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Tuesday, 5 May 1987
Page: 2288

Senator DURACK —I refer the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs to comments by the New Zealand Prime Minister, Mr Lange, following the now well-publicised visit to that country by Mr Hayden last week. Is it true, as claimed by Mr Lange, that `contrary to some speculation, New Zealand was able to tell Australia more about Libyan intervention in the Pacific than Australia'? Without revealing details of intelligence reports received by the Government, can the Minister tell the Senate whether Australian and New Zealand assessments of the potential threat from Libyan incursion into the Pacific are wholly compatible? Does the Australian Government agree with the New Zealand Prime Minister that the Libyan interest in the region is `a containable situation'?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The Australian Government believes that the situation is containable but is, nonetheless, one that demands the serious attention of all the countries of the region, and it is exactly that serious attention which the issue is now getting. To the extent that any overcoloured emotion has been expressed in this issue, I think it is attributable to the media rather than to the actions or reactions of any of the political participants in the recent consultative process.

As to the question of which government has the better intelligence, I simply say on behalf of the Government that we are reassured that both governments feel that they are properly and fully informed on this issue. I certainly do not want to get into some kind of intelligence olympics as to who might be better informed on certain issues. That sort of speculation is wholly counter-productive and not at all helpful to the basic problems that exist in the region and that need careful and calm consideration by all of the countries of the region.

I mention further that within the next few days a senior officer of the Department of Fo-reign Affairs will consult with every member of the South Pacific Forum on the issues involved in this matter in order that the discussion that takes place at Apia in a few weeks' time will be frank and fully informed. Of course, it was with that objective in mind that Mr Hayden met Mr Lange in the first place. I emphasise that the sorts of things that emerged from their discussions and the sorts of issues that Australia wanted to raise with New Zealand will be shared with every other country in the region.