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Monday, 4 June 1984
Page: 2428


Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(4.09) —Senator Archer is dealing with a difficult, complex and sensitive matter. It is very difficult for someone representing another Minister in this place to pick up and respond to these sorts of questions. As I am advised, the role that was essentially played by the Australian Government and its representatives in Jakarta was that of seeking to ascertain what the attitude of the Indonesian Government was to the disposal of P.T. Indomilk. In that sense, the Government's representatives, the diplomats, were acting as a conduit for decision makers in Australia rather than playing an active plenipotential part in any actual negotiations. As I recall from my days on the Senate standing committee which dealt with this matter, it has a legal dimension as well as an economic dimension-certainly it has a government or political dimension in terms of the capacity of goverments to influence the course of events-which necessitates some government to government involvement to try to get a fix on just what the attitude of the Indonesian Government was. If the honourable senator is looking for any single expression to characterise the nature of the role played by our representatives abroad, that would seem to be it. If the honourable senator has any more precise questions which he feels have not been sufficiently articulated in his earlier questions or not sufficiently answered either in writing or by me now, with the best will in the world, I am afraid all I can really invite him to do is to put those more precise questions on notice and we will endeavour to help him as best we can. Beyond that, I really cannot say any more.