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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2888

(Question No. 5195)

Mr Blanchard asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 19 March 1987:

(1) Is it a fact that Australian Development Assistance Bureau funds are being used in Burma to construct roads for a military purpose and that some of the roads are being constructed into areas controlled by the Karen minority who have been seeking to establish their own state since Burma obtained independence in 1947.

(2) Is the provision of assistance to the Government of Burma to suppress minorities in Burma consistent with Australia's foreign aid policy.

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

(1) No. The only road construction activity in Burma funded under the Australian aid program was the Western Highway Project along the west bank of the Irrawaddy River, an area in which there is no significant insurgent activity by any group. The road was constructed in order to achieve clearly identified economic development benefits. Under the project Australia has supplied road building plant, equipment and spares together with technical assistance and training at an estimated cost of $18.6 million. The project has now been completed.

(2) The Australian Government provides development assistance in order to foster economic and social development. The aid provided to Burma fully accords with these objectives and as such bears no relation to military actions against insurgent activity by any group.