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Thursday, 28 August 1980
Page: 867


Mr HASLEM - I ask the Prime Minister: Has the Government noted reports raising the possibility of armed Soviet intervention in Poland where the workers are in fundamental disagreement with the socialist Government? Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the Government's assessment of the situation?


Mr MALCOLM FRASER - Recently a member of the Polish Communist Party Central Committee said that the unrest was leading Poland to a catastrophe of incalculable proportions.


Mr Barry Jones (LALOR, VICTORIA) - It sounds like you.


Mr MALCOLM FRASER - Of course, if honourable gentlemen want to treat what is happening in Poland as a matter of some light concern and as being of no interest, that is their privilege.


Mr Barry Jones (LALOR, VICTORIA) - The Polish Government is saying exactly the sort of thing you are saying:


Mr SPEAKER -The honourable member will remain silent.


Mr Barry Jones (LALOR, VICTORIA) - Come on, that's right. You know it exactly.


Mr SPEAKER -The Prime Minister will resume his seat. The honourable member for Lalor will cease interjections of that kind. I ask honourable gentlemen on the Opposition benches to listen to the reply of the Prime Minister in silence. I call the Prime Minister.


Mr MALCOLM FRASER - A member of the Polish Communist Party Central Committee has said that the unrest was leading Poland to a catastrophe of incalculable proportions and that was a clear warning of the possibility of Soviet intervention. This is not the first such warning from the Polish Government in relation to the situation that has arisen in Poland. It is with sadness that the world needs to note that the warnings are not surprising in view of the history of the use of Soviet armies which have imposed the will of the Soviet Union on neighbouring countries. Indeed, since 1 945 it is the Soviet Union--


Mr Young - What about the police at Noonkanbah?


Mr SPEAKER - The honourable member for Port Adelaide will remain silent.


Mr Young - What of them?


Mr SPEAKER -I warn the honourable member for Port Adelaide. I call the Prime Minister.


Mr MALCOLM FRASER - Since 1945 the Soviet Union has established a very considerable empire. I hoped that all honourable gentlemen would treat this matter with some degree of seriousness. I also hope that they will recall that the Soviet Union has shown itself very capable of moving its armies into Warsaw pact countries - in 1956 into Hungary; in 1961, in relation to one of the several Berlin Wall crises; in 1968, Czechoslovakia about the third time in 30 years that Czechoslovakia had been betrayed; and in 1979 moving outside the Soviet bloc, the eastern block, into Afghanistan. Yet there is no good reason why the Polish situation should lead to Soviet intervention. Nobody could suggest that freedom, some element of basic human rights within Poland, could be a threat to the Soviet Union, unless the only thing the Soviet Union fears is freedom of its own people and freedom of eastern European countries.

The workers of Poland are expressing their legitimate rights. They are dedicated to peaceful protest and reform they seek consultation with the Polish authorities and are also pledged to avoid violence. This situation has arisen because in the eastern bloc countries, and in the Soviet Union itself, the basic, simple human rights that every Australian takes for granted are totally ignored. It is important that Polish and Soviet authorities accept these facts and that they seek a solution which extends, rather than limits, individual freedoms. It is indeed tragic and ironic that in asserting their demands for freedoms the Polish people may again fall victim to further suppression as they have so often in their history.

Poland is a neighbour of the Soviet Union. There are Soviet troops in Poland and in Poland's neighbours to the west and to the south. As Poland is surrounded by Soviet and eastern bloc interests, there is not much, one must regret, that the rest of the world can do except watch and see and hope and, for those who are capable, pray that there be some element of freedom in Poland. What many people around the world can do is to express their concern and make plain their opposition to the prospect of Soviet armed intervention yet again, and to make plain too their sympathy with the Polish people and their hope that Poland's problems will be resolved from within Poland and not imposed upon Poland by the Soviet Union.

I believe that all honourable members who put aside for a moment their partisan views and attitudes to the events that will be besetting us over the next months would want to join me in support of the kind of view I have just expressed. The circumstances are very serious. I think that some comfort can be derived from the fact that even the Soviet Union has shown in recent times that it can be sensitive in part to opinion strongly expressed by a great mass of countries - not coming from Western countries alone but coming from Islamic countries and Third World countries and coming overwhelmingly from the United Nations. If anything will save the Polish people it may well be the extent and the depth of the world reaction to the invasion of Afghanistan.







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