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Transcript of news conference, Msasa room, Sheraton Hotel, Harare

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i. 264




JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, what is the Australian view of tying aid to human rights records?

PM: Well, I've addressed this issue before and I've said that as far as Australia is concerned we look at the countries that we're providing aid to and to some extent we take these things into account. But it's not as simple as you might think. You could say a regime is in fact acting

in a way which is contrary to one's standards about proper behaviour as infringing human rights and yet the very fact of cutting off aid in some circumstances could hurt the very people whose rights you're concerned with. So you can't be dogmatic about this but as a matter of principle we always, whether it's in regard to the provision of aid or in our

relations generally, Australia has a very proud record of being upfront and putting our position in respect of human rights. For example, in regard to China, we've recently

sent a bipartisan Parliamentary delegation there for the specific purpose of investigating the questions and issues of human rights in that country. So you don't really achieve anything by saying you don't provide any aid if there is any abuse of human rights. What you've got to do, I believe, if you're conducting the foreign policy of your country correctly, is to say that at all times you will make clear to the country with which you're dealing, if you think there are infringements of human rights, your view about that, your non-acceptance of it, how then it affects precisely what you'll do either in terms of aid or other matters is a question for intelligent judgement and that's what we've tried to do.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, in the months preceding this conference you've mentioned several times that you'd be taking the opportunity to meet with Malaysia's Prime Minister to discuss a couple of matters of contention. Has ") that meeting occurred yet and if not when is it scheduled?

PM: I spoke to Dr Mahathir today and said I would like the opportunity of having a yarn with him. He said he would like it too. He has said that he will get his people to

talk to my people to arrange a mutually satisfactory time for that talk.

Media Information, Current Awareness and Hansard. (M iv/xH )


JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, did the High Level Group come up with some specific mechanism today which would look at the whole question of aid and human rights and -PM: No, we didn't discuss it in terms of a mechanism. No, not in terms of any mechanism, no.

JOURNALIST: Was the issue of linking aid to human rights raised by any of the people at that meeting?

PM: No it wasn't a specific item of discussion.

JOURNALIST: Do you think today's process is going to change the way the Commonwealth deals with the human rights issue? Is it going to change it at all?

PM: You seem to have some obsession - I don't know whether it's because there's nothing much happening - that you can only look at this question in terms of the relationship between aid and human rights. I 've already dealt with that question and I think in a totally convincing way. Now, going to the question of human rights, those issues were discussed today as was the broad issue of the increasing

move and the necessarily increasing move towards democratisation in the countries not only of the Commonwealth but round the world generally. I think you will see in the Harare Declaration when it's finally accepted by the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting as a whole - probably that will happen at the Retreat - that you'11 see as one of the priorities of the Commonwealth the provision of the facilities of the Commonwealth to assist those processes take place in the countries of the Commonwealth. So the issue of democratisation of human rights was on the table today but not in the terms which you seem to almost single-mindedly have convinced yourself is the only way it can be talked about.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, why is there no single draft declaration going forward to the full CHOGM from today's meeting?

PM: Because what you had was a draft that had been prepared first of all by officials. Then the British had done, as it were, a second draft based absolutely on that first one. The Heads of Government in the HLAG meeting today examined

that, raised some issues, thought it was appropriate to work on the basis of the British draft, raised a number of issues which we thought would strengthen that draft and officials have been requested to go off on the basis of the

indications that we gave as to how we would like to see that draft strengthened. That will come back to us. There's nothing puzzling about that. It’s an intelligent way of handling it.

JOURNALIST: Can you explain the differences between the two?


PM: Well there were no significant differences between the two. What had happened was that the first was done by a group of officials and tended to reflect the fact that it was a committee draft. The British - with nothing sinister, there's no, I mean you really are wasting your time if you're trying to find something exotic or sinister about this. They thought the draft which had emerged out of that committee-type process could be tightened, made more sharp

and produced one which was essentially based upon the first draft, which happens not only in Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings, it happens in all sorts of organisations. You have the first draft, it's prepared by a group of people. Someone else comes along and says well here's a somewhat tighter, better version. That's exactly what happened. So don't get -

JOURNALIST: They've been under discussion for some time.

PM: Yes, and we have just met. I mean really you are getting tortured about nothing. This is - well you really are.

JOURNALIST: I'm not tortured.

