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Wednesday, 21 August 1985
Page: 125


Senator MASON(6.43) —by leave-I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

As one who has had a close association with the Parliamentary Amnesty Group for several years I would like to take a few moments briefly to commend its cause and its work to honourable senators. I do not know how many honourable senators heard a recent Australian Broadcasting Corporation Science Show report on torture. I found it very unpleasant but very educational listening because it did not concentrate so much on the horrors of torture but on the way it has been institutionalised. Of course, the horrors have always existed. They are bad enough. But the way in which so many governments now have torturers as organised public servants just doing another job, from which they cosily return every night to home and family, is a tendency of the modern world which it is most necessary to combat.

It is the primary function of Amnesty International to try to serve the interests of political prisoners. However, increasingly, it has had to tackle the problem of torture applied, as a political process, as a means of intimidating whole populations. Certainly, in order to resist the organisation of torture-that is my point-another organisation is necessary. To that organisation all people of goodwill must make some input. To a considerable extent Amnesty provides that. For that reason I commend the work of the Parliamentary group to all honourable senators, especially new senators, and ask them to join us if at all interested.

Senator Missen's report of his mission to Sri Lanka as President of the Parliamentary Amnesty Group is important reading. That is the document which he has introduced. I commend it to all honourable senators. His points that there must be a restoration of enforceable civil liberties in Sri Lanka and, hopefully, a return to the leadership of moderate Tamil opinion ought to be underlined. Beyond that, I should mention briefly some other points he makes in the report. He mentions that there must be access, at present denied, to the International Red Cross to these areas with their regular occurrence of death and violence. He suggests it may well be necessary for an international peace-keeping force to go there in spite of the fact that the Sri Lanka Government might be offended. I agree with Senator Missen on these points. I ask honourable senators to think about those points not only because of the situation in Sri Lanka but also because population and resources pressures must increase racial violence in many parts of the world. Of course, we can if we wish ignore such things. However, if there is any influence that we can bring to bear as a nation, as a government or as individuals I believe we should exert that. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.