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Wednesday, 8 December 1993
Page: 4144

Senator HILL —My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and I ask: is the minister aware of reports this morning that the foreign minister of Thailand has offered to act as mediator in the current dispute between Australia and Malaysia? As both Senator Evans and the Prime Minister seem to be completely incapable of resolving this dispute, has the government ruled out seeking outside help?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Any assistance from Foreign Minister Prasong, or from any of the ASEAN countries, that might be offered and might be appropriate would be very welcome and very warmly received. At this stage we are not seeking any formal mediation. We do think it is an issue that should be resolved between the two countries and is capable of resolution between us.

  This morning I had a long conversation with my Malaysian counterpart, Abdullah Badawi. It was a helpful conversation. The dialogue between us is continuing. Beyond that, I have absolutely nothing to say about the content of it. The Minister for Defence, Robert Ray, also had a cordial meeting in Langkawi this morning with his defence counterpart.  None of us underestimate the degree of difficulty that will be involved in getting the relationship back on the rails, but we are trying very hard to do just that.

Senator HILL —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. What help does the minister think ASEAN foreign ministers might be able to offer? For example, could they give our Prime Minister some education on the sensitivities of the region?

Senator GARETH EVANS —Whatever help we receive, it is likely to be far more considerable, far more objective and far more positive than the help we are getting from the opposition parties in this country at the moment.