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Tuesday, 26 August 1980
Page: 721


Mr LIONEL BOWEN (Kingsford) (Smith) - Human rights is the most important matter for any Parliament to discuss. Whilst time for this debate is limited, I think that we can adequately cover the most important matters about which the Australian nation would like to have a reminder. In Geneva at present a committee on human rights is meeting. It will listen to a delegation from the National Aboriginal Conference of Australia saying that the Australian Government has failed to fulfil its obligations to protect the Aboriginal race. That is a shocking indictment of any government and of any Prime Minister. It is particularly inappropriate coming at the same time as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) visits New York to receive the B'nai B'rith award for his contributions to human rights. As his own Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has said, the Aborigines talking about this at the

United Nations will create a climate in Geneva that must besmirch Australia's reputation.

It is significant that the Prime Minister became so worried about the matter after the announcement was made last Friday that he decided to meet the Aborigines' representatives in Canberra yesterday. He said that he feared a backlash from the black Commonwealth countries because of the actions of governments in Australia which are not anxious to protect human rights but are anxious to legislate against the Aborigines. Our Prime Minister said that he feared a backlash from black Commonwealth countries over what is called the Noonkanbah dispute because of adverse publicity the dispute has received in Africa and Asia. It is disgraceful that we have again to raise these matters in Parliament. This Government has been so weak and servile when it has met the reactionary leaders of Queensland and Western Australia that it has completely abdicated its responsibilities in respect of human rights.

Let me refer quickly to the Noonkanbah dispute. The Prime Minister at Question Time today said that he had regrets about the matter. How long are we to continue to regret while people suffer because State governments fail to protect human rights? The Prime Minister said that it is not a question of going to war about the matter because it has not yet reached that stage. How long can the people of the Aboriginal race put up with all this legislative and police action, with being controlled all the time because they happen to be Aborigines and are not our equals? We have a Prime Minister who is a great advocate of black rights overseas and a great advocate of white rights in Australia. The two cannot go together because there will be conflict. There has already been conflict. The Prime Minister has said that it is not a question of one government acting arbitrarily. It is a question of one government acting arbitrarily, and that is the position we face at present.

As the Prime Minister has said, a committee of the Western Australian Government called the Aboriginal Sites Committee of the Western Australian Museum had the responsibility of looking at the pastoral lease for Noonkanbah. It established beyond any doubt that the area in question was a sacred site. It is a site that cannot be drilled simply because it is a sacred site. The report to which the Prime Minister adverted is not available for public information - he must have been referring to it only from second hand information because honourable members will be astounded to learn that the Western Australian Government has refused to table the report. However, the Prime Minister adverted to it and stated that it is only a question of drilling. It is not. I am told that the area is about 10 kilometres square and is of great religious and economic significance. The mythical connections, which are both authentic and ancient, are linked to the economic present. The area is connected with Aboriginal culture because it relates in Aboriginal mythology to the area used for the hunting of food such as goanna. The drilling of the area from which the goanna is deemed to come could affect Aboriginal culture in the sense that it could bring about the destruction of food supplements in that area. References by the Government to a purely sacred site are irrelevant because they ignore the larger area identified by the investigation.

The Opposition is complaining about the failure of the Government, both domestically and internationally, to uphold the traditions of human rights. Twelve months ago or more we were arguing the question of Aurukun, an area in Queensland that the Aboriginal people wanted for their own. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-management) Bill was introduced into the Parliament some time before that on the basis of protecting the area of Aurukun. That Bill, which was passed by both Houses of Parliament, guaranteed that the people of Mornington Island and Aurukun would have the title of their lands protected. Before the ink was dry, however, the Premier of Queensland altered the definition of 'reserve'. No longer will the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island have the benefit of the legislation.

We must ask what sort of government it is that passes through both Houses legislation which is completely meaningless. If one goes to Aurukun one finds that the people there are still wondering what their future will be. They are deemed to be protected now by a lease given by the Queensland Government. The terms and conditions of that lease have not been disclosed to this Parliament but the people of Aurukun can tell us that the rights granted under the lease mean that anybody who wants to mine for bauxite can do so and the Aurukun people cannot prohibit it. That is an example some two years or more ago of a situation similar to that at Noonkanbah. It is an example of a government failing again.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights under Article 2 obliges this Government to protect people of all races and religions. It is important, when a national government has legal responsibilities given to it by the people of Australia, that it should act in accordance with those responsibilities. It is a waste of time to plead with Premiers such as Mr Bjelke-Petersen or Sir

Charles Court. They laugh at the Fraser Government. They have reduced the present Minister to a point where he is completely ineffective, well meaning though he might be. On that issue alone we are entitled to be castigated in the United Nations and everywhere else.

I have here a report of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, dated 4 February 1980. The report concerns Australian activity toward the furtherance of human rights in Australia. The two States singled out for criticism in the report and which receive adverse comments on the laws they have passed are Queensland and Western Australia. The laws criticised by the Committee are not limited only to those dealing with Aboriginal rights. It also mentions the right of assembly and the right to march, matters that we have discussed before in this House. It is important, when a government has the legal responsibility - as this Government has by an alteration of the Constitution - to protect the people of the Aboriginal race, that it should do so. It should not make statements that perhaps something can be done by negotiation.

The Government has failed all along the line. There was no contingency arrangement to protect the people of Aurukun. The people of Noonkanbah will create an adverse climate for Australia at the international forum. The Prime Minister is entitled to say: 'How embarrassed I am to be in New York, holding out my hand for a gold medal on the basis that I am protecting human rights, when I am going to be castigated all over the world for failing to do so in Australia'. Those hands are not clean. The Prime Minister's hands are soiled by the very fact that he has failed to legislate in an area in which he could have protected those people. When those people make such allegations, they do so on the basis that they know that an injustice has been perpetrated against them and that a national government has failed to do anything about it. Does that not belittle not only our reputation at home - we will deal with that at the election soon- but also our reputation in the world?

Twelve months ago I was in South Korea talking to Kim Dae- Jung who said that there were no human rights in South Korea, that there will be more bloodshed in South Korea, that nobody is safe and that the Americans are wasting their time if they think that 30,000 troops will protect South Korea when there are no human rights there. That same man is now on trial for his life in South Korea, but we do not hear from the Australian Government any suggestion that we should plead for his cause. His only crime was that he wanted to talk about human rights. Thousands of people have died in South Korea since that time and all this Government can talk about is selling uranium to South Korea.

We then come to the present situation which in our own area, particularly the South East Asian region, has been identified very clearly. I refer to the infamous Pol Pot. Under the human rights clauses of the Covenant one of the facts we must certainly be guaranteed protection against is genocide. If ever a person has been guilty of genocide, it is the infamous Pol Pot. Genocide is also referred to in an international covenant. It describes genocide as the killing of members of a group, the causing of serious or bodily harm and the forcible transfer of children from one group to another. Three and a half million Kampucheans have been slaughtered by Pol Pot, yet this Government still recognises the Pol Pot Regime as the legitimate Government of Kampuchea. Is it any wonder, whether we look at human rights in the domestic area or in the international area, that we have failed?

We have a Foreign Minister who allegedly does not want to recognise Pol Pot but who has to do so because the Prime Minister has had a discussion with Chairman Hua of China and has guaranteed Chairman Hua that we will continue to recognise Pol Pot. For how long is our foreign policy to be made by the Chinese? They are the same people with whom, according to the Prime Minister in the 1960s, we had to be involved in a war in Vietnam to prevent their destroying and invading Australia. It is important to look at what the rest of the world is saying about people such as Pol Pot. There is a report by the Central Intelligence Agency of America, of all organisations, called 'Kampuchea: A Demographic Catastrophe'. It states that the unprecedented destruction of the Kampuchean race may well mean their virtual extinction. It summarises the position in this way:

Decimated by disease, famine and war and bereft of its leaders and labour force, the Kampuchean society will need decades to come back, if it survives at all.

Two Australians were executed by the Pol Pot regime. They were Ronald Keith Dean and David Lloyd Scott. Their only offence was to sail too close to the Kampuchean coast. Their butcher, the camp commandant subsequently escaped to Thailand where he was fed by aid. His name is Duch. He has now returned to Kampuchea with a promotion, as Security Officer in the Central Committee of the Communist Party. It turns out that the confession of David Lloyd Scott was signed, after extensive torture, on 12 December 1978. On 13 December 1978, this Government announced that it had decided to open negotiations with Pol Pot with a view to entering into diplomatic relations.

What a sorry record it is when we think that such people, whether we are talking about the rights of Aboriginal people or of Australians in the hands of a butcher such as Pol Pot, cannot be protected. I have no doubt that the Foreign Minister does not want to recognise Pol Pot, but he cannot have his way. We will give him credit for trying, but it must be astounding to the Australian people to think that our foreign policy is now tailored to meet the demands of the Chinese in this respect.

I make it very clear that, until we in this country have a government which stands up for human rights in accordance with the Charter, the Aboriginal race will not get any benefit. It will still be subservient to the wishes of Sir Charles Court and Bjelke-Petersen, both discredited people. The nation of Australia will be besmirched in international forums, as it should be. When we talk about international relationships it is important that we do not prolong the agony of the people of Kampuchea by continuing to recognise the butcher called Pol Pot. We cannot give him any legitimacy; no other worthwhile nation would do so. We are entitled to raise these matters here on the basis that the Government has failed. The Prime Minister is not entitled to accept any international awards on the basis of his contribution to human rights. He has failed miserably. Those who are so misguided as to suggest that the Government is doing a favour to the Australian nation can now look at what it has done. It has certainly caused the Aboriginal people to raise this matter in the United Nations.

MrDEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







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