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Tuesday, 25 May 1993
Page: 1273

Senator REID (12.17 a.m.) —I am glad that the Minister for Foreign Affairs is present because I wish to speak briefly on a matter which I have raised previously and because on previous occasions when I have raised such matters he has responded very well to them. It relates to freedom of religion in Vietnam, and to an incident that happened there last week. I shall not go over, as I have done previously, the issue of the property of the Buddhists and the matter of freedom of religion.

  The patriarch was arrested in Vietnam last week. He was attempting at the time to post letters, to both the Prime Minister of Vietnam and the Prime Minister of Australia. Those letters were confiscated. Another monk took a copy of the letter addressed to Mr Keating to another post office in another town and attempted to fax it to Australia so it could, from this country, be posted to our Prime Minister.

  When he went to the post office he was told that the fax machine was temporarily out of order. While he was waiting for the letter to be faxed, he was arrested at the post office. That very briefly tells the story of what occurred.

  On previous occasions when I have raised these matters the Minister for Foreign Affairs has taken the issues up with the Australian embassy in Hanoi and I would ask that these matters, and the question generally of freedom of religion in Vietnam and the property of the Buddhists, be taken up with the Prime Minister of Vietnam when he visits in a few days time, both by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister.

  At this hour of the night, I shall not go into detail. The Minister for Foreign Affairs knows of the issues about which I am speaking. At this hour, it would be appropriate for me to leave it at that, but I ask that these significant matters be placed on the agenda and discussed and, in particular, that the Minister try to ascertain what has happened in Hanoi to the patriarch and the monk to whom I have specifically referred this evening.