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Monday, 30 May 1994
Page: 821

Senator BOURNE —My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and concerns the Asia-Pacific conference on East Timor, which is due to take place in the Philippines this week. Does the Australian government support the decision of the Philippines government to ban certain people from attending the conference, including the wife of the French President, Madame Mitterrand, and Noble Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire? Have any Australian citizens, such as Mrs Shirley Shackleton, been similarly black-listed by the Philippines government? What action has the government taken in relation to that? If an Australian university decided to host a similar conference on East Timor, would the Australian government be likely to bow to any pressure from Indonesia and ban entry into this country of overseas attendees, as the Philippines appears to have done?

Senator GARETH EVANS —As to the first question, the matter in issue is one between the Philippines and Indonesian governments. It is not a question of the Australian government supporting or otherwise a decision of the Philippines government. But I have to say it is a matter of disappointment that it was not possible for this matter to be resolved in a way that would allow free debate to take place on what manifestly continues to be a subject of international concern.

  As to the second question, I have no information as to whether or not Mrs Shackleton has been, as Senator Bourne puts it, black listed. The Australian government has normally taken the view that policy matters relating to border controls are for the individual country concerned. But, again I say it is a matter of disappointment—the position of Mrs Shackleton to one side—that it has not been possible to resolve this issue in a way that did not involve restrictions on freedom of international movement.

  As to the third question, if an Australian university decided to host a similar conference would we react in the same way, all I want to say is that, subject to the right we always reserve in relation to the entry of particular individuals whose presence, such as that of Mr David Irving, may be thought to be undesirable and against the national interest, the answer is no.