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Tuesday, 26 February 1980
Page: 377


Mr JACOBI (Hawker) -I support the motion. I was a member of the sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which aimed in its report on human rights in the Soviet Union to present an objective and factual body of material. Throughout the world the extent of repression and deprivation remains staggering. Amnesty International warns that serious violations continue in no fewer than 1 1 9 countries. Thousands of political prisoners remain in remote gaols without recourse to legal defence, food, water or health care. Genocide recurs on a scale to rival that practised by Hitler or Stalin. Governments violate human rights because their leaders believe it in their interests to do so, because of real or imagined threats to security, because of love of wealth and power, because of ideological stance, or because of personal idiosyncracy

The importance of respect for human rights ought to be a contributing factor to good relations between states. In other words, it ought to be a contributing factor towards detente, which is what the Helsinki declaration is all about. It is a new principle which has been recorded for the first time and which is what gives the dissidents' activity its legality. Like all important Soviet actions the recent and carefully worked out exchange of political prisoners for Soviet spies convicted by American courts has been combed over for both tactical and long range political implications. It raised the question of whether a softening of Moscow's attitudes should be seen in the release of two Jewish activists, a Ukrainian nationalist, a Baptist pastor and a leader of the watchdog group set up to monitor Soviet compliance with the Helsinki Accords on human rights. This is a key question for the United States Senate ratification debate on the soontobesigned Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. It will influence the decision now being discussed on the offering of trade concessions, which Congress has denied the Russians because of their failure to let Soviet Jews and others emigrate freely. The trade question becomes more urgent with the warm-up of the United States relations with Russia's arch rival, China. It had to pay a price but I regret to say it was a marked down price. Six months of negotiating went by while the Americans tried and failed to include Orlov and Shcharansky.

As dissidents see it, the Soviet Union deserves no praise; in fact it should be condemned for its continued repression. American officials point to a dramatic upsurge in the rate of Soviet Jewish emigration, as well as the pardoning of some other Jewish activists. Although Senator Henry Jackson does not agree with it, a consensus is developing to interpret these facts as justification for a one-year-at-a-time approval of trade concessions. Jackson insists on an acceptable and formal Soviet statement on emigration before granting concessions. One clear indicator of how little is new inside the closed Soviet system is the degree of Russian compliance with the Helsinki agreement. In 1975 the United States, the Soviet Union and 33 other nations signed an agreement that included a chapter on co-operation in humanitarian and other fields. Aimed at a freer flow of people and ideas, it listed specific areas of human contacts that were to be improved.

Watchdog groups sprouted up in Moscow, Kiev and other cities. To get the word out they had to rely on smuggled documents and wordofmouth reports to Soviet correspondents in Moscow. The result was that the most creative and courageous members were either locked up or pushed or put into exile. The Russians get marks for increasing the flow of restricted immigration of Jews in compliance with the Helsinki Accord on the unification of families. I do not deny that. But in violation of the Accord, religious freedom for the Soviet citizen remains circumscribed. Nothing has changed. Georgi Vins went to gaol because he wanted to be a pastor in his Baptist congregation. Ginzburg was fighting to be free in his own country, not in somebody elses. The number of apostates grows.

Recently such leading artists as the cellist Rostropovich, opera star Vishnevskaya conductors Kondrashin and Barshai, pianists Ashkenazy and Novitskaya and ballet star Makarova have defected or emigrated. In the past month there has been a whole spurt of defections from the Soviet Union- Godunov, the Bolshoi soloists Leonid and Valentina Kozloy and sometime ago the former world and Olympic figure skating champions Protopopov and Belousova. How many more would defect if it were not for the common practice of the authorities of keeping a spouse or other close relative at home? Each defection is seen obviously as a political threat. The trial of Havel and five other leading Czech dissidents has drawn a mounting chorus of protests from abroad. The most telling protests came from the French communist party, which is generally restrained if I may say so, in its public statements on affairs in Eastern Europe. It said:

We cannot accept the trials and prison sentences be substituted for the necessary political and ideological struggle. The acquittal of those on trial is now the only solution in the interests of justice and socialism.

It can be stated that what the Soviets fear most of all is nationalism, for instance in the Ukraine, but particularly the nationalism of the Baltic states of which the Lithuanians comprise the greatest dissent movement. That dissent straddles all classes of Lithuanian society. The Society Government is a vocal champion of anti-imperialism yet, within the Soviet Union, the Government faces growing agitation and unrest among some of the non-Russian people who make up more than half of its population. Its problem is remarkably like that of the former imperial powers. The main difference is that there is no salt water separating Russia from its non-Russian subjects.

