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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4577

Mr Jacobi (HAWKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs on notice:

(1)   Will the Government propose to the United Nations Assembly that the pitiful conditions of the nine million refugees now in West Bengal, and the situation in East Pakistan, pose a threat to peace and international security and that consequently the United Nations Organisation should endeavour to bring about a peaceful settlement that will meet the already democratically expressed wishes of the people of East Pakistan.

(2)   Will he take appropriate steps for Australia to initiate or support moves at the United Nations for the supply of large quantities of food grain to East Pakistan to meet the expected shortfall of two million tons in the next six months and to ensure that distribution is carried out under the supervision of United Nations agencies.

(3)   Will the Government ascertain from the Government of Pakistan (a) the present whereabouts and state of health of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, President of the Awami League and (b) whether or not Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has been charged with any offences and, if so, whether he had been tried, by what tribunal or court was he tried and what was the result of the trial.

(4)   Will the Government offer permanent residence to at least 1,000 refugees from East Pakistan who are considered to have suitable qualifications for permanent settlement In Australia.

(5)   Docs the Government have a commitment to provide military aid to Pakistan in 1971/72 under the South-East Asia Collective Defence Treaty or any other agreement; if so, what form of assistance will be provided.

(6)   Was Australian military aid provided to Pakistan in 1970-71 under this Treaty or any other agreement; if so, is any of that aid still unsatisfied.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   The Australian Government has exercised and will continue to exercise Its influence in whatever way it can to reduce tension in the Indian sob-continent.

(2)   Australia's relief aid for East Pakistan is being provided through the United Nations in response to appeals by the Secretary-General on 16 June, 16 July and 13 August. Details of this humanitarian aid, amounting to $1 million and including a shipment of rice worth $485,000, were announced in the House by the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs on 5 October. Australia's aid is intended to meet priority needs as assessed by the United Nations authorities who are arranging its distribution in consultation with local authorities.

A food shortage has been expected in East Pakistan but has not yet delvoleped. According to the latest assessments a food shortage might be felt by next March. In the meantime, the Australian Government will of course keep the situation under constant review.

(3)   (a) Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is understood to be under detention somewhere in West "Pakistan. The Australian Government has no information about his present state of health, (b) Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has been charged with 'waging war against Pakistan'. He is being tried in camera by a special military tribunal. On 21 August it was announced that Mr Allahbux Brohi, a Karachi lawyer, had agreed to act as counsel with full rights of defence. On 28 September the President's office announced that the trial had resumed on 7 September. There has been no announcement of completion of the trial, or of a verdict.

(4)   Suitably qualified non-Europeans who are eligible for permanent residence in Australia are admitted without quota restriction.

(5)   Under long-standing arrangements both Pakistan and India are being provided with one, place each at the 1972 course at the Australian Staff College at Queenscliff. Otherwise the Government has no 'commitment' to provide anything which could be described as 'military aid' during 1971-72 and it has no intention or doing so.

(6)   No, apart from a place at Queenscliff as. mentioned above.

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