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Tuesday, 12 November 1974
Page: 2247


Senator BUTTON (Victoria) , asking a number of questions without notice and making a number of shadow ministerial statements without leave. The members of Estimates Committee B asked a number of questions of officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs. In relation to some of those questions it appeared afterwards that the Committee was not satisfied with the answers that had been given. That, of course, is what appears in our report. Neither members of the Government Party nor members of the Opposition Parties who were on that Committee at the time requested further information from the Minister. These comments were made subsequently when the report was being compiled.

On the basis of a misreading of the Committee's report to the Senate, Senator Greenwood has taken it upon himself to make an attack on the Minister. I want to come back to that in a moment in the light of what the Committee said. Before doing so, I should say that the first step in the attack which was made by Senator Greenwood was on the basis that the Minister was in some way a candidate for the Presidency of the United Nations and that the attempts which the Government had made to reach rapport with a number of countries of the Third World had been made purely for the purposes of securing the successful candidature of the Minister for Foreign Affairs for that position. The only matter of record in the Senate regarding this is a question asked by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack on 1 6 August this year in these terms:

I preface my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs by saying that I have become engrossed in the current speculation that an Australian is a candidate for the presidency of the United Nations. Will the Minister inform me what overtures have been made to the so-called Third World group for support for such candidature? What overtures for such support have been made to the communists and Cominform countries by recognition? Are recent diplomatic and socalled initiatives part of the campaign and do they explain the diplomatic shifts in our foreign policy now observable? Will the Minister agree that this is reminiscent of the Evatt candidature in the late 1940's?

Senator Willesee,the Minister, replied:

I am glad that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has become engrossed in the possibility of an Australian being elected president of the General Assembly next year. No, we have not approached any of those groupings because it would be plain stupid to do it. They do not have a vote.

That is the only matter of record in the Senate on this question. Senator Greenwood has had ample opportunities in question time, of which he usually takes advantage in one way or another, to ask further questions about this matter. Instead, today, on the basis of this Committee's report, we have been subjected to a whole series of rhetorical questions about the direction of the Government's foreign policy. If Senator Greenwood really wants to know the answers to those questions he will find them in statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Foreign Affairs on numerous occasions.


Senator Greenwood - When have we had a foreign affairs statement in this Parliament?


Senator BUTTON - On numerous occasions; and statements were made by the Prime Minister when he was Leader of the Opposition before the 1972 election. These are statements which have been adhered to by the Government since it came to power. I should like to return to the report and simply say that I concur with Senator Davidson on this matter. The members of the Committee were concerned that in regard to Australia's contributions to various United Nations organisations and so on, there was no representative of the Department of Foreign Affairs present who seemed able to give us a detailed and precise account of how our payments to those bodies, by way of affiliation fees or by other means, were made up. In our report we set out quite clearly and carefully that we felt that officers should have been available to provide that material. No criticism was directed at the Minister in the course of this Estimates Committee hearing on this question. No information was asked for by any individual senator in relation to these specific matters which was not provided. The comment was made only in the drawing up of the report that it was felt that in future it would be advisable for appropriate officers of the Department to attend in relation to this particular question. To use that statement in the report as a launching pad, as it were, for a tirade against the Minister is just a non-sequitur of outstanding size and only Senator Greenwood could indulge in it.







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