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Monday, 1 December 1986
Page: 3053

Senator JESSOP —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the Government's support for a World Bank loan to Chile on the grounds that economic considerations, not political ideology, should be the basis for such decisions. Is it a fact that the Government supported wider economic sanctions against South Africa as a means of changing that country's system of government? Is it not reasonable to interpret the Government explanation for the vote in favour of the loan to Chile as another example of the Hawke Government's double standards?

Senator GARETH EVANS —No, it is not reasonable to make any such assumption, even if someone such as Senator Jessop with his well-known bias in this matter thinks so. The truth of the matter is that we are talking about an international financial institution with an article in its governing document explicitly requiring its member countries not to have regard to a particular country's political situation when making decisions as to whether supporting loan moneys should be made available to it through that institution. That has nothing whatsoever to do with the decision that has been made by Australia in combination with many other countries who share our attitude to apartheid, an attitude which is not shared by Senator Jessop. We have taken the view that, by joint action, not in the context of particular institutional loans from a body such as the World Bank but through trading action generally, appropriate pressure can be brought on South Africa to help it change its mind and behave in a more civilised way. There is simply no parallel whatsoever possible between the two situations.

Senator JESSOP —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. First of all, I reject the Minister's insinuation that I may have some sympathy with apartheid, because that is quite wrong. I object to the Government in Chile as well as to the Government in South Africa. However, I ask the Minister a question, having regard to the fact that he said that the action of the Government is quite reasonable as far as Chile is concerned: Would he consider supporting a loan to South Africa in the event of that country suffering an economic downturn?

Senator GARETH EVANS —To the extent that something was sought through the World Bank, or an equivalent institution, in relation to which we are bound by articles which commit us to a particular approach, yes, of course we would adopt such a view, just as a few weeks ago we adopted a position of support for South Africa remaining within the International Red Cross organisation. We adopted a position of very strong support for South Africa remaining within that organisation because to have voted with a number of other countries which were urging upon us the fashionableness of doing otherwise would have been to undermine completely the credibility of that organisation. Obviously it did not demonstrate any affection whatsoever for the contemptible regime in that country of which the honourable senator is an apologist: It demonstrated simply a commitment to the principles of international institutions.

Senator Jessop —Mr President, I raise a point of order. I am offended by the Minister saying that I am an apologist for the South African Government. I am not an apologist for the South African Government. I am opposed to apartheid. My attitude to apartheid is one that may differ from the attitude of others in the way in which we can overcome the problem. I object to the Minister casting aspersions on me and I ask him to withdraw.

The PRESIDENT —I ask the Minister to withdraw.

Senator Gareth Evans —In deference to the Chair, I withdraw, Mr President.

Senator Chaney —Mr President, I raise a point of order. You earlier ruled on conditional withdrawal.

The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask the Minister to withdraw unreservedly.

Senator Gareth Evans —Unreservedly I withdraw, Mr President.