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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2885

(Question No. 1233)

Senator Bourne asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, upon notice, on 5 September 1991:

  (1) Is the Minister aware of media reports in the Australian, on 15 August 1991, which claim that the Government of Burma has obtained engine parts for its military aircraft from Australia.

  (2) How accurate are these reports.

  (3) Under what authority was this trade approved.

  (4) What measures were employed by the Australian Government to prevent such shipments taking place.

  (5) How has this recent trade affected Australia's attempts to coordinate a regional arms embargo against the military regime in Burma.

  (6) Is it the intention of the Australian Government to introduce amendments to customs regulations during the current session of Parliament which would place an effective arms embargo on trade with Burma.

Senator Gareth Evans —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

  (1) Yes.

  (2) The reports are not accurate. The engine parts did not originate in Australia. In all three cases (1989, 1990 and 1991), the parts were the property of the Burmese Government. They were repaired in Australia by an Australian company and sent back to Burma.

  (3) The shipments in 1989 and 1990 were approved by the Department of Defence in accordance with existing guidelines for defence and defence related material. In view of changed conditions in the bilateral relationship between Australia and Burma in 1991, the third case was considered by the Standing Interdepartmental Committee on Defence Exports (SIDCDE). However, as the shipment was consistent with existing guidelines at the time, it was recommended by the SIDCDE and approved by the Department of Defence.

  (4) None. As all three cases were approved in accordance with existing guidelines at the time, there was no requirement for the shipments to be prevented.

  (5) There has been no effect at all on the Government's efforts to coordinate an arms embargo against Burma. Approval for these shipments occurred well before Australia sought to coordinate an international arms embargo against Burma.

  (6) No. An effective Australian arms embargo with respect to Burma is in place.