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Tuesday, 15 September 1987
Page: 55


Mr LINDSAY —Will the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade inform the House of the attitude of the Australian Government to the recent referendum on independence conducted in New Caledonia?


Mr HAYDEN —The referendum which was held in New Caledonia over the weekend was certainly held according to principles stipulated by the French administration. Whether it will be regarded as an authentic expression of the aspirations of a pluralistic society is yet to be established. My inclination is that pressures from the independence movement within New Caledonia, the Kanak movement, will continue to be manifested not in spite of but because of the outcome of this referendum. The referendum was altogether too stark in the alternatives it offered: either to remain with France or to be cast adrift.

The referendum held by France on 13 September was also inconsistent with the requirements of the United Nations for the processes for decolonisation as laid down by the Committee of Twenty-four. It was inconsistent for these reasons: co-operation with the United Nations was refused; there was no political education regarding the options; there was no dialogue among various parties; the choice was restricted, as I mentioned, to two quite stark options; punitive consequences were implicitly, and occasionally explicitly, attached to the independence option; and the French Government campaigned hard for its preferred option, continued attachment to France. A new statute has been foreshadowed following the referendum but the form of that statute has not been elaborated by the French Government.

It seems unlikely that the conflicting positions of the two principal bodies of opinion in the territory will be changed by the referendum. This is a matter of direct concern to the Australian Government. It concerns matters which arise in our immediate region of interest, a region in which we prefer to see stability and amity. We sincerely trust that these problems can be sorted out. We believe that they would have been sorted out satisfactorily if the earlier Fabius and Pisani plans, which provided for an option of independence in association with France, had been proceeded with.