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Monday, 5 March 1984
Page: 350


Senator MISSEN —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs or, alternatively, the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I refer to the announced decision by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr West, to refuse visas for the visits to Australia of Mr Kent Durr, a National Party member of the South African Parliament, and Mr Mahmoud Rajab, a member of the President's Council. I remind the Minister that I have, for years, been an unqualified opponent of the vicious practice of apartheid and that, in 1982, I made two visits to South Africa, had extensive discussions with members of all political parties and all racial groups and reported extensively to the Australian Government following such discussions. I ask, firstly, does the Minister not agree that the South African Government should be encouraged and indeed urged to develop its dialogue and increase its economic relations with neighbouring states in South Africa instead of a policy of isolation and military incursions? Secondly, should not Australian politicians and citizens concerned with the human rights of the great majority of South Africans have every opportunity to express their views to persons in authority in that unfortunate country? Thirdly, would not the Australian Government be better advised to increase communication and press on with the implementation of a code of conduct for Australian business in South Africa, which I have urged past governments and the present Government to implement and which the present Foreign Minister, Mr Hayden, undertook to facilitate in his public statement of 5 June 1983?


The PRESIDENT —I suggest that the first part of the question be answered by the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.


Senator GRIMES —Inasmuch as this question involves the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, I say that the decision to refuse entry to the two members of parliament from South Africa was based on the merits of their case. We had a situation in which applications for visas had been put forward on behalf of those two people. We had at the same time knowledge, via a letter which was distributed by the Ambassador for South Africa, Dr Dennis Worrall, and which was issued before any such decision had been made on the visas, that these two people, Mr Kent Durr and Mr Mahmoud Rajab, were coming to this country 'for a series of seminars of a confidential nature at which there would be no media coverage'. People were invited to attend and travel and accommodation expenses were offered to those people. It seemed quite clear to those who made this decision-and the decision was made on this individual case-that this was a propaganda exercise. Despite the claims of Mr Kent Durr that he would not be talking about apartheid, it is quite clear from the list of matters to be discussed at the seminar that that matter would be discussed. I remind honourable senators that the previous Government had a policy of opposing apartheid and opposing visits to this country by sportsmen, by representatives of sporting organisations and by those who wished to come here to propagandise in this regard.

In future, as I think Senator Missen has implied, these matters will be looked at on a case by case basis. In the past people whose political views have not been the same as those of this Government have visited this country. But in this case, to permit the entry of two parliamentarians for them to advance arguments supporting the apartheid policies of the South African Government, we believe would not be in accordance with the policy of strong opposition to apartheid, a policy which, I add, was the policy of the previous Government. The matters raised by Senator Missen about the formation of a code of conduct for Australian businesses in South Africa and, for that matter, the development of a policy concerning future visits for people of this type are matters for the Minister for Foreign Affairs in conjunction with the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I have no immediate details on those matters, but I am sure that Mr Hayden and Mr West will give details of them in another place. That is the extent to which I can answer the question.


Senator MISSEN —I ask a supplementary question. Assuming that the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs will not, apparently, answer with regard to the codes of conduct, I will ask about the other part of my question which was not answered; that is, in regard to communication between, for example , politicians in this country and elsewhere. Is our democracy, in the Minister's view, so puny that it cannot resist or stand dialogue between us and politicians of South Africa? Surely that is how it will be looked at in the eyes of the world?


Senator GRIMES —I suppose it is a matter of judgment as to what Senator Missen considers to be dialogue. We have two South Africans, one a member of the ruling party in South Africa and the other a member of the President's Council of the South African Parliament, coming to Australia for what in fact are secret seminars. I believe that was not made clear before the decision was announced to the general public. That is clear now. I know that there are some members of the Opposition parties who are in fact extremely tolerant, if not supporters, of the policy of apartheid. However, I remind honourable senators that the previous Government, and in particular the previous Prime Minister, took an attitude on this subject as firm as that of the present Government. I find it strange that some honourable senators apparently have changed their views in opposition.