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Australian Leader’s Meeting with PLO Man Stirs Up Tempest

June 5, 1990
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Opposition leaders have accused the government of engendering “confusion” over Australia’s policy toward the Palestine Liberation Organization.

A political storm blew up last week when Governor General Bill Hayden met with the PLO’s representative in Australia, Ali Kazak.

The governor general, who represents Queen Elizabeth II, is the nominal head of state.

“This is the highest level of reception the PLO can be given in this county,” Sen. Robert Hill, the opposition shadow foreign minister, told Parliament.

The official reception raised questions about Australia’s relationship with the PLO, said Hill, given that Australia does not recognize the “state” of Palestine proclaimed in November 1988 by the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s parliament in exile.

Defense Minister Robert Ray confirmed that the government knew of the meeting but did not consider that it signified any shift in policy.

In fact, Ray told the Senate, the meeting was consistent with the government’s policy on contacts with the PLO.

Government sources confirmed that Hayden’s meeting with Kazak was arranged after Hayden hosted 150 representatives of the Australian Zionist Federation the week before.

The two meetings were considered to be equal by the Governor General’s Office.

But the opposition leader, Dr. John Hewson, called on the prime minister to “involve himself personally, to end the confusion and speculation over Australia’s perceived policy shifts on the standing of the PLO.”

Australia upgraded its contacts with the PLO after its chairman, Yasir Arafat, renounced terrorism at a Geneva news conference in December 1988. Australia said it would revise its position if the PLO reverted to terrorist activity.

The aborted terrorist attack on Israeli beaches last week followed the governor general’s meeting with the PLO representative.

Defense Minister Ray has said that the government “will need to consider the implications” of the raid, carried out by the Palestine Liberation Front, a PLO constituent.

Australian Jewry is deeply disturbed by the meeting. Opposition Sen. Peter Baume, the only Jewish member of either of the two houses of the Australian Parliament, said he was “very distressed” that Kazak was given any status.

Leslie Caplan, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said he was “surprised and disappointