Tuesday, 8 September 2009
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Defence, Senator Faulkner. The Prime Minister stated to the House on 20 August:
Credible elections are critical to strengthening Afghanistan’s democratic process and institutions and consolidating the progress made since the 2004 elections.
Is it not now obvious that the elections in Afghanistan have been a farce on a broad scale and have involved widespread fraudulence, including 800 mythical ballot stations which returned a 100 per cent vote for President Karzai and another 800 ballot stations in which Karzai representatives stuffed pro-Karzai ballot papers into ballot boxes? Does this government hold the election as credible? Will it support Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Brown in calling for a United Nations—
Honourable senators interjecting—
I thank Senator Brown for his question, because I think it is a very important question. I should say that, despite the courage shown by many ordinary Afghans on election day, I certainly am—and I believe I can say the Australian government certainly is—very concerned about allegations of corruption and fraud in the conduct of the Afghan elections. Of course, the Australian government urges the Afghan electoral authorities to investigate and respond to all the complaints that have been made. It is important to remember that there are constitutionally mandated processes for such investigations. Australia certainly supports the call that has been made by the United Nations for Afghans to respect these processes and to be patient while awaiting final results. You might recall that the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan has called for the constitutionally mandated processes for investigating irregularities to be respected. It is true that, irrespective of who wins the election, there will be a need for the international community to urgently address issues such as governance, corruption— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In the wake of the corruption, which the minister acknowledges, I ask: does the Rudd government accord this election credibility? Secondly, is the Rudd government supporting the call by British Prime Minister Brown and German Chancellor Merkel for a United Nations conference to review the situation in Afghanistan?
I thank Senator Brown for the supplementary question. I stress the call from Kai Eide, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative, to ensure that the constitutionally mandated processes for investigating irregularities be respected. I think it is proper that the Australian government does that also. Of course, the issue that Senator Brown raises in relation to credibility can be addressed subsequent to that. I do respect that call. I was going to say that, certainly, issues of governance, corruption, anti-narcotics efforts, respect for women and international human rights are issues that will need to be addressed by the international community. I am certainly also aware of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s and UK Prime Minister Mr Brown’s proposed plan for an international conference— (Time expired)
The minister might complete that answer when I have finished my further supplementary question. What has been the government’s response to the demoralising news that 24 or more civilians have been killed in the latest strike, on the two tankers which had been commandeered by the Taliban in Afghanistan?
The first issue raised is in relation to the proposal for an international conference on the future of Afghanistan and the plan of the two leaders to ask the United Nations for support of that concept. I can say that, as the largest non-NATO contributor to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, Australia would certainly be very happy to participate in the proposed conference. I stress that the focus on governance and development would align well with other international efforts in Afghanistan, including the assessment undertaken by the Commander of ISAF, General McChrystal. I would like to be able to address the issue of civilian casualties but— (Time expired)