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Wednesday, 2 May 1984
Page: 1480

Senator COLEMAN —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I ask: Given the role of UNESCO as an important, useful and productive instrument for international co-operation covering a wide variety of interests, will the Minister advise the Senate of the Australian Government's attitude and the implications of the decision of the United States to withdraw?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I only hope that the timing of that question is coincidental. The Australian Government has expressed its concern at the implications of the United States decision to withdraw from UNESCO effective from the end of this year. The decision, of course, reflects quite serious American concern at what is seen as the politicisation of UNESCO and its pursuit of proposals inimical to United States interests as well as perceived inadequacies-whether that is an accurate perception or not is something, of course, on which our own Ambassador has other views-in its budget and administration. Australia shares at least some of those concerns. We believe that such problems have unfortunately weakened the support that UNESCO has received in Western countries. At the same time-and this would have been very evident from the recent visit to Australia of our Ambassador-we recognise that UNESCO has played a very important role in advancing international co-operation in the sciences, education, culture and communication. We value those practical programs which can help the development of member states, including Australia's regional neighbours.

We are therefore very concerned at the loss of the American contribution, which provides one quarter of UNESCO's budget. That organisation will suffer from the loss of the United States' practical and intellectual contribution to it. In announcing its withdrawal, I recall that the United States indicated that in the year ahead it would remain open to indications of what it perceived to be significant improvement in the operation of that organisation. Mrs Kirkpatrick said as much during her recent visit to Australia. Australia is committed to working this year with the United States and other countries, including the developing countries, for improvements within the organisation, which we hope will enable the Americans to review that decision.