr Oliver Tambo is visiting Australia at this time under an invitation extended under that program.

Again, as I think the honourable member knows and accepts, the African National Congress is one of the major organisations representing the disenfranchised majority in South Africa. The visit by Mr Tambo is enabling the ANC's views to be put to the Australian public. It is appropriate that all honourable members and the people of Australia should know that those views similarly have been made known in a number of Western countries and to major Western governments. I think that the honourable member would know, and he would appreciate, that Mr Tambo has recently met with George Shultz, the United States Secretary of State, and he has met with Foreign Ministers of the United Kingdom and the Federal Republic of Germany.

Let me say, in direct response to the honourable member's question, that I had very useful discussions with Mr Tambo when he arrived in Canberra yesterday. I can assure the honourable member of these things: I informed Mr Tambo of the Australian Government's continuing desire to do all that we can to bring about the ending of apartheid. I said that I believed I was speaking not only for the Government but also for the great majority of Australian people. I also told him that the Government could not condone the use of violence in that process, whether it is perpetrated by the ANC or the South African authorities themselves.

I said, and again I would think that the honourable member would agree with me, that we understand that the South African Government's persistent refusal to dismantle apartheid and to negotiate fundamental reforms for the majority black community in South Africa has of itself-that institutionalisation of violence in apartheid-led to a situation in which black frustration is increasingly expressed in violent ways. That does not endorse it or condone it, but it is some explanation. I can see that the honourable member appreciates that fact.

I can say that Mr Tambo expressed his appreciation of the Australian Government's efforts, since the Nassau Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 1985, to bring about change in South Africa. I make the point-I have no doubt that the honourable member for Dundas would agree with me-that what it is important to understand not only in this country but in all countries which are concerned with trying to get the evolution of a democratic non-discriminatory South Africa is that the majority blacks in South Africa and their organisations want to see a new South Africa within which there will be a proper, constructive and fruitful place for the whites. I expressly raised this question with Mr Tambo. I was reinforced in that understanding as I am sure the honourable member would be, by Mr Tambo's assurance to me that that is precisely what the ANC and the other organisations want, because they understand that the interests of the blacks themselves would be diminished if in fact the accumulated experience, capital and expertise of the white population in South Africa were to be destroyed or substantially diminished.

The simple fact of the matter-again, I think that the honourable member would share my view on this-is that there are only two alternatives as far as South Africa is concerned. One is the path of violence and of bloodshed, and inevitably the destruction of the economic infrastructure within South Africa, or, secondly, there is the alternative route of negotiation and the recognition on the part of the whites of the obvious interests and rights of the blacks in South Africa, and contemporaneously with that a recognition by the black majority of the rights of the whites in South Africa. All the efforts of my Government-I am reinforced in this by the knowledge that many in the Opposition share this view-are directed towards creating that environment in which the route of negotiation will be possible.

Mr HOWARD —Madam Speaker, I seek your indulgence to say on behalf of the Opposition that we certainly share the Prime Minister's strong denunciation of the system of apartheid in South Africa. However, the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister would have greater force in this community if his Government were also to invite Chief Buthelezi to Australia to get the other black point of view from South Africa.

Mr HAWKE —Madam Speaker, if I may also have your indulgence, I appreciate the observations of the Leader of the Opposition about endorsing our position. A possible visit by Chief Buthelezi is under consideration.