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Thursday, 28 February 1985
Page: 339


Senator MacGIBBON(3.18) — I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

I was one of the two parliamentary delegates to the Thirty-eighth Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1983, and I should like to speak briefly to the paper. First of all, I thank my colleagues for selecting me to attend that meeting of the General Assembly. I think for anyone who has an interest in foreign affairs the opportunity provided by this Parliament, albeit on a very restricted basis, to attend for the duration of the General Assembly is a very great educational experience.

Parliamentary delegates to the General Assembly actually work as representatives in the Department of Foreign Affairs. It is a working post. The Department of Foreign Affairs, by the very nature of its work, really is different from other government departments, and working in that Department is a very interesting experience. Unlike all other diplomatic postings, which are one-on-one, where the mission or embassy is dealing with the government of the host country, the work of the United Nations is on a multilateral basis. In other words, one is dealing simultaneously with representatives from 150 or 160 countries. I also thank the New York mission staff. Ambassador Woolcott is a very fine representative of Australia, and all of his staff without exception did Australia proud in the way in which they served our interests during that period.

It was a very interesting period. President Reagan, President Mitterrand and Mrs Gandhi addressed the General Assembly while we were there. Tragically, Mrs Gandhi is no longer with us. The meeting of the Assembly began under the great pall of the attack by the Russians on the Korean Airlines flight 007 and the loss of all lives on board. The debate on the Korean airliner incident took precedence in many meetings of the committees of the Assembly. During that period also there was the loss of the lives of about 250 marines of the American peacekeeping force in Beirut. This again was a tragic and unnecessary loss of life.

My main activity was to attend the major debates in the General Assembly and to spend most of my time with the committees involved with disarmament. It disturbed me to see the way in which the Australian Government got into unnecessary trouble with the Association of South East Asian Nations group over the representatives of Kampuchea in the General Assembly. The Australian Government quite clearly misled the ASEAN countries as to what our intention was. The fact that we did not sponsor the motion was not the critical point. The point was that the ASEAN nations were led to believe that we were going to sponsor the motion, and that was what they were very disappointed about. The other defect diplomatically at the time that was serious and will have serious implications in the years ahead was the fact that the Government failed to respond to the early signs that Malaysia was going to attempt to upset the Antarctic Treaty. Some positive and firm action in the early stages would have intercepted that attempt. I would like to talk about Australia's place in disarmament negotiations and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, but there is no time for that now.

In conclusion, I would like to reaffirm my support for the United Nations. I believe it is an absolutely necessary forum in the world. I believe in its goals of the maintenance of peace and security. I do believe, though, that it has a vastly over-loaded bureaucracy and that it needs a budget that is one tenth of its present size. It should get away from all the side activities in which it gets involved. The organisations that work best are those which have a high voluntary component, such as the United Nations Children's Fund. I think that the World Health Organisation has been one of its most worthy operations. But again, a voluntary component would go a long way towards cutting its costs. The operations of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation are a tragedy. They are dishonest and quite counterproductive now to the goals and ideals of the United Nations. Australia should follow the lead of Great Britain and the United States and withdraw its funding to that organisation.

Question resolved in the affirmative.