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Thursday, 10 October 1985
Page: 989


Senator JESSOP —Is the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs aware that Rotary International is a non-political and non-religious organisation of more than 800,000 members who provide community services to more than 148 countries? Is the Minister aware that the Minister for Foreign Affairs has refused visas to some South Africans Rotarians to play golf in Australia? If Rotarian golfers can be refused entry, is it the intention of this socialist Government to refuse the entry of South Africans or others who wish to engage in other Rotarian programs, such as group study exchanges and youth exchanges? Is the Minister prepared to assure Rotarians that they should continue to act as non-political and non-religious clubs? As these Rotarians from South Africa were assured initially that visas would be provided, will he reverse this decision which is viewed by a considerable number of fair-minded Australians as reprehensible?


Senator GARETH EVANS —It is the case that the Government, not just the Minister for Foreign Affairs, made a decision last month not to allow certain South African nationals to come into Australia to take part in the Twenty-second International Golfing Fellowship of the Rotary World Championships to be held in Melbourne this month. It is also the case, as Senator Jessop says, that Rotary is an organisation of great and unblemished reputation and nothing in the Government's decision is to be taken as or was intended to reflect in any way on that admirable reputation.

The decision was taken in the following circumstances: In 1983 the Government undertook a major review of policy towards sporting contacts with South Africa, whether they occured in South Africa, Australia, or third countries and whether they involved individual sportsmen or sporting teams. In October 1983 the results of that review were publicly announced. Under the policy, which is firmly based on the 1977 Gleneagles Declaration on apartheid in sport and the 1982 Brisbane code of conduct, all individual amateur South African sports men and women would be considered as representative of South Africa unless there were definite proof to the contrary and would not be allowed entry to Australia to participate in international sporting competitions. No South African sporting team would be allowed entry to Australia, but individual professional sports persons would be assumed to be non-representative unless there were proof to the contrary and would be permitted entry into Australia, the point being taken in that policy development that by and large professional sportsmen, particularly individual sportsmen such as golfers, tend not be participating in competitions in any representative sense at all.

The Government's decision, as I stated in announcing it last night, was not based on the fact that the golfers are Rotarians. The decision was made in accordance with the Government's commitments under the Gleneagles Declaration and in accordance with that policy on sporting contacts announced in October 1983 and recently reaffirmed on 19 August this year. Our position is clear and it follows from our commitment to the Gleneagles Declaration whereby we undertook, as did our predecessor, to withold support from and take every practical step to discourage sporting contacts with South Africa. Let me make it plain that the decision is in accord with that Government policy and it is quite clear that, had entry been granted, South African nationals would have been taking part here in an international sporting competition-albeit one of not a very high level, but an international sporting contest, notwithstanding. That was perceived by us as a clear breach of Government policy.

I conclude by saying that the Government's policy on sporting contacts is long-standing and has, at least hitherto, enjoyed strong bipartisan support. The policy as applied by Australia and other countries has been successful in strengthening the situation whereby South Africa has been isolated in international sport, and that has been a significant source of pressure in producing the recent events which have given some confidence for the longer term future of reform in that country. The sporting contacts policy has also been a strong and effective reminder of the international community's general abhorrence of apartheid. If, on occasion, the implementation of that policy seems in some quarters to be harsh that is the price we all have to pay to register with South Africa and every South African the international community's determination to see apartheid abolished.


Senator JESSOP —I have a supplementary question. The Minister did not allude to the part of my question which asked whether it is the intention of the Government to prevent students who wish to engage in Rotary programs such as group studies exchanges and youth exchange programs coming here.


Senator GARETH EVANS —I apologise for the oversight. It was so manifestly absurd an extrapolation from the decision in this instance that I did overlook it in my reply. Of course, it is not the Government's intention to act in such a way in relation to Rotarians or anybody else. The policy is a policy about sporting contacts and it has been applied and will be applied in that context.