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Wednesday, 9 May 1984
Page: 1876


Senator JESSOP(7.29) —I want to raise a subject shortly that I hoped to raise in Question Time but I failed to catch the eye of the President. Before doing so I will comment on what Senator Maguire said. I believe he is quite right in making his suggestion. Adelaide would be well placed to provide the sorts of services that he envisages. I attended the launching of the new antibiotic by F. H. Faulding and Co. Ltd some time ago and I can vouch for the fact that that company has a very successful operation. It is exporting drugs to the benefit of Australia, particularly South Australia.

I raise a matter now that has irked members of the Opposition, including me, for some time. It concerns the refusal of the Government to issue visas to enable two South Africans-one an elected member of parliament, Mr Durr, and another who is an Indian and an elected representative of the President's Council-to come to Australia to address closed seminars on current events in southern Africa which, I believe, are of great significance to people in Australia. Mr Deputy President, you will recall that on 5 March, Senator Townley , Senator Crichton-Browne, Senator Hill and I attacked the Government for what we regarded to be an unusually unfair and undemocratic act.

Following that debate, I wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and pointed out our grave concern over the recent decision that had been made to refuse visas to those two elected representatives to come to Australia. In a letter which was signed by a dozen or so of my colleagues we pointed out that it was surprising that such action be taken because it was taken in view of the fact that representatives of the African National Congress and the South West African People's Organisation were allowed to enter Australia last year and received significant Press coverage at public meetings, putting their views on the affairs of South Africa at the time when the Prime Minister approved the establishment of two information offices for SWAPO and ANC in Australia. The Government stated:

Information activities by such offices were legitimate and accorded with the operation of a free democratic society.

In the interests of time, I seek leave for that letter to be incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

6 March 1984

The Hon. R. J. L. Hawke, AC, MP

Prime Minister

Parliament House

Canberra, ACT 2600

Dear Prime Minister,

We want to express our grave concern over the recent decision of your Government to refuse visas for two elected representatives from South Africa to visit Australia to address seminars concerning current political events in their country.

It is surprising that such an action be taken in view of the fact that representatives of ANC and SWAPO were allowed to enter Australia last year and received significant press coverage at public meetings putting their views on the affairs of South Africa at the time when you approved the establishment of two information offices for SWAPO and ANC in Australia, the Government stated: ' Information activities by such offices were legitimate and accorded with the operation of a free democratic society.'

In view of the fact that these self-professed terrorist organisations are financially supported by the USSR we find it impossible to reconcile the action taken by your Government to prevent moderate elected South African representatives from putting their views to interested people in Australia.

The South Africans have been deliberately low-key in organising these seminars which, although open to the press, are not to receive publicity through the media.

In the spirit of consensus and democratic fairness and recognising that Gallup polls throughout Australia indicate massive public support for strengthening sporting, trade and cultural ties with South Africa, we request you to give immediate attention to issuing visas to Mr Kent Durr, MP and Mr Marmour Rajab to enter Australia.

Yours faithfully,


Senator JESSOP —In his reply, Mr Hawke thanked us for the letter, noted our views and made this inaccurate comment:

I would only comment in connection with your statement that the seminars were not to receive publicity through the media that they were in fact reported in a provocative manner in the National Times of 17 to 23 February. I would also draw your attention to a report in the Age of 6 March that the South African Government was considering requesting visas for other politicians in order to test the resolve of the Government.

That was an inaccurate statement because it implied that the South African Embassy was responsible for the provocative report in the National Times and a report in the Age of 6 March. I made inquiries about this and discovered that the journalist who wrote the article had approached the Embassy with all the facts concerning the visa applications by Messrs Durr and Rajab before any invitations had been distributed. In fact, nothing had been done. At that time only the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs were aware of the applications and details of the proposed closed seminars following discussions with an Embassy official delegated to clarify the purpose of the exercise with the Department. So it is obvious to me that that leak to the Press came from one or other of those two departments that I mentioned. I seek leave to incorporate the full text of my letter about that in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

30 March 1984

The Hon. R. J. L. Hawke, AC, MP

Prime Minister

Parliament House

Canberra. A.C.T. 2600.

My dear Prime Minister,

I have received your letter of 22 March in reply to the request by my colleagues and me for you to issue visas to enable a South African M.P. Mr Durr, and a prominent Moslem Community leader Mr Rajab, who is a member of the President's Council to visit Australia to address Closed Seminars not to be publicised through the media.

As your letter implied that the South African Embassy was responsible for '' provocative'' reports in the N.T. of 17-23 February and ''a report in the Age of 6th March'', I contacted the Embassy to ascertain the origin of these statements .

