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Transcript of news conference, Parliament House, Canberra



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P R I M E M I N I S T E R

TRANSCRIPT OF NEWS CONFERENCE, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA, 27 AUGUST 1991

E & OE - PROOF ONLY

PM: The Government has decided today to establish full diplomatic relations with the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Australia, of course, is proud to be among the first nations to take this step.

This fulfils the long-held dreams of many Baltic people who have made their homes in Australia, and who have made such a magnificent contribution to the development of this country.

Australia did not recognise the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union in 1940, but we had until today accepted the reality of Soviet de facto control over their affairs.

Now, with the events of the past week, the Baltic States have regained effective control over their own affairs for the first time since 1940. In our judgment, each of the Baltic States has now established sufficient control over

its own defined territory, and is sufficiently well placed to enter into diplomatic relations with other States, to satisfy the internationally accepted criteria for independent statehood.

We look forward to building closer relations and stronger cooperation with the Baltic States. The Australian Government will seek to accredit our Ambassador in Copenhagen to Lithuania and Latvia, and our Ambassador in

Stockholm to Estonia. We will move immediately to discuss the necessary practical arrangements with the Baltic Governments.

As I say, we are very pleased to be able to take this step, very pleased to be amongst the first nations in the international community to do it. We are pleased for two reasons. Obviously because of the importance of this major

change that has occurred now for the people of the Baltic States themselves, but particularly we in Australia have as it were a vested interest in these issues because of the large population we have in Australia from the Baltic States. And as I say, they have made a tremendous contribution to our country.

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This Government has been constantly in touch with the representatives of the Baltic Council and indeed before coming in here and making this announcement I contacted Mr Jaak Peedo the Vice-President of the Baltic Council and conveyed the decision to him and on behalf of the Baltic community in Australia he extended his extreme gratitude to the Government for its action.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, with the United States and Great Britain hanging back doesn't it appear that we may be rushing in where our major allies are hanging back?

PM: Well as I ’ve said before our position in international affairs is not determined for us by what the United States or the United Kingdom does. We are not the first - although

we are certainly amongst the first. The situation is that Iceland, Argentina and Canada have made the decision. Hungary may have done - we're not certain - they are in the process. But certainly also Denmark and Norway, Austria and Sweden have indicated their intention. As far as the European community is concerned they are having a meeting

tonight and they will be coordinating their action then. They'll probably be making a decision then. We have not been precipitate in this matter. We know what the criteria are and we believe now that they've satisfied those criteria. As I say, there are two elements to this. There

are the intrinsics of it and we know that for so many of our own Australian citizens it is a matter of importance.

JOURNALIST: Will those same four criteria apply to the other republics Byelorussia as a -PM: Yes. We don't have differing criteria, Dennis. The

same criteria would be applied and if there's a situation where they are seeking a similar sort of recognition we would apply the same criteria.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, what happened between last night when Gareth Evans said that the time was not yet right and this morning with your announcement ...?

PM: Well it's become clear that they are capable of conducting international relations - which is one of the criteria that's involved - and that there has been a move by other members of the international community to recognise

them. They are in the process of gaining control of their own borders. The fact that there are still some troops there is not a deterrent to the decision because in fact

there are still, for that matter, troops in Poland and a significant number of Soviet troops in what was East Germany, for that matter.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister do you foresee giving aid to those three areas?

PM: Well we want to have relations and constructive relations with these countries. Just what the nature of the

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economic relationship will be is precisely the sort of thing that we'll be discussing with them. We'll be wanting to get into discussions with them. I don't know that they'll be seeking aid of - well let me put it this way, I'm sure that they will be seeking some form of assistance. What it will be we don't know. But Australia could be well placed to be of assistance to them in certain respects.

JOURNALIST: Have you conveyed this decision to the Soviet Government ... in any way?

PM: No, but it will be conveyed.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, in Canberra at the moment there is an accredited representative of the Lithuanian Government. Will he now be accorded the privileges of a diplomat?

