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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3282


Senator BUTTON —On 30 November Senator Missen asked me a question relating to the Arab League boycott of Israel. I undertook to supply an answer to him, which is as follows: The Australian Government has never been advised officially of the Arab boycott of Israel. The Government is aware, however, of its existence and the fact that it has been applied in varying degrees of intensity for some 20 years. The Australian Government does not endorse the Arab boycott of Israel. The Department of Trade has an obligation to ensure, however, that Australian exporters are fully informed of the import requirements of overseas markets. Indeed, the Department would be failing in its duty if it did not inform exporters of the requirements of importing countries affecting Australian exporters' access to the markets concerned, irrespective of whether those requirements concerned matters such as the boycott.

In relation to the comments in the specific article in question, the Minister for Trade understands that, although he was not aware of it at the time, in the context of discussions relating to Australian participation in the Baghdad International Trade Fair, certain material was furnished by the Perth office of the Department of Trade relating to the Arab boycott. However, in August the Minister had drawn to his attention that the Melbourne regional office of the Department was disseminating information relating to the boycott, which had been interpreted by some to suggest that the Australian Government was not opposed to the boycott. After considering the matter the Minister took the position that information relating to the boycott must necessarily be given to Australian exporters, but when it is distributed it must be made clear that the Australian Government does not endorse the Arab boycott and that the information supplied in no way represents or reflects Australian Government policy. His Department issued an instruction to that effect to all its regional officers on 16 September. In the view of the Minister the Department would be failing in its duty if it withheld any information on matters affecting Australian exporters' access to overseas markets.