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Thursday, 16 March 1961

Mr Whitlam m asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -

1.   On what issues have votes been taken in the present session of the United Nations General Assembly?

2.   How were votes cast on these issues by

(a)   members of the Commonwealth of Nations;

(b)   parties to the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty, and (c) countries where Australia has diplomatic posts?

Sir Garfield Barwick . - The answers to the honor bie member's questions are as follows: -

The preparation of a fully detailed answer would involve considerable research and effort, much of it probably on issues in which the honorable member is not specially interested. I will be placing before the House next week a full report by the Australian delegation to the first (1960) part of the Fifteenth Session of the General Assembly, which will cover all the issues considered by the Assembly. In addition the verbatim records of the Assembly, showing the voting of all countries on issues where a roll-call vote was taken, are available in the Parliamentary Library. From these documents the honorable member will be able to extract the information he particularly desires relating to the issues in which he is specially interested.

Mr Ward asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -

1.   What nations have contributed forces to the United Nations army in the Congo?

2.   What number of personnel has been contributed in each instance?

3.   What is the cost to date of this operation?

4.   What has been Australia's contribution to the cost?

5.   Has Australia entered into any firm commitment in respect of future maintenance costs of the United Nations Force; if so, what are the details?

6.   What other nations have contributed to this expenditure?

7.   For how long is it expected that it will be necessary to retain United Nations forces in the Congo?

Sir Garfield Barwick . - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   At one time or another 28 nations have contributed combat forces, administrative units or other personnel to the United Nations Force. These countries are: Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Burma, Canada, Ceylon, Denmark, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Liberia. Malaya. Mali. Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Sudan,

Sweden, Tunisia, United Arab Republic, and Yugoslavia. Five of these countries are no longer represented on the Force. These are: Burma, Guinea, Mali, United Arab Republic and Yugoslavia. Two Australian officers already serving with the United Nations Truce Observation Organization in Palestine were seconded to the United Nations Congo force for a short period in 1960.

2.   The strengths of national contingents have varied considerably over the seven months of the operation. As at 10th March, 1961, the number of personnel from each contributing nation was:

Some of these countries have at given times contributed significantly larger forces than these figures show. For instance, Ghana's contingent at one period numbered 2,389, Ireland's 1,317. Morocco's 3,257. The strengths of the five contingents withdrawn were - Burma, 9; Guinea, 744; Mali, 575; United Arab Republic, 519; Yugoslavia, 20. Recent offers of additional forces have been - India, one independent brigade, 4,100; Ceylon, one battalion, 900; Liberia, one company, 234; Malaya, 693.

3.   On 20th December, 1960, the General Assembly decided to finance the Congo operation from an ad hoc account established in an amount of $48.5 million for the period 14th July to 31st December, 1960. Accounts for the year ended 31st December, 1960, have only just been closed in respect of the operation. However, it is estimated that, up to that time, $22 million had been disbursed by the United Nations and $26.5 million committed for actual disbursement in 1961. On the same date the General Assembly also authorized the Secretary-General to incur commitments in 1961 up to a total of $24 million for the period ending 31st March, 1961, i.e. $8 million a month. This resolution also decided that the General Assembly would give urgent consideration to the financing of the Congo operation at its resumed session and requested the SecretaryGeneral to submit estimates of the cost in 1961. The Secretary-General has submitted an estimate of $135 million as the cost of the operation in 1961.

4.   Australia has so far contributed $433,465 comprising an estimated half of its assessment for operations during 1960. We shall arrange to pay the balance of this amount when we have been notified of our actual assessment. In addition, the Australian Government has made a cash donation of $750,000 to the United Nations Voluntary Congo Fund and has contributed £19,000 toward the cost of maintaining Australian Red Cross medical teams in the Congo.

5.   Australian intends to meets its full share of the cost of the operation as assessed by the United Nations. On the basis of the Secretary-General's estimate that the operation during 1961 will cost $135,000,000, Australia will contribute $2,416,500 during the current year, in addition to the sum outstanding in respect of 1960.

6.   We do not have full details of contributions so far paid by other countries, but we do know and regret that the Communist bloc has paid nothing towards its assessed share and has indicated that it intends to pay nothing.

7.   In the current confused situation in the Congo, it is impossible to say how long United Nations military assistance will be required.

Diplomatic Representatives in Australia.

Mr Ward asked the Acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -

1.   To whom would a foreign diplomat serving in Australia apply if he desired to obtain political asylum in this country?

2.   What procedure would be followed in according consideration to such an application and who exercises authority in deciding whether the application is approved?

Sir Garfield Barwick . - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   There is no rule in this matter. A person seeking political asylum in Australia must necessarily confide in the first instance in a person whom he trusts. Such person might be an officer in any Commonwealth Government department, service or organization, the choice perhaps being made on the footing of previous dealings with the officer or his organization.

2.   If such an application is bona fide and is in accord with international practice in these matters, and the person concerned does not present a risk to the security of Australia, then the Government is likely to approve it. Any application for political asylum from a foreign diplomat would be considered at ministerial level. Each case is judged on its merits.

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