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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 89

(Question No. 4906)

Mr Tickner asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 14 November 1986:

(1) Did the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines deliver a speech to the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Manila on the general subject of Australian-Philippines relations on or about 23 January 1985.

(2) Was the subject of human rights not mentioned by the Ambassador during the course of his speech but raised as a result of a question from the audience.

(3) Did the Ambassador reply with words to the effect that he was not going to ``bang on doors'' about human rights issues when asked what Australia was doing in relation to human rights.

(4) Will he inquire into the record of Australian diplomatic representatives in the Philippines in taking up human rights issues during the latter years of the Marcos regime.

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

(1) The Australian Ambassador spoke on Australian-Philippine relations to a breakfast meeting of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Manila on 23 January 1985.

(2) The Ambassador did not cover the subject of human rights in his speech but spoke of the way ``attitudes towards the Philippines (in Australia) had been affected by extensive reporting of the case of Father Brian Gore and his co-defendents, and that this had created a highly unfavourable image of the Philippines''.

(3) In response to a provocatively phrased question about what he was doing about human rights, the Ambassador responded that he was not ``banging on doors'' as he did not believe that such an approach would be effective.

(4) The Australian Embassy in Manila has developed and maintained contact with a range of human rights interest groups and regularly reports on human rights issues.

During the Marcos Administration, other Ministers and I made a number of statements in Parliament placing on public record, in a manner which the Philippine Government would take into account, the concern of the Australian Government and people about human rights in the Philippines.

The Australian Government takes a close interest in the human rights situation in the Philippines in United Nations forums such as the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. At the forty-second session of the Commission on Human rights in March 1986 Australia welcomed the pledge of the Aquino Government to bring justice to the numerous Philippine victims of human rights violations.

Specific cases on which representations were made during the Marcos Administration included the following:

The case of child labour aboard fishing vessels in the Sulu Sea in which a fishing company was accused of violating Labour Laws concerning children.

The Escalante incident of 20 September 1985 in which nineteen people were killed following the firing on a crowd of demonstrations by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Civilian Home Defence Forces.

The alleged abduction of Father Rudy Romano on 11 July 1985.

The Free Legal Assistance Group Lawyers (Ilagan, Resonar and Arellano) who were charged in May 1985 with subversion and held in military custody and were released on 27 February 1986.

Father Gore (arrested 18 October 1982 and acquitted in July 1984).

The Sag-Od Massacre in which some 45 villagers in Samar were murdered on 15 September 1981.