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Wednesday, 20 June 2012
Page: 4015

Burma

(Question No. 1852)


Senator Johnston asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 17 May 2012:

(1) On what date did the Burmese Government first extend an invitation to Australia to send electoral observers, and what was the nature of the invitation.

(2) Did the Burmese Government specify a preference for officials, parliamentarians or any other person.

(3) Did the Australian Government contact other nations invited to send electoral observers prior to its decision to send Australian parliamentarians.

(4) Did the Australian Government ask other nations whether they were sending officials or elected representatives to Burma.

(5) What reasons were given by the Burmese Government for refusing visas to the parliamentarians nominated by the Australian Government.


Senator Bob Carr: The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) The Burmese Government extended the invitation to the Australian Government on 20 March 2012. The invitation was for the Australian Government to send two officials and three journalists to observe the 1 April by-elections in Burma.

(2) Yes. The invitation from the Burmese Government was for two officials and three journalists to go to Burma to observe the 1 April by-elections. Accordingly, the Australian Government asked officials with expertise in electoral systems and Burma's politics to participate along with media representatives. In parallel, we also requested that the Burmese authorities allow Australian parliamentarians to observe the elections.

(3) Yes, we engaged with ASEAN nations and ASEAN dialogue partners, Canada, New Zealand, and the US. We also consulted the United Nations in New York and the European Union in Brussels on the composition of the delegation.

(4) Yes.

(5) The Burmese Government advised that capacity constraints made hosting dignitaries impossible at such a busy time.