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Thursday, 1 December 1983
Page: 3166

Mr HUMPHREYS —Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the substance and outcome of his intervention on Lebanon at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in New Delhi?

Mr Hodgman —Are we to get it in chapters?

Mr HAWKE —No, this is the last one.

Mr Peacock —Will you make a statement?

Mr HAWKE —Yes, I am going to make a statement as well.

Mr Cadman —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. It has been the tradition of this House that on the return of a Prime Minister from an overseas visit he makes a statement and that statement is debated. I invite him to do so.

Mr SPEAKER —That is not a point of order.

Mr HAWKE —Let me say that I will be following that tradition but, in regard to the question that has been addressed to me by the honourable member for Griffith , it is important that the matter be clarified because of misrepresentations on this issue in today's Canberra Times. I want to make it clear that the questions of the Middle East and Lebanon were not discussed by the heads of government until the final day of the meeting, Tuesday, 29 November. I expressed concern, when the draft communique was presented to the heads of government, at the quite inadequate representations in the final communique on Lebanon and on the tragic events in that country. I moved that there should be added to the words of the draft communique a sentence which effectively called for the withdrawal of the armed forces of Israel and Syria while recognising that the multinational force, comprising elements from Britain, France, Italy and the United States of America , was in Lebanon expressly at the request of the Lebanese Government. When Mrs Gandhi suggested that that proposed sentence be deleted or emasculated I strongly insisted that if the communique was to talk about Lebanon it should talk about that country in relevant terms. I made the point that while we did not believe it was appropriate for Cuban forces to be in Angola, it was the case that they were there at the request of the sovereign government of Angola. I made the point that if we were going to be consistent and say that the Commonwealth was a Commonwealth of principles we could not have one principle in respect of Angola and not apply it in respect of Lebanon. If we did not apply that principle and had a divisibility of principle we were not credible.

I received very strong support for that statement of principle from a wide number of countries, from the Caribbean, United Kingdom, Papua New Guinea, Asian countries and African countries. Indeed the great majority of heads of government at New Delhi agreed with the point that I was putting. The strength of the support was reflected by the fact that there was then added these words:

Many heads of government called for the withdrawal of all armed forces from Lebanon other than those present at the express request of the government of Lebanon.

I regard that as an appropriate outcome. It is necessary that I say this because there has been a misrepresentation in today's Canberra Times which carried the suggestion that I was calling for the withdrawal of only the Syrian forces and not those of Israel. Of course I specifically made it clear that the armed forces of both countries should be withdrawn. I believe this now reflects credit not only on Australia for taking this position but also more credit on the Commonwealth. Finally, I expressed the hope that as a result there will be a better international understanding of the tragedy afflicting the people of the Lebanon.