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Tuesday, 26 February 1980
Page: 382


Mr Barry Jones (LALOR, VICTORIA) -I support the motion moved by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) but I express some concern that after four sitting days in this session we have now engaged in four days of Soviet bashing and have yet to debate a single significant piece of legislation. I believe that the conclusions reached in the report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence entitled 'Human Rights in the Soviet Union' about the extent of violations of civil liberties are substantially correct. Nevertheless, I must say that I do have considerable sympathy for the minority report put in by honourable members, including the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) and the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) in which they expressed some concern as to whether the Parliament was really in a position to concentrate its efforts on one nation exclusively in its criticisms.

I am attracted to the suggestion- if it were only practicable- in conclusion 65 of the report that recommends-

That the Australian Parliament establish a standing committee on human rights and report on serious violations of human rights in any country, including Australia. The magnitude of such a task should not deter such a committee from examining in turn the situations in those countries where there have been the most serious violations of human rights.

One might suggest that that is an absolutely full time task and one might well ask: 'After they do that what time will be left for any other activity in this Parliament?' I am concerned that we may be examining civil liberties in too narrow a context. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has proclaimed the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics as public enemy No. 1 and as a result time was found very quickly for the motion of the honourable member for Prospect. Time was found also to consider the report 'Human Rights in the Soviet Union '. But no time is found to consider other gross violations. We have spent two weeks on the USSR and one might well ask: What will it be next week? Will it be the USSR again, or can we spend time to consider Chile,

Indonesia, the Philippines, Uruguay, Haiti, Burma, Zaire, Pakistan or Iran?'

When did we ever condemn Uganda in the past at a time when it was important to condemn it? When did we ever raise the question of the regime of Emperor Bokassa in the Central African Empire- one of the most ghastly regimes in modern history- or President Masie's regime in Equatorial Guinea, or what has gone on in Ethiopia as a number of honourable members have pointed out? When have we considered them? As we have considered Russia for the last two weeks can we please consider those other regimes next week or is it to be Russia again? If the Parliament accepts recommendation 65 of the Human Rights report, I think we ought to consider very seriously the violations that occur in our region and, indeed some of the violations of human rights that occur in our States.

It is significant, not to be considered in scale with what has happened in the Soviet Union, but we ought to be very sensitive about human rights in view of the reports of harassment in the northwest of Western Australia where police have been asking people how they voted. That is a very serious thing and it is something that we ought to take seriously. It is not to be considered in the same light as the great purges of the Soviet Union. We ought to remember that where violations of civil liberties are concerned we are by no means guiltless. I am sorry that the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar) is not gracing us with his presence tonight.


Mr Innes - He is not well.


Mr Barry Jones (LALOR, VICTORIA) -The honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) says that he is not well. I think that some of my colleagues will be interested to hear that we have had some nauseating hypocrisy over the question of the treatment of the Soviet Jews. I will advise the House about the treatment by the Australian Government of Jews out of the Soviet Union. The former Minister for Immigration, now the Minister for Health and Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, has refused to grant the status of political refugee- which has an important political and juridical significance- to the Jews who have left the Soviet Union under pressure. In other words, the Minister supported the hardline position of his Department and called these unfortunate people 'self-exiles' or refugees. It is all right to come into this House for a debate and bag the Soviet Union; we are all prepared to do that. But when it comes to saying, 'Let us look at the circumstances of the Jews who have left the

Soviet Union and let us consider them as prospective migrants to Australia', do we regard them as refugees or not? The Minister says: 'No. We do not regard them as refugees. Perhaps for the purpose of a debate we will but not so far as allowing immigration into Australia '.

I find that disgraceful. In fact his response has always been to say: 'We do not need to regard them as refugees because they can always go to Israel.' What an extraordinary concept of a refugee! One determines a refugee not by where he comes from but by looking at where he is going. In the context of this debate I cannot imagine a more nauseating piece of hypocrisy. The House ought to be aware of this.


Mr Baillieu - But it is not true.


Mr Barry Jones (LALOR, VICTORIA) -It is absolutely true. The House will listen spellbound to the oratory, the eloquence and intelligence of the honourable member for La Trobe who will, no doubt, set us right. The tragedy of the Soviet Union and the suppression of civil liberties is an old story which has been going on even since before the time of Lenin. Back in the Czars' time we had the Okrana with tremendous persecution and thousands of people held in detention for their political beliefs. Right from the time of Lenin there has been a constant regime of pressure. At first that pressure was expressed by execution. Later it was by imprisonment and then exile. The penalties imposed now are not as stringent as they were a generation before but they are still to be deplored.

