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Wednesday, 20 February 1980
Page: 139


Mr SIMON (McMillan) -My first observation is to note that for the first time in my limited experience in this House the Leader of the House (Mr Viner) has arranged the business of the House to allow full and immediate debate on a matter of significance to the nation and to the people of Australia. I trust that that course of action will be pursued in the future. It is disappointing to note the way in which the issue of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics' invasion of Afghanistan is being cast aside by some commentators and, sadly, by some honourable members opposite in favour of a personal attack on the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). One of the most inane outbursts was broadcast on the radio program AM ibis morning when the Victorian Secretary of the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union, John Halfpenny, stated with great authority that the issue of the invasion of Afghanistan is quite separate from the question of whether Australian athletes and officials should attend the Moscow Olympics.

That technique has been adopted by many members of the Opposition. They admit the seriousness of the situation, the threat to world peace, and yet they cannot seem to apply their minds to consider how Australia and other countries should react. Apart from taking a blatantly political stance on the question of a boycott of the Olympic Games, we have not yet heard one constructive idea or proposition which the Labor Opposition would pursue to demonstrate to the USSR that the Government condemns the Soviets ' expansionary international policy. The Opposition has not identified one sanction, one embargo, it would apply if it had the chance. Yet it claims to be concerned about that type of sanction to apply against the USSR. The Prime Minister has announced a number of measures aimed at the Soviet people to make it clear that the Government of Australia condemns the USSR's action which has resulted in the loss of autonomy of one small formerly non-aligned country.

Every member of this House is well aware that Australia's significance in international politics is comparatively minor. A nation of 14 million people cannot alone seek to influence a super power. Australia can, however, seek to promote international debate and play its part in the foundation of an international reaction to the Soviet invasion. The Olympic boycott is one of several measures being debated in the majority of overseas countries. No magical formula or process is available to the countries of this world which will produce an instant world view on issues of this type. Diplomatic representations, face to face discussions like those recently undertaken by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), and regional and group meetings are the means by which a world consensus is achieved. Those processes are continuing now.

Notwithstanding that, we have the incredible situation where the Labor Opposition has preempted those consultative processes in declaring that Australia should not boycott the Olympic Games. Yet the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) stated on 8 February and again yesterday that the Australian Labor Party had urged the Prime Minister to support only an effective boycott of the Games. Australia is not now in a position to know whether an effective boycott will be achieved. Many countries have not yet made a final decision. Present indications are, however, that an effective boycott will be achieved. Approximately 35 governments have requested their national Olympic committees not to support the staging of the Games in Moscow. Those countries include the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Kenya, Japan, China and many others. France has stated that it will not send a team unless the Games have genuine world wide attendance. World opinion is, therefore, in the process of being crystallised.

If the Australian Olympic Federation ultimately decides to ignore the request of this Government, that should not be interpreted as a political defeat. If the Australian team does not go to Moscow we on this side must not interpret that as a political victory for this Government. We are not debating an issue where one party should be seen to win and another lose. Honourable members will be aware that views throughout the community on this issue of the Games range beyond party politics. If a team from Australia travels to Moscow it could be interpreted as yet another example where personal satisfaction has overshadowed national interest. More accurately, I believe, it will be a lost opportunity to clearly demonstrate to the Soviet people that the world condemns the Kremlin leaders. Consideration of the effect of an Olympic boycott is vital to any decision.

I would like to explain to the House the reasons why I have concluded that such a measure will be successful. When the all-party joint house sub-committee was examining human rights in the Soviet Union, we repeatedly asked witnesses: 'What effect will the deliberations and findings of this Parliamentary committee have on the Soviet authorities?' More particularly we asked: 'Would the Committee's work adversely prejudice in any way those Soviet citizens who oppose the regime and who are seeking to monitor the Soviet Union's failure to grant civil and political human rights to its citizens?' Time and again we were informed that any action would give strength to those people. Witnesses stated that the Soviet authorities were sensitive to external criticism and comment. The report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence specifically referred to the position of Dr Andrei Sakharov. In 1973 the Soviets' leading nuclear physicist came under particular pressure and was subject to much vilification because of his human rights activities. It was the Committee's view that Dr Sakharov avoided incarceration at that time only because of the actions of the United States National Academy of Science, which threatened to cut off all exchange of scientific information to the USSR. Dr Sakharov was not then arrested, although he continued to be pressured by the KGB and other Soviet authorities. I would like to quote the words of Andrei Sakharov in 1975 when he was talking on the subject of immigration and Western pressure. He said this:

Each case of groundless refusal of permission to emigrate, of persecution, repression, provocation or trial, is a great misfortune in human terms. The attention of world public opinion to every such event is critical . . .

The Committee also considered what action Australia should take in relation to a case for a boycott of the Games. It was our view that it would be foolish to seek a change of venue unless- I emphasise 'unless'- many countries were to make similar moves. The all-party Joint Committee also stated:

More importantly, the 1980 Olympic Games will give the Soviet Government an opportunity to show a more lenient attitude in human rights matters and an opportunity to relax the severe restrictions on travel within the Soviet Union. It remains to be seen how the Soviet Union will make use of these opportunities.

It was our hope that the Soviet Union would use the Games to demonstrate its oft quoted belief in human rights by releasing its human rights prisoners or by allowing Refuseniks to emigrate. What concerns us greatly was the possibility of harsh repressive measures against Soviet dissidents and their removal from areas where contact may have been possible with overseas visitors. This is, in fact, what is happening. I will refer to that shortly. The Committee did sound a clear warning, and again I quote from the report:

However the Committee, recollecting that the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936 were followed by Nazi acts of aggression and genocide, is not optimistic that the Moscow Olympic Games will in themselves bring about any substantial extension of human rights in the Soviet Union.

Perhaps it is timely to remind the House that that is a report from a committee on which all parties and both Houses were represented. It is a report which I recommend should be re-read at this time. Our premonition proved correct. I believe the Committee would now add a further criticism to the lengthy list of indictments against the Soviet Union. The removal of Dr Sakharov to exile in Gorkey is the most recent example of the contempt which the Soviet Union holds for basic human and civil rights.

I turn now to the proof that the Soviet Union is using the Games for its own propaganda purposes. Australian Olympic athletes and officials will be used as pawns in that propaganda exercise. May I quote from the official Soviet publication, the handbook for party activists which has been referred to before. It states:

It is understood that, in the Olympic Games, as in all major social events, international relations make their imprint, demonstrating the arrangement of political and class forces in the world arena, the presence in the world of two opposed systems- capitalism, living out its last years, and socialism, growing and strengthening with every day.

It continues:

The forces of reaction are trying to exploit the Olympic Movement and Games in the interests of the exploiting classes, for the goals of business and commerce, as propaganda for the bourgeois way of life, capitalist construction and its ideology, and for the distraction of youth from the political and class struggle.

Our athletes and officials should be aware that they will be part of the so-called forces of reaction trying to exploit the Olympic movement if they do not heed the advice of the Government and stay away from Moscow.

I return to consideration of the effect of a boycott. Robert Kaiser, a reporter of the Washington

Post and that newspaper's Moscow correspondent from 1971 to 1974, has written:

No other non-military move could so directly challenge the Soviet leadership or so startle the Soviet public as a boycott of the Games.

He also made the point that history following the Bolshevik revolution clearly indicates that the Soviet authorities have continually searched for legitimacy. The Soviet system has not once been tested in a democratic election. A regime founded on revolution is suspicious of criticism and wary of dissent. The insecurity of the USSR has been clearly exemplified in the suppression of its own people and in areas like the Baltic states. This insecurity is heightened by an aged leadership and is, I believe, one element of the rationale behind many of the Soviet Government's actions within and outside its boundaries. Because of the insecurity the Soviet regime has totally orchestrated the propaganda surrounding the Moscow Games, propaganda aimed at its own citizens and those of other countries, particularly athletes, games officials and visitors who may travel to the USSR for the Olympics.

Another piece of evidence supporting my argument that the boycott will be the most effective means of international condemnation comes from an article by Dr Peter Reddaway in the Canberra Times of 1 1 February last. Honourable members will be aware that Dr Reddaway is a respected authority on Soviet affairs with unchallengable networks within the USSR and outside. He stated:

While protests and sanctions can seem ineffective when made, they usually have a salutary impact in due course, providing they are strong and persistent.

Dr Reddawaywent on to say: the Soviet regime both needs the West economically, and, Afghanistan notwithstanding, craves international respectability and prestige.

He concluded his article by referring to the views of some commentators that President Carter's stated support for human rights had made little impact on the United Soviet Socialist Republic. It is the view of Dr Reddaway that nothing could be further from the truth. It is interesting to note his final comment. He said:

The same process has now begun again. Thus many governments and numerous national and international organisations-scientific, literary, religious, ethnic, humanitarian, libertarian, cultural and medical- face an urgent new challenge.

I would suggest that honourable members opposite refer to page 24 of yesterday's Hansard where the Prime Minister mentioned several of the measures which in fact come into those categories which Dr Reddaway has identified as capable of influencing the people in the Soviet

Union. As I said earlier, the opinions of Dr Reddaway are widely respected and his statement should be carefully considered.

I conclude by referring to one point. The debate on the boycott of the Olympic Games must be within the context of the security of this country and world peace. A boycott by a significant number of countries could have the most profound effect on the Soviets. We should not pass up that opportunity. We have a responsibility to maintain our stand until world opinion has been crystallised. If it is still the view of those countries which have to date asked their National Olympic committees not to attend the Games, Australia should then proceed to work, as the Prime Minister has already announced, on behalf of our athletes to conduct world championships outside the USSR.

I refer now to the amendment moved by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). I have no doubt that everybody on this side of the House would agree with clause (6), which relates to the limitation of arms and an uncontrolled arms race. In relation to clause (7), which is on the subject of the effect of problems which may occur in Australia's own region, I have no doubt again that we would agree with that. As to clause (8), which talks about diplomatic initiatives directed at convening an international conference, I have no doubt that we would agree with that. But we would reject clause (9). I could go on to talk about a lot of other things, including whether we should be recognising the regime of Pol Pot. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) that we should no longer be recognising his regime. We could talk about the Middle East and the security of Israel. We could talk about the Soviet occupation and build up of arms in the territories north of Japan, but they are not relevant to the urgency of the debate which is contained in the motion moved by the Leader of the House (Mr Viner). I support that motion without qualification.







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