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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2795

Senator HILL —My question was to be directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade but I guess it is now to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. There was a time when the Leader of the Government in the Senate used to advise us in advance of these necessary absences from the chamber, but that courtesy seems to have been lost these days. I ask the Minister: in the light of the further bombardment of Dubrovnik and street fighting in Vukova, what decision has the Australian Government made in relation to joining the European Community, the US and Canada in imposing economic sanctions on Yugoslavia in an effort to press the parties to respect the cease-fire?

Senator BUTTON —As Senator Hill knows, the European Community has been leading the diplomatic efforts to end the conflict. Last Friday the Community decided to impose a range of measures against Yugoslavia. It is probably not necessary for me to go through those measures: they are largely trade and aid related matters which I think have been published in the newspapers.

  The EC has been supported in these measures by the United States and Canada. My colleague Senator Gareth Evans told the Senate last week that Australia would also support the European Community actions. It is important that the international community does support these efforts. The Government will be consulting and looking at the details of the European Community measures as they become clear and at what action Australia might take to support those measures.

  The Australian Government would act only to make it absolutely clear to the Yugoslav parties, and the Yugoslav National Army in particular, the abhorrence of Australia and the rest of the international community to the violence taking place in Yugoslavia. There is still hope that some reason will prevail. We will continue to support European and United Nations efforts to find a peaceful solution in Yugoslavia.

  Apart from the economic and diplomatic measures I have referred to, I note that several countries from the conference on security and cooperation in Europe have offered to participate in any peacekeeping operations that might be mounted under the European auspices.

  The real question now is the question of an effective cease-fire. In regard to peacekeeping forces, there is no peace to keep at the present time. The question of Australian participation in any peacekeeping effort is regarded as a hypothetical one. There is no firm proposal from anybody on the table in relation to that matter.

Senator HILL —Mr President, for the sake of clarification, I ask a supplementary question. Am I correctly interpreting that the Minister said that Australia has decided that it will impose sanctions but it has not decided what sanctions or when they will take effect? If that is correct, I draw to the Minister's attention the position of Canada, which has already outlined the sanctions that it has imposed and, furthermore, has said that they are to have immediate effect. When then will the Australian Government make a decision on which sanctions and when they are to apply?

Senator BUTTON —I think Senator Hill has given a fairly correct interpretation of what I said. I said that the Australian Government would be in consultation with the European Community and as the sanction regime is developed we will be supportive of it. But in terms of the precise details, I am not in a position to provide him with information at this stage.