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Tuesday, 26 February 1985
Page: 179

Senator HAMER —I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The question concerns Australia's withdrawal from the United Nations Decolonisation Committee. I ask whether the Minister agrees with the statement made by our representative:

There is no further matter to be dealt with, so we decided to withdraw our membership.

Does the Minister really believe that there is no further matter to be dealt with when there exist many Russian colonial territories, including the Baltic States, Ukraine, Soviet Asia and Afghanistan, territories without independence or any hope of independence at present? Does the Minister not believe that the people of the Russian colonial territories have the same rights of independence and freedom as the people of the colonial territories which were once under the control of the Western countries but which are now free and independent? Why is the Government condoning the last remaining imperialism, the Russian Empire, and ignoring the plight of the territories under Russian occupation in this ignominious way?

Senator GARETH EVANS —While that rhetoric may well go down very well on Captive Nations Day each year, the truth of the matter is that it has very little to do with the remaining agenda of the United Nations Committee of Twenty-four from which Australia has recently made a decision to withdraw. I am happy to explain for the honourable senator's benefit the reason for that withdrawal decision. It is as follows: At the 1984 General Assembly the United Nations recognised the act of self-determination integrating the Cocos (Keeling) Islands into Australia, and this brought to an end Australia's last direct responsibility within the United Nations system for a non-self-governing territory.

The integration of Cocos provided an opportunity to review Australia's membership of the Committee of Twenty-four on Decolonisation and the Minister decided accordingly that we should withdraw. He advises me that in his view-it is mine too-the decolonisation process has been one of the major achievements of the United Nations system, but it is a process which, no matter how much Senator Hamer might wish otherwise, is now nearing completion. Of course, Australia will participate in debate on the future of the remaining small territories which are part of the agenda of the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly.

The one outstanding decolonisation issue of major importance, and I can appreciate it not attracting much attention on the Tory benches, is the question of Namibia. In withdrawing from the Committee of Twenty-four, however, Australia has made it clear that it will be continuing as a member of the United Nations Council for Namibia.

Senator HAMER —I ask, by way of supplementary question, whether the Minister is saying that the Russian-occupied territories such as the Baltic states are not Russian colonies? If so, on what basis is he saying so?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The Minister has nothing further to add to his previous answer.