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Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Page: 5421

Senator LUDWIG (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) (3:51 PM) —Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to make a short statement.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Leave is granted for two minutes.

Senator LUDWIG —The Australian government again records its objection to dealing with complex international matters such as the one before us by means of formal motion. The comfort women system of World War II was one of the darkest episodes in modern history and inflicted significant physical and psychological hardship on those affected. The Australian government extends its deepest sympathies to the victims and supports all efforts to achieve reconciliation between the victims and the government of Japan. Reconciliation is a long-term process and complete reconciliation in this case remains unfinished. The government considers that the Kono statement issued by the Chief Cabinet Secretary in August 1993 clearly demonstrated Japan’s official position. Mr Kono said that Japan extended:

… its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.

Successive Japanese leaders—including the Prime Minister in October 2008—have affirmed Japan’s apology to the victims. The government considers that Japan has discharged its reparations and other obligations towards Australia as part of the 1951 San Francisco peace treaty. The government does not stand in the way of individuals or groups who choose to pursue private legal action against the government of Japan, but, for the reasons I have outlined, the government does not support the motion before the Senate today.