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Wednesday, 7 December 1983
Page: 3469

Question No. 751


Mr MacKellar asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 16 November 1983:

(1) Has his attention been drawn to (a) allegations in the United Nations that chemical weapons have been used by the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and by Vietnam in Laos and Kampuchea and (b) reports that there have been 200 chemical warfare attacks in Laos, and over 100 in Kampuchea; if so, what credence does the Government give to the reports.

(2) What (a) support is the Government giving to efforts being made for UN investigators to have access to Laos, Kampuchea and Afghanistan and (b) action has been taken to ensure the success of the UN investigations.


Mr Hayden —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

1 (a) and (b) yes. For some time now Australian experts have been examining evidence from a number of sources of possible use of chemical weapons in Indo- China in recent years. They accept that some form of chemical agents have been used there by Laotian and Vietnamese forces but are not prepared to commit themselves on the nature of the chemical agent or agents used.

2 (a) and (b). The group of experts appointed by the UN Secretary General pursuant to United Nations General Assembly Resolutions 35/144C of 12 December 1980 and 36/96C of 9 December 1981 to investigate reports on the alleged use of chemical weapons presented its report to the Secretary General on 26 November 1982. The question of access by the group to Laos, Cambodia and Afghanistan and of government action to ensure the success of the investigations does not therefore currently arise.

Australia considers that there is a need for a continued effort on the part of the international community to ensure that all reports of chemical warfare are promptly investigated. Australia supports the 1982 United Nations General Assembly resolution to this effect-UNGA Resolution 37/98D of 13 December 1982- Provisional Procedures to Uphold the Authority of the 1925 Geneva Protocol-and has nominated the Defence Department's Materials Research Laboratories for inclusion in the list of laboratories and experts being compiled by the Secretary General pursuant to this resolution to assist him in the investigation of such reports. Australia co-sponsored another resolution at the 1982 UN General Assembly calling for the strict observance by all states of the principles and objectives of the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which prohibits the use in war of chemical and bacteriological methods of warfare. (UNGA Resolution 37/ 98E of 13 December 1982).

The Government considers that the international community must continue to work on the elaboration of an effective and verifiable international convention outlawing chemical weapons. Australia is actively participating in the consideration of such a chemical weapons convention in the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva.