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Monday, 5 March 1984
Page: 418


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE(10.30) —I rise tonight to express my absolute disgust at the Federal Government's decision to deny entry to Australia to two members of the South African Parliament, Mr Durr and Mr Rajab. The South African Government has sought visitors visas for Mr Durr and Mr Rajab to enter Australia for the purpose of attending discussion seminars on recent developments in South Africa itself and on South Africa's diplomatic relations with its neighbours. One was to take place in Canberra, one was to take place in Sydney, and one was ultimately to take place in Perth. The topics particularly to be discussed were: The importance of the Cabinet Committee on Blacks; the confederal concept and related developments; the Republic of South Africa's relationships with Mozambique, Angola and other countries in southern Africa; the Republic of South Africa's defence capability; the sporting scene; South Africa's internal priorities; and 'Can Australia make a contribution'-amongst a range of subjects.

It ought to be noted that Mr Rajab is, besides being a member of a number of service organisations, a trustee of the Islamic Education and Religious Trust. He is a founding member of the Solidarity Party of South Africa, which is, as no doubt Senator Grimes will know, made up of a minority disenfranchised group of Indians. It is not particularly significant, but it is probably worth mentioning , that Mr Rajab himself is married to an Indian woman. Therefore, he is hardly a man, I would have thought, who would be likely to be supporting apartheid. I quote Mr Rajab. He says, first:

I am not an apologist for the Government of South Africa.

He says that he is a member of a disenfranchised Indian community in South Africa, and that he had hoped to be able to present a realistic picture of what happens in the country. He says:

If that can be termed propaganda, really there is nothing more I can say. I would be telling the story as I see it, as I perceive it to be. I don't think one can distort the truth.

Mr Rajab says that he would have told Australia about the new electoral system soon to come into operation in South Africa and other aspects of South Africa's life of which Australians were probably not aware. He says:

It is strange that this sort of double standard should be applied by your Government. What we would have been saying we would have said in public and we would have been judged on what we said. Yet your Government takes a very strong stand against South Africa for very much the same reason-for refusing people their democratic rights.

Mr Rajab said that apartheid barriers were being broken down in South Africa, albeit slowly. He said that there had been a starting point and that he believed that South Africa was now at the crossroads. As I say, I should have thought that he was hardly a man who would come here and preach apartheid and brainwash and convince Australians that that system is suitable for South Africa and for Australia. I should have thought that he was rather more a man of courage who was prepared to work within the system and seek to change that system from within, and not a man who has committed himself to terrorist organisations, such as the African National Congress and the South West Africa People's Organisation , which, by their own admission, commit acts of violence and terror in South Africa and Namibia and which are prepared to trade lives for votes. Both of these terrorist movements have been given approval by the Australian Government for the establishment of information offices. In fact, the Labor Government said at the time that the information offices were being opened that activities by such offices were legitimate and accorded with the operation of a free democratic society. I find that at variance with the decision with respect to the two gentlemen in question now.

Referring to the subjects that these two members of parliament were to discuss during their visit to Australia I mention, by way of example, item 4-the Republic of South Africa's relations with Mozambique, Angola and other countries in southern Africa. I should have thought that that would be a subject in which not only all of the Australian public should be interested and about which it would want to learn more, but also that the Australian Government would wish to treat likewise. Of course, from its ivory tower in the isolation of Australia, the Labor Government has had much to say about that issue. Only very recently, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) issued a Press statement welcoming reports of progress in talks between South Africa, Angola and the United States of America on disengagement. He went on to say that it was a promising step in creating a climate of trust in which larger outstanding issues could be tackled. Now we suddenly find that the Australian Government does not want to hear about it, does not want to know about it, and does not want to learn any more; it does not want to have intercourse with members of parliament from South Africa. We have a repository of wisdom inside the shores of Australia. We know it all. We can make such Press statements. But we fear practical discussions upon the subject. The truth, I suspect, is that the Labor Government is interested in the subject. I am sure that it is interested in the subject on which the two members of parliament would have spoken had they come to Australia. I think that the reason that they have been denied entry is based simply on blind prejudice.

