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Thursday, 21 August 1980
Page: 667


Mr HODGMAN (Denison) - In 1950 the Polish Association was formed in Tasmania and on Saturday next hundreds will gather at a commemorative dinner to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of that Association. That will be followed on Sunday morning with a solemn Mass at St Theresa's Church in Moonah which has become the home of the Polish community in Hobart. A week of celebrations had been planned with dances, music and entertainment. But I regret to say that tonight in Hobart and throughout Australia and indeed around the world, millions and millions of Polish expatriates are worried about and indeed are praying about what is happening in their country at present. I fear that we are on the brink of seeing in Poland a repetition of the brutal and callous military intervention into Czechoslovakia 1 2 years ago, in 1 968. Only 24 hours ago 14 Polish dissidents, members of the self-defence committee- KOR- which was established in 1 976, were arrested. Amongst them were the leaders, Lacek Kuron and Adam Michnik. That committee was doing no more than exercising its rights under International Labour Organisation Convention No. 87 to which the Soviet Union and Poland are signatories. I said that many people throughout the world were praying tonight about what is happening in Poland. One particularly distinguished son of Poland in the Vatican is no doubt as concerned, if not more concerned than anybody else about the situation. A newspaper carried this report:

At the Vatican, Pope John Paul, in his first public reference to the situation in Poland, today asked for prayers for his country and his countrymen.

The Polish-born Pontiff told 900 Polish pilgrims: 'Regarding the news reaching us from Poland I want now to read to you two prayers'. He made no comment on the specific developments of the strike movement.

The prayers, traditionally recited in Poland during masses in honour of the Virgin Mary, ask God to help the Polish people and protect the country's independence.

It was the current Pope John Paul II when he was simply Mr Wojtyla who, back in 1941 wrote the poem Ode to a Factory Worker. Two lines from that poem, I believe, are apposite in the current international situation. He said this:

My soul is free, all I want to know

Is who am I fighting and for whom do I live?

The spirit of Poland is strong and notwithstanding the Soviet occupation since World War II we have heard from time to time of the people themselves wishing to rise up against the authoritarian, totalitarian regime which is imposed upon them by military force. Only this evening reports were received that Soviet troops are being moved into Poland. One hundred thousand Polish workers at Gdansk are currently surrounded by divisions - not battalions or regiments, but divisions - of Polish armed forces. What do we see in the Press of the world? Here in this newspaper is a photograph of some of the workers outside a factory in Gdansk. What are they doing? They are kneeling in prayer. If Australia has any claim to being a Christian nation and if the Western powers have any claim to standing up for what is right in the name of humanity and in the name of God, we should pray for them too, and we should make it clear to the Soviet Union, the butchers of Moscow and to the authoritarian forces in Poland that the world will not tolerate a repeat of Czechoslovakia in 1968. 1 am sick and tired of the West wringing its hands as it did with Hungary in 1956, with Czechoslovakia in 1968 and with Afghanistan in 1980. 1 hope that this Parliament will unite to defend the rights of the workers of Poland, their rights of association and their right to decent working conditions. I hope that the Australian people will be united on this, that Government and Opposition will stand up for the people of Poland, and that we will not have a repetition of the disgraceful situation we had earlier this year with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.







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