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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 935


Mr HAYDEN (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —by leave-I wish to inform the House of the situation regarding the Government's response to the Joint Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee report on Disarmament and Arms Control. It has not been possible to respond to the report, which was tabled on 25 November 1986, within the three-month period in which the Government aims to respond to committee reports. As the Chairman of the Joint Foreign Affairs and Defence Sub-Committee on Disarmament and Arms Control said in introducing his report, it is the most extensive yet done by the Joint Committee.

It is a major report covering a wide range of disarmament and arms control questions of immense importance to us all. The report contains 58 final recommendations. It reflects the solid work of the Joint Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee and its Sub-Committee on Disarmament and Arms Control over a period of nearly three years. Since the report was finalised, there have been dramatic and far-reaching developments in the field of arms control and disarmament. Most important has been the summit meeting between President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev and subsequent events leading to the current cautious optimism about an interim intermediate range nuclear force agreement.

In the region, Australia has ratified the Treaty of Rarotonga which has come into effect, thus instituting the South Pacific nuclear free zone. On a subject as important as this, with many substantive questions to cover, the Government obviously seeks to give as comprehensive and complete a response as possible. I rather hope that this will be possible some time late next month.