I refer honourable senators to one of the other items, item 8-'Can Australia make a contribution?'. Surely in the past Australia has sought to make a contribution by imposing its views on South Africa, by condemning apartheid and by abandoning her sporting contacts. Here we now have an opportunity to discuss in a practical way what contribution we can make and to learn, perhaps, of more recent events in respect of sporting relations with South Africa; yet we turn our backs blindly on the opportunity to learn, to discuss and to make a contribution.

Item one which was to be discussed was the importance of the Cabinet Committee on Blacks. I recall that that is a subject about which this Government has had plenty to say, and yet on this occasion what the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West) had to say in his Press statement when he was announcing the refusal of the visas was:

Quite frankly, I am not sure what contribution any Australian could be expected to make to the South African Government's Cabinet Committee on Blacks.

It seems absurd to me that we are the conscience of the world, or at least the Labor Party purports to be; we are the repository of all wisdom and all knowledge as to how other governments should conduct themselves and how democracy should prevail; we ban sporting contacts with the South Africans, and we condemn them left, right and centre; and when we have an opportunity to contribute we suddenly turn our backs.


Senator Grimes —What did your Government do?


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Our Government took a position which was at variance with my own. I have not changed my mind since the Labor Government has taken over, except to say that I have no doubt that if these members of parliament had sought a visa during the life of our Government, they would have been allowed in . That would have been permitted, and there would not have been this phoney Press statement, these phoney excuses, this diatribe being put out by Mr West as an excuse for not allowing a couple of members of the South African Parliament into Australia. It is a poor old excuse at that. Mr West says that we have a very strong and fixed view on sporting contacts and that that is well known. I just wonder. Are we frightened to hear of new developments? Are we concerned that we might discover some new events and some changes in the activities in South Africa? The fact is that the Government does ot want to allow Australian members of parliament to learn about any new events in any of these matters. The matters that I have raised are but a few. I really do not understand how any of these subjects could be subjects on which the public of Australia could be brainwashed, more particularly the members of parliament and the media who were invited.

I just remind the Senate of the guest list for the seminars. It includes people who have previously visited South Africa or who have taken more than a casual interest in South Africa, not necessarily those who support the view of the South African Government.


Senator Grimes —Why are they confidential?


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —They are not confidential. I will come to that point in just a moment.


Senator Grimes —Why are they confidential?


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —They are confidential to the point that the media have been asked not to publish the contents of the seminars for the time being because that would escalate the tension between South Africa and Australia.

I just remind the Senate of the people who have been invited. They are the same people who have recently visited South Africa-Mr Ken Fry, Mrs Elaine Darling and the President of the Senate, Senator Douglas McClelland. One could hardly call Ken Fry somebody who is likely to go to these seminars and come out punch drunk saying: 'We must have apartheid'. I doubt that he is such a person. The same applies to Mrs Elaine Darling and the President of the Senate. Of course, there are many others on the invitation list. The media have been invited. I think it is highly unlikely that any of these members of parliament or members of the media who have been invited--


Senator Grimes —Why are they confidential?


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —They are confidential to a point which I have just covered. I will cover it again if the honourable senator is still confused.


Senator Grimes —Read the letter.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I have read the letter. I have one. I am still going to the seminars and I would not be surpirsed if a number of Australian Labor Party members do the same, unless there is a decision of Caucus that they will be expelled from the Party if they dare step into the seminars. We will wait and see. The overseas media have been invited and so have the Australian media. Knowing how they leak, I would hardly call that confidential. Officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs, who leak more than the media, have been invited. A discussion took place between the South African Embassy in Australia and the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Department proffered a number of names that it thought would be suitable for the occasion.


Senator Grimes —What does 'confidential' mean?


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —'Con- fidential' means that the contents are not to be immediately published in the newspaper.


Senator Grimes —That is right.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I would have thought that that would please the Labor Party. Is the Minister saying that it does not? He was saying that the seminars should not be confidential and the Government is not letting South Africans in because it is terrified they might say something. Much has been made of the matter by the Minister. I think he used the word 'secret' this morning when we talked about the confidentiality of this matter. As I said, the guest list includes a number of members of parliament who have been visitors--


Senator Grimes —Did you say that the President had been to South Africa?


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I understood that he had been invited.


Senator Grimes —You might be wrong, might you not?


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I am not perfect but I am closer to being perfect than the Minister is. His invitation might still be in the mail.


