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Wednesday, 21 August 1985
Page: 88

Senator SIDDONS —I seek leave to make a personal explanation.

Leave granted.

Senator SIDDONS —As a member of the Australian Senate I have been criticised by some section of the media and others for being chairman of a public company that has an operation in South Africa. Incidentally, that operation is mainly concerned with the selling of goods manufactured in Australia. By way of explanation I make the following points: The first is that the operation was set up by me in 1956 when I was Managing Director of Ramset Fasteners (Australia) Pty Ltd at a time when the Menzies Government was actively encouraging Australian manufacturers to sell goods in South Africa. The company has operated successfully from that date and makes a very small contribution to the profits of Siddons Industries Ltd. Secondly, it employs about 30 people, both black and white, many of whom have been with us for over 30 years.

Our South African operation is non-racist. Last year it received one of the highest ratings under the Sullivan Code. This code is totally independent and lays down more stringent guidelines than those contemplated by the Australian Government. I am totally opposed to the policy of apartheid and have never hesitated to voice that opinion publicly. As chairman of a responsible Australian company I have to consider our employees, both in Australia and South Africa. I have also to consider my company's investment in that country which amounts to about $1.5m.

In view of the deteriorating race relations in South Africa, and the announcement of the state of emergency in that country which is undoubtedly a violation of human rights, my board has publicly stated that it intends to phase down its operation in South Africa as quickly as possible, with a view to ceasing trading in that country. I am unable at this time to give any firm undertaking as to the time frame necessary to execute that policy.