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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3374


Senator CHILDS —My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, relates to a resolution co-sponsored by the Australian Government to reinscribe New Caledonia to the United Nations Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, which was supported by 89 votes in the UN. Why did not the Australian Government accept the arguments of the French Government that New Caledonia is part of metropolitan France? Are these the same arguments that the French Government uses to defend its continuing presence in French Polynesia? If so, does the Australian Government also reject these arguments?


Senator GARETH EVANS —Regardless of the arguments that France has put forward in the past, the General Assembly of the United Nations has now decided that New Caledonia is a non-self-governing territory. While France may use the same arguments in relation to French Polynesia, Australia's attitude in this case is influenced by the fact that there is clearly not the same evident desire for independence as exists in New Caledonia. For many years the countries of the South Pacific Forum showed patient understanding of France's position in New Caledonia and gave support to the previous French Government's policy to assist the territory in its evolution to independence.

The policies of the present French Government do not adequately recognise the aspirations of the Kanak people. It was for this reason that the South Pacific Forum decided last August in Suva to seek to reinscribe New Caledonia on the United Nations list of non-self-governing territories. The intention of the South Pacific Forum when it decided on this course of action was to have the UN contribute to a solution to what has always been recognised as a very complex problem. Australia's own experience shows that the UN has considerable experience and expertise to offer in the decolonisation process. On 2 December the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 41/41A reinscribing New Caledonia on, as I said, the UN list of non-self-governing territories. That Forum resolution was co-sponsored by many other countries, including five Association of South East Asian Nations states. The resolution was adopted by a majority of 89 in favour, 24 against, with 34 abstentions. France has an important role to play in the South Pacific. Australia wishes to maintain its friendship with that country. Although France voted against the resolution, Australia and all the Forum countries hope that France will adopt a constructive attitude and work with the United Nations for the benefit of the people of New Caledonia.