Senator Grimes —Yes, something like that.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Yes. The fact of the matter is that in order not to make the visit of these members of parliament controversial and not to escalate the friction and the tension between the South African Government and the Australian Government, the South African Government chose purposely to try to keep this visit in a low profile perspective.


Senator Grimes —'Secret' is the word.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —No. Is the Minister opposed to that?


Senator Grimes —'Secret' is the word.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —Is the Minister saying that he would prefer the contents to be made public? That is a contradiction in terms. One minute I understand the Labor Government to be saying that it does not want these men in Australia because they would be here to preach propaganda and now I hear the Minister telling us that the seminars are secret and should be made public. He says that there is something sinister about their being secret. As I said, I could hardly consider them to be secret with members of the Labor Party, officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and media representatives being there. What a combination! It ought to be remembered that the Press were invited on the understanding that for the time being they would not disrupt the seminars by publishing the proceedings.


Senator Grimes —It was secret.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —It was not secret. It was simply intended to keep the temperature down in terms of the relationship between South Africa and Australia . Quite frankly, that attempt in the final analysis has proved to be absolutely futile because the Australian Government insulted the South African Government and many people in Australia by declining to grant entry visas to the two members of parliament. I think that demonstrates the graciousness and the responsible approach of the South African Government in ensuring that the differences are not escalated. Quite frankly, I cannot ignore the disgraceful way in which this whole matter has been treated by this Government. As I said earlier, members of parliament such as Mr Fry, Mrs Elaine Darling and-correct me if I am wrong, Mr President-you, have all sought permission to enter South Africa. To my knowledge, not one single member from either side of the Australian Parliament has ever been denied a visa. They were granted visas within eight days. This whole messy saga has dragged on for over one month. Ultimately the South African Government learnt of the decision of the Minister from a journalist with the Canberra Times.


Senator Grimes —Oh, how shocking!


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —The Minister does not think that that is bad. He thinks that that was intended to create goodwill between the South African Government and the Australian Government. Yet at the same time the Australian Government wishes to impose its will and have some influence on events in South Africa. It seems absolutely absurd to me. The South African Embassy discussed with the Department of Foreign Affairs the prospect of the entry of the two members of parliament and made it clear that in the event that these two gentlemen-young, active and likely to be leaders and decision makers in the South African Government in due course-were not welcomed into this country, it would like the Government and the Department of Foreign Affairs to consider other guests. But no; suddenly the shutters were put down and Mr West's Department notified the media that the visa applications had been rejected.

Frankly, I find it very difficult to follow the logic of the decisions this Government makes in respect of visas. Mr West has said that he believes the policy of this Government is to reject sporting links with South Africa because of the South African Government's attitude to apartheid. He believes we should reject the visits of members of parliament who helped to frame that policy and keep it in place. Of course, that begs the question. What happens to the South African citizens who voted for that party? Are they to have their visas rejected ? Are they likely to be able to settle in this country? I must say that I have had some difficulty in trying to get people to Australia from South Africa. As I raise the matter I question in my mind whether this Government does not already have a view in that respect. What about the members of political organisations who support the South African Government, who obviously endorse its policies? Are they to be denied entry to Australia? Are they to be denied an opportunity to visit us? It seems to me that South Africa has an open door to people of all persuasions to see the situation for themselves. But this Government seems to be terrified that others might come here from South Africa and expose to us a few of the truths, the realities of what goes on in that country and the real aspirations of many of its people. This Government, with its blind prejudices and hates would not want us to be exposed to the view of South Africans. It is obviously terrified of the balance of any fair debate. This is really censorship . It is a question of our being allowed to know only what the Government would have us know. It is terrified that South African members of parliament might come here and put a different point of view or a different emphasis on the issues.


Senator Grimes —How many people applied when your Government was in and how many would have been accepted?


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —From South Africa?


Senator Grimes —Yes.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I have no knowledge of any being rejected.


Senator Grimes —Of course you have not.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —None being rejected-quite right. The Minister interrupts me to say 'Of course you have not'. I have some difficulty in drawing --


Senator Grimes —In seven years no-one applied.


The PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Grimes, you can speak later in reply. I call Senator Crichton-Browne.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I have some difficulty, pursuing the same issue, in identifying the distinction drawn by the Government between rejecting the South Africans and embracing other members. We have the South West African People's Organisation, members of the Red Army, members of the African National Congress, the Arab League, and the Palestine Liberation Organisation. They are all welcome , all embraced. The Labor Party loves them. The Red Army joined the PLO, blew up Lod Airport, and knocked off 25 innocent souls, but that is quite okay. Members of SWAPO proudly come across and speak on public forums and boast about the slaughter, the death, the murder and the terrorism. Labor seems to embrace that; that is good stuff.


Senator Grimes —We? Who?


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —The Australian Labor Party. It says: 'Information and activities by such offices are legitimate and accord with the operations of a free democratic society'. That is what we say about them. Who are they connected with? They are connected with SWAPO. They have been influenced by the Marxist- Leninists. Their training is conducted in Angola by Cubans and East Germans. We can embrace them and invite them in. The ANC has had very close relationships with the South African Communist Party. That is okay too. We have all this mob in. We do not mind them. We do not mind a bit of bloodshed. What we object to is not 'one vote, one value'-we will trade a vote for a life any time. We just have to get that equality in the voting system. It seems to me to be absolutely absurd.

We do not mind having the Russians here. We had the Russians in last year at a seminar on disarmament. Do honourable senators think that they came to Australia to tell us that we were right and they were wrong, that they were very ashamed of themselves and were going back to re-educate their heirarchy? They came to Australia to try to tell us that our lack of a disarmament policy was wrong and they were right. That was perfectly okay. We can have them in Australia on forums. We do not mind that. That is quite okay, but we cannot have South Africans here discussing the progress they have made with their new Constitution and their new peace arrangements with other countries. We do not mind the Russians though, do we? I find it absolutely absurd. We do not mind terrorists, we do not mind murderers, we do not mind communists, but we cannot have South Africans. I would be very intrigued to know the real logic of all that if it is not some blind left wing prejudice from the Australian Labor Party. I am quite sure that the great majority of the moderate, intelligent people in the Labor Party are ashamed of themselves.

It seems that we are very pleased to trade with South Africa, we are very pleased to take their taxes, we are very pleased to get their revenue, we are very pleased to make profits from trading with them. We just do not trade in politicians. There is no money in them. It might even lose a few votes for the Labor Party. But we are very happy to trade. How strong is the commitment of the Labor Government to opposition to apartheid? It extends to interfering in other people's rights, inhibiting other people's opportunities for travel, and preventing sportsmen from this country playing sport in South Africa. The Government does not mind any of that.


Senator Grimes —What about your Government? You stopped that too.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I opposed it then. Finally, we find that the Government is prepared to disrupt everybody else's life and make judgments for everybody else, but to be very glad of the trade as long as it gets the taxes and the revenue. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs finally said that each decision will be based on its merits. As I have tried to point out, I do not think there is one example in the statements that have been put down by the Government in respect of this matter that demonstrate to me that the merits have been considered. I suspect that there has hardly been a case that has been considered less on its merits than this one.

When we go through each of the Minister's reasons and explanations for not allowing the South Africans into Australia, we find that each one falls to the ground in terms of its logic and in terms of the reasons the Government seek to outline. First of all, we have two members of parliament who are coming to a meeting which is generally described as confidential, so that it does not escalate the friction. The media has been asked in the short term not to publish stories while the members of parliament are in Australia and to do everything possible to keep the goodwill and good relationships between the two countries. We find that blind prejudice causes the Labor Government to say: 'No, these two members of parliament shall not be allowed into Australia because, as Mr West says, it is only a propaganda trip'. As I have said, it does not matter whether it is the PLO, the Russians, the communists or whoever, but we cannot have South Africans coming to Australia. We are all very happy to go across to South Africa and see what goes on there, but we are terrified that South Africans might come here and expose us to the real truths.

I find the situation absolutely absurd. I am embarrassed to be an Australian. I am embarrassed to see the way in which these two members of parliament from South Africa have been treated in this case. The Minister for Social Security, Senator Grimes, finds this very humorous, but I think it is disgraceful that the decision, which hung on for more than one month, should be conveyed to the South African Government via a journalist in the Canberra Times.