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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2354

Mr COLEMAN(10.15) —I want to refer to the contribution to the adjournment debate last night by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Milton). I regret that he is not in the chamber. I tried to reach him, but failed to do so. He referred to the Vanunu trial in Israel. He made many comments about associated matters-Israel's nuclear policy, its policy towards South Africa and its policy towards the Palestinians. I will not comment on them or on his assessment of Mr Vanunu's character, other than to say I make a completely different reading of this unhappy man. I want to deal with his criticism of the Israeli system of justice, which I regard as one of the finest systems of justice in the world. I stress that the honourable member made it clear that he is not anti-Israel or anti-Jewish, but he is very scornful or critical of the Israeli system of justice. He made two criticisms based on the Vanunu matter. First, he stated that the trial in conditions of complete secrecy is in direct contradiction of normal judicial process. At the end of his remarks he called on the Australian Government to prevail on the Israeli authorities to restore the rights of which Mr Vanunu has been deprived as a person on remand awaiting trial. The last bit was rather peculiar, since it is public knowledge that the trial began last December.

As for the secrecy of the hearings, we are dealing here with a country which is surrounded by enemies in a state of declared war against it-countries which have made it plain that they want to obliterate the state of Israel. If Australia were dealing with an Australian citizen in similar circumstances, of course, in accordance with all precedents, the trial would be held in secrecy. Indeed, when we were at war with Japan-I am referring to the Australia First case-a group of Australians who were believed by the authorities to be Japanese agents or Japanese sympathisers were put in a camp for the duration, not just without an open trial, but without any trial whatsoever. Of course, similar cases abound in the common law world when national security is involved and when there is a state of war. That seems to be common from the record, and a common-sense approach. It is strange for the honourable member to make so much of it.

As for restoring the rights of which he has been deprived, I would like to refer to a letter in the current issue of the Australia-Israel Review by Mr Gabay, the Israeli Consul-General in Sydney. I am glad that the honourable member for La Trobe is now present. Of course, Mr Gabay is a Government man. Nevertheless, I challenge the honourable member to produce evidence to deny any of the statements I am about to read. The letter states:

Israel's legal system guarantees the individual legal rights of the accused and assures him the right to a fair trial and due process of law. Mordechai Vanunu, as any other defendant, enjoys these rights. This trial is being conducted in a civil court before three district judges. He is represented by a lawyer of his own choosing and both Vanunu and the lawyer have to be present at all stages of the trial. According to the common law legal tradition, to which Israel belongs, the prosecution must prove that facts incriminating Vanunu beyond all reasonable doubt. At the conclusion of the trial, both the defence and prosecution may appeal to both the decision of the judges and the punishment imposed in case of conviction.

Other rights of the defendant include, inter alia; the right to remain silent during the police investigation and in court or to present his version if he wishes to do so; the rule that in case the prosecution does not present a prima facie case the defendant does not have to answer the charges; the right to be represented at all legal proceedings, to cross examine prosecution witnesses and to call upon any witnesses to testify in his favour, and in general, the rights accorded to defendants in common law systems.

I suggest that that is plainly the case. This is a country with a fine legal system which, after the tragic massacres in Lebanon in the recent war there, held a judicial inquiry into one of its own war heroes and, when the inquiry was concluded, sacked him. All of these rights belong to the accused in this case. It is a pity that the honourable member for La Trobe contributed to the absurd propaganda that we get daily in the media about the Israeli system of justice and the conduct of this case.