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Tuesday, 5 June 1984
Page: 2571

(Question No. 726)

Senator Mason asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 26 March 1984:

(1) Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware that the Australian parliamentary delegation to Indonesia in July 1983 was told by Mr Sukardi, Chairman of the Indonesian Parliament's Committee for Interparliamentary Relations that: 'The Indonesian delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Conference in Helsinki had received the full support of the Australian delegation in its attempts to remove East Timor from the agenda'. (See report of the delegation to Indonesia, page 109.).

(2) Is the Minister also aware that this Australian parliamentary delegation was told by Mr Marzuki, Vice-Chairman of the Indonesian Parliament's Committee 1 on Foreign Affairs, Information and Defence, that: 'the Australian delegation had produced the best performance which had resulted in East Timor being deleted from the agenda (of the IPU Conference in Helsinki)'.

(3) Was the Australian delegation to the 1983 IPU conference in Helsinki in favour of the deletion of the topic of East Timor from the agenda of this conference.

(4) Was the delegation or were individual members of the delegation given any instructions on how to respond to the issue of East Timor, and specifically, were any instructions given to support or initiate moves, formally or informally , to have the issue removed from the IPU agenda: If so, what were those instructions and by whom were they given; if not, will the Minister take steps to determine what actions were taken by members of the delegation to remove the issue of East Timor from the IPU agenda and report back to Parliament on this.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) and (2) The comments by Mr Sukardi and Mr Marzuki are contained on pages 109 and 110 of the official report of the Australian parliamentary delegation.

(3) The question of East Timor was raised in the Committee on non-self- governing territories and ethnic questions; however, there was a ruling from the chair that as this matter was currently under discussion in the United Nations, it was not necessary, at this stage, to vote on the matter. The chairman's decision was accepted by the Committee and no vote was held.

(4) Delegates to IPU conferences act as representatives of the Australian Parliament rather than of the Government. While the Department of Foreign Affairs assisted the delegation-as it has assisted previous delegations-with background briefing on the Government's policies and with travel and other arrangements, no directions were given to the delegates on how they might vote on the East Timor issue. Such interference would be inappropriate and would, I am sure, be resented by delegates.