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Tuesday, 31 May 1994
Page: 986

(Question No. 1275)


Senator Chamarette asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 23 March 1994:

  (1) Does the Government's directive to various government departments that citizens of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and their Australian relatives and descendants should be referred to as Slav-Macedonians pre-empt the outcome of United Nations (UN) mediation between Greece and the Republic.

  (2) Why was this decision made while matters raised in UN resolutions 817 and 845 remain unresolved.

  (3) How does this directive compare with the decisions and actions of other countries which have given formal recognition to the Republic.

  (4) What feedback has the Government received from other countries and from human rights organisations about the human rights aspects of this decision to require a new name for people from the Republic.

  (5) Are there any precedents either in Australian foreign affairs experience or in that of other countries for this directive.

  (6) How does this directive compare with the Greek Government's insistence that the country has no Macedonian ethnic minority and its intolerance of Macedonian culture and language and what difference does the Government believe exists between its directive and the policies of the Greek Government.

  (7) Did the Government consult members of the Macedonian community in Australia, or the government of the Republic before making this decision.

  (8) On what basis did the Government choose to announce its decision without allowing for public debate, discussion or consultation.

  (9) What is the origin of the suggestion to use the prefix "slav" and what alternative nomenclatures were considered.

  (10) Given the contentious nature of the term "slav" within the Australian Macedonian community, and the likelihood of community division and tension, why did the Government proceed with this prefix.

  (11) Given the Minister's statement that the name "Slav-Macedonians" is in common use, please provide examples of other countries where this name is used to describe the people of the Republic or their local community.

  (12) Is the Minister aware that the name "Slav-Macedonian" is used extensively only by the Greek community and is considered by Macedonians to be a propaganda slogan.

  (13) What will be the cost to the Australian Government of making the necessary changes in Government departments to take into account this directive.

  (14) What departmental procedures will be assisted by this directive and what are the points of confusion to which the Minister has alluded which will be overcome by this directive.

  (15) As Macedonians first began to arrive in Australia in considerable numbers in the 1920s, which aspects of the bureaucracy which have had a negative effect on the Macedonian community will be overcome by this directive.

  (16) How have other countries which have recognised the Republic overcome similar bureaucratic confusion without such a directive.

  (17) Under what legal power has this directive been issued.

  (18) Did the Government seek advice as to the impact of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 on this directive; if so, please provide a copy of that advice.

  (19) What impact will the Government's proposed racial vilification laws have on this decision and the actions which flow from it.

  (20) What action will the Government take against public servants who choose to ignore this directive and would the Government be prepared to legislate the directive into law.

  (21) Are public servants able to refuse to implement the directive on grounds of conscientious objection.

  (22) Did the Government seek the advice of representatives of the Greek community in Australia, or the Greek Government, in making the decision to issue the directive; if so, what advice was given.

  (23) Does the directive form an element of the education campaign referred to by the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) after his discussions with representatives of the Greek community.

  (24) What are the various elements which are to make up such a campaign.

  (25) How will this campaign be funded and when will it be officially launched.

  (26) (a) What is the Government's estimate of the Greek population of Australia; (b) how is it possible that figures ranging from 400,000 to 700,000 are regularly used in the community; and (c) what are the sources of these figures.

  (27) How do these estimates compare with data provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and with the 1991 Census which showed the Greek-born and Cypriot-Greek born population of Australia as 311,000.

  (28) What is the source of the figure of 400,000 used by the Minister in his press statements concerning this issue.

  (29) Did the Minister receive a letter in February 1994 from the Hellenic Standing Committee on Macedonia quoting the Greek community in Australia as consisting of 700,000 people and on the basis of his own estimates of 400,000, did the Minister reply to the committee pointing out its overstatement.


Senator Gareth Evans —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

  (1) No. In my statement of 14 March, I said " . . . all these questions of nomenclature will, of course, have to be revisited when the name issue is finally resolved, as we all hope it soon will be, in negotiations between the FYROM and Greece".

  (2) UNSC Resolution 817 of 7 April 1993 approved the admission to the UN of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia under that temporary name. Resolution 845 of 18 June 1993 urged the Governments of Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to continue their efforts under the auspices of the Secretary General to arrive at a speedy settlement of the remaining issues between them. On 15 February 1994, Australia recognised the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) under that temporary name. Australia's recognition followed that of 58 other countries, including every other member of the European Union and the United States, the majority of which recognised the Republic under the temporary name of the FYROM, the name under which it was admitted to the UN. As I indicated in my statement of 14 March, since the Government did not accept the name "Republic of Macedonia" as an appropriate one for the country itself, it simply was not appropriate to refer to its people as "Macedonians". But it was made equally clear that all these questions of nomenclature would have to be revisited when the issue was finally resolved, as we all hope it soon will be, in negotiations between the FYROM and Greece.

