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Thursday, 17 May 1973
Page: 2255

Mr PEACOCK (KOOYONG, VICTORIA) - I address a question to the Prime Minister in his capacity of Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer him to a number of resolutions adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 14 December 1972, dealing with decolonisation and racial discrimination, which Australia supported and voted for. I refer him specifically to resolution No. 2984 (xxvii) which, among other things, called for a time-table to be established for the self-determination and independence of the Cocos Islands. Australia, of course, did not vote in favour of a similar resolution in 1971. The support of this specific resolution represents a drastic change in attitude and policy. Therefore, I ask the Prime Minister: Was the Government aware of what it was doing regarding this resolution, and when is it now planned for the Cocos Islands to be independent?

Mr WHITLAM - It is true, and it has been noted throughout the world, that the Australian Government which took office just before the last fortnight of the General Assembly meeting took a different attitude on all colonisation and colour questions from that taken by its predecessor. This resolution was supported by the present Government; it had been opposed by the previous Government. Of course, there are in all these resolutions which are quite long and detailed, some aspects which would be impractical or irrelevant. One looks at the overall effect of them. No consideration has been given to independence for the Cocos Islands. I do not think anybody seriously believes that independence would be appropriate-

Mr Peacock - But you voted for it.

Mr WHITLAM - If a resolution is 90 per cent acceptable, one votes for it. It does not mean that one votes for every individual aspect of it. The previous Government painted itself into a jam by objecting even to a time-table for Papua New Guinea and a specific resolution about which we now have no doubts at all. The honourable gentleman was embarrassed by his predecessors' constant assertion that there could not be selfgovernment in New Guinea even in the 1980s. This was a specific question; they were wrong, be was right. We endorsed what he achieved. The Cocos Islands were in the list of a string of non-self-governing territories contained in the resolutions. There are some other territories we might think should be added to the list and which are much more relevant, such as the French territories in the South Pacific. The inclusion of the Cocos Islands was one aspect of the motion. There were some aspects about, for instance, Rhodesia and Portuguese colonies in South Africa which we would not have thought entirely practical or urgent. Nevertheless, the overall intention of these resolutions was one which Australia should support as all her neighbours do and as the great majority of the countries of the world do.

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