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Thursday, 21 February 1985
Page: 23

Senator BUTTON (Leader of the Government in the Senate) —I move:

That the Senate records its sincere regret at the death of Mrs Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India, and expresses deep sympathy to her family in their bereavement.

Mr President, I ask that this motion, when carried, be conveyed by you to the Government of India. The death of Indira Gandhi was a tragic and wanton act of terrorism which was deplored and regretted by all Australians. Mrs Gandhi was one of the great leaders of our time. She was the head of the world's largest democracy and she guided India's progress, against huge odds, in the fields of agriculture, manufacturing and science. Today India has one of the 10 largest economies in the world, with a strong technological and manufacturing base and having achieved a notable degree of self-reliance in agriculture. India has become a major force in international affairs. Under Mrs Gandhi, India assumed the leadership of the non-aligned movement. Mrs Gandhi, at the time of her death, was Chairman of the Commonwealth.

Indira Gandhi enjoyed the greatest admiration and respect. Her strength, courage and ability will be sorely missed by the people of India and the absence of those characteristics will be noted throughout the rest of the world. Shortly before Mrs Gandhi's death, the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) invited her to visit Australia. That was not to be. Perhaps the result of the recent election in India indicates something of the feelings of the Indian people. I do not wish to place interpretations on that result but perhaps it can be seen in some ways as a mark of respect to the life of Mrs Gandhi. The Government hopes that the new Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, will be able to take up the invitation to visit Australia extended to the late Mrs Gandhi. I know that all honourable senators will join me in expressing profound sympathy at India's great loss.