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Friday, 29 November 1985
Page: 2602

Senator SHORT —My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Has the Minister noted reports in today's Press of mounting evidence of Libyan Government involvement in the Malta hijack, in which 59 people died, including an Australian? Is he aware also of recent Press reports from New Caledonia that Libya's Colonel Gaddafi is arranging for 20 residents of New Caledonia to visit Tripoli as guests of the Libyan Government? Is he aware also that Colonel Gaddafi has threatened to provoke unrest in France's overseas territories, including New Caledonia, if France obstructs his policies? Is the Australian Government concerned about the activities of the Libyan Government in the Pacific region? What steps is the Government taking to monitor the situation and to ensure that the Libyan Government's influence is lessened in the region, including within the administrative area of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria?

Senator BUTTON —I am aware of the allegations of Libyan influence in the hijacking incident in Valetta, Malta. As I recall, the allegations were made by the Egyptians. I am not aware that the Libyan Government has invited 20 guests from New Caledonia to take part in an official visit to Libya, but it does not surprise me at all. The Libyan Government has been doing that sort of thing for a number of years in a number of countries. I am not aware of any specific threats offered by Colonel Gaddafi to the Government of France in respect of its policies, but I would not be at all surprised if he has done that because he has done that to many other countries from time to time. I was asked if I am concerned about all these things. The answer is yes.

I was asked what steps the Government is taking to monitor the situation in the Pacific region and to counter the influence of Libyan propaganda in the region. If I knew the answer to those questions-which I do not-I do not think it would be appropriate for me or any Government Minister to tell Senator Short because I think any monitoring, surveillance or counter measures of the kind Senator Short suggests would not be appropriate matters for public discussion.