I was informed that the journalist concerned had approached the Embassy with all the facts concerning the visa applications by Messrs Durr and Rajab before any invitations had been distributed.

At that time only the Department of Foreign Affairs was aware of these applications and details of the proposed Closed Seminars following discussions with an Embassy official delegated to clarify the purpose of the exercise with the Department. The Embassy vehemently denied any responsibility for this ''leak '' to the Press and I was subsequently informed that this information to the journalist of the National Times could only have been provided by the Australian Commonwealth Departments concerned.

Your reference to ''the South African Government was considering requesting visas for other politicians'' is inaccurate. ''The Age'' report (copy attached) reads: ''The South African Government is considering more visa applications''. In addition, I am informed that the Embassy was dissatisfied with the reporter's inaccurate insinuation that the South African Government wished to ''test the resolve'' of the Australian Government.

On 6 March during the course of discussions-at the highest possible level- relating to alternative speakers, the Embassy clarified this particular report with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

In fact, it was the media and not the Department of Foreign Affairs which advised the South African Embassy of the ultimate refusal of the visas.

My colleagues and I are still firm in the view that visas should be issued to these gentlemen, and reiterate our request that you reconsider the matter urgently.

Yours sincerely,

DON JESSOP

Senator for South Australia


Senator JESSOP —Following the rejection of our request for the Government to issue unconditional visas for these people to come to Australia, I composed a letter to send to the South African Ambassador. It was signed by 52 members of the Opposition.


Senator Kilgariff —Most of them.


Senator JESSOP —Most of them; that is right. In all fairness and in the spirit of democracy that we enjoy in Australia most of the others would have signed it as well. The text of the letter is as follows:

We, the undersigned members of the Australian Parliament, have much pleasure in extending through you an invitation to Mr Durr MP and Mr Rajab, a member of the President's Council, to visit Australia for the purpose of consultation with us on recent developments in southern Africa. We would also welcome a representative of the Progressive Party, the official Opposition, to join in these discussions. Would you also convey to Chief Buthelezi the interest we would have in a future visit by him to Australia. It would be helpful if we could have an early indication from you that this invitation could be accepted, notwithstanding the disappointment which met the previous intentions of Messrs Durr and Rajab to visit this country.

That was an invitation from a significant number of members of the Parliament, representing many people throughout the community. A majority of over 70 per cent in two or three gallup polls that have been carried out, believe that our attitude with respect, for example, to sport with South Africa ought to be changed. That letter was received by the Ambassador and he certainly indicated that the people concerned would have some pleasure in receiving it and believed that they would accept. Following that letter, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) wrote to the Prime Minister, referred to our invitation and asked him to issue visas for the purpose that we required. I seek leave to incorporate the text of that letter in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

5 April 1984

Dear Prime Minister,

I refer to correspondence between you and Senator Jessop concerning your Government's refusal to issue visas to enable a South African MP, Mr Durr, and a prominent Moslem Community leader, Mr Rajab, a member of the President's Council , to visit Australia.

Senator Jessop and I have discussed this matter with a number of our colleagues and in addition to ourselves 50 other members of the Opposition have extended an invitation through the South African Embassy to Messrs Durr and Rajab to visit Australia for the purpose of meeting with interested Australian Parliamentarians to discuss recent developments in Southern Africa.

We have also requested that a member of the official Opposition (PFP) accompany them.

I write not only to advise you of the invitation that we have issued but to request that you pay proper regard to our open liberal society and democratic values to ensure that visas are issued by your Government.

I have forwarded a copy of this letter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Hayden, and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr West.

Yours sincerely,

ANDREW PEACOCK

(Andrew Peacock) The Hon R J L Hawke, AC, MP

Prime Minister

Parliament House

CANBERRA ACT 2600

CC: Senator Jessop


Senator JESSOP —The next part of the scenario was a letter from the Prime Minister rejecting that request from the Leader of the Opposition. He was, I thought, quite bold and impertinent when he said:

If you are able to give me a written assurance that the proposed presence in Australia of the South African politicians, as the Opposition's guests will not be exploited by them for the purpose of promoting apartheid, the Government will be prepared to approve the applications for visas which may result from your request.

I seek leave to incorporate that letter in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

The Honourable A. S. Peacock, MP

Leader of the Opposition

Parliament House

CANBERRA ACT 2600

Dear Mr Peacock

Thank you for your letter of 5 April 1984 in which you advised me of the intention of the Opposition to invite to Australia three South African politicians and requested the Government to issue visas to them.

