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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 7322

SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER CELEBRATION FOR FORMER REFUSENIRS MELBOURNE - 17 MAY 1988

Photo of Hawke, Robert

Hawke, Robert

Period of Service: 11/03/1983 to 20/12/1991

More information about Hawke, Robert on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 17/05/1988

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 7322

PRIME MAINISTE
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY EMBARGOED UNTIL DELIVERY
SPEECH BY THE PRIME MINISTER
CELEBRATION FOR FORMER REFUSENIKS
MELBOURNE 17 MAY 1988
Isi Leibler,
Edgar Bronfman, President World Jewish Congress,
Ladies and gentlemen
At 5.15 pm on December 2nd last year Hazel and I were just
preparing to leave the State guest house in Moscow to drive
to the airport with Soviet Prime Minister Ryzhkov for our
return to Australia. The phone rang with a message that the
personal emissary of Mikhail Gorbachev was on his way to see
me. Perhaps you can begin to imagine the emotion I felt when the
messenger told me that Mr Gorbachev personally authorised
him to say that Rosa and Alex Ioffe and their daughter Anna
and Marta and Pavel Abramovich five on the list I had
presented to the Secretary General were to be allowed to
leave the Soviet Union.
Naturally my thoughts flashed back nine years, to 1979, to
the time of high hopes at the end of my previous visit
followed by the agonising despair of dashed expectations.
And perhaps you can understand that I allowed myself the
luxury of a little exultation at a mission, long frustrated,
now partly accomplished.
But overwhelmingly my friends, my feelings then, as are
yours tonight, were of unqualified joy for the bravest of
people. Nothing can eclipse for me, for you, the sheer joy
and sense of relief that we all feel now at seeing so many
friends, so many brave people, and knowing that they have at
last been permitted to live in freedom.
These five had been among some thirty Refuseniks who
attended a memorable reception held that morning at the
Australian Embassy.
At that reception it was Alexander Lerner, whom I met in
such frustrating circumstances in 1979, who spoke on behalf
of the Refuseniks. 006454

2.
His were the words of a brave and selfless man. By acting
as spokesman over the years, Alexander Lerner had helped the
general cause at considerable risk to his own interests.
Tonight I want to thank him again for his inspiring words of
hope on that occasion a message which I know inspired
Hazel and me and all the membe., s of the travelling party.
And I want to say publicly that, even though it is now 1988
rather than 1979, even though nine years have passed since I
first believed Alexander Lerner would be free, it is still a
precious pleasure to welcome him to Australia tonight.
I should mention also Yosef and Inna Begun, who had been
Refuseniks since 1971 and who, though granted permission to
leave, stayed until their son could also leave. Anna and
Alexander Kholmyansky and Elena and Vladimir Prestin were
also at the Embassy reception. Elena and Vladimir had
already received permission to leave and I am delighted that
Anna and Alexander subsequently did so.
Leonid and Ludmilla Volvovsky and Maria and Vladimir Slepak
are also very welcome guests tonight.
But there is one further piece of good news with which some
of you may not yet be familiar.
Among the guests at that Embassy reception were Isolde and
Vladimir Tufeld.
Isolde, as you know, was very ill, and she has since been
given permission to get medical treatment in the United
States. I have continued to make representations on their behalf.
I was delighted tor be informed last week by the Soviet
Embassy in Canberra that Vladimir Tufeld has been given
permission to join his wife in the United States. I know I
speak for all of us when I express my relief and
appreciation at their release.
our sense of joy for those I have mentioned, for all those
who are withfus tonight, is of course tinged with sadnessfor
we all kgow those many more who deserve to be here but
who are stilf denied the basic human right to emigrate.
As we embrace with you in joy tonight so too do we remember
those in sorrow.
My friends, it is sensible to ask ourselves why it is
possible both to have this occasion for celebration and,
cautiously, to think with some degree of hope for those
others whom, as I say, we also remember tonight.
First, and above all else, is the continuing indomitable
splendour of the human spirit displayed by the Lerners, the
Prestins, the Beguns, the Slepaks, the Ioffes, the 006455

