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Monday, 16 September 1985
Page: 612


Senator KILGARIFF(10.45) —Briefly tonight I wish to speak on a particular matter relating to Kakadu National Park. But, before I do so, I will certainly support Senator Margaret Reid, who is the Liberal senator for the Australian Capital Territory, in her complaint about the actions that have taken place outside the South African Embassy. I have always thought, as I guess most Australians have, that Australia and its people stand for a fair go. Under those circumstances one wonders how on earth we can raise our heads and be proud of the way Australians act within their own country.

The protection of embassies is a very responsible and serious matter. As you will well recall, Mr President, around the world these days one hears of embassies being attacked, with bombings, shootings and people taking refuge within them. Indeed, many embassies of our friendly nations, and perhaps Australian embassies, have been attacked in some overseas countries. When this happens, we say: `What a deplorable state that country is in when such things can happen in embassies which come under the Vienna Convention'. In the Press and where Australian people mingle, it is said what terrible things happen overseas. I wonder whether we can continue to say things like that when within our own midst such things are beginning to happen.

I have always taken pride in the fact that, regardless of our attitude towards nations of the world, whether they are considered friendly or otherwise, within Australia their embassies, their staff and their employees are looked after and safeguarded. But here we see a most unusual situation and this is where I support Senator Reid. For some 13 weeks or so there has been a picket in front of and around the South African Embassy. I agree with Senator Reid that people have the right to express quiet or silent objection to their feelings about things which they consider sacred or which are offensive to them. But I think it a very different situation when Australian people can, by force and by other means, take action against a building and its inmates-the people from overseas, the Ambassador and his staff, and the Australian staff who work within the South African Embassy. I take the matter very seriously. As Senator Reid has said, and I will repeat some of it, Article 22.2 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations states:

The receiving State-

that is, Australia-

is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect premises of the mission against intrusions or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.

I emphasise the words `of its dignity'. This convention was ratified by Australia in January 1968 following the enactment of the Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities Act in 1967. Section 7 of that Act gives force of law to certain of the Articles of the Vienna Convention, including Article 22. The Public Order (Protection of Persons and Property) Act 1971 in Part III deals with diplomatic premises and personnel. Under section 7 of that Act a public assembly of more than three persons assembled for a common purpose commits an offence if they cause bodily harm or damage to property. The penalty is not more than five years imprisonment for bodily harm or three years for damage to property. Under section 8 they commit an offence if they are instructed by the police to disperse and fail to do so. Under section 9 they commit an offence if they engage in obstructive behaviour. Under section 10 they commit an offence if they use weapons, missiles, destructive, noxious or repulsive substances. Section 11 makes it an offence for a person to be unlawfully on the premises of missions. Section 18 makes it an offence to harass a protected person or interfere with the freedom or safe discharge of a protected person by (a) assault, (b) harassment, (c) behaviour of an offensive, threatening or insulting manner, or (d) unreasonable obstruction. The penalty is not more than $250, three months imprisonment or both. The Australian Government in this case would be responsible for any damage to the mission's property. It would be obligated to protect such property or replace it if damaged as part of its international law obligations.

I submit that all those sections I have read out have been broken by the people who have abused the people who work and live in the South African Embassy. Not only have the people been harassed by this thuggery, this un-Australian type of action, but also paint has been thrown on buildings and vehicles several times. The doors of the Embassy have been glued up and, as I understand it, a window was smashed to gain entry. All of those things point to and embassy here in Canberra under seige. I do not care what people think about it-everyone has the right to his opinion-but do they have the right to carry on in such a way here in Canberra? It disturbs me and it disturbs very many people. There are several questions to be answered: Firstly, if one looks back on various instances that have happened in Canberra over the years, one sees that the prompt attention of the police and authorities have ensured that the particular disturbances have not continued. In fact, some disturbances could have been very serious, but because of the immediate action taken by authorities that abusive or threatening action has been severly resricted.

What has happened here? For 13 weeks this type of activity has continued. I believe that the Australian authorities are not carrying out the work designated to them under the Vienna Convention relating to the protection of diplomats. Surely they would see the harassment and the attacks on the embassy. Why is it that Australian authority is not taking action to protect that building and the people who work there, who are its responsibility? I believe that the matter is extremely serious. Who has said that no action will be taken to prevent this thuggery from taking place? Is it a direction to the Australian Federal Police? Are the Federal Police looking the other way? As far as I and very many Australians are concerned, the whole matter is extremely worrying and obnoxious. We call upon the Australian Government to take the necessary action to ensure that it carries out its authority according to the Vienna convention. I think that it is a most miserable situation and I hope that, whether they be Australians or South Africans who work in the embassy, the Australian authorities will ensure forthwith that those people can live in a peaceful manner as can any other Australian in Canberra.

I will not take up the second matter tonight. It had been my intention to speak on matters of concern regarding Kakadu National Park, Stage III, but because I believe that the matter brought up by Senator Reid is one of some considerable importance, I have chosen to speak on that. Out of respect to you and not to keep you up unduly, Mr President, I will raise the matter of the Kakadu Stage III on another night.