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Thursday, 17 September 1987
Page: 303


Mr TICKNER(10.21) —I wish to raise a matter that I believe has profound moral implications for the whole world, and that is the case of Mordechai Vanunu, who is currently on trial in Israel.


Mr McGauran —He is a traitor. He is a traitor to his country.


Mr TICKNER —I note that in the gallery tonight are two ministers of the Anglican Church, Reverend Stephen Gray and Reverend John McKnight of St John's Anglican Church, Kings Cross, and I hope that the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran) will show a little more respect in view of the serious matters that I seek to raise.


Mr McGauran —Why? The man is a traitor.


Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Gippsland will cease interjecting.


Mr TICKNER —Mordechai Vanunu is currently on trial in Israel for disclosing the existence of nuclear weapons capability and stockpile of Israel. He was kidnapped in Rome in violation of Italian sovereignty and taken to Israel by the Israeli secret service. He is currently kept in a small cell some 3 metres by 2 metres, where he is constantly watched, with no windows in his cell and the lights on 24 hours a day. I do not pretend that the issues involved in this case are not without complication, nor, as I have already indicated, that profound ethical and moral considerations are not involved in the case, but whatever one's views of Mr Vanunu's conduct, I would hope that we would all support the right of people around the world to have not only a fair trial but an open and public trial. No government can justify holding a secret trial, whether they be trials in countries with totalitarian governments of the Right or of the Left or in Israel. This fact of a secret trial has, I am informed by the reverend gentlemen, aroused the concern of Amnesty International, which has made representations on the matter.

This is in stark contrast to the trials of nazi war criminals that have been conducted in Israel. They have been open and public trials. The Government of Israel ought to respond to world-wide community concerns about this case. I am informed, and I know, that Mr Vanunu has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Bertrand Russell Foundation and by a number of members of the Australian Parliament. The issue is one of great concern to this House, to this Parliament and to the Government.

I was disappointed by the answer given by the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy (Mr Kerin) who in this chamber represents the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Senator Gareth Evans). He indicated, as I recall the answer, that it was not the practice of the Government to intervene in relation to trials of foreign nationals within their own country. I respectfully suggest that human rights issues are very much of world concern and it is the practice of this Government to inquire and probe into, and to take a stand on, human rights issues in other parts of the world. I respectfully suggest that this is a matter that will not go away and warrants further consideration by the Government. Before I conclude tonight I want to quote briefly from an open letter written by Mordechai Vanunu in his cell. He said:

The individual, the citizen, anywhere on the face of the earth, has to find the way in which he can add his personal contribution to improve life on earth, its quality and safety. By taking this course of action he will make everyday life pleasanter and more tolerable.

Those are the ideals that motivated Mordechai Vanunu to take his stand to expose the Israeli nuclear capability. I would have thought that all members of this House would realise that the Middle East is a flash-point and has the capability of engulfing the world in a global nuclear war. I believe that this issue warrants the concern of all us. It involves profound moral questions and I commend the reverend gentlemen for coming to Canberra in an attempt to awaken the conscience of members of parliament.


Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.