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Wednesday, 22 June 1994
Page: 1877

Senator HARRADINE —My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Does the Australian government believe that press freedom from government editorial control is essential for the protection and promotion of civil and political rights of citizens? If this is a fact, will the Australian government call in the Indonesian ambassador, who would know a fair bit about the press, to express its serious concern about the closure of Tempo, Editor and Detik?

Senator GARETH EVANS —The answer to the first question is yes. As to the second question, I have already answered in detail in question time today a question on this subject, which I am sure has already been conveyed to the ambassador and he will be in no doubt about the content of it.

Senator HARRADINE —Mr Deputy President, I ask a supplementary question. That was not my question. The last ambassador the minister brought in was the Norwegian ambassador, who was brought in because of the killing of whales somewhere north of Norway. Does the minister not think that press freedom is such an important matter for our relationships with Indonesia and for the protection and promotion of human rights in Indonesia as to call in the ambassador for Indonesia to express concern; or is the minister not as concerned about this as he is concerned about whales north of Norway?

Senator GARETH EVANS —There is no particular magic about calling in an ambassador; that is a method of communication. Giving a statement in parliament was, I thought, a rather more clear-cut method of communication and a rather more public method of communication even than that. If Senator Harradine wants to talk about whales, the short point of the communication there was that the matter in issue was a breach, as we would argue, of the international whaling convention under which Australia, along with Norway, is a party. Questions of treaty obligations and proper performance of treaty obligations and responsibilities were the matters in issue, which needed to be the subject of quite a detailed discussion as well as a short succinct message.