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Tuesday, 28 April 1987
Page: 2060

Mr DUNCAN —Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs noted the successful way in which President Alfonsin of Argentina has prevailed over a military challenge to the democratic authority of his Government? Will the Government convey its warm congratulations and continuing support for the way in which democracy is being upheld in Argentina after the awful experience of that country at the hands of the generals and the military?

Mr HAYDEN —President Alfonsin's facing down of military rebelliousness in the Argentine recently was a major achievement on his part. In fact, it was described in one dispatch I have seen by a professional observer as `brilliant'. I think the description is well justified. The military in the Argentine had enjoyed a rather privileged position which was scarcely justified, either on its performance in conflict at a time when the Argentine was involved in the war over the Falklands or, particularly, in the way in which it has behaved on the issue of human rights. Nonetheless, it appeared as though the military in the Argentine presumed that its reputation, status and the privileges to which it has made claim remained unchallenged.

What was displayed beyond any doubt during the recent incident of rebelliousness in the Argentine was, first of all, the capable way in which President Alfonsin responded to that challenge; the way in which he preserved democratic values; and, more than anything else, the way in which an extraordinary wave of public support mobilised itself behind the Government. It indicated in the most unambiguous way imaginable that, should the military proceed with its rebelliousness, should it seek seriously to challenge and undermine those developing pillars upon which democracy has been established in the Argentine, the public would react and react firmly-I believe, even fiercely-against the military. What has been proved is that the public of the Argentine have little but contempt for the military, that the role it has presumed to itself can no longer be upheld and that the practice of democracy is in a stronger condition than ever before. We warmly commend President Alfonsin for the way in which he has conducted himself in this matter and I will take the opportunity of having these comments, both the question and the response, conveyed to the Government of the Argentine.

Mr HOWARD —Madam Speaker, with your indulgence I indicate that the Opposition would be very happy if it were associated with that expression to the Government of the Argentine.