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Wednesday, 30 May 1984
Page: 2143

Senator SIBRAA —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Minister's attention been drawn to recent remarks made by Dr Caldicott on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's program Pressure Point to the effect that Australia supported the Western bloc in the United Nations Conference on Disarmament and that therefore Australia was preventing agreement on mandates for committees on nuclear test bans, outer space and a nuclear freeze? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether this is the correct Australian position?

Senator GARETH EVANS —My attention has been drawn to the remarks made by Dr Caldicott on that usually distinguished program, Pressure Point, to the effect that in the Conference on Disarmament the Western bloc was preventing agreement on mandates for committees in three areas. I understand that Dr Caldicott did say that Australia supported the Western bloc, as she described it, in this obstruction. The situation is that Dr Caldicott is quite misinformed. The Conference on Disarmament operates by consensus and for convenience most of its delegations caucus in three groups-the neutral and non-aligned group, the socialist or Warsaw Pact group and the Western group. The Australian delegation caucuses with the Western group but it retains its freedom of action. It is correct that there is a procedural stalemate over the mandates of three committees in the Conference but, far from acquiescing in this, Australia has been working hard to seek solutions.

The first matter Dr Caldicott referred to was the nuclear test ban. The members of the Western group have so far this year reached no agreed position amongst themselves on the mandate. Far from being a source of obstruction, the Australian delegation has been prominent in seeking a solution in accordance with the Government's strong support for a nuclear test ban. As to the question of outer space, the Western and neutral and non-aligned groups have been agreed on a draft mandate since August last year. It is the Warsaw Pact countries, the socialist group, that is holding out against that formulation. The third committee is to address not a nuclear freeze as such but the prevention of a nuclear war. That is the topic. There are three competing draft mandates, any one of which Australia could support. Here again we have been active in trying to find compromise solutions. It is regrettable that people who come here with a fanfare and a considerable popular following can find it within themselves to misrepresent so spectacularly the truth on matters of such great significance as this.