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Monday, 16 September 1985
Page: 550

Senator VALLENTINE —I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs to Senator Button's answer in the Senate on 10 September to the Australian Government's inadequate response to the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. Senator Button replied, in part:

The New Zealand Government would like to handle the matter and does not feel that the situation would be helped by other governments at this stage.

In light of that answer, I ask: Is the reason for the Australian Government's failure to speak out against this outrage that it has once again decided to succumb to the interests of the United States Administration, which has made no comment at all about this incident because of its nuclear ties with France? Specifically, is it true that the Australian authorities failed to detain French secret service terrorists as they made their escape via Norfolk Island and Sydney, despite being alerted by the New Zealand police?

Senator GARETH EVANS —There is no foundation for any suggestion that the Australian Government has been soft in its reaction to the Rainbow Warrior bombing or, to the extent that Senator Vallentine construes us as having been so, that it has been as a product of any deference to the alleged United States attitude in this respect. The truth is that the Australian Government has been as forthright and explicit as we regard our role in the region vis-a-vis New Zealand properly allows us to be. There has been continued consultation with New Zealand throughout as to what New Zealand's view of an appropriate reaction from us might be. As recently as 20 minutes ago, in Question Time, I put on the record yet another statement of our response in this matter and I think it is time that the suggestion that we have been other than appropriately forthright in our condemnation of what has occurred was put to rest.

As to the alleged deficiencies in the Australian Federal Police and in the official response to the people who came to Norfolk Island in the aftermath of the Greenpeace affair, the Special Minister of State has given me a brief to the following effect: AFP officers on Norfolk Island serve as sworn members of the Norfolk Island police under the jurisdiction of the Administrator of the island. The Greenpeace investigation was a New Zealand matter. New Zealand police, through the AFP liaison officer in Wellington, requested assistance from the AFP officers on Norfolk Island. AFP officers maintained a watching brief on the suspects until the arrival of the New Zealand police investigation team on Norfolk Island. AFP members co-operated fully with the New Zealand police who were sent to question the suspects. The New Zealand police completed their interviews with the crew members. No charges were preferred by the New Zealand police and, as there was no reason to further detain the suspects, the yacht was allowed to sail from the island bound for Noumea.

There are, of course, some well-known vagaries in the administration of immigration rules on Norfolk Island which are outside the jurisdiction of the Australian Government because of the constitutional peculiarities of that territory's position. These vagaries are such that anyone coming to Australia from Norfolk Island has to submit to Customs and immigration formalities at the Australian port of entry, irrespective of the fact that Norfolk Island is technically within Australian jurisdiction. So there may well have been some substance to the suggestions that the recording procedures and so on for people's arrival in Norfolk Island were other than what would have been appropriate and applicable on the Australian mainland. But the crucial issue was the response of the Australian police authorities to the situation as they found it. There has been nothing alleged or suggested to be wanting in terms of the co-operation between the Australian police authorities and the New Zealand police authorities, as I have just indicated. I believe, yet again, that this is another bit of scuttle-butt in this whole affair which deserves to be put to bed once and for all. I hope that what I have said will achieve that result.