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Wednesday, 14 September 1983
Page: 756

Mr JACOBI —My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. What is the latest situation in relation to the Australian Government's protest and our claim for compensation from the Soviet Union for its destruction of the Korean aircraft which led to the death of 269 people, including four Australians?

Mr HAYDEN —Today the Cabinet met to consider this matter further. The latest intelligence assessments available from overseas sources and domestic ones were presented by the Minister for Defence and me. Beyond that we made a review of developments following this disaster. We agreed that the latest Soviet account of events still falls well short of Parliament's proper expectations of a full, truthful, prompt and appropriately regretful account from the Soviet Government. The Minister for Aviation and I outlined the prominent role Australia planned to play in advocating a firm but responsible and measured approach to the Korean Air Lines issue at an extraordinary meeting of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organisation-ICAO-to be held in Montreal on 15 September, and subsequently at the ICAO Assembly from 20 September to 10 October. The Cabinet agreed that the Australian delegation should fully support the concept of a thorough and exhaustive inquiry into the disaster under the auspices of the Secretary-General of ICAO, and should also support initiatives to strengthen the security of international civil aviation.

We examined Australia's relations with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the civil aviation field, in common with many other governments which have been appalled by the Soviet Union's callous disregard of norms of behaviour relating to civilian aircraft. Recognising that our commercial associations with the Soviet company, Aeroflot, are limited, nonetheless we decided that the Government would suspend co-operation with Aeroflot pending a satisfactory response from the Soviet Government to the other requests which Australia had made to it. We approved the terms of the initial Australian approach claiming reparations from the Soviet Union. It was agreed that that claim should be presented to the Soviet Government through diplomatic channels today, and that was done. I table the document.

Since the Cabinet meeting I have received advice from Mr Henderson, the Secretary to the Department of Foreign Affairs, that he personally handed the Soviet Ambassador a copy of the note and a copy of the parliamentary resolution which was supported unanimously by this Parliament last week. The Soviet Ambassador read them and responded along the familiar lines about the Soviet version of the facts. The Ambassador declined to accept the note or the resolution. Soviet authorities adopted this practice in a similar set of circumstances quite recently on the occasions when the Government of the United States of America and the Canadian Government sought to present notes to government representatives of the Soviet Union in their countries.

Mr Henderson told the Soviet Ambassador that we clearly had a very different view of the facts from that which the Soviet authorities had expressed and which had been replicated by the Soviet Ambassador. However, Mr Henderson said that both he and the Ambassador agreed on one single fact, melancholy as it was-that the plane had been shot down by the Soviet Union. Australia therefore regarded itself as having a strong claim for reparations. Mr Henderson told the Soviet Ambassador that we did not accept that the plane was on a spying mission, or that the weather conditions were as described by the Soviet Union. Furthermore, he told the Ambassador that he could do no more now than report the Ambassador's response to me and to the Government. When Question Time is completed I will take the opportunity of consulting further with the Prime Minister on this matter. I should state for the sake of the record that the suspension of the commercial association with Aeroflot will be for a period of 60 days, or less should a suitable response come forth from the Soviet authorities.