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Tuesday, 28 April 1987
Page: 2059

Mr N.A. Brown —Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of the concern among members of this House and in the wider community about increasing Libyan involvement in the Pacific region? Is it not clear now that Libya, first, has a long history of terrorism and, secondly, is clearly prepared to finance and support revolutionary movements in our region? That being so, will the Government now take immediate steps, first, to close the so-called Libyan People's Bureau in Canberra and, secondly, to prevent any funds or personnel passing through Australia if they are reasonably suspected of being directed to the support of revolutionary or terrorist movements? If not, what action is the Government going to take in the face of obvious Libyan support of terrorist and revolutionary activities in the Pacific region?

Mr HAYDEN —The Government, of course, is concerned, as we have stressed on a number of occasions quite publicly, at the increasing presence and activity of certain Libyan representatives in the South Pacific. I think the first thing that should be stressed, however, is that very largely the independent nations of the South Pacific retain a very firm commitment to the Western association of nations, the values of those countries and the benefits that that system is able to provide individually and collectively to members that cleave to those interests. In relation to the proposal that we should close down the Libyan People's Bureau in Canberra, I should point out first of all that the Libyan Embassy was opened in Canberra in 1979 by the previous conservative Government. In 1979 there was clear evidence of Libyan international terrorist activity. In 1981, with the approval of the then Fraser Government, it was allowed to convert to the Libyan People's Bureau. By then international Libyan terrorist activity was manifestly apparent. In neither instance was the conservative government, of which the honourable member was a Minister at that time, the least bit disturbed.

As I have said, the Government is maintaining careful observation of what is developing in the South Pacific region but we should bear in mind that, in expressing our concerns on this matter, we do so from a self-interested point of view designed to look after our national interest. We in no way seek, explicitly or implicitly, to suggest to the South Pacific island states that, while we believe we are capable of looking after our affairs, we do not have confidence in their ability similarly to do so. I could not imagine anything more offensive, unacceptable or provocative to such countries. The closure of the Libyan People's Bureau is something that has been looked at from time to time in the past when circumstances have suggested that this was a matter that, among others, deserved attention. When this was looked at last, I think early in 1986 following certain incidents in Europe, it was decided that while a number of other actions would be taken against Libya the closure of the Libyan People's Bureau would not be undertaken. Up to this point I think the grounds upon which that decision was based were sound and at present continue to be sound.