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Monday, 18 November 1996
Page: 5399


Senator HARRADINE —My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. What priority does the Prime Minister intend to give to promoting and advancing human rights in his discussions with the President of the United States, Mr Clinton, with the head of state of China, Jiang Zemin, and with other heads of Asian governments at the APEC summit next week?


Senator HILL —I might address the background of the policy of the government and the attitude of the government to this very important matter. The promotion and protection of human rights are certainly an inseparable part of the government's foreign policy.

The human rights policy is pursued on the basis that the promotion and protection of human rights serves Australia's broader national economic and security interest and that human rights are both universal and indivisible, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments. It is to that background that at the APEC meeting which, as the honourable senator knows, is primarily an economic forum no doubt the Prime Minister will be addressing these issues.

The Australian government does use a range of different opportunities to advance its position on human rights and try to influence a better outcome from those who may not be adhering to the standards of the international declaration, at least to the minimum international standards that the international community accepts. It is done through the bilateral fora, such as I think is the opportunity Senator Harradine sees in this forum, through multilateral fora and through, whenever possible, the strengthening of institutions.

I presume, if I am correctly interpreting the honourable senator's question, that the reference to the United States President and the President of China is suggesting that the Prime Minister should raise China's human rights record again with the President of China and perhaps speak on the same issue with the President of the United States. As Senator Harradine is aware, whenever the opportunity has presented we have raised the issue of China's human rights record with the appropriate authorities in China. I make specific reference to the dialogue on human rights that took place between Mr Downer and the Chinese foreign minister, Mr Qian Qichen.

On the very specific question of priority, as I do not have a brief that actually tells me exactly what the Prime Minister's intentions are, I will refer that to him for his further consideration.