I am somewhat surprised at the importance attached to giving aid and comfort to South Africa in the Opposition's foreign policy, as evidenced by this invitation on behalf of yourself and a section of your Opposition colleagues, but acknowledge that this is your own affair. I now understand a little more clearly the report in the Capetown Argus of 29 February, attributed to the Opposition spokesman on Foreign Affairs, Mr Mackellar, that the Coalition Parties proposed to develop a more accommodating policy towards South Africa.

The Government takes the view that South Africans holding official positions will not be permitted entry to Australia if the principal purpose of their visit is to promote apartheid doctrine or policies. This follows from the peculiarly odious character of the apartheid doctrine practised by the South African Government.

It is not merely that apartheid is the antithesis of the fundamental democratic values of our open liberal society which you call in aid: but the racism of apartheid is fundamentally and intolerably anti-human. Apartheid discriminates on nothing more than the biological circumstances of one's birth: there is nothing over which one has less control.

It is moreover the case, as you will be well aware, that the South African Government does not allow prominent and vocal domestic opponents of apartheid to freely leave and return, nor does it allow prominent and vocal international opponents of apartheid to visit South Africa for the purpose of publicly challenging apartheid doctrine and practice.

To give aid and comfort under these circumstances to official South African spokesmen to promote apartheid doctrine and policies would not only be utterly at odds with the positions Australia has consistently taken in world forums, with our practice in specific policy areas such as sporting contacts, with our international human rights treaty obligations, and with the dignity and aspirations of our indigenous Aboriginal minority, but would lack any justification in principle.

It was because of his awareness of their intent to promote the racial obscenity of apartheid that my colleague, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, decided last month not to issue visas to Messrs Durr and Rajab.

For any of the proposed delegates to be a member of the South African Parliament adds nothing to the quality of the case you make, given the utterly unrepresentative and undemocratic character of the South African Parliament with its wholly racially-based franchise.

If you are able to give me a written assurance that the proposed presence in Australia of the South African politicians, as the Opposition's guests, will not be exploited by them for the purpose of promoting apartheid, the Government will be prepared to approve the applications for visas which may result from your request.

Yours sincerely

R. J. L. HAWKE


Senator Kilgariff —It is shameful and bigoted.


Senator JESSOP —Senator Kilgariff said that it is shameful and bigoted, and I think it is. It is quite incredible that the would-be president of the first republic of Australia-which is his ultimate dream-a champion, supposedly, of freedom of information and human rights, should apply censorship in this way to people who have stated that they had no intention of talking about apartheid. They were simply coming to Australia to talk about current developments in that country, and they have been significant events. The South African Government has made approaches to Mozambique and other countries in southern Africa with respect to terrorist activity which has caused great bloodshed amongst the black and white people in that part of Africa. It took the initiative and has successfully negotiated with those other countries with respect to terrorist activity.

The thing that confuses me is that Mr Hawke apparently voted against the issue of a visa for Mr Farris Glubb, reported to be a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, because this would have been contrary to the Federal Government's visitor entry policy of refusing entry to members of political organisations if they are involved in violent acts or advocated politically violent acts. I think that is fair enough. I commend him for that action.


Senator Kilgariff —With good reason.


Senator JESSOP —I commend him with good reason. The point is that the duplicity and the double standards of the man emerge because last year the Government issued a visa allowing Miss Mavis Nhlapo, the co-ordinator of the women's secretariat of the African National Congress in Zambia, to enter Australia. During her visit Miss Nhlapo addressed several public meetings which received national media publicity. I would like to quote two statements. One appeared in the Canberra Times on 23 June last year. Miss Nhlapo was reported as saying:

. . . the ANC, caused bomb attack in Pretoria recently in which 17 people were killed and about 200 injured, was not accidental, but was part of the new phase of war against the South African Government and its supporters.

The second statement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 25 June. She was reported to have said:

We have no illusions of the effects of our war on ordinary people. There are Africans and whites caught up in the cross-fire, but we believe the war has to go on for the destruction of the regime.

