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Thursday, 21 February 1980
Page: 283


Mr UREN (Reid) -Through the Parliament I wish to speak to the progressive people of Australia and especially to the Australian labour movement. The tactic of divide and rule has been used often by conservative forces in times of crises in order for them to reassert and to maintain their control. We face a crisis now, not only within Australia but in the whole of the Western world. As our movement in Australia is a broad coalition of forces, and as it is made up of people from all ages, from different ethnic groups, and from different political positions, it is vulnerable to division. We have to take care that the conservative forces are unable to open up these divisions through racism, sexism or scare tactics. That means that we must work together patiently and discuss the questions that face us in order to develop a common response to our common enemy. The enemy will try to divide us, whether on the question of strike action or on the question of foreign policy. It may be Afghanistan this week and perhaps Kampuchea next week. Our enemies will grab at anything and distort it for their own purposes.

Honourable members are aware that in relation to domestic and foreign affairs I have consistently tried to express the viewpoint of the Australian labour movement and progressive people. Honourable members are aware of my attitude to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I believe that no nation has the right to impose its interests on another nation by political, economic or military means. The principle underlying this position is the right of people to selfdetermination within their own borders. Consistent with this principle we have supported selective trade boycotts against those countries where repressive minority regimes have denied the rights of the majority of people to selfdetermination. We have protected and supported calls made by oppressed people for the union boycotts of trade against apartheid in South Africa and against the brutal military junta in Chile. As a matter of principle we support the rights of unions to engage in boycott action. Union members have not only a right to defend and to improve their working conditions in their jobs but they also have a responsibility to protect society from any negative impact of the work that they are called upon by employers to perform.

Union boycott action has been taken in response to questions from people struggling against oppression. So far as Afghanistan is concerned I want to point out two significant factors: First, there is not sufficient evidence to support the hysteria from those who, for their own purposes are claiming that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is a part of an attempt to thrust forward into the Persian Gulf. To the contrary, the Soviet Union does not need access to Western oil supplies. In fact, Western Europe is dependent to a large extent on Soviet supplies of energy- coal, oil, natural gas and electric power. Second, because of the interrelationships between the economies of Eastern and Western Europe and the Soviet Union, any retaliation by the Soviet Union against boycott actions by other nations could lead to a serious disruption of Western European economies. Australia's own economic base would be affected.

When we consider those factors we have to consider the position of Australia. An aggressive and inflammatory position by Australia in boycotting trade with the Soviet Union may cause a more profound disruption of Western European economies than of the Soviet economy. Australia should be playing its role in trying to lower the pressure in the present conflict. This is not a time for inflammatory statements or grandstanding by any sector of our community. Boycotts of trade or the Olympics are not in our interests nor in the interests of the rest of the world. More and more there has to be a sane approach to this situation from all sections of the community.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (MrMillarOrder! The honourable member's time has expired.







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