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Wednesday, 17 October 1984
Page: 1920

Senator GARETH EVANS (Attorney-General)(10.46) —I respond on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) simply to the matters raised earlier by Senator Chaney in relation to Michael David Flecker. I will draw Senator Chaney's remarks tonight to the Minister's attention and, no doubt, those remarks will be passed on to the Vietnamese authorities along with the other representations that are presently being made by the Australian Government . I acknowledge Senator Chaney's expression of support for the efforts that have been made by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the consular authorities in this matter so far.

I simply want to put on record formally what the Government knows of this matter. It is as follows: On 22 July this year the motor yacht So Fong was detained by the Vietnamese authorities off the coast of Hau Giang Province, the southernmost province in Vietnam. The So Fong of United States of America registration was reportedly en route from the east coast of Thailand to Hong Kong, as Senator Chaney has said. It carried a crew of six, the captain, an American, the engineer, an Australian, Michael David Flecker, and four French nationals. The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry, when first notifying the Australian Embassy in Hanoi of the detention on 2 August, assured the Embassy that all personnel involved were being well treated. The Vietnamese authorities further advised that the vessel was within their territorial waters about eight miles off the coast and flying an American flag, again as Senator Chaney has said, at the time of its detention. The Vietnamese authorities subsequently advised the Australian Ambassador in Hanoi that the incident was under investigation. An official from the Australian Embassy in Hanoi visited Mr Flecker at Can Tho on 3 October for almost two hours. She passed on greetings from his family and brought back a letter to them. She reports that Mr Flecker looks well and is being well treated.

The Embassy in Hanoi will continue to press for Mr Flecker's early release and to report to the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is in contact with his family in Australia. Pending release, the Embassy is seeking agreement to fortnightly visits and regular telephone communication. There are a number of levels of activity occurring in relation to this matter at the moment. It is the hope of everyone involved that it will reach an early and happy conclusion. I am sure Senator Chaney's remarks will assist in that cause tonight.