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Wednesday, 9 May 1984
Page: 1869

Senator TOWNLEY(6.47) —Recently I have found it fairly difficult to ask a question in this place. That is not for any reason other than that Ministers in replying to questions often take a lot longer than they really should. A lot of the things they say in reply to questions, although very informative, are more like ministerial statements than answers to questions. I think it is time, particularly now that we have fewer sitting days per month than we used to have, that we lengthened Question Time to perhaps one and a half or two hours a day, as it used to be when I first became a senator. It was suggested to me that if the Opposition did not get an opportunity to ask a certain number of questions the Opposition should spend the rest of the day calling quorums. That is not a bad idea and it might smarten up some Ministers as well. The alternative is to speak in the adjournment debate at length and arrange to speak at length. Everybody will be pleased to hear that I am not going to speak at length. I want to bring to the notice of the Senate-it was going to be done by way of a question earlier today-an article in the Age yesterday unfortunately headed 'Fraserism gets the boot'. It was written by Michael Barnard and deals with the South African situation. For the benefit of the Senate, I will read some of the article now. In part, it states:

That Mr Fraser could in the first place have got away with an aggressive policy stance not, one must now assume, shared by many of his coalition colleagues--

I can assure honourable senators it was not shared by a lot of his coalition colleagues even when he was Prime Minister--

is in itself a remarkable reflection of the ex-PM's power of leadership.

The facts never justified Mr Fraser's more extreme attitudes towards the South African Government, any more than they could justify the failure of successive Australian Governments to acknowledge the realities of post-colonial black Africa, namely that in the past 25 years of economic ineptitude more than 70 leaders in 29 black States have been deposed by assassination, purges or coups; that 17 are single-party States and another 17 under military rule; and that in one black State after another independence has been followed by a steady decrease in per capita food production deterioration of essential services and, in more than a few instances, a lapse into bloody tribalism that makes former colonial abuse appear positively benign.

What the coalition now appears prepared to do is to bring Australia back into line with the US and South Africa's more-tempered West European critics by acknowledging and encouraging the positive signs in South Africa's inevitably painful evolution.

Few people, indeed, few white South Africans, deny that discriminations continue and that some of them, evaluated outside the peculiar context of the African continent, are harsh.

This, however, does not and cannot erase a mounting list of plusses from the board: externally, Pretoria's peace initiatives with its neighbors and its long history of life-sustaining exports to impoverished black States; internally, constitutional change that brings Indians and Coloreds into central Government, an ever-widening multiracial involvement in sport, industry and the like, and a whole range of promising pointers which, sadly, rarely seem to get reported in the Western media.

For instance, who would know that, while an overall disparity still operates in favour of whites, the average wage of blacks employed outside agriculture and domestic service rose by 68.5 per cent over the years 1970-80, compared with 2.5 per cent for whites, and that in the skilled and semi-skilled categories the white-black earning ratio is now below 2 to 1?

Or that the percentage of whites who hold clerical, sales, artisan and supervisory jobs has decreased from 82 per cent in 1965 to 66 per cent in 1981, while the other population groups have more than doubled their participation (eg . black clerical workers, 9 per cent in 1965, up to 18 per cent by 1981)?

Or that the proportion of black students at the 'white'' University of Cape Town has risen from 5.9 per cent in 1974 to 13.8 per cent last year?

These are random illustrations. Such examples abound. Individually, it is easy to ignore or poke fun at them. Collectively, they represent not only a shift in attitudes that would have been unthinkable in South Africa even 20 years ago, but a commitment on the part of the Botha Government which, given all the circumstances, is nothing short of courageous.

For those wishing to exert positive influence from overseas it is far better, as the Federal Opposition seems to be discovering--

Here I interpose that many of us within the Federal Opposition, when it was in government, felt that it was much better to try to encourage those leading South Africa by the carrot approach rather than the stick approach. The article continued:

. . . to opt for a policy of dialogue and encouragement than for one of total ostracism while dealing normally with incomparably greater human rights offenders.

The fact that we fly to Zimbabwe on Qantas aircraft and do not fly to South Africa is to me an anomaly which I believe we should fix up as soon as possible.

Senator Kilgariff —It is strange.

Senator TOWNLEY —It really is remarkably strange that we do not fly that very lucrative route, particularly when we trade in so many ways. There is so much trade between Western Australia and South Africa. Also people in other States, trade increasingly with people on the South African continent. I now come to that part of the article to which I really want to draw the attention of the Senate. It states:

The Hawke Government is boxing itself into a most extreme position over South Africa. Not only has it given its blessing to the establishment in Australia of an office for the black terrorist organisation, the African National Congress and SWAPO, but now appears actively to be backing the raising of cash for these bodies through the 'African Liberation Trust Fund'.

A letter circulating among trade unions and signed by Dr Blewett, Minister for Health,--

He is not a medical doctor, of course.

Senator Ryan —A real doctor.

Senator Robert Ray —The real doctors of course are doctors of philosophy.

Senator TOWNLEY —Okay, but Dr Blewett is not a doctor in the medical sense, which is what a lot of people still seem to think he is. He may be a doctor of philosophy. I have met a lot of doctors of philosophy who, I can tell the honourable senator, I have not been very impressed with. Dr Blewett is one, but I have not met him recently, thank goodness. The article continued:

. . . Mr Scott, Federal Member for Hindmarsh, and Mr Crafter, SA Minister of Community Welfare, notes Federal approval for the ANC-SWAPO office and goes on: ''It remains for us to provide the support that will sustain this office and make it effective''.

The letter asks unions to give ''very full consideration to the appeal for financial support for the African Liberation Trust Fund'' because ''with the struggle in southern Africa moving towards a climax our support can help reduce the length and intensity of the conflict''.

Yet the Government has dared to attack the Opposition in regard to South Africa. It seems remarkable to me that now in this country we have a Government approving, backing and supporting terrorist organisations while at the same time denying entry into Australia of South African members of parliament who wanted to come here to try to inform people in this country. Even when those South African members of parliament were invited by other members of parliament here, they were not allowed to come. It seems to me that the Hawke socialist Government is taking the first steps-

Senator Robert Ray —It is usually called the Hawke socialist republican Government.

Senator TOWNLEY —I will come to that in a speech tomorrow. I will get on to that matter then. The Hawke Government is on the first step of denying people the travel they want to take. I can foresee the time when it will be against the rules of Mr Hawke and his socialists to stop members of parliament of this country who might want to go to South Africa. As far as I know, not one Minister of either the Labor Government or the Liberal Party when it was in government has been to South Africa to look at the situation at first hand. As the newspaper article said, the Government has boxed itself into the most extreme situation that I have seen during my period in parliament in regard to foreign affairs. Why a government will approve, support and back terrorist organisations , which quite openly are prepared to use violence and murder if necessary to gain their ends, I do not know. I believe it is something that this country should view very seriously.