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Friday, 15 June 1984
Page: 3221

(Question No. 706)

Senator Coleman asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 8 March 1984:

(1) What is the Australian voting record on disarmament or arms limitation motions at the United Nations.

(2) Is the present Government happy with this record.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) There were 68 resolutions concerning disarmament and arms control issues debated at the 1983 session of the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, the main committee of the Assembly dealing with international political and security matters. After careful examination of each resolution, Australia voted in favour of 40 of the resolutions, abstained on 18 and only voted against 10. Details of the texts of the resolutions and the voting of delegations, including Australia's, are available from the Parliamentary Library .

In light of the high priority it attaches to progress in the field of disarmament and arms control, the Government's preference is to vote positively for resolutions on these subjects in the General Assembly. At the 1983 session of the General Assembly, Australia supported the large number of resolutions which advanced constructive disarmament measures or were designed to facilitate the operation of the international disarmament machinery. On a number of resolutions which where attractive in the abstract but flawed in terms of their possible contribution to realistic, balanced and verifiable disarmament measures , the Government changed Australia's previous voting position from a negative vote to one of abstention. Australia voted against resolutions which would not lead to any real progress in bringing about disarmament. Australia sought to encourage consensus wherever possible in the belief that ultimately disarmament and arms control measures will only be effective if they attract widespread support.

(2) The Australian delegation's votes and its negotiation activity in seeking to promote agreement and compromise was in accordance with its instructions and government policy. The Government was particularly pleased at the Australian delegation's success in promoting, jointly with New Zealand, a resolution supporting efforts by the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva towards the negotiation of a Comprehansive Test Ban-CTB-Treaty. This resolution achieved a large measure of support and unlike competing resolutions on the same topic attracted no negative votes. The Government attaches considerable importance to the fact that the United States was persuaded to abstain after voting against a similar resolution in 1982.