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Friday, 6 December 1985
Page: 3168

Senator SIBRAA —Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware that the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence has proposed that Australia send observers to monitor the forthcoming presidential elections in the Philippines? Has the Minister also seen reports that the former Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, has called for the West to send observers to monitor the conduct of the poll and that the United States Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Paul Wolfowitz, has stated that the United States will do whatever it reasonably and appropriately can to help achieve free and fair elections in the Philippines? Can the Minister indicate whether the Government will support the observer proposals?

Senator GARETH EVANS —President Marcos has indicated his willingness to see foreign observers at the proposed presidential elections. While the Press reports that a bipartisan group of United States election experts, sanctioned by the United States Congress, will visit the Philippines to observe preparations for the elections, the United States Government has not yet made a decision on whether to send observers to the elections, nor has it indicated to the Australian Government any wish that Australia do so. We have noted Press reports that the former Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, has proposed an international observer team. As the Philippines Government has not invited the Australian Government to provide observers at the elections, it would not be appropriate to comment at this stage on this possibility.

The Philippines Commission on Elections, COMELEC, is responsible for ensuring the proper conduct of elections as provided for by Philippines law. As was said in response to a question on 14 November, the Australian Government, of course, looks forward to fair elections whenever held. We will also follow with the interest the issue of the accreditation to COMELEC of the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections, NAMFREL, which did make a positive contribution to the conduct of the 1984 National Assembly elections.

Perhaps I should add that I am also aware of a letter written to Mr Hayden from Senator Sibraa in his capacity as Chairman of the Sub-Committee on the Philippines of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence proposing that Australia send observers to monitor the conduct of the proposed presidential elections in the Philippines. I note Senator Sibraa's advice, as Chairman, that a number of members of the Sub-Committee would be prepared to participate. I will ensure that Mr Hayden addresses that question in due course.