In the longer run, the greatest threat to the cohesion of the Soviet state comes not from the old centres of non-Russian dissent in European Russia but from Soviet central Asia. The problem is that the population of this largely Moslem area is growing fast while that of the European Soviet Union is much slower. The Moslem birth rate is so high that it is estimated that the number of Moslems will double by the end of the century. Russians are on the verge of becoming a minority within the Soviet Union. One economic problem this will cause by the year 2000 is that many Moslems will be leaving their present rural employment in search of jobs in the cities. This will call for more investment in industry in the Moslem republics and could turn them into centres of power that might challenge the central authority in Moscow. We ought to take note of that.

The Soviet Government is also worried that its vulnerability to nationalist unrest could be exploited by its adversaries abroad, particularly China. Most communists in developing nations claim that a roof over their head is more important than the right of free speech. Let us examine that. In the Third World countries suffering from poverty, widespread illiteracy and a yawning gap in domestic distribution of incomes and wealth, a constitutionally guaranteed freedom of opposition and dissent may not be as significant as freedom from despair, disease or deprivation. The masses might indeed be much happier if they could put more into their mouths than empty words, if they could have a health care centre instead of a Hyde Park corner, if they were assured of gainful employment instead of the right to march on the capitol. Those of us in the west who insist on the observance of human rights as a condition of their help should not lose sight of the fact that these rights neither were discovered in the West nor always assiduously observed here. There probably was greater respect for religious freedom and greater tolerance for ethnic diversity under Cyrus the Achaemenian than exists today in some of the so-called Western democracies. We ought not overlook that.

Given the present still colonial pattern of world production and exchange, one can argue that the political rights of the people in the Third World would be substantially enhanced if they could be freed from the shackles of poverty, illiteracy and ill health, if their basic human needs could be met by co-operative efforts between the rich north and the poor south. To champion the cause of human rights, is, I confess, an admirable pursuit, but let us not forget that empty heads and empty stomachs may find the due process also frightfully empty. Whilst I personally cannot subscribe to this view, it ought to be given the respect it deserves in any evaluation of this complex question of human rights.

Regrettably, as I assess the situation, the average Soviet citizen- this has been ably put by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) and we ought, on both sides of the House, to acknowledge it- has never been abroad. He can only judge conditions in his country by what things used to be like there in the past. He has never seen anything else. The best, if not the only, hope of peace for humanity lies in the gradual evolution, if that is possible, of the Soviet Union into something easier to live with. While vigorously opposing, we ought at least to keep our end up. We should do everything we can to hurry the process of evolution and help to let all the fresh air possible into the Soviet Union. The more contacts and the more exchanges of visits that take place the better. We certainly have nothing to fear from them or from any comparisons which may have been drawn between our two systems.

The report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence makes several recommendations on what the West can do to secure and improve rights in the Soviet Union. The dominant viewpoint presented to the Committee by witnesses and through submissions is that the more Western publicity the causes of the dissidents receive the better. That is my view. Australia should take the opportunities presented by bilateral discussions or negotiations between the two governments and cultural, academic and scientific exchanges between individuals to express its disapproval of Soviet breaches of human rights commitments. However, Australia's international position in regard to human rights will be much stronger once the

Australian Government ratifies the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which it signed in 1 973. We ought to do that as quickly as possible.

The Soviet Union is not the only offender regarding the violation of human rights. There are other nations where attention needs to be directed. I strongly commend the support of the Parliament to the final recommendations of the Committee, that a Standing Committee of the Australian Parliament on Human Rights be established to report on serious violations in any country, including Australia. I take responsibility for initiating that move. I regret to say that I doubt whether it will get the support of either chamber of this Parliament.

I want to make one more brief observation in the few minutes I have remaining. There is one thought that has always stuck in the back of my mind. We of this latter generation ought to recall that in nazi Germany a non-Jew had complete freedom to speak publicly, whenever he chose, in support of Hitler's policy. Let me conclude with a truism. It is an extract from a book by Lord Hailsham entitled Dilemma of Democracy. I would not necessarily subscribe to the central thesis of the book. The following extract seems to me to put far more cogently the need for the persistent struggle for human rights. The memorable passage is on page 232. It states:

The only freedom which counts is the freedom to do what some other people think to be wrong. There is no point in demanding freedom to do that which all will applaud.

In my view it is the Orlovs, the Ginzburgs and the Sakharovs, not the Stalins, the Khrushchevs and the Brezhnevs, who make this world a greater place in which to live. As long as we allow this type of thing to go on and as long as honourable members on both sides of the House do not have the courage to set up a standing committee on human rights, we will never have the right to vet that.







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