Wednesday, 2 November 2011
I, and also on behalf of Senator Madigan, move:
That the Senate notes that:
(a) 24 October 2011 was the 55th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Hungary, during which 20 000 Hungarians were killed, while 200 000 fled as refugees; and
(b) the installed Hungarian communist leader, Mr Janos Kadar, oversaw the imprisonment of 21 600, internment of 13 000 and execution of 400 democrats, liberals and reformist communists, and the misguided support of the Soviet occupation of Hungary by the Communist Party of Australia, and the successor, Socialist Party of Australia which, through its journal Survey, hailed comments by Mr Kadar that ‘in the building of socialism Hungary relies, in the first place, on the many-faceted cooperation with the Soviet Union’.
I seek leave to move an amended motion, which has been circulated in the chamber. It would replace paragraph (b) with the words the chamber agreed to on the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising.
Omit all words after “That the Senate” substitute:
(a) notes that 24 October 2011 was the 55th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Hungary, during which 20 000 Hungarians were killed, while 200 000 fled as refugees;
(b) commends the people of Hungary as they mark the 55th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, which set the stage for the ultimate collapse of communism in 1989 throughout Central and Eastern Europe, including Hungary and 2 years later in the Soviet Union itself;
(c) expresses condolences to the people of Hungary for those who lost their lives fighting for the cause of Hungarian freedom and independence in 1956, as well as for those individuals executed by the Soviet and Hungarian communist authorities in the 5 years following the revolution, including Prime Minister Imre Nagy;
(d) welcomes the changes that have taken place in Hungary since 1989, believing that Hungary’s integration into the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union, together with similar developments in the neighbouring countries, will ensure peace, stability and understanding among the great peoples of the Carpathian Basin;
(e) reaffirms the friendship and cooperative relations between the governments of Hungary and Australia and between the Hungarian and Australian people; and
(f) recognises the contribution of people of Hungarian origin to this nation.
As I have indicated previously, these are complex issues that these motions are trying to deal with. Not only do these issues have complexity; they also go to foreign policy issues, and Senate resolutions by themselves are very blunt instruments in trying to deal with what can be quite complex foreign policy matters. The government cannot support the motion as it is worded, nor the amendment as it is worded—that is, we do not intend to support either the amendment or the substantive motion, whether it is amended or not.
The government acknowledges, though, the tragic consequences of the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, which the Australian government deplored at the time, and stands with the people of Hungary in commemorating this important anniversary.
It is the coalition's position that we will not be supporting this amendment, principally because it makes no reference to the support of the Communist Party of Australia and the Socialist Party of Australia for the invasion of Hungary. More importantly, the Greens glossing over this involvement suggests that many former members of these two organisations now find their political home within the Greens.
Senator Bernardi is rightly indicted by his own words. This is a motion to mark the 55th anniversary of the bloody uprising in Budapest, Hungary, which I remember very clearly. I remember at the time, as a young fellow, being appalled by the failure of the West, including the Menzies government, to intervene. That has since been a matter of some criticism. It came, of course, in the wake of the Suez crisis, and the governments of Dwight Eisenhower and Robert Menzies felt, in the wake of that, enfeebled in terms of the tanks rolling into Budapest.
But this is a motion to remark the travail of the Hungarian people. What we are seeing here is a debasing of that process by Senator Bernardi and his Independent co-host of this motion for a domestic political pointscoring exercise, which I think dishonours the Hungarian people in toto, including the thousands of Hungarians who came to this country and made such a great contribution to it, as would be marked by the amendment from the Greens if it were to pass.
I stand to speak in support of this motion and in memory of those who lost their lives defending their freedom from the oppressive and totalitarian regime of the Soviet Union in the months between 23 October 1956 and January 1957. Democracy is a fragile thing, hard to secure and easily lost. At that time the Soviet oppression was supported by the Australian Communist Party, and I remember only too well the very real threat of Communism to Australia during those years. As a member of the Labor movement, I hope the Senate recognises the loss of over 20,000 Hungarian lives and the contribution that has been made by the many Hungarian and Soviet refugees who settled in Australia after that country's brave attempt to secure its freedom.