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Thursday, 16 October 2008
Page: 6228

Senator FAULKNER (Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary) (3:03 PM) —I seek leave to incorporate some information in response to a question that I was asked yesterday, also as the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, by Senator Hanson-Young regarding Western Sahara.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Would the Minister outline the government’s position on the question of Western Sahara, specifically on the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination, given that back in 2002 as shadow foreign minister the Prime Minister stated that the people of Western Sahara must have a fair opportunity to determine their own future? Just to remind the Minister, I will read from a press release from Mr Rudd dated 30 July 2002: “It is time the UN acted and gave the Saharawis a fair opportunity to determine their own future.”

[Supplementary question] It was my understanding that this was actually Labor Party policy. Could I have it clarified whether the Labor Party have changed their policy position on Western Sahara? In asking the Minister for details in terms of what the government are doing in relation to Western Sahara, could we have an explanation as to whether the government have made representations to the Moroccan government regarding the systematic violations of human rights in the occupied areas of Western Sahara, as well as asking for cooperation with the United Nations in its efforts to organise a referendum of self determination for the Saharawi people in accordance with UN resolutions and the verdict of the International Court of Justice?

The Australian Government’s policy reflects its strong support for the efforts of the United Nations, and of the relevant parties—the Government of Morocco, and the Polisario Front—to press ahead to find an enduring settlement in relation to Western Sahara.

The Government believes that the people of Western Sahara must have a fair opportunity to determine their own future. The UN process currently underway provides that opportunity.

I take the opportunity to update the Chamber on recent UN efforts on this important question.

In his report of 14 April 2008 on Western Sahara, the UN Secretary-General welcomed the parties’ commitment to continuing negotiations commenced in 2007.

For many years, the UN focused on achieving agreement between the parties on the terms of a referendum on independence in the Western Sahara.

Efforts are now focused on negotiations.

This new phase of international efforts to resolve the conflict began with the presentation of proposals by both parties—the Government of Morocco, and the Polisario Front—to the UN Secretary-General in April 2007.

That same month, UN Security Council Resolution 1754 took note of the proposals, and called upon the parties to enter into negotiations ‘without preconditions and in good faith’ and stated the clear objective of such negotiations was to achieve ‘a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara’.

UNSCR 1813 of 30 April 2008 again welcomed the progress made by the parties to enter into direct negotiations.

The Australian Government endorses the spirit and the substance of these resolutions. It supports the efforts of the UN Secretary-General and the UN to improve the security and humanitarian situation of the people of Western Sahara.

The Government is aware of allegations of human rights violations with respect to Western Sahara and Western Saharans, which have been raised by both relevant parties.

The Government gives a high priority to the protection of human rights, and calls on both parties to uphold international human rights standards.

We are in active consultation with other countries concerning human rights in Western Sahara.

There is no doubt that the peace negotiations are still very difficult.

The Government affirms its strong support for UN efforts to find a durable solution to the Western Sahara conflict acceptable to both parties.