  (3) To my knowledge, no other government has issued such a directive.

  (4) None, other than from the FYROM itself which considered the decision discriminatory and regretted the possible effects it could have on relations between the two communities in Australia.

  (5) To my knowledge, the answer is no.

  (6) No comparison can be drawn between the Government's decision and the situation of minority groups in Greece. All ethnic communities in Australia benefit and will continue to benefit under the Government's policy of multiculturalism, including the right to self-identification, irrespective of the internal political or human rights situations in their countries of origin.

  (7) The Prime Minister, Senator Bolkus and I met representatives from the Slav-Macedonian and associated organisations and individuals prior to the Government's announcement that a directive would be issued. The Government did not consult the Government of the FYROM.

  (8) The decision to issue an operational directive on administrative matters does not require public debate, discussion or consultation.

  (9) As outlined in (2) above, as the Government did not accept the name "Republic of Macedonia" as an appropriate name for the country, it was simply not appropriate to refer to its people as "Macedonians". I noted in my statement of 14 March, that the term `Slav Macedonian' was a shorthand reference for the country's temporary name, the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia". It is not designed as an ethnic reference. How ordinary members of the respective communities choose to describe their ethnicity, in a census, or anywhere else, will remain up to those individuals and communities themselves.

  (10) See (2) and (9).

  (11) The term "Slav Macedonian" is one that is used in historical and scholarly literature in a neutral way. The Government's use of the term is not meant to be considered as an ethnic identifier, nor is not designed to have any offensive connotation.

  (12) See (2), (9) and (11).

  (13) The costs are unknown, but it is expected that they will be minimal and will be absorbed in the budgets of relevant Departments and Agencies as part of their normal administrative expenses like all other administrative arrangements.

  (14) The decision establishes an unambiguous descriptor for people living in, or coming from, the FYROM—until the name issue is resolved between the Governments in Athens and Skopje.

  (15) I am not aware of claims that aspects of the bureaucracy have had a negative impact on the Slav-Macedonian community.

  (16) This is a matter for individual governments.

  (17) Officers of the Australian Public Service are being directed by their respective Departmental Heads in accordance with their authority under the Public Service Act to implement the Government's decision following a request from the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.

  (18) In preparation of my announcement on 14 March in the Senate of the Government's decision to direct Government Departments and Agencies to refer, for the time being, to the country as "the FYROM" and to people living in or originating from it as "Slav-Macedonians" the Government received oral advice from its legal advisers that this decision would not contravene the provisions of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

  (19) None. See also (18).

  (20) No legislation will be enacted to compel any particular usage, by Government Departments and Agencies, or anyone else.

  On the assumption that the Secretary of a Department has issued a lawful and reasonable directive, officers of that Department are obliged to comply. Failure to comply with such a directive may lead to formal disciplinary proceedings against an officer under the Public Service Act. Whether formal disciplinary proceedings were instituted would depend on the nature of the officer's actions and the context in which those actions were taken. It may be, for instance, that the matter would be more appropriately dealt with by informal counselling rather than formal disciplinary proceedings.

  (21) Provision is made in the Public Service Commission's Guidelines on Official Conduct of Commonwealth Public Servants for an officer to refuse to comply with a lawful directive on the grounds of conscientious objection. In these circumstances, the officer concerned should approach his or her supervisor with a view to being exempted of the duties requiring compliance with the directive.

  (22) No. However, the Prime Minister, Senator Bolkus and I met with representatives from the Greek community and, subsequently, representatives of the Slav Macedonian and associated organisations and individuals prior to the announcement of the Government's decision. No other Government was approached on the content of the directive or the decision to issue it.

  (23) The Prime Minister was referring to the community relations initiative mentioned in my 14 March statement. That initiative is being developed by Senator Bolkus.

  (24) See (23).

  (25) See (23).

  (26) (a) According to the 1991 Census, the Australian population includes 136,028 people who were born in Greece. In the 1986 Census, 336,782 people nominated Greek as their ancestry. The 1991 Census did not seek information on ancestry.

  (b) & (c) are a matter for the community.

  (27) See (26).

  (28) See (26).

  (29) I have not received correspondence addressed to me from the Hellenic Standing Committee on Macedonia (HESCOM). However, my colleague, the Minister for Development Cooperation and Pacific Island Affairs (Mr Bilney), forwarded to me a copy of a letter addressed to him by the HESCOM where HESCOM claimed that there were 600,000 Australian citizens of Greek decent in Australia. I have offered no comment on the figure quoted by HESCOM but on the best available advice that figure would appear to be overstated.