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Wednesday, 21 November 1973
Page: 3577


Mr SINCLAIR (NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. When he was in China recently did he call on Prince Norodom Sihanouk with the Australian Ambassador to China, Dr Fitzgerald, and his personal private secretary, Dr Wilenski? Was this visit made against the advice of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and did those who had advised against the visit include the then about-to4>e Secretary of the Department, Mr Alan .Renouf? Is it true that over the weekend his Government has announced Australia's withdrawal from the currency stabilisation agreement entered into with a number of other countries to back the currency of the Khmer Republic under the Lon Nol Government? Will the Prime Minister advise this House why the Australian Government took the decision it did at the weekend? Will he advise the House whether any assurance was given to Prince Norodom Sihanouk as to this action at the time of his meeting in Peking and will he assure the House that there was no request or undertaking given from either party at the time of that Peking visit that in any way related to the announcement by the Australian Government at the weekend?


Mr WHITLAM (WERRIWA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Prime Minister) - I could not take a note of all the questions the honourable gentleman asked me. I shall, however, answer those of which I was able to take a note. Yes, on my latest visit to Peking I conferred with Prince Norodom Sihanouk in the company of Dr Fitzgerald, our Ambassador to the People's

Republic of China, and Dr Wilenski, my principal private secretary. Dr Fitzgerald took a note of the conversation and has given it to the Department of Foreign Affairs. I did not discuss with officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and specifically I did not discuss with the secretary designate, Mr Alan Renouf, whether they thought that I should or should not confer with Prince Norodom Sihanouk. I have answered questions in Peking and in Canberra about my visit.

The Australian Government considered the quesion of continuing to support the currency stabilisation arrangements in Cambodia as a result of the Coombs taks force report which honourable gentlemen have had available to them for nearly 3 months. No announcement was made by the Australian Government last weekend; the only announcements appear from the decisions on the Coombs task force report. If there is a ceasefire in Cambodia, as there has been now in Vietnam and in Laos, the Australian Government will reconsider the utility or propriety of helping to stabilise Cambodia's currency. I might add that the Australian Government will do all it can to bring the hostilities in Cambodia to an end. It will do nothing to protract those hostilities by support, military or economic, for either of the contending parties.







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