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Thursday, 10 October 1985
Page: 1034


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE(8.54) —I gave an undertaking to the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (Senator Button), who has responsibility for this legislation, that I would be brief. Of course, that prevents me from ranging over a number of issues which are of consequence to me, the first concerning the limitation of the minimum requirement being export expenditure of $5,000, the inhibiting influence that that will have on small business and the disproportionate advantage which has been granted to larger companies which are expending a great deal more. I have some reservations about the upper limit being $20m when, as I understand it, no exporting companies in Australia fit into the $20m to $60m of export income bracket. For that reason I would have thought that we could raise the level to encourage companies to go into the higher bracket.

I turn to proposed new section 10 of the principal Act. It was not touched upon by any speakers, other than Senator Jessop, in this wide-ranging debate. It refers to proscription of countries which in the past have not been defined but which have now been defined: It is limited to South Africa. The effect of that provision is to give the Government the ability to impose wider, greater and more embracing de facto sanctions in the future. I imagine that the intention of that is to provide a legislative process for the Government's determination as to how it views the contribution it can make to changing the political system in South Africa.

As I have said on one other occasion, unfortunately in debating matters such as these one has to start by saying that one finds an abhorrence towards apartheid. One finds a total abhorrence to the separate development in South Africa, not necessarily only the separate development but also the facilities that are provided to blacks as distinct from the facilities that are provided to whites. It is not simply a question of a dichotomy of facilities available but a question of the difference in the standard of services provided to both. The Australian Government having taken the course that it has in this legislation to impose de facto sanctions, we have to ask ourselves whether or not we are seeking from a distance to impose our moral values and our economic capacity upon that community to the advantage of the blacks or the whites and whether it is likely to change the present political process in that country. This leads one to ask whether this legislation will have an effect on blacks or on whites.

I thoroughly endorse any legislation that is introduced in this Parliament which will in the short, medium or long term improve the political, economic and social standards of blacks in South Africa. I have always had reservations in view of the United Nations resolution that matters of a domestic nature in some countries ought not, quite properly, to be the responsibility of other countries. Having said that, I feel the legislation being introduced to impose sanctions will not help the lot of blacks. It may ultimately help the lot of whites. In my view, it will significantly deprive black people of their political, social and economic goals. There are those who would say: The blacks could not be any worse off; therefore why not just take them down the road a bit further? To me that is a very pious view. It is a subjective view, a view which is divorced from reality, and a view which the people who make that observation would not impose upon themselves. I take the view that, if blacks have jobs as a result of foreign investment, as a result of multinational corporations in South Africa at present--


Senator Sibraa —They want to vote.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I take the honourable senator's point. Of course they want to vote. I was going to come to this later on. As I understand it, the surveys that have been carried out so far by a whole range of people, including Dr Shlemmer, who by any standards is not a supporter of the Government, demonstrate that those blacks who have jobs do not want to see disinvestment. They have had the benefit of multinational corporations creating jobs for them and they have had the benefit of the Sullivan code, which now is likely to be threatened as a result of disinvestment.

In my view, the current level of violence in South Africa has as an underlying base the political system which, sadly, is locked into that country as a result of the determinations and legislative processes of the 1950s. However, the real causes of the present violence are socio-economic factors. I do not think that it would surprise honourable senators if I drew the analogy between the problems in the black townships of South Africa and the problems which are manifesting themselves now in suburbia London. I believe that they stem from the same causes; high unemployment and low socio-economic opportunities. Some of those black townships have a 60 per cent unemployment rate and youths as old as 20 years are still in primary school or slightly above primary school level. The 300,000 or 400,000 black youths who are now boycotting schools, wandering around street corners, are accidents waiting to happen. It is easy for political agitators to incite these people to violence. I believe that the imposition of sanctions can only increase the level of misery and deprivation that is presently wreaking itself upon the black community in South Africa.

One has to recognise that a demographic explosion is going on in South Africa. At the present time the population, by the best count, is 24.8 million. By the year 2000 it is expected to reach 50 million; by 2020, 80 million; and by 2040, approximately 138 million people. In my view that demographic explosion will turn into a political time-bomb, irrespective of who is running the country-black, white or both-unless job creation can run at a level which is approximately able to keep up with the growing number of entrants into the labour market. Adequate economic growth cannot be maintained unless there is a continuing inflow of foreign capital. It is no secret that foreign investment in South Africa accounts for approximately one-third of South Africa's economic growth. There are those who naively, foolishly and dangerously believe that the investment tap can be turned on and off at will. I put to the Senate that investment lost to South Africa now is investment that certainly will not return. The vast majority of foreign companies investing in South Africa comply with the Sullivan code. Reverend Sullivan of the United States proposes that certain minimum standards apply to employees of multinational companies. In my view, the code has very significantly influenced and increased the standards of living, both at economic and social levels, of the vast majority of black employees. Of course, it has had a spill-over effect into the corporations which are basically to be found in South Africa-not only the multinationals. It concerns me that, with the withdrawal of these overseas companies, that stimulation might falter and stall.

