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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 6282

Mr RUDD (GriffithMinister for Foreign Affairs) (18:05): I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for her question. I have not yet been advised of Colonel Gadaffi's travel plans for the upcoming conference! On the question of this conference against racism, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition rightly says, it has an appalling history, Durban I and Durban II. In consultation with our good friends around the world, our friends and allies, including Israel, our attitude to the Durban II conference was to attend up until such time as we could not bring practical influence to bear to change the conference documents decisively. I think it is generally regarded and accepted by participating countries, including a number which the honourable member has just referred to, that the influence which Australia had on the early parts of the draft of the declaration of Durban II, any positive influence was exercised by us physically around the table. However, when the inimitable and inevitable Ahmadinejad took to the podium Australia did, as we have always done, withdraw from the gathering. What we do at the UN General Assembly each year is that when Ahmadinejad stands up and as soon as he begins a racist attack on the Jewish people we, together with other Western states, participate in a walkout. In fact, we usually lead the walkout. Certainly in the case of the Durban conference, once Ahmadinejad took to the stage I am advised, given that I was not there, that we not only exited the conference on that occasion, we exited the conference period. I stand to be corrected on the absolute detail.

The point of the honourable member's question goes to the upcoming Durban III conference. We have not made a decision at this stage but our approach will be very much the same as Durban II. We will seek to work with the process and will seek to influence and shape it to the extent that we can. If it heads in the same direction as last time we will exit the process as we did last time. I do not believe that Australia's efforts in that particular respect were subject of any legitimate criticism by those around the world who defend the interests of the government of Israel and the Jewish people. As I said, we have taken no firm decisions on this that I am aware of and I will certainly keeps the Deputy Leader of the Opposition well informed.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): The debate on this portfolio is adjourned until the next sitting in accordance with the agreed order of consideration of portfolios.

Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Portfolio

Proposed expenditure, $6,636,901,000