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Tuesday, 9 October 1973
Page: 1811

Mr Snedden asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:

(1)   Did Australia have a representative or observer at the recent non-aligned nations conference in Algiers.

(2)   Was an invitation of any kind for Australia to be present (a) received or (b) sought by the Australian Government.

Mr Whitlam - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   The answer to this question was given by the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Senate to Senate Question on notice No. 432 (Hansard, 19 September 1973, p. 721).

(2)   (a) No. (b) No.

Prime Minister's Statement: Regional Organisation Concept (Question No. 968)

Mr Snedden asked the Minister for Foreign

Affairs, upon notice:

(1)   Did he state on 27 January 1973, in relation to his concept of a regional organisation that it should be genuinely representative of the region without ideological overtones, conceived as an initiative to help free the region of great power rivalries that have bedevilled its progress for decades and designed to insulate the region against ideological interference from the great powers, and that the Government would be punctilious in consultation? towards the realisation of a representative regional community.

(2)   If so, does he see the great powers as being excluded from this regional community.

(3)   Does he include the People's Republic of China, Japan and India among the great powers.

(4)   Does he regard the Soviet Union as having a legitimate interest in a community involving the Asian region.

(5)   What countries have so far been consulted about the development of a truly representative regional community, when did these consultations take place and where were they held.

Mr Whitlam - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   Yes. Since then in my foreign policy statement of 24 May I have said 'the new regional arrangements we have in mind will be a slow and delicate growth. We are content to let the concept take seed in the thinking of our neighbours and we remain completely flexible on the timing, structure and membership of any new arrangements. Meanwhile, we shall devote our efforts towards strengthening bilateral relations and continuing careful discussion of future regional co-operation until such time as countries of the area are ready to participate in a wider grouping.' In Washington on 30 July I said, the fact is that Australia would benefit from some arrangement whereby nations of the Western Pacific could regularly consult and, obviously China is one of those countries' ... 'so one would hope that it would be possible in the Western Pacific, irrespective of ideologies, to have some arrangements where countries like Australia and Japan are able to consult regularly without motive, without imputations, on the matters which concern them as neighbours.'

(2)   and (3) In general we would see membership, including possible membership of the great powers, as evolving from a consensus within the region itself with no restrictions or preconditions at this stage on individual membership.

(4)   Yes.

(5)   The Australian Government has an open mind as to the timing for the creation of a new organisation, its functions and its membership. Our purpose to date has been to seek regional reactions to the concept and this process has begun. I have personally discussed the concept of a new regional arrangement on a number of occasions including in Wellington during 20-23 January, in Jakarta during 20-23 February, in India during 3-7 June, in Washington on 30 July and in Ottawa during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting which was held from 2-10 August. The concept will be discussed during my visit to Tokyo from 26-31 October and Peking from 31 October-4 November. I shall also discuss the concept during my visits to Kuala Lumpur. Singapore, Bangkok, Rangoon and Manila which are scheduled to take place early in 1974.

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