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Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 5119


Photo of Fraser, Malcolm

Fraser, Malcolm

Period of Service: 11/11/1975 to 11/03/1983

More information about Fraser, Malcolm on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 02/08/1979

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 5119

SL a
This is an historic occasion. It is the first time that a
regular Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting has been held
in Africa. You, Mr. President, have been firm in your resolve
that, whatever the difficulties, this conference should be
held in Zambia a member country which occup es a front line
position in South African affairs, which has suffered greatly
because of the problems of the region, and which has much
to contribute to the resolution of those problems.
Mr. President, I believe you to be right in your conviction
that the logic of the Commonwealth's history and character
required that this conference be held in Southern Africa.
The Commonwealth as it is represented here is the product of
a movement which has swept the world over the last thirty
years, converting colonies into independent countries and
establishing political equality between peoples, irrespective
of race and colour. Mr. President, in terms of that major
transformation in global affairs, there is still unfinished
business to be attended to in Southern Africa and time is
running out. As the process began in the Commonwealth,
as the Co. mmonwealth has both contributed to and reflected
its course, it is appropriate and indeed essential that
we should establish the relevance of this institution by
concerning ourselves with its completion.
The issues involved in Southern Africa, and in particular.
in Zimbabwe, are enormously complex ones. They present
different member States with different problems, both domestic
and international. But I believe that as we deliberate in
this conference we should keep three things firmly in mind.
First, it is vital that we recognise and build on the
substantial areas of agreement which exist among us on this
issue, that we not be dominated by negative aspects. No
one at the meeting beli,. ves that a settlement is compatible
with a constitution l situation in Salisbury, which is tainted
in any way with racialism. We are all in favour of majority
rule true majority rule which takes account of all
the parties concerned and which is reflected
not only in elections but in the underlying structure of
power and authority.
No one wants a solution through slaughter and bloodshed,
both because it will produce untold suffering to innocent
people and because it will breed new hatreds. Everyone wants
to see outside interference in the region diminish, not grow.
No one wants to see the Comm-onwealth damaged. It is imperative
/ 2

that as we enter the thickets of technicalities and controversies,
we do not allow them to obscure these basic points.
Formidable as the differences on some issues are, I believe
that, as far as those of us present at this meeting are
concerned, they are differences about means and timing, not
about ends. We must not allow means to dominate ends.
Mr. President, I would like to elaborate briefly on one of
these elements of agreement. The essential cause of the grave
situation in Southern Africa is racialism, the belief that one
race is superior to another andtherefore enjoys a natural right
to dominate, exploit and discriminate against others. This is a
belief that all here categorically reject. All oppression is
rapugnant, but there is an obscenity about oppression based on no
more than the colour of a person's skin. You Mr. President, were
the guiding hand behind the declaration of Commonwealth principles
made by the Heads of Government Meeting in Singapore in 1971,
when members recognised racial prejudice as a dangerous sickness and
racial discrimination as an unmitigated evil. It is not only
appropriate but imperative that at this time, in this place, we
should solemnly reaffirm our adherence to that declaration.
The second thing we should keep in mind is that, whatever else
it has done and whatever one might think about particular aspects
of it, the. recent election has created conditions for movement.
But in itself, the election settles nothing let
the. rbe no doubt about that. It has however, brought about a
different situation.. It has created ne:' facts and disturbed
a stalemate. There have been significant constitutional changes,
and it clear that before agreement by a number of African
States is achieved, there will have to be further changes.
As to what happens next, that is not in the lap of the gods.
It is, to a very large extent, in our laps. Much depends
on whether we can seize, and seize with determination and vision
the opportunity provided by the comparative fluidity which now
exists, in order to advance towards a settlement. Time is running
. out and we may not have such an opportunity again.
Thirdly, Mr. President, I think it is clear that if a nonviolent
solution to the problem of Zimbabwe is to be found it will
involve flexibility on all sides flexibility not about the
objective of a non-racialist society, but concerning the process
of arriving at that objective and the individual interests of
the principals. Compromise and moderation should be seen not
merely in terms of establishing a bridge between different
positions. They should be seen as positive values in their own
right the essential values both of democratic politics and of
peaceful relationships between S-tates which are simultaneously
sovereign and interdependent. There is an urgent need to rally
and invigorate the forces of moderation and reasonableness in
international affairs. We should advocate and proclaim
moderation not apologetically and out of expediency, but
confidently even passionately as a matter of fundamental
principle. If we do so, the bridges are likely to emerge of their
own accord. / 3

