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Thursday, 14 May 1987
Page: 3205


Mr SINCLAIR (Leader of the National Party of Australia) —by leave-I share in the concern expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard) at this morning's quite extraordinary news from a fellow Commonwealth country. Those of us who know Fiji and Fijians well understand the particular association between that country and Australia. Since white settlement, Australia has had a unique relationship with the islands of the Pacific, a relationship which it shares with New Zealand. That is not peculiarly because we are fellow members of the Commonwealth; it is also because we have inherited a concern for stability and peace in this part of the world. There is little doubt that the news comes most unexpectedly from a country which has adhered to the processes of British democracy and the processes of British law.

I share totally the concern that has been expressed by both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition that there should be no further deterioration in the situation in Fiji. I wish to urge from this forum, and I am sure all members of the Parliament would join with me, those who are participants in this military event to ensure that no retaliatory action is taken against anyone, particularly those of the Government whom they have apparently apprehended. From this side of the House, we look towards an early restoration of parliamentary democracy and the recognition of the democratic processes through which the Government of Prime Minister Dr Bavadra was elected.

All of us understand the racial friction which has occurred and which is apparent in any society in which there are people of different ethnic origins. In Fiji those differences have largely been contained to date, and one would hope that common sense and integrity can prevail. Particularly in a climate where the nature of this military takeover seems quite extraordinary, with the No. 3 figure in the military hierarchy having apparently been responsible, the very character of the history and antecedents of Fiji are uppermost in our minds, as I am sure they would be in the mind of the former Prime Minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. We have all held him in high regard and I have little doubt that Australia, under whichever government, will maintain the same good relations with his successor. We therefore look forward to the early restoration of parliamentary democracy in Fiji.

I note that there are two Australian warships in Fiji and I also note the advice that they will not be in any way involved in the situation in Fiji. However, I suggest to the Prime Minister that it would not be inappropriate, while the conditions of uncertainty prevail, that they remain in Fijian waters so that at least communications of an independent and totally integral nature can be maintained between Australian interests there and this country. Above all, I share the request in the penultimate paragraph of the Prime Minister's statement, that all elements of the Fijian community, including all the parties that contested the last election, work speedily for the return to parliamentary democracy in Fiji.