I believe that that is a very significant point. It clearly shows the duplicity and double standards of the Prime Minister who on one hand allowed a self- confessed terrorist to enter Australia and put her views on southern Africa and, on the other hand, refused a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation entry because he is associated with an organisation which is in turn associated with violent acts. I have three other letters here which complete the scenario and which I would like to have incorporated in Hansard. They give a chronological description of the fiasco that we regard this matter to be. The last correspondence that I had with the Prime Minister was in the form of a telegram which I sent to him on Friday, 13 April, a good day to send it. I shall read the telegram for the benefit of the Senate. I said in the telegram:

I refer to information contained in a letter to you from Mr Rajab in which he states inter alia that 'I am a member of the South African Indian Community and an opponent and critic of apartheid because my community has suffered much discrimination and injustice under this system. I am a founder member of a political party called Solidarity which inter alia stands for the abolition of apartheid and which opposes: (1) all discrimination based on race, colour and creed; (2) the curtailment of freedom of speech and movement; (3) all discriminatory legislation; and (4) bannings and detentions without trial'. As he is obviously a vigorous opponent of apartheid I call on you immediately to issue unconditional visas to the three South Africans invited by me and 51 of my colleagues to allow them to freely express various views on current events in Southern Africa. Unless you revise your previous decision your Government will stand condemned as being an opponent of free speech and against all principles of Australian democracy.

Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to incorporate these other letters in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The letters read as follows-

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

April 6, 1984

Dear Prime Minister,

In reference to your letter of April 5, 1984 concerning the visit of three South Africian politicians to this country and your demand for assurances about them on my part.

You know, from my words and actions, that I regard the apartheid system in South Africa as an obscenity. My record on these matters is unimpeachable.

I regard your conditional approval as obnoxious. My party is completely dedicated to free speech and we do not share your view that people coming to this country ought to be first told what they may or may not say.

In passing, I point out that the three persons invited to visit this country include an Indian Muslim and a representative of the Opposition party. Given this, it is extraordinary that you appear to be opposed to the expression of points of view about developments in Southern Africa by persons of very divergent background, view and outlook.

Your sincerely,

ANDREW PEACOCK

The Hon. R. J. L. Hawke, A.C., M.P.,

Prime Minister,

Parliament House,

Canberra, ACT 2600

400 Flinders Street, Melbourne, Vic. 3000. Phone 614 4022

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

11th April 1984

Dear Prime Minister,

I have noted the contents of your letter of 10th April 1984, particularly your refusal to grant entry visas to the three visiting South African politicians.

I reiterate that you and your Government are ignoring the basic issue-that of free speech. There is no requirement for me to justify my position on apartheid. My record on that subject is quite clear. And the attitudes of myself and the Opposition have remained consistent with those expressed by previous Liberal Governments.

So, too, my attitudes to free speech have not changed.

Your Government is revealed as censoring free speech and qualifying the essential ingredient of an open, liberal and free society-the right to hear, and the right to exchange, different points of view and information.

Your attitudes towards the free exchange of views in this country have been of concern to me for some time. Your Government's intended illiberal defamation bill which will curtail the freedom of the domestic press bears this out.

Now you are extending the same sort of restrictions to visitors.

For these actions your Government stands condemned.

Your sincerely,

ANDREW PEACOCK

Hon. R. J. L. Hawke, A.C., M.P.,

Prime Minister,

Parliament House,

Canberra, ACT 2600

Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600. Phone 72 6394

PRIME MINISTER CANBERRA

22 March 1984

Dear Senator Jessop

Thank you for the letter of 6 March 1984, signed by yourself and a number of your colleagues, concerning the Government's decision to refuse visas for two South African politicians who had applied to visit Australia in order to participate in seminars to be sponsored by the South African Embassy.

Your views have been noted. I would only comment, in connexion with your statement that the seminars were not to receive publicity through the media, that they were in fact reported in a provocative manner in the National Times of 17-23 February. I would also draw your attention to a report in The Age of 6 March that the South African Government was considering requesting visas for other politicians in order to 'test the resolve' of the Government.

Yours sincerely

R. J. L. HAWKE

Senator D. S. Jessop

Australian Senate

Canberra, ACT 2600


Senator Kilgariff —You have received no answer to the telegram?


Senator JESSOP —No. I think that is offensive to me. I propose to write a letter based on the text of that telegram and hope that Mr Hawke will realise the democratic fairness of agreeing to issue uncensored visas for those people to come here. I believe that there are four main bridges of communication between countries. One is by trade, the second by playing sport, the third by cultural exchange and the fourth by interparliamentary contact. I do not suppose that there is a country in the world about which we could say that we agreed with everything that happened in respect to its internal policies. I am sure that most countries would disagree with some of our internal policies. But the best way to understand these countries and to help accelerate change if we think that is desirable is to get closer to them, to understand their attitudes, to be a little more conciliatory. It is not that we are in favour of apartheid, but if we want change, the best way to do it in my view is to establish those communications, those necessary bridges. In that way perhaps the offensive policies which we believe are being carried out in South Africa can possibly be changed.