Mr. President and fellow delegates, it is our solemn duty at
this meeting to contribute positively to the search for
comprehensive, equitable and and peaceful solutions to the problems
of this region. At the end of the day it is vital that we will
have reached agreement among ourselves which will enable constructive
negotiation and consultation to proceed.
Mr. President, inevitably the problems of Southern Africa will
occupy the central place in this conference. But there is much
else that is urgent on our agenda.
If a major theme of the last quarter century has been the ending
of colonialism, the remainder of this century is likely to be
increasingly preoccupied with economic problems. We have already
demonstrated the scope for Commonwealth action on economic
matters by the initiative we took on the CoTmmon Eund at the last
. Jads of Government Yeeting. I believe that the Commonwealth
can legitimately claim considerable credit for the fact that
the Common Fund proposal represents one of the few areas in
which real progress has been made since then.
We must view with grave concern assessments that there is
little likelihood of an improvement in the slow growth in
international economic activity and international trade that has
been experienced since 1973.
What these assessments imply is that there has been a serious
deterioration in the prospects for reducing poverty and
raising living standards in developing countries.
I believe that a pre-requisite to remedying this outlook must be
to deal with the dual scourges of inflation and protection.
These are interconnected problems whose solution lies primarily
in the hands of powerful developed states. There is also an urgent
need to ensure that inadequate supplies of oil do not act as a
constraint on economic growth or endanger the inter-dependent
economic system which has the potential to provide great mutual
benefits. The issues are complex and I shall not dwell on them further
now except to say that I believe the time has come for a new
and bold approach to get the world economy moving at a faster
rate and to ensure that all participants have equal opportunities
to share in the benefits.
A strong and determined effort will be needed, involving
attention and consideration by world leaders. If we appeal to the
concept of interdependence, we must mean what we say and all play
a part according to our ability.
Another issue which in one way or another touches most of us
is that of refugees. Mr. President, I know that your country
and many of our other African members have had to cope with this
and with the attendant tragic problem of divided families,
temporary arrangements which tend to become permanent, international
indifference and consequent pressure on all too scarce resources.
The problem is now assuming crisis proportions in our own part
of the world as a result not only of the inevitable disruption
resulting from conflict but of a deliberately pursued policy
,/ 4

which, again, has a racialist component. We must address ourselves
to it. Humanity requires us to come'to the aid of the victims
of such action. Buthu. anity and realism also demand that the international
community attack the problem at its source, that we mobilise
pressure to end the policies of persecution and expulsion
which result in mass exodus.
I have touched on a number of the central issues confronting
this conference. But in concluding I urge that in dealing with
major global and regional problems, we take care not to neglect
some of the less dramatic ones. In particular, let us bear in
mind the special and often pressing problems faced by small
States, remembering that there is a significant and growing number
of such States among our members.
mr. President, I believe, as I think you do, that this meeting
will be a crucial one for the Commonwealth. Rarely, if ever,
have we gathered to address problems of such magnitude and
urgency. Rarely have we had the eyes of the international
community so firmly on us. And rarely, have we had as great
an opportunity to demonstrate the value of this institution by
making a positive contribution to world order.
If we rise to the occasion, if, under your leadership, we
set aside sectional and short-term considerations and show the
statesmanship, wisdom and resolution which the circumstances
demand, we have it within our means to contribute to peace in
Africa and to establish beyond doubt that the Commonwealth is
going to be a key institution in the last decades of this
century. If we speak to each other and with each other, instead
of at each other or past each other, in a week's time we will
emerge a stronger and more relevant body.
mr. President, let that be our determination.

Transcript 5119