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Monday, 14 October 1991
Page: 1800

Mr RUDDOCK —-My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. I refer him to his speech of 14 July this year to a joint conference of the United Nations Association of Australia, the Australian Jewish Democratic Society and the Australian Fabian Society. I ask: do his comments stand as official Government policy, were they the Minister's own personal views, or did he just read what was written for him? Was the speech cleared prior to delivery with either the Prime Minister or the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade; has there been any reaction to the speech from the Australian Jewish community; and does he plan to make any further forays into foreign policy?

Mr HOWE —-This question, which seems to be a somewhat delayed reaction to a very brief and I would have thought at the time not too consequential foray into the area of foreign affairs, is a little extraordinary. The fact of the matter is that I made at the beginning of that conference some brief introductory, albeit summary, remarks about some of the issues that that conference might be concerned with. In the course of those introductory remarks, I did what the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and I am sure others in the Government have done, which is to express some concern about the settlements that seem to me to represent a situation which is, particularly as they are being pursued, not all that helpful to the cause of peace in the Middle East.

The only reaction that I received to that speech was from some leaders of the Jewish community in Australia who sought clarification of my remarks. As I recall it, at the end of that meeting they were quite satisfied with the explanation that I gave them. The fact of the matter is that, if we take out of context every comment that people make on a situation as contentious as the Middle East, of course from time to time there will be misunderstandings. But, as I recall the subsequent meeting, it was quite a useful discussion. Of course that meeting in a sense occurred in isolation because I do not normally address issues of foreign affairs.