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Thursday, 19 September 1985
Page: 751

Senator JONES —Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs been drawn to a report in the Press on 16 September 1985 in which it was claimed that South African churchman, Dr Alan Boesak, detained by the white South African Government for the past three weeks, is now expected to be charged with subversion? Is not this just another of a long series of attacks against the United Democratic Front, of which Dr Boesak is a patron? How does the detention and probable trial of Dr Boesak conform with the statements emanating from the Pretoria Government and its diplomats abroad, that liberation for blacks and coloureds is in the air in that beleaguered country? Will the Australian Government protest against the detention of Dr Boesak, which is clearly yet another blow against well-minded South Africans who require nothing more than equality of opportunity and equal voting rights for all citizens of their country regardless of race, colour or creed?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am aware of a report in the Age of 16 September that Dr Boesak, who is the President of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and a very prominent anti-apartheid leader in South Africa, is now expected to be charged with supervision. I note that in the report the Age itself was unable to confirm the report of the particular charge. As of the date of my brief, which is three days ago, the Australian Government had received no such actual confirmation. Reaction to reports of the detention and charging of Dr Boesak in any respect is as follows: As Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs I, on 28 August, strongly condemned the arrest of Dr Boesak and of 26 other black leaders. It is apparent that the intention of the South African authorities is to remove these opponents from political life and from peaceful political opposition. This is to be unambiguously condemned. We see the detention of Dr Boesak as representing just another example of the South African Government's continuing intolerance of legitimate political expression and its continuing failure to take concrete action to open negotiations with representative black leaders. The South African Government's repressive actions do not, and could not, contribute to an easing of tension, nor could they help in any way to achieve a peaceful resolution of South Africa's problems.

The Government has recently expressed its continuing concern over the South African Government's failure to enter into negotiations with the black community. On 3 September, it will be recalled, we did call on the South African Government to release political prisoners as an essential step towards dialogue and easing tension. The South African Government's actions demonstrate its continuing intolerance, as I have already said, of legitimate political opposition and, by means of detention over an extended period, its determination to stifle and to intimidate extra-parliamentary opposition and to stifle public constitutional reforms. I believe and this Government believes that its actions serve only to highlight the inadequacy of constitutional changes to date and they really do quite seriously undermine the South African Government's claims of a commitment to genuine reform.