It is not without significance to note that since 1970 the average, in real terms, black wage in the non-agricultural sector has increased by 95 per cent, while in the same period the average white non-agricultural wage has increased by a mere 11 per cent.


Senator Morris —Ninety five per cent of what?


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —We are talking about absolute terms, if the honourable senator follows the simple economic proposition I am putting to him. While in 1970 the average white wage was 6.78 times higher than the average black wage, by 1984 that figure had fallen to 3.86 times. No one with 20:20 vision, looking retrospectively, is able to change that which has taken place. So there is no point in sitting in judgment or indicting the Government for its past sins. I hope that we are seeking to look forward constructively, in terms of the achievements and improvements that are taking place and will take place for the blacks vis-a-vis the whites, in terms of the social and economic conditions now and for the future.

My view is that if there is a stalling of the economy through sanctions, there will be an increase of political pressure upon the Government to protect the living standards of its constitutents. If there is a contraction of the economy, it seems inevitable that the whites will pressure the Government to ensure that they are quarantined and insulated as much as possible from the effects of disinvestment. Unless there is a political change overnight, the net result will be further violence, protests, suppression and chaos in that country, along with growing poverty. I suspect that is the logical conclusion at which one arrives in looking at the argument for sanctions, which certainly will improve the lot of the black elite but will lead to growing violence and ultimately to tragic black and white bloodshed and will plunge South Africa into a continuing downward spiral of poverty for decades to come.

Whilst it is not easy to be precise about these figures, some very good surveys have been done which might be described as empirical evidence. It seems to me from the figures I have analysed carefully that in the event sanctions on future investment are 50 per cent effective-one could get into a further debate about the effectiveness of sanctions-it will deprive 56,000 black people of employment and will decrease their disposable income by $US130m. That is not likely to improve the lot of the blacks nor to cause a change in the political conditions of that country in the short or immediate term.

As I said earlier, Professor Shlemmer, who is totally opposed to apartheid, has done a number of surveys amongst employed blacks, as distinct from the poor, wretched unemployed people who represent 60 per cent of the population in the black townships. His surveys show that over 70 per cent of those in work at the present time, of course, are opposed to sanctions. The reasons for that are not hard to understand. In my view, the threat of sanctions is probably more destabilising than the sanctions themselves. In the same way that in this country-


Senator Button —That is an outrageous attack on the Reagan Government in the United States, and you know it, because that is what it is doing.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I think President Reagan's judgment is that there should not be sanctions, but when he is faced with a hostile Congress, which comes up for election every two years, and when he has to get other legislation through Congress, he naturally bows to the pressure of Congress. He has a Republican controlled Senate and even the Senate is moving for pretty strict sanctions. Of course Ronald Reagan is a very pragmatic politician surrounded by very pragmatic advisers. He has made a judgment and he has had to give some ground, in the same way as Prime Minister Thatcher, who is totally opposed to sanctions, has also now had to give some ground.


Senator Button —She will be giving a lot of ground shortly; you watch.


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —She may be. I do not make judgments about that. The Minister is more informed than I am. It is not without consequence to note that 20 per cent of United Kingdom overseas investment resides in South Africa. If for no other reason, that is a very good reason for the United Kingdom Government to move slowly in its determinations. I always find it fascinating that it is so easy for governments who are losing nothing economically to talk about sanctions, but when it is going to cost them something they think twice about sanctions. I have not forgotten the debate on our imposing sanctions on the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics because of its invasion of Afghanistan; nor have I forgotten the results. First, they proved to be a failure and, secondly, they were going to hurt us, not the USSR. So we pragmatically reconsidered our position.

I believe that the threat of sanctions is more destabilising. In the same way as mining companies have found that they do not know what government determinations and decisions are with respect to taxes, royalties and embargoes on the export of uranium, companies find themselves in the same difficulty with sanctions. Given some guidelines, they will make the judgments. I think the threat of sanctions is likely to be more destabilising to South Africa than the sanctions themselves. The tragedy of a failed economy in South Africa is that we will not have a political change by evolution; we will have a political change by revolution. There are the moderates, the Buthelezis and a whole range of black leaders who want a change by evolution, but that is not wanted by the African National Congress, the United Democratic Front and the radicals in South Africa. I do not remember an occasion on which a Marxist organisation, or an organisation influenced to a large degree by the Russians, ever won the hearts and minds of the people by way of evolutionary reforms in the political system. It always has to be by revolution. So it suits those people to have sanctions because they know that the more harsh they are on the blacks the more volatile they will be and the more susceptible they will be to revolution. That might seem naive and it might not be objectionable to some, but it is the reality, the truth, and it is a statement of history.

