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Thursday, 11 November 1971
Page: 3346


Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Foreign Affairs) - I rise to refer to the points made by some honourable members in discussing the estimates of the Department of Foreign Affairs. The honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr Brown) and the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross) both raised the question of additional overseas representation for Australia, particularly in Africa. Special reference was made to East Africa. I am aware of the situation of our representation and of the case that oan be put for increasing this representation in areas like Africa, but this is always a policy question. In fact, since the last world war we have created an overseas Foreign Affairs service in an extraordinarily short period of time and we now have 68 missions, all of them of a good professional standard. Increased representation is a question which we will keep under review. It is a policy question.

Various other speakers referred particularly to the question of aid to the refugees from East Pakistan. The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson), the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) and the honourable member for Hawker (Mr Jacobi) particularly spoke on this topic. I would like to point out in response to their remarks that Australia is now one of the substantial contributors to the international relief effort for the Pakistani refugees. As honourable members know, the Government's contribution to the area now totals S54m and the value of contributions from private citizens and voluntary organisations is about S2m. Australia's permanent representative to the United Nations. Sir Laurence Mclntyre, notified the Secretary-General on 27tb October of the level of our aid. In a letter dated 1st November 1971 to our permanent representative U Thant said:

I am most grateful for the continued generous response of the Australian Government to my various appeals for humanitarian assistance for the refugees in India. I have also taken note with deep appreciation of the contributions for the same purpose made by Australian private citizens and voluntary organisations, amounting to over SA2 million. I request you to convey to them, through your Government, the expression of my gratitude for their efforts and generosity in providing humanitarian assistance to the displaced people from East Pakistan in India.

In this regard, I am gratified to note that the total Australian public and private contributions now exceed $US8,61 7,000.

Following my announcement to the House on 27th October, Mr Patrick Shaw, the Australian High Commissioner in New Delhi, visited Calcutta and many of the refugee camps late last week and had discussions with the Indian and United Nations authorities. He has reported to my colleagues and me this week, and has had several talks with me, on the situation in the area and the requirements for refugee relief. There has been an immediate approval of provision of 10,000 blankets which are required for the oncoming cold weather, 330 tons of castor sugar to mix with the milk in the children's diet and 5,000 tons of ordinary sugar which is mixed with the ration for adults. Arrangements are being made for the shipping of the sugar and for the air transportation of the blankets so that they will get there promptly. There will be further aid, on the priorities which Mr Shaw has recommended, including shelter, medicines and other items. These will be supplied as soon as it is practicable.

21368/71 - -R- [H9)

I would like to take the opportunity of mentioning the plight of the people of the State of Orissa in India. As has been mentioned in this House, they were affected by a cyclone which struck the area, and damage was caused by a tidal wave. This damage is probably not as great as was at first feared, but it is substantial and has added a very great burden to the Indian authorities who have to cope with the influx of the East Pakistan refugees as well. The Indian Government has approved emergency allocations of rice and other food grains to the area and is taking measures to cope with the situation. We have been informed that the United States is making a contribution of $US25,000 and the Federal Republic of Germany is making one of about $US 11,000. I understand Britain will shortly be announcing a contribution. I wish to announce as a gesture of support for India's own efforts to bring relief to the Orissa State area that we have decided to make a cash contribution of $10,000 to the Indian Red Cross foi use in connection with that disaster, that being somewhat less than 50 per cent of the United States contribution.

One other matter I would like to mention is the question of the independence of Australian foreign policy. I point out to honourable members that, at any rate since I have been concerned in decisions of government in the Ministry and in the Cabinet, it has been the practice, on the best advice which we can get on foreign policy matters, as on other matters, to arrive at a decision on any particular question in the best interests of Australia as we see them. This is entirely an independent stand. Of course, from time to time even on foreign policy we find ourselves in difference with the United Kingdom or the United States. We do not make a great play of publicising these occasions where we are in difference. On many other occasions, of course, we find that our policies coincide with those of our friends and allies, and this is to be expected. It is natural. One would only expect that this would be so, and it is not a matter of criticism when it is so.

The honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) made some reference - and I will not take much time over this - to a speech which I had made when 1 was in New

York, and he criticised it. He claimed that it was adulatory of the United States and he criticised one word in it, that word being 'insignificant'. From his criticism I do not think the honourable member has actually read the speech; otherwise he could not have said what he said about it. It is necessary to read the speech and to get the thing in context. I think that if this is done it will be quite clear that far from being adulatory it was in fact a critical speech. I certainly do not withdraw from anything which I said in it and I think that most Australians, if they read it fairly and honestly and without some political axe to grind, will agree with it.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Department of Health

Proposed expenditure, $44,832,000.







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