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Thursday, 25 June 2009
Page: 4337


Senator FAULKNER (Minister for Defence) (3:04 PM) —I want to respond to some elements of the supplementary questions that Senator Bob Brown asked me in question time today. I have sought some advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It may be recalled that Senator Brown asked me at what level representations were made regarding the arrest of Liu Xiaobo. I can indicate to Senator Brown that these were made through our Beijing embassy to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, initially at councillor and first secretary level, and subsequently followed up on several occasions at councillor and first secretary level. I have also been advised, in response to the question raised by Senator Brown in relation to calling in the Chinese ambassador, that the answer at this stage is no. The government considers the most appropriate avenue on this occasion will be through diplomatic channels in China, registering our concerns directly with the Chinese authorities in Beijing. I had intended also in my answer, but did not have enough time available to me, to address another issue that Senator Brown raised, which went to the question of a previous resolution of the Senate. I was going to indicate to the Senate, if I had had enough time, that I have made on very many occasions, perhaps some would say on far too many occasions, some comments about how foreign affairs motions are dealt with in the Senate—that they are blunt instruments.

I do want to reinforce the fact that the government is very happy to work with all parties, particularly minor parties, on notices of motion of this nature. I know that Senator Brown and others in the Australian Greens move a lot of notices of motion. But, as I have said consistently now, both in opposition and in government, the government takes the view that, because they are such blunt instruments and there is an opportunity only to vote either in favour of them or against them, the government can only support a motion which it supports in its entirety. In other words, the government takes the view that it needs to be completely satisfied with the content of any motion. I know Senator Brown is aware of this, but it was another issue that he raised in his question and, now that I am on my feet, I did not want to leave that issue unanswered or in abeyance, given that I sought some immediate advice on those other elements of the question he asked.