Not only will the sanctions significantly affect South Africa; they will also affect the bordering states. One has to ask why, if things are so bad in South Africa, 135,000 people from the northern states in the proximity of South Africa are going to South Africa for work. Why are there 1.25 million illegal immigrants in South Africa at present, having fled from the north to the south? They are doing it because that is where the jobs are. But that is not to say in any way that either I or anybody else who puts that proposition is endorsing the political system in South Africa-quite the contrary.


Senator Aulich —Oh, no!


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I am sorry. Is the honourable senator interjecting? If he is he must must articulate what he is saying and stop mumbling because I cannot pick up his points if he is not saying something constructive. I am giving it to him as it is; that is the truth. It is interesting that Bishop Tutu is calling for sanctions. He is quarantined, insulated and isolated. He gets a very comfortable cheque from the Anglican Church. He lives in very comfortable circumstances in Pretoria and Soweto. He managed to have his three children educated in the United States of America under what I would describe, without being too unkind, as doubtful scholarships. Yet he is calling for boycotts in the schools. We have Allan Boesak, the patron and founder of the UDF. Where are his children? They are in the Immaculater College, a private school. None of the private schools are subject to sanctions, or more particularly to boycotts. The tragedy is that the vast majority of these black students in the higher levels of education at government schools are on scholarships. One year of failing means that they lose forever that chance to improve their educational, economic and social standards. But because of intimidation at these schools these kids are no longer able to proceed with their education. To me that is the saddest thing.

Last year the South African Government provided $2 billion-inadequate as it may be-for black education only to find that 325 schools were burned down. Perhaps the reason they were burned down was the political system. All I am saying that that makes it terribly difficult to increase the level of facilities for education in that country. Three years ago the ratio of expenditure on education in South Africa between blacks and whites was 7 : 1. In three years it has been reduced, as I recall it, to 3 : 1. Honourable Senators might ask why it is not equal today. I really do not have the time to labour through the reasons for that. One has to look to what political reforms are taking place in that country and at what effect sanctions and boycotts would have upon the black people.

I find it tragic and sad that we sit here in Australia insulated from the inherent and intrinsic difficulties that will be cast upon these black people by way of our unilateral decision-despite their overwhelming opposition-to impose sanctions. Yet there are those who say that the black people cannot be any worse off. They should tell that to somebody who has a job now, at a time when there is 60 per cent unemployment in Soweto, to somebody who has a nice little home he is carefully paying off, or to a black man who is sending his children to a private school at great expense to himself. As honourable senators all know, the private schools are integrated-there is no segregation. Yet we are saying that the black South Africans cannot be any worse off. That, to me, is an indictment upon the intellectual level of commitment that we have made in respect of our political decisions.

For a policy which aggregates to itself moral exclusivity in the battle against racism, disinvestment is in my view remarkably poorly thought through. Good intentions, as we all know, are the guarantees of paving the way to Hell. In my view of implied morality what really matters is the effect of that policy. Those who invoke morality of witness-which is what we are doing-should not impose the cost of their protest upon others. That is exactly what we are doing in Australia. Divorced and removed from the reality, we are committed by this piece of legislation, or what could be its effect in combination with others, to plunging the black people of South Africa further and further into poverty and deprivation and, in my view, to developing in the minds of the Boers a laager mentality which is certainly not likely to move them to a change in their political system. It is guaranteeing a change in the political system ultimately by revolution and not evolution. Everyone who cares for South Africa wants to see change by evolution. I do not think that there is a person on either side of this chamber who supports aparthied, separate development and a political system which gives fewer rights to one group than another, whether it be on the basis of colour, creed, class or religion.


Senator Aulich —How do you stand on one person one vote?


Senator CRICHTON-BROWNE —I am one of those who take the view that there ought to be one vote of equal value for everyone in South Africa. I qualify that by saying that it is a country of minorities. There are 10 quite disparate black groups. There are the Xhosas, the Tswanas, the Zulus-one can go through the whole list. They are all quite separate in their attitude towards each other. Then there are the coloureds, the Indians, the Chinese and the whites. I should like someone in this Senate to find for me a panacea which guarantees, through the political institution, security of rights for all those minority groups. When that can be done, that will be an answer to the problems in South Africa. In the meantime, by introducing legislation of the type before us tonight we are depriving the black people of South Africa of at least that minimal basic right which they have at present; that is, to work, to achieve, to receive, to gain, to benefit and to improve. We are seeking to remove that as a result or our unilateral arbitrary, sanctimonious, second-class morality, which we seek to impose upon them while we ourselves, as I said earlier, are insulated from the effects.