3.
Abramoviches and their kind. If in the darkest days, they
had given up hope, no other force would have availed. Their
strength, their courage, their determination has been the
foundation on which everything else has been developed.
Second, there has been the sustained and principled support
and commitment of the world Jewish community, through
leaders like Edgar Bronfman, for their brothers and sisters
in the Soviet Union.
In this effort, the Australian Jewish community can take
great pride in what it has done. I want to pay particular
tribute to Isi Leibler for his personal efforts over many
years. I venture to say, Isi, that nobody has made a
greater individual contribution than have you.
Third, that we are able to meet tonight in celebration and
hope is a tribute to the way in which a number of Western
countries, including Australia, have placed the issue of
human rights, including the situation of Soviet Jews, not at
the periphery but in the mainstream of their reI~ tions with
the Soviet Union.
Speaking for Australia, both Bill Hayden as he did in
Moscow in 1984 and I have raised these issues with Soviet
diplomatic representatives in Canberra and with the Soviet
Foreign Minister, Mr Shevardnadze, on his visit to Australia
in March last year.
Joan Child, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, on
her visit to the Soviet Union in July 1986, presented a list
of Refuseniks to the Chairman of the Council of
Nationalities of the Supreme Soviet.
And, as you know, the issue was a central part of my
discussions with General Secretary Gorbachev last year. I
presented Mr Gorbachev with a list of special cases which we
believed warranted particular attention.
I used the words " speaking for Australia" deliberately,
because I have been gratefully conscious that when I and my
colleagues have been making these representations I know
that I have been speaking with the full support of the
Opposition and the overwhelming majority of the Australian
people. The United States, too, has been at the forefront on this
matter. In a recent speech my friend Secretary of State
George Shultz noted that human rights and humanitarian
issues had become an established and regular part of
US-Soviet negotiations.
He described his latest talks with his counterpart, Mr
Shevardnadze, as the most searching set of discussions ever
on human rights.
Fourth, there is no doubt that our capacity to advance this
cause is, in large part, a function of changes in the Soviet 006456

Union associated with the Gorbachev era. Tonight is not the
occasion to dwell at length upon the enormous com plexities
and implications of these changes but certain th~' igs should
be said.
The new Soviet leadership is not about the creation of a
western style liberal democracy. But it is about attempting
to embark on a massive, and certainly overdue, reform of the
Soviet economy. The concepts of perestroika and glasnost
are instruments of that intention and process of-~ reform.
There is a recognition by the Soviet leadership that
effective internal econamic reform~ cannot ultinzate1lj occur
without the Soviet Union becoming an organic part of the
international division of labour.
implicit in this is their understanding that the necessary
degree of international economic integration cannot occur
without a corresponding measure of political accommodation.
The Washington Summit between Mr Gorbachev and
President Reagan, their signing of the INF Treaty, the
impending withdrawal from Afghanistan and the upd'oming
Moscow Summit are all signs that we may be entering a
significant new era of East-West communication in which
hostility is replaced with a constructive willingness to
negotiate. So clearly, we are seeing a period of very important, and
fascinating, change in the Soviet Union.
We should recognise the connection that appears to exist
between progress on human rights and the development of a
constructive dialogue on broader issues between East and
West. In the Gorbachev era, that dialogue has been unusually
intense and generally positive.
In approaching human rights issues, Mr Gorbachev and his
colleagues appear to be serious about minimising impediments
standing in the way of a closer relationship with the West.
That is why Australia and other Western countries were right
in putting human rights at the centre of their dialogue with
the Soviet Union.
I believe we should respond positively, constructively and,
in the light of history, with appropriate caution to this
new, and in so many ways promising Gorbachev era. We would
be churlish if we did not recognise the advances, naive if
we ignored this need for caution.
In human rights as in all areas of our relationship with the
Soviet Union, we will judge them by their actions, not
simply by their words. 006457

