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Wednesday, 7 June 1989
Page: 3532


Senator WATSON —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. Why did the Governor-General send a message of condolence, on behalf of the Australian people, to the Government of Iran on the death of the Ayatollah Khomeini, given that the Ayatollah was neither head of state nor head of government of the Islamic Republic of Iran?


Senator WALSH —I will seek a definitive answer for Senator Watson. I understand that a message was sent. Whether the late Ayatollah could be technically regarded as neither head of state nor head of government is an intricacy of foreign affairs protocol that I do not think I want to get involved in; I will leave that to the professionals. I will try to get an answer for Senator Watson.


Senator WATSON —Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. Is it not a fact that the Governor-General, in sending this message of condolence, was acting as the Australian head of state and that it has been past practice to send such messages only in regard to the deaths of heads of state or heads of government in countries with which Australia has diplomatic relations?


Senator WALSH —I did not quite hear the last part of the honourable senator's question. I understand that it is the practice for the Governor-General, as head of state, to send messages of condolence to other countries where the head of state has died. Apart from that, I do not have anything to add to my previous answer.