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Wednesday, 6 June 1984
Page: 2633

Senator MacGIBBON(3.28) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

This document circulated this morning is a bland and unexceptional report, as most of these international accounts are. The presentation of this report provides a formal opportunity for us to comment on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. It is time that some comment was made on it. There are valid and necessary comments that need to be exposed for public debate on this body. What I am going to say in the few minutes left to me relates purely to UNESCO. The remarks do not apply to the parent body, the United Nations, which is a separate and distinct entity and something that we ought to debate at some time in this chamber. I rose because there seems to be an all pervasive attitude that international bodies are good and beyond discussion, let alone beyond any critical analysis. I have a particular interest in UNESCO as well as some knowledge of it because last year I was fortunate enough to be one of the two parliamentary advisers to the General Assembly meeting of the United Nations in New York.

I wish to take part in this debate because UNESCO has been the subject of informed comment in recent years, most of which has been highly critical. The critical comment turns on two broad fields. First, allegations of financial mismanagement, not to say corruption in the body; and, secondly, a proven record of gross politicisation which leads UNESCO down the path of supporting Third World and/or Soviet objectives. This had come to public notice by the decision of the USA to withdraw support from this body from 31 December 1984. Dealing with those two charges, first the allegation-I stress they are allegations-of financial impropriety, there has been an external audit of UNESCO as for all the United Nations bodies, but it is reasonable to assume that there are some lax guidelines on expenditure of funds and for payments.

There is always great difficulty finding out just what goes on in these multinational bodies. One is dealing with people with different languages and different cultural and financial practices. The United States has had enough and has at last got approval to put in the Government Audit Office to examine the accounts of UNESCO. Surprise, surprise, there was a major fire in Paris at the end of last year or the early part of this year-and that fire happened to be in the financial records department of UNESCO. So it looks as if it has come to an end. There is enough circumstantial evidence to believe that financial practices have not been what they might have been. The politicisation of the body is well documented and generally the body is hostile to the institutions of a free society, the free Press and the free market. This is at variance with the great ideals on which UNESCO was founded. I will not read them; they are on page 1 of the report. They include the contribution to peace and security by promoting collaboration among the nations through education, science and culture in order to further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and the human rights of fundamental freedom. Those items incorporate the ideals of free western societies. However, in recent years they have been perverted by the actions of UNESCO.

There are many restrictive practices that UNESCO is coming up with, the chief one in recent times being the new information order which seeks to make the Press, mainly the free Press from Western countries, answerable to Third World governments. I have not time to go on with that aspect, but the net result has been an active campaign by UNESCO against the values of Western society. UNESCO as a body in its right should be apolitical. There is nothing wrong with the Russians or the Third World putting their point of view, but there is something wrong with the Third World and the Russians using an apolitical body, to the exclusion of other values, from a propaganda point of view. The US decided to withdraw and, as one of the major budgetary contributors, its action will have a significant effect on the activities of UNESCO. It is true that UNESCO will make up its funds from the general budget of the United Nations, but clearly Australia should withdraw from UNESCO. Our problem is that the Ambassador, Mr Gough Whitlam, is not providing the sort of information and advice to the Government that he should. Despite his great and detailed knowledge of foreign affairs which extends over many years, he is quite unbalanced in his views about UNESCO. I had the privilege of meeting Mr Whitlam in New York when he came across to attend a UNESCO meeting. The case is clear that Australia should withdraw from UNESCO. If we are concerned about providing funds for scientific, educational and cultural purposes, they should be applied within Australia rather than for this body at this time.