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Prime Minister should meet Dalai Lama.



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DEMOCRATS MEDIA TUESDAY JUNE 12 2007

SENATOR NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA

AUSTRALIAN DEMOCRATS FOREIGN AFFAIRS SPOKESPERSON

PRIME MINISTER SHOULD MEET DALAI LAMA

The Australian Democrats have called on the Prime Minister to make time to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Canberra today, ahead of a Parliament House reception hosted by the Australia-Tibet Parliamentary Friendship Group, which will be attended by around 60 MPs and Senators.

"It appears to be the Prime Minister who is playing politics with the Dalai Lama's visit," Democrats' Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Senator Natasha Stott Despoja said.

"For the past month the Prime Minister has been 'checking his diary'. I suspect that Mr Howard had no real intention to meet with His Holiness and merely wants to deflect criticism in an election year.

"It is notable that the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Kevin Rudd MP, will be meeting separately with the Dalai Lama, while it appears the Prime Minister will not.

"The Dalai Lama is a major international figure and a gracious ambassador not just for the Tibetan people but for Buddhist philosophy.

"Buddhism is Australia's fastest growing religion, so for the Prime Minister to suggest that the Dalai Lama is just another international visitor that he has met before and, therefore, has no need to meet with again is disingenuous," Senator Stott Despoja said.

Senator Stott Despoja will co-host the Australia-Tibet Parliamentary Friendship Group reception for the Dalai Lama in Parliament House today, which has been organised after the Government refused to host an official reception for him.

Media contact: Raina Hunter - 0417 085 260