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Tuesday, 11 April 1972
Page: 1395

Mr TURNER (BRADFIELD, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs had an opportunity to examine evidence relevant to the activities of the Rhodesian Information Centre in Sydney7 If so, have any illegalities been committed by the Centre? If so, what steps does the Minister propose taking to deal with them? In any event, will he inform the House, the Parliament and the public regarding the international practice in respect of propaganda conducted by one country within the territories of another?

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -I shall answer the last part of the question first. As honourable members know, Australia is a free society and we freely let information come in. The People's Republic of China has a quite substantial distribution through the New China Newsagency and so on. I hope, speaking in a general way, that this will continue to be our approach in the Australian society, but the position regarding the Rhodesian Information Centre does raise additional questions because of the existence of Security Council resolutions which we have supported and faithfully observed. When dealing with anything which might be said to be coming from Southern Rhodesia it must always be considered whether the Security Council resolutions are concerned. This situation involves 3 areas. First, of course, there is the question that certain documents have been placed before my Department which, I understand, are supposed or alleged to have been stolen. This matter falls within the jurisdiction of my colleague, the Attorney-General, and it is a matter which necessarily I think all honourable members would want followed up. In our community people should not think that they are able to break into premises, steal property and use it in this fashion. This aspect certainly will be considered.

Dr Gun - Keep the Minister for Customs and Excise out of it.

Mr N H Bowen (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -I said that 3 departments were involved, the first being the Attorney-General's Department. The second department is that administered by the Minister for Customs and Excise. It is a matter for him to deal with questions relating to the importation of goods. The House will be aware that following on the Security Council resolutions we did amend our regulations in order to carry out our obligations under those resolutions of the Security Council. I would leave it to the Minister for Customs and Excise to deal with that aspect of the matter. I come now to the matter which concerns the third department involved, namely, the Department of Foreign Affairs. I have read with great interest the newspapers from day to day because very little of what has been said in them has borne any relation to facts which have been placed constantly before me. In brief, what I say is this: A study has been made of the material which has been placed in the hands of the Department of Foreign Affairs. It is the advice of my Department and also my advice to the Prime Minister that the documents do not constitute grounds for closing the Rhodesian Information Centre.

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