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Tuesday, 2 December 1986
Page: 3146

Senator HAINES —Yesterday the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs responded to my question about Australia's decision to vote in favour of a World Bank loan to Chile by saying that Australia held to the rule that decisions of the World Bank should not be influenced by political considerations, only economic ones. Is the Minister aware that, unlike Australia, the United States has been prepared to abstain from voting on a World Bank loan to Chile in the past as a way of protesting against human rights violations in that country? For the Minister's information, in a report by the United States Information Service, East Asia and the Pacific: Wireless File No. 224, the State Department spokesperson, Mr Charles Redman, said that while the United States appreciated `the merits of the particular loan, as well as Chile's free market economic policies', the United States also recognised `the absence of a corresponding free and responsible political environment together with serious, persistent human rights problems--

The PRESIDENT —Order! The honourable senator is making a statement rather than asking a question. I ask her to ask a question or resume her seat.

Senator HAINES —Accordingly, since the United States abstained from voting on the loan, will the Australian Government therefore consider altering its present policy--

Senator MacGibbon —On a point of order, Mr President: Are the Democrats going to run candidates in Chile?

The PRESIDENT —Order! There is no point of order.

Senator HAINES —I will repeat the last part of my question. Will the Australian Government therefore consider altering its present policy towards the World Bank and take appropriate action to censure Chile when similar situations arise in the future?

The PRESIDENT —Order! I ask honourable senators to consider the length of their questions.

Senator GARETH EVANS —It is the case that the United States abstained from voting on the World Bank loan to Chile, apparently for the reasons spelt out by the State Department spokesman and quoted at some length by Senator Haines. To the extent that that reflects a very different attitude to the Pinochet regime from that which was current at the time of the overthrow of the Allende Government in 1973, I suppose that the statement of the United States spokesman is very much to be welcomed. However, it does not alter Australia's view that, however much we deplore the present political and human rights situation in Chile-as we do and as we said we did in our explanation of our vote at the World Bank-we regard ourselves as being bound by the articles of the World Bank to look only at economic considerations in the decision making of that institution. That is the position I described yesterday. That is the basis on which we acted as we did and the basis on which we will continue to act in similar situations in the future.

Australia makes up its own mind on this as on other matters of foreign policy. I am fascinated by the Australian Democrats' obvious conversion to the cause of `me tooism' with the United States-`whither thou goest, there we go'. What a sad decline for a once great party yet again. It should be evident that there are many issues, including those arising in relation to a number of international institutions, in which we form quite different views of our obligations and responsibilities from those which, for political or other reasons, the United States adopts. I remind the honourable senator of our differences of view over the role of UNESCO. I remind her of our differences with the United States about the comprehensive test ban treaty, the SALT II violation, the strategic defence initiative and Central American policy. It just happens to be the case that at the moment we differ about our obligations under the very specific articles of the World Bank charter.