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Tuesday, 1 May 1973
Page: 1475


Mr SNEDDEN - I direct my question to the Minister for Defence, Minister for the Navy, Minister for the Army, Minister for Air and Minister for Supply. When did he, as the Acting Prime Minister, first learn, and how did he learn, that Senator Murphy had been informed on 9th April of the intended Yugoslav Government's statement of 12th

April concerning the execution of 3 men holding Australian citizenship? Why did he use the term merely 'in April' in a Press statement when asked when the Australian Government first knew, rather than the actual date?


Mr BARNARD (BASS, TASMANIA) (Minister for Defence) - In answer to the first part of the question, as the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs this matter was brought to my attention by the Department of Foreign Affairs following a statement which appeared in the Press on that date.


Mr Snedden - What date?


Mr BARNARD - I will come to that. I will get the correct date. I can understand that the right honourable gentleman is concerned about the date, and so am I. I am concerned that he should receive a precise and detailed answer. The first point I want to make is that at no time have I commented or had cause to comment on the matter of the date in April on which Australian officials were first informed of the executions. The sole purpose of the statement I made on 18th April was to deny a Press report that Australia had been informed in advance by Yugoslavia about the capture, trial and execution of Croatian extremists. The statement was on the basis of an AAP message from Belgrade which the Australian Press carried, and stories on the morning of 18th April, that Yugoslavia told Australia in advance about the capture, trial and execution of 3 Croatian extremists.

Because that was an untrue statement I issued a statement to the Press on the same day, 18th April. I quote what I said on that occasion:

The Prime Minister discussed this matter with the Yugoslav Ambassador on 16th ApriL It was agreed that these discussions would remain confidential. This is still the position.

It is clear from the Yugoslav announcement of 12th April that the survivors of the Bosnian raid were tried and convicted last December. The Australian Government was not informed until April.

The Yugoslav Government has undertaken to provide further information about the trial and subsequent executions. This information is still awaited.

The truth of the matter therefore was that Australia was not informed until April of events which had occured in December. The Press reports that Australia had been informed in advance of this event must have been untrue. The statement I made on 18th April was true then and it remains true today. Nothing that the Leader of the Opposition says throws any doubt on the fact that there was a gap of 4 months between the events in December and our being informed of those events in April.







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