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Wednesday, 20 June 2012
Page: 4014

Human Rights

(Question No. 1850)

Senator Johnston asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 17 May 2012:

With reference to the Prime Ministers meeting with President Bongo of Gabon:

(1) Was the Prime Minister aware of allegations of corruption and human rights abuses prior to the meeting.

(2) Did the Prime Minister seek advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade as to whether it was appropriate to meet.

(3) Were the topics of: (a) human rights; (b) Australia's campaign for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council; and (c) corruption raised by the Prime Minister during the meeting.

(4) Did President Bongo or his entourage receive any Australian Government support for the visit to Australia, including airfares and accommodation; if so, what sum of money was spent.

(5) Did the President use the Australian Governments Special Purpose Aircraft during the visit to Australia; if so, what flights were arranged.

Senator Chris Evans: The Prime Minister is advised the answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) and (2) The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC) provides advice to the Prime Minister to support her international engagements, including meetings with foreign leaders. In preparing such advice, PMC draws on information from other departments and agencies as appropriate, including the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as it did on this occasion.

(3) The Prime Minister released a joint statement with President Bongo following their meeting on 29 March, which notes that they had wide-ranging discussions on a number of important issues, including food security, climate change, peace and security challenges, trade, natural resources governance and development cooperation. The Prime Minister and other members of the government regularly talk to other leaders and governments about the strong contribution Australia would make to the United Nations Security Council if elected.

(4) President Bongo's visit to Australia was a state visit conducted under the guest of government program. The usual range of costs was covered by the Australian Government, including accommodation and ground transport. The Prime Minister is advised that the total cost of the visit was $156,991.44 (including GST).

(5) President Bongo did not use the Australian Government's special purpose aircraft during his visit.