It is worth noting that when Lenin died in 1924 there were nine surviving members of the original Politburo. Of those members of the Politburo, the people who actually brought about the Russian revolution, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Bubnov Krestinsky and Rykov were executed. Sokolnikov died in gaol. Tomsky committed suicide. Trotsky was murdered. In fact, I have stood behind his desk in the study at Coyoacan in Mexico City where he was assassinated in 1 940.


Mr Martin - With an ice pick.


Mr Barry Jones (LALOR, VICTORIA) -That is quite correct. Only Stalin died naturally. The old Bolsheviks, Lenin's closest associates, were especially vulnerable. Stalin wanted no anti-popes to challenge Bolshevik orthodoxy. When Lenin's widow, Krupskaya, chided Stalin for his purges he is said to have made the chilling reply: 'Be silent or I can easily find somebody else to be Lenin's widow. ' In the period of the great purges of the 1 930s it has been estimated that the camps in Russia could accommodate as many as 8,400,000 persons. It has been estimated by admittedly a very strongly anti-Soviet source, but one fairly careful with his resource material I think- Robert Conquest in his book The Great Terror- that between 1934 and 1941 a total of 12 million to 14 million prisoners is suggested, with perhaps a million executions and two million dying of starvation or exposure. Millions were deported from Poland and the Baltic States from 1939 to 1941 and from re-occupied territories from 1944 to 1946. Conquest argues that between 1936, the beginning of the yezhovschina' as it was called after Stalin's agent Nikolai Yezhov, and 1952, the last full year of Stalin's life, the death toll may have reached 12 million. Dr Andrei Sakharov estimates that the figure is 'at least ten to fifteen million people', and this does not include the three to four million killed in the collectivisation of agriculture.

The Soviet Union has been a kind of political pressure cooker with a tremendous imposition of State power. But we also have the situation where the people administering that State power are conscious that once they start to lift the pressure it is literally like opening a pressure cooker when the pressure is still there. What one gets is an explosion, the consequences of which one cannot really foresee. That is one of the reasons why, if the Soviets have lightened the pressure it has been very, very moderately. That moderation has really been spread. Any change has been spread over a matter of very many years.

There is black humour in the story of the three men who met in the Soviet concentration camp in the 1930s. They asked each other why they were there. The first one said: 'I was against Radek.' The second one said: 'I was for Radek. The third one said: 'I am Radek.' The Soviet Union is really an intensely conservative society. It is a highly bureaucratised society. It is a highly traditional society in many ways. It is not in any sense, I believe, a Marxist society. It is certainly a Leninist society but it is not a society that Marx would have recognised in terms of what he was writing about in the 1 9th century. Marx, not long before his death, when he saw the factions that were developing in the communist parties, was careful to explain: 'But I am not a Marxist myself. ' That is an absolutely authentic remark. The Soviet Union is not really a Marxist society; it is a highly conservative, highly bureaucratic society. In many ways it is one of the most unattractive technologically advanced societies in the world. There was a poem by Yevgenyi Yevtushenko which has a subtlety that will escape many members of the Government party but which illustrates the pressures of conformity in the Soviet Union:

A CAREER

The priests insisted that evil and unwise was Galileo

But as time shows, he who is unwise is most wise.

A scholar, a contemporary of Galileo,

Was no more stupid than Galileo.

He knew that the earth revolves-

But he had a family, and sitting with his wife in a carriage

Having committed his betrayal

Thought that he had established a career,

But actually he was destroying it.

To comprehend our planet Galileo risked alone and he was a great.

Now this I understand as a careerist, and so "Hail! to a career",

When a career is like that of Shakespeare or Pasteur, Newton or Tolstoy.

Why did they slander them? Talent is talent,

No matter what. They are forgotten,

Those who cursed.

All those who reached for the stratosphere,

The doctors who perish from cholera,

They were the ones who made careers-

From their careers I take my example.

I believe in the same beliefs- their beliefs are my manhood.

I make my own career by not working at it.

In the New Statesman Roger Woddis makes a comment in a poem called The Sakharov Connection:

Would that I could ply my pen

To eulogise the fearless few!

What praises I would then bestow,

What madness from my lips would flow

With all the harmony I know,

To give the brave their due!

Ah, yes, but what superlatives

Would ring out loud and clear,

If in this fever I could find

Among the bludgeoned and the blind

A Sakharov who spoke his mind,

And was a hero here.

In other words, there is the most utter hypocrisy. We applaud people who speak out when they are in other countries. In our own country we are inclined to deride and ignore them.







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