PM: That will be a decision for the Lithuanian Government. In the context where we have now made this act of recognition it's for them to make their decision. Obviously whatever their decision is we will accept.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, could this be taken as a precedent in any way for recognition of Croatia and Slovenia?

PM: Not directly. You don't have exactly the same situation here. The position is still in some state of flux within Yugoslavia and particularly as you say in regard to Slovenia and Croatia. And there are these other factors to "

take into account. Under the Brioni Agreement of the seventh of July you'll remember, or i hope you do, that Slovenia and Croatia agreed to suspend any further implementation of their declarations of independence for three months. So that is an operative factor. You've also got the situation where under international law Australia never accepted the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union. In contrast, as you'll appreciate, Slovenia and Croatia have been integral parts of Yugoslavia. Now I'm not saying that in any way to diminish the statement that I have made that when the conditions are appropriate that we'll be prepared to consider recognition. But certainly even by their own decision to suspend that process

for three months from July the seventh it doesn't immediately apply.

JOURNALIST: ... in 1975 the Whitlam Government accorded dejure recognition to the incorporation of the Baltic States by sending an Ambassador, the Ambassador in Moscow to visit those States and said so, that this was the reason for it.

PM: Yes, well your recollection is not quite correct. It was 1974 and we had that aberration for the period of 1974 to '75. That ceased after '75.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, the recognition would be on the existing borders with the Baltic States?

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PM: Yes.

JOURNALIST: What about the issue of the pre-war boundaries? How is that to be resolved? And also the question of the large Russian population ...?

PM: Well as we understand it at this point the President of Russia has said that the three Baltic States should be recognised and on their existing borders. Poland seems to be taking the same view. So the question of their borders doesn't seem to be an issue in terms of those countries which are contiguous with them.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, on another subject Mr Hawke, do you agree with Brian Howe's view yesterday that sniping has to stop if the Government is to be effective?

PM: Not if the Government is to be effective. The Government is effective. The Government is going about doing its job. But look, I'm not silly. Of course the fact

that these public altercations, if I can put it that way, are taking place. That deflects attention from the fact that we are going about the business of governing. Let me just say this, that I have, since last week when we rose,

I've been out amongst the electorate. I've been to Tasmania on Friday, I was up in Queensland at Mt Isa yesterday and I must say in meeting the people they are not under any illusion that we are not going about our business. But having said that, it gives me no comfort to see these public

disputations. It obviously doesn't help the Party or the Government and it would be futile of me to suggest otherwise. But I think in regard to what was the more disturbing feature of the last few days and that was where

there was a leaking of Cabinet decisions or purported decisions, I think you'll find that we won't see anything more of that.

JOURNALIST: Is there a deliberate campaign to destabilise your leadership going on Mr Hawke?

PM: Oh, I think in some quarters there has not been a total acceptance, Geoff, of the clear cut decision to support my leadership before. But I hope that will die down. But clearly there are some people who haven't accepted the decision.

JOURNALIST: ... it's not enough Prime Minister. Isn't there incumbent in your leadership the need to do something about this?

PM: Well what would you like me to do, shoot some people? That's been suggested but I have declined. I think those sort of activities are now passe after last week. I mean we conduct our affairs constitutionally in all countries. So

I 'm not going to shoot anyone.

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JOURNALIST: Why are you confident that the leaking will stop?

PM: Let me say I ’ve had some discussions Michelle. I don't think - I hope we won't see any more of it.

JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to Mr Dawkins?

PM: No, but others may.

JOURNALIST: Are you surprised at Mr Kelty's attack on the Budget Mr Hawke?

PM: Yes. I've indicated my surprise about that.

JOURNALIST: Have you spoken to him?

PM: No I haven't.

JOURNALIST: What is your reply to his points?

PM: Well you should read the media, some of it's worth reading Michelle. I have replied to it.

JOURNALIST: Mr Hawke, when you say others may speak with Mr Dawkins, can you elaborate on that?

PM: No. Oh I can, but I won't.

ends