Australia will continue to press the Soviet Union on
individual Refusenik cases.
As George Shultzput it in his talks with Mr Shevardnadze,
we want to see a situation where emigration is handled
according to established and legal arrangements and not, in
his words, according to the whim of the moment.
My friends,
Those with whom we celebrate tonight have achieved their
cherished dream in the year of the 40th anniversary of the
foundation of the State of Israel.
our sense of celebration is necessarily muted to some degree
by our consciousness of the magnitude of the problems
confronting the people and leadership of Israel today.
I do not need in this audience to reaffirm my strong and
undiminished commitment, or that of my Government to a
secure and peaceful Israel.
Last year, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalen,-I argued
that now was the time for Israel, having courageously and
successfully weathered the challenge of war, to" Tace a
different and, paradoxically, tougher challenge the
challenge of peace.
The subsequent tragic events in the West Bank and Gaza have
further convinced me that the democratic, humanist
principles on which Israel was built do not sit easily with
the role of master of occupied territories and subject
peoples. The Palestinian in the occupied territories, as the Jew in
the Soviet Union and the black in South Africa has his
aspirations to be fully free.
The friends of Israel, around the world, are fearful that in
a real sense we may be witnessing again after thousands of
years a giant eyeless in Gaza. Is there not emerging the
danger of Israel being blinded to the threat to its very
soul and the vision of its founders?
I have spoken in Israel and here that the time bomb of
demography is ticking away remorselessly. within a
generation, if Israel seeks to maintain its hegemony in the
occuped territories the Jews of Israel face the certain
prospect of being a minority in their own land. They will
face the stark choice of being a democratic State or a
Jewish State they will not be able to be both.
This is not the time to rehearse in detail my proposal
outlined in Israel last year for an international
conference and an act of simultaneous mutual recognition on
acceptable conditions between Israel and the PLO, as a basis
for resolving the Palestinian problem. 006458

Those conditions are that the PLO must recognise Israel's
right to exist within secure and internationally recognised
borders; it must pccept Resolutions 242 and 338 as the basis
for any settlement; and it must reject unequivocally the use
of terror and accept the process of negotiation. In return,
Israel would acknowledge that the PLO has a representative
capacity. I was very pleased to see that recently John Howard accepted
precisely this formula.
Australia can speak to the world with a truly bipartisan
voice on this important issue of concern to us all.
An international conference such as I have outlined offers
the best chance of peace in the region.
It holds out the best means of avoiding further needless
bloodshed and heavy handed repression in the occupied
territories.
And it offers Israel the sure means of survival in the
democratic Jewish form which its founders intendedA
That form still inspires its friends around the world, no
one more than myself. And that form still acts as an
inspiration for those Jews in the Soviet Union who seek
freedom. Israel must not let that inspiration be dimmed.
My friends,
You have done me a very great honour by allowing me to speak
this evening on these matters which are so close to my heart
and which are so important for Australia's international
relationships. In particular, Edgar Bronfman, you have honoured me by
presenting me with an award on behalf of the World Jewish
Congress. I want to repeat my deep appreciation for the unremitting
efforts and support which the Jewish community and you
personally, Isi, have extended on behalf of the Refuseniks.
I know well the overwhelming emotion which you are
experiencing on welcoming Alexander Lerner and his
colleagues among us in Australia. And I repeat that without
your efforts, the results which Governments such as ours
could achieve would be negligible.
my friends,
The story of the Soviet Jews is a human drama of vast
proportions. 0 06G4-99

That is why the real guests of honour tonight are the heroes
and heroines of this drama, the men and women who have
endured great hardship and overcome years of injustice , to be
with us tonight.
I am proud, and I think all Australians are proud, to have
played a part in their achieving victory in that struggle.
But it is their victory they paid the price in the long
years of waiting and the wasted opportunities and they are
the ones. who with our best wishes are now able to live in
peace and freedom. 006460

Transcript 7322