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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3237

Question No. 635


Mr Coleman asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 19 October 1983:

On what percentage of total votes in the United Nations General Assembly did Australia vote with the United States of America in each of the years 1970 to 1982 and in 1983 to date.


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

United Nations votes are of several types, including votes on resolutions as a whole, votes on individual paragraphs and votes on procedural matters affecting resolutions. Members may vote in favour, against or abstain. Some adopt the practice of not participating. The rules of procedure provide that voting may be by mechanical or non-mechanical means, and that it may be recorded or non- recorded. Many resolutions and other decisions are adopted by consensus (without a vote).

It is thus not possible to provide information on the congruence of Australian and United States votes on many issues for the practical reason that voting details are not recorded.

In 1982, the General Assembly adopted 452 resolutions many of which contained multiple parts requiring separate votes. On many more, there were individual paragraph votes. From this, it will be understood that a major commitment of departmental resources would be required to research every vote recorded over the last 14 years and such research of course would not cover the many non- recorded votes. I do not believe that such a use of the Department's resources would be warranted, given the many demands on the time of officers in the United Nations area.

I am advised however that the Australian Mission to the United Nations in New York has been able to provide some material relating to Australian and United States voting in the United Nations in the years 1975-82. The material, which is not complete and is based on very small samples for the years 1978-80, relates only to:

(a) roll call votes

(b) votes in which both Australia and the United States participated affirmatively or negatively. Votes involving abstention or absence of either country are not covered.

The following table sets out the percentage of votes in which Australia and the United States voted together. The figure in brackets after the percentage indicates the number of votes on which the percentage is based. It is, frankly, not clear that these statistics provide a reliable indication of the overall situation.

1975

87%

(77)

1976

71%

(64)

1977

98.7%

(77)

1978

100%

(4)

1979

84.6%

(13) Selected

1980

90%

(10) votes

1981

76.4%

(157) only

1982

63.5%

(178)

There were insufficient complete voting records for the 1983 General Assembly available at the time of drafting this reply, to constitute a reasonable basis for comparison.