Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Faulkner. Would the minister outline the government’s position on the question of Western Sahara, specifically on the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination, given that back in 2002 as shadow foreign minister the Prime Minister stated that the people of Western Sahara must have a fair opportunity to determine their own future? Just to remind the minister, I will read from a press release from Mr Rudd dated 30 July 2002: ‘It is time the UN acted and gave the Saharawis a fair opportunity to determine their own future.’
I am afraid that, beyond listening with interest to the comments that Mr Rudd made when he was shadow foreign minister, I am unable at this stage to update the Senate in relation to this matter because I have not been briefed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to be able to do so. I do take the view on these things that any information I provide to the Senate needs to be accurate and it needs to be contemporary. I would hope that other senators would agree that that is the appropriate course of action. As a result of what I believe is an appropriate approach—
Opposition senators interjecting—
I would be surprised if senators on the other side of this chamber who are interjecting would disagree with that—I certainly undertake to Senator Hanson-Young that I will provide that information. Obviously, I will need to receive the information from the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I do give the senator an undertaking that I will seek that information from the minister for her at the earliest available opportunity. I will also indicate whether there has been any change since the earlier statements that the senator refers to were made.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. It was my understanding that this position was actually Labor Party policy. Could I have it clarified whether the Labor Party have changed their policy position on Western Sahara? In asking the minister for details in terms of what the government are doing in relation to Western Sahara, could we have an explanation as to whether the government have made representations to the Moroccan government regarding the systematic violations of human rights in the occupied areas of Western Sahara, as well as asking for the cooperation with the United Nations in its efforts to organise a referendum of self-determination for the Saharawi people in accordance with UN resolutions on the verdict of the International Court of Justice?
Again, I have to indicate to Senator Hanson-Young that I do not have any information on any representations that may have been made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs to the Moroccan government. But, I will also—
You know it is disorderly to interject, Senator Macdonald, and I am surprised that you of all people would breach the standing orders of the Senate! I indicate to Senator Hanson-Young that I will seek that advice from the minister. If there is information that can be made available in relation to any such government-to-government contact, I will certainly provide it to her.