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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1863

Mr CHARLES —I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Is it correct that there is evidence of Libyan activity in the South West Pacific? If so, how is this activity viewed and does it have the potential to cause concern to the Australian Government?

Mr HAYDEN —The activity and presence of Libyan interests in the South Pacific does cause some concern to this Government. There is evidence of some activity by and on behalf of Libyan interests in the South Pacific. This is clearly associated with efforts to establish influence for Libya in that region of the world. I think this is symptomatically exemplified by the statement of the Secretary of the Libyan Peoples Bureau in Canberra, Mr Shaban Gashut, recently that it was the intention of Libya to establish a full time residential diplomatic representation in the South Pacific. If one pauses for a moment, one will quickly conclude that the commercial relationship between Libya and countries of the South Pacific is nil or practically nil. It is not a member of the region and does not share regional interests and concern. Therefore, its interests must be exclusively, or near enough to exclusively, political. I think we all understand what Libya's political interests largely are. In the past two weeks, and as recently as yesterday, officers of my Department have spoken with the Secretary of the Libyan Peoples Bureau, Mr Shaban Gashut. The Government's concern at activities which have the potential to introduce tension into the region has been put to Mr Gashut in the clearest terms. I discussed these matters with Mr Gashut late last year and I have no doubt that he understands the Australian position. I can assure the honourable member that the Government will keep this matter under constant attention.