PM: Well you are. I mean really this is a non event. Please don't try and make something out of nothing. Please accept and understand the facts of what happened. A draft prepared by a group of officials and in its nature reflected its composition by a group of people. The British came along, accepted that and said we think - one person did it - we think we can make that somewhat better. And we, looking at it today for the first time as a group, expressed the view, a number of us, that that was the case. Then - don't

furrow your brow, it's very simple. Then we expressed a number of points that we thought could make that draft even better. We expressed the ideas then we said go off and come back to us with another draft. Now that's the beginning, the end of it, no complications. What you see is what you get. What I 've said is what happened. Could I please have something more interesting.

JOURNALIST: I understand the British are very interested in Fiji's readmission to the Commonwealth.

PM: The whose?


PM: But who was interested?

JOURNALIST: The British. Did you discuss this at all -PM: It wasn't the British who raised it.

JOURNALIST: Well who did raise it. I may have misunderstood.


JOURNALIST: There was a briefing earlier today in which British officials said it was John Major ... that he would push at this meeting for the return of Fiji to the Commonwealth. Do you think that's a justified view?

PM: I'm not really commenting on what someone might have said about what might have happened. That doesn't reflect what occurred at the meeting today. It wasn't raised by the British.

JOURNALIST: What did happen on ...

PM: Well someone - and I'm not going to the details of who raised things. It was raised by a member of the group of ten under the Agenda heading of Membership. There had been prepared a draft about criteria for membership and that also

in that context there was the question of the application of the Cameroons. In that general discussion one member of the ten raised the question of Fiji. The Prime Minister who raised it was not the Prime Minister of Britain.

JOURNALIST: What's your position?

PM: I think that we are now going to be laying down, as it were, principles of the Commonwealth in the declaration that will come out of Harare. I think it's appropriate, may I say not only in respect of Fiji, but in respect of the

Cameroons, that those or any other country that may be in a position of thinking about applying for membership should look at the principles that are going to be contained in the Harare Declaration and not only should they look at it but the Commonwealth in turn should look at any application that may come. Be clear, there is no application from Fiji.

JOURNALIST: Does Fiji's new constitution accord with those principles? ,

PM: Let me say that it's a little too early to be dogmatic about that in a sense that the Harare Declaration has got to be finally worked through and accepted by us. It's quite clear that there has been an improvement in the situation in Fiji and that there will be a return to a government elected by appropriate electoral processes. But there are still elements in that constitution which obviously don't entirely meet the questions of equality of the races in terms of representation. Now, I think everyone recognises the fact that there has been an improvement from the time of the coup. Now whether the changes that have been effected will measure up to the standards of the Declaration, and whether

in fact, let me say, Fiji will make an application for membership is a matter for the future. There is no application before the Commonwealth from Fiji.

JOURNALIST: Are you confident that all current members of the Commonwealth are going to meet these principles, that the principles can be that loosely defined that they're going to cover the sort of democratic behaviour we see ...


PM: I think what people say is that quite clearly those principles that are going to be in the Declaration will be relevant for people who are going to be applying to join. As to whether every single member of the Commonwealth who's in there now totally meets them would be a matter I would think for discussion and debate. But no-one's talking about throwing anyone out if they don't currently meet those sort of standards, as it were. But what the Commonwealth is about in the Declaration, as I think you'll see when it emerges, is saying that the accumulated prestige and authority of the Commonwealth ought to be used to encourage all members of the Commonwealth to meet those standards.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, do you think a proposal to have more of the less developed Commonwealth countries host the Commonwealth Games, do you think that will hurt Adelaide's chances for 1998?

PM: Well Adelaide is not the only applicant of course. Malaysia is an applicant and so Adelaide hasn't, as it were, got it sown up as Dr Mahathir would certainly tell you. So I don't think it will be a problem in respect of that year. But the concept obviously of trying to see whether things can be organised to give a wider spread of opportunity to host the Games is a sensible thing to think about. You must obviously make the point that it is the case, so I'm told,

that most athletes who are the participants in the Games have a preference, it is said, for having the Games in venues where they have, as it were, the most excellent conditions. Now that's always, I suppose, going to be a

factor in the mind of those making the decision. But nevertheless I say the principle seems to me to be a sound one, that if there can be ways found of giving a somewhat greater chance to others that wouldn't otherwise be in the

race well I think that ought to be examined.

JOURNALIST: You do support Adelaide's bid?

PM: Yes. Indeed. We have a member of the delegation, the Australian delegation here who is, I think, at the moment assiduously lobbying to achieve that goal. OK? Thanks.

JOURNALIST: Have you been lobbying other Prime Ministers for Adelaide?

PM: I have mentioned it today in the meeting of the HLAG.

JOURNALIST: What did Dr Mahathir say?

PM: He genially made the point that they were keen on getting it too.