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Tuesday, 8 October 1985
Page: 780


Senator SIBRAA —My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. Does the Government have any further information as to the nature of the visit to South Africa by the rugby union players Messrs Ella, Campese and Gould? Does the Government know whether other Australian players will be participating? Has the Government yet formed a view as to whether the visit is in breach of the Gleneagles Agreement? If the Government has formed a view, what action does it propose to take?


Senator GARETH EVANS —The information available to the Department of Foreign Affairs is still somewhat limited, but it does appear that the forthcoming seven-a-side competition is an annual event organised by the Natal Rugby Union and usually involving eight teams, seven of them provincial and one from the rest of South Africa. The three Australian players will be taking part in an invitation match in this competition on 12 October. They will form part of a team which may include players from other countries but the composition of which is still at present unclear. The Government has been unable to confirm reports that three additional Australian players will take part in the match. We simply do not know at this stage whether there is any substance to those rumours. The visit of the three is clearly in breach of the spirit of the Gleneagles Agreement, which requires governments, and I quote from the relevant paragraph:

. . . to combat the evil of apartheid by withholding any form of support for, and by taking every practical step to discourage contact or competition by, their nationals with sporting organisations, teams or sportsmen from South Africa . . .

To the extent that the Agreement deals with governments' responsibilities, then it is, as a technical matter, not in practice possible for individuals to breach the Agreement, only governments. The three players do appear to be in breach of the more explicit and detailed terms of the Brisbane Code of Conduct, a document that was drawn up by the Commonwealth Games Federation in 1982 to establish guidelines for member countries to follow in applying the Glen- eagles Declaration. That Code defines a breach of the Gleneagles Declaration for individual sportsmen, for sportsmen's members of teams and for individual sporting administrators. For individual Commonwealth sportsmen a breach is defined, among other things, as follows:

. . . competing in a sports event in a country which practises apartheid . . .

So it would seem clear from not only the general language of the Gleneagles Agreement but also the more specific language of the Brisbane Code of Conduct which implements and carries it out in a particular context that a breach is here involved in a contact of this particular kind. Under the Brisbane Code of Conduct, where there is an impending or actual breach of the Gleneagles Declaration-that is a sporting contact of the kind I have mentioned-a series of steps are to apply. Which steps they are depends on whether the sport in question is a Commonwealth Games one or not. In the present context the obligations are as follows: Firstly, the Australian Commonwealth Games Association is to notify the Australian Rugby Football Union of the fact of the apparent breach and to make known its opposition. Secondly, it is to notify the Commonwealth Games Federation of the matter and of the action to be taken by the Commonwealth Games Association and the Australian Rugby Football Union. Thirdly, the Association is to notify the Australian Government of any action contemplated or taken and request the Government to take steps to discharge its obligations under the Gleneagles Agreement.

I am advised that the Australian Commonwealth Games Association has been made aware of its obligations under the Brisbane Code. The Government would certainly wish to see these obligations fully discharged without delay. In fulfilment of its own obligations under the Glen- eagles Declaration the Government is today writing, through the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Tourism, to the Australian Rugby Football Union seeking information about its involvement, if any, in the visit and what action, if any, it proposes now to take.

I conclude by saying that in keeping with its obligations under Gleneagles it has been Australian Government policy to strongly oppose and discourage sporting contact with South Africa. The Government deplores the action of sportspersons in engaging in any sporting contact in or with South Africa. There is no doubt that in a game such as rugby union, which is so important to the South Africans, the participation of the Australians in the seven-a-side tournament will be seen in that country as a major breakout from its sporting isolation and, as such, as giving aid and comfort to a regime, which manifestly deserves nothing of the kind. From any point of view the decision of the three players to go to South Africa is deeply regrettable and one which it is hoped they will come to regret deeply.