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Wednesday, 22 August 1984
Page: 129

Senator MAGUIRE —My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, refers to the elections for President, Vice President and National Assembly to be held in Nicaragua early in November. Has the Australian Government received an invitation to observe the elections? If so , will Australian personnel be sent to Nicaragua to monitor the electoral process there?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I have been told by the Minister for Foreign Affairs that the position of the Government is that it welcomes the announcement of the Nicaraguan Government in February that elections will be held in that country on 4 November for President, Vice-President and constituent National Assembly. The Nicaraguan Minister for Foreign Trade, Dr Martinez, told the Foreign Minister in February that international observers would be welcome to visit Nicaragua at the time of the elections. The Nicaraguan Minister is reported to have also mentioned to the media the possibility that an Australian parliamentary delegation could observe the elections.

Our Government has said to the Nicaraguan representatives that Australia wishes to see political pluralism established in that country. To that extent the Government would expect the elections to allow any opposition to the present Government to be meaningfully expressed.

To date there has not been a follow-up approach to the Government by Nicaragua inviting Australia to send observers or to provide assistance for the elections. However, I note that Mr Hayden will visit Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica from 10 to 25 September. This visit reflects the decision of the Government to address the problems of the region more directly and the interest Mr Hayden has had to assess the situation in the region and in Nicaragua first hand. I note that this is only part of a continuing demonstration of increased interest by Australia in that country and the region. In that respect a parliamentary delegation, led by the honourable member for Hotham, Lewis Kent, and of which Senator Maguire was a member, visited Nicaragua and other countries in the region in July. No doubt continuing interest of this kind will be welcomed.