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Thursday, 6 March 1980
Page: 685

Senator GEORGES (Queensland) -I cannot bring into this debate the eloquence of Senator Wheeldon or the glibness of Senator Martin and the preciseness of Senator Missen. But I will attempt to bring some balance into this one-sided debate. For some time now honourable senators have been engaged in what I consider to be a very selective exercise against one country, the Soviet Union. Can I say at the outset that I support recommendation No. 65, which Senator Missen supports, which calls for a parliamentary standing committee on human rights. I would have thought that the Sub-committee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence would have been in effect that standing committee on human rights, that it would have been looking at the human rights of persons everywhere- not in a particular place but everywhere within Australia, within the nations to the north of us, within the nations in the American Zone-

Senator O'Byrne - Islam.

Senator GEORGES - Yes, of course, the Islam nations and the European nations. The Committee, had it broadened its reference, would then not have been subject to the accusation which I now make, that it was selective and is selective. Those honourable senators who have spoken on it are selective. If we had established the committee that is recommended we could look at the human rights of not only groups of people but also of individuals. We could look at the human rights of the person who has been in a wheel chair in front of this place for some days, a person who has suffered deprivation and whose only means of transport and accommodation have been taken away from him. We could look at his human right to exist with dignity. But we have not allowed ourselves that privilege, nor have we allowed ourselves, by this exercise, to look at the human rights of the many people who have been underprivileged in this country. In fact, the blacks-

Senator Missen - They are not excluded.

Senator GEORGES -But you have excluded them. The honourable senator has been selective and he can be accused of that selectiveness. I find this exercise, because of its very nature, to be highly questionable. That a debate that can only be described as an active debate of antiSovietism can go on for so long amazes me. Let us look at the difficulties facing the nation which honourable senators have investigated and questioned from afar, the nation it brought witnesses from afar to testify against. As the minority report said, it was hard to come to a conclusion because there was no balancing evidence.

Senator Missen - Whose fault was that?

Senator GEORGES -The Committee must have recognised from the very start that it would not get and could not get an invitation from the Soviet Union to investigate the human rights of its citizens, just as we would refuse, just as South Africa would refuse-

Senator Wheeldon - Do you believe, therefore, that the inquiry into southern Africa should not proceed unless representatives of the South African Nationalist Party come before the Committee?

Senator GEORGES -South Africa would refuse the honourable senator access to that country for that purpose, just as we would refuse the South Africans access to this country to investigate the rights of our Aboriginals.

Senator Wheeldon - So therefore you are saying that there should be no inquiry in South Africa?

Senator GEORGES - If the honourable senator had engaged in an inquiry which covered South Africa as well as the Soviet Union he would have been in balance, but he was not.

Senator Sheil - There is another inquiry into that.

Senator GEORGES -Let us take a look. Well, is there one? Is the Sub-committee investigating that?

Senator Sheil - Yes.

Senator GEORGES -Then let us have the standing committee.

Senator Missen - You are always learning.

Senator GEORGES -Yes, perhaps I am learning. Perhaps I would say that honourable senators are much more justified in looking at the position in southern Africa.

Senator Wheeldon - We are.

Senator GEORGES -Well, honourable senators have more justification to look at that country because the basis of deprivation of human rights in South Africa is clearly and definitely colour.

Senator Wheeldon -On your principle, we ought to abandon the inquiry into southern Africa unless we can go back to the Soviet Union.

Senator GEORGES -Let me get back to the Soviet Union. Recognise exactly the situation in which that country finds itself and recognise the difficulties that face it in achieving those rights which honourable senators so rightly defend. It is a nation which we have encircled and beseiged. It is a nation which is under constant threat.

Senator Puplick - You tell that to the Hungarians and the Czechs.

Senator Lajovic - And the Romanians.

Senator GEORGES -Yes, of course, the Afghanis, the Romanians, the Hungarians and the Czechoslovakians. If honourable senators could just understand that the closer we encircle the Soviet Union the more we drive it to that sort of action. Make no mistake about it, the exercise in which honourable senators engage takes us closer to encircling the Soviet Union and forcing it into a tighter situation. Progress towards easing the rights of individuals in the Soviet Union has been considerable over the last 20 years. The horrors of Stalinism have somewhat faded.

Senator Puplick - Tell that to the people in the Gulags.

Senator GEORGES -The procedures, the freedom and the access to communication which Senator Martin said the Russians have is much greater now than it was before. Access to the Soviet Union by peoples from the West is much easier. The influence which they bring to bear is considerable and cannot be denied. But we are forcing Russia back, and further back, into a situation where it finds it difficult to relax that beaurocratic supervision over its citizens -

Senator Missen - It is our fault!

Senator GEORGES - The honourable senator should understand the difficulties which the Soviet Union faces. I will not accept, although I do understand, the actions that have been brought to bear on those who have opposed the limitations upon the freedom of expression in the Soviet Union. I understand the reasons for those limitations. I understand because I believe that the Soviet Union is under constant pressure. It is encircled and we are part of that encirclement.

Senator Missen - That is what Hitler used to say about Germany. Isn't it just the same?

Senator GEORGES - If the honourable senator is endeavouring to impress upon me that the societies which existed under Hitler and the society which exists in the Soviet Union at the present time are one and the same then we have no common basis of understanding. My view is that the Soviet Union has progressed tremendously towards establishing the right of its citizens to live free of poverty, unlike that wretch who is outside at this present time and who will sleep on the cold pavement. At least the Soviet Union has taken its people from a feudal state to a state where there is a reasonable expectation of life, of employment and of cultural achievement.

Senator Missen - But that is not the point, is it? The point is that both had the feeling that they were surrounded. You are saying that that is the same, are you not?

Senator GEORGES - I am saying that the Soviet Union and its people are paranoic about the fear of extinction, just as the Israelis are in the situation in which they find themselves.

Senator Puplick - Tell us why they wiped out the Crimean Tartars then if there is cultural expression?

Senator GEORGES - I would say that that would be in the same period that I spoke of before. The Stalinist period has passed. If we are to go back in history, let us just look to the north of Australia where recently a race of people was substantially exterminated. We allowed this to happen in East Timor, did we not?

Senator Puplick - Why not condemn them on the same basis instead of making excuses?

Senator GEORGES - Let me say that progress has been made from the point mentioned up to the present time. What this investigation does is to set the progress backwards, to put it in reverse.

Senator Missen - So we shut up, do we?

Senator GEORGES -No, I am not suggesting that you do that. I am merely suggesting that any sort of comment or criticism should not be selective. What we have allowed ourselves to do in this place is become selective and one-sided. We are caught in a trap that we cannot in any way support the Soviet Union without being considered to be anti-semitic. It is a crazy situation in which we find ourselves. The position of the Jews in the Soviet Union is one for sympathy and it is one that invites criticism. But within the Soviet Union there has been considerable progress towards those very things that senators opposite complain about.

Senator Missen - You must tell the Czechs about that.

Senator GEORGES - I would suggest that those honourable senators who are able to should visit the Soviet Union when the opportunity arises. They should be part of a delegation to the Soviet Union; indeed, part of a delegation to any nation. But I suggest that they go to the Soviet Union if they are so concerned.

Senator Missen - I could not get there.

Senator GEORGES - I do not know why the honourable senator could not get there. I cannot understand why he could not get there.

Senator Missen - I will tell you. I brought out some documents. They will never have me back.

Senator GEORGES - I understand. The honourable senator went to the Soviet Union and brought out documents and the Soviet Union will not allow him back into the country.

Senator Missen - That is right. They were documents showing what they were doing to freedom in the Soviet Union.

Senator GEORGES -Senator Missen at least made an attempt to go to the Soviet Union, and on the basis of his own experience he is consolidated in his views. I have been to the Soviet Union. On several occasions I have passed through it. I have attended conferences there. I have found much there to criticise, but I have also found much there to support. I have found that the people have reached the position in which culturally they are much in advance of us. Culturally they have achieved more and no doubt physically they have achieved more than most countries and possibly that is the basis of our objection to the Olympic Games.

Senator Puplick - At what cost?

Senator GEORGES -At what cost? I would say it is not so much the cost; the price which has been paid is the considerable advancement of the people of the Soviet Union.

Senator Puplick - You still have not said what the cost in loss of dignity and liberty and human life has been.

Senator GEORGES - I think the honourable senator is talking rubbish. With all its limitations, there is more dignity and morality in the Soviet Union than there is in our own society and in many Western societies.

Senator Missen - Well, why don't you go and live there?

Senator GEORGES -Oh now, Senator! That is an odd remark for an honourable senator to make. I do not live there because I believe that in my own environment much can be done to achieve and even surpass that which I have described.

Senator Missen - Even in Queensland?

Senator GEORGES - Even in Queensland, because in Queensland we have certain advantages over the southern States in regard to the quality of the environment.

Senator Missen - They tell me that the environment at Breakfast Creek is pretty good these days too.

Senator GEORGES - I suggest to the honourable senator that the Soviet Union has its bureaucrats and the Soviet Union has its Bjelke-Petersens.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Maunsell)- Senator Georges, are you addressing the Chair?

Senator GEORGES - Yes, I am addressing the Chair and I thank you for your patience and your courtesy, sir. I have been drawn into this debate by the one-sidedness of the contributions made here tonight. I notice my colleague Senator Wheeldon looking at me with a smile. I know it is difficult to resist his advocacy and his argument; nevertheless in spite of all that skill he is wrong. ( Quorum formed).

I have been assisted by the interjections but I should not have allowed them to interfere with what I have to say. All I am suggesting is that if we undertake any such exercise again, let us make certain that it is not selective. Let us make certain that it is not highly coloured by our own particular philosophies. Let us make certain that we do not in any way, by our attitudes and lack of understanding, make it much more difficult for the nation we criticise to reach the point that we hope it will reach. I think it is far better for us to be voicing our objections not by way of opposition to the limitation of rights of human beings, not by investigation. We should be doing it by way of communication, by exchange of views on the various bodies on which we are represented overseas and on which the Soviet Union is represented also. We should be attending their conferences, and we should be prepared to put our point of view.

Without inciting honourable senators to further interjection, I want to say that some of the conferences available for participants from Australia are conferences which may appear in the final documents to be one-sided. Within the workshops of those conferences there are exchanges of views which would amaze some honourable senators.

Senator Wheeldon - Which conferences are you talking about?

Senator GEORGES -There is a variety of conferences. I might even suggest a couple of peace conferences and there is the exchange of cultural conferences. In those conference workshops with delegates coming from afar, perhaps from Australia, there are points of view exchanged and there is a confrontation of ideas. It was interesting at one conference to see the confrontation of ideas between the Romanian state and the rest of the Soviet states and to hear the Romanian criticism in relation to the attitude being taken by the Soviet Union against the People's Republic of China. It was also interesting to hear just how critical the French delegates were because they raised the question: How could a peace conference be held in Moscow when the Soviet was inflicting limitations on the rights of citizens? That criticism was made in Moscow. It was not made elsewhere. The point was raised there that it was a contradiction to hold a conference relating to peace in Moscow while the citizens of the city were limited in their rights and their liberties.

It would seem from listening to this debate tonight that no such thing happens in the Soviet Union. There is a confrontation of ideas. There is self-criticism. It does not emerge as well as we would like; nevertheless it is there. As to the limitation of freedom of expression, if people in Moscow want to go to the races they can. If they want to buy a raffle ticket they can. If they want to see the Last Tango in Paris they can. I was quite amazed when I was there to find that one can do that also.

Senator Puplick - What about if you want to campaign against the Government?

Senator GEORGES -It is possible to campaign against a candidate. One has to face one 's electors. There is a one-party system in the Soviet Union, but there is also a one-party system in Queensland. Several one-party systems are doing very well in Africa. There are one-party systems in other places, thanks to the imbalance in the electoral system. We have had a one-party system here for quite some time. There are limitations to the system. Those limitations have to be talked about, but they should not be exposed to a continual stream of heavy criticism, shall I say, spiced with venom. That is what we have had in the last two or three sessions in which we have debated this report.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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