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Wednesday, 30 November 1983
Page: 3118

Question No. 532


Dr Everingham asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 14 September 1983:

(1) Does the Government regard (a) Indonesia (b) The Philippines (c) Vietnam and (d) Sri Lanka as countries ruled by totalitarian regimes.

(2) If so, will the Government review the provision of aid to these countries to ensure that these funds are administered by welfare agencies with well established international bona fides and not by, or in support of, defence forces, or used by the countries for national development of strategic military importance.


Mr Hayden —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) (a) Indonesia

Government in Indonesia is based on the 1945 constitution which provides for a strong centralized presidency, but one which is ultimately responsible to the Supreme Consultative Assembly. This body is composed of elected and appointed members which meets at five year periods to elect the President and approve state policy guidelines. The President is advised by a Peoples Representative Council of elected and appointed members. The last presidential election was held in March 1983 and the last parliamentary election was held in May 1982.

(b) The Philippines

The 1981 constitutional amendments provided for a modified presidential system of government in the Philippines. The President governs with the assistance of a Prime Minister and an appointed Cabinet. The interim National Assembly provided for in 1976 by amendments to the transitional provisions of the Constitution, was convened in June 1978. It has 200 members, 165 of whom are directly elected. The remaining seats are appointed by the President, including 20 members of his Cabinet and 14 members indirectly elected by youth, agriculture and labour organisations. In January 1981 the National Assembly assumed formal legislative powers and full general elections are scheduled for 1984. Martial law was lifted in 1981.

(c) Vietnam

All political power within the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is exercised by the Vietnamese Communist Party, which is controlled by a fifteen-member Political Bureau of the Party's Central Committee. The National Assembly, elected every five years by universal suffrage, is the highest State authority in Vietnam. Members of the Assembly are elected to the Council of State, whose Chairman is Head of State. The Assembly elects the Council of Ministers, headed by the Prime Minister. It is common for Ministers to be concurrently members of the Central Committee.

(d) Sri Lanka

No. Sri Lanka is a mixed parliamentary/presidential democracy. The last parliamentary elections were held in 1977, and the last presidential election in 1982, following which a referendum was held which extended the life of the parliament for a further six years without elections.

(2) I refer the honourable member to my reply to his Question on Notice No. 332 (Hansard, 1 November 1983, page 2151). Suggestions that Australian aid should be discontinued to certain countries overlook the fact that the result of such action would be to punish the most needy people in a developing country without influencing those who direct affairs. Australian official development assistance funds provided for Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka are administered by the Australian Development Assistance Bureau in consultation with the civilian governmental authorities of those countries. They are not administered by, or in support of, defence forces. Information about defence co-operation programs with any of these countries should be sought from the Minister for Defence.

The Government has made no decision to move in practical terms towards the resumption of Australia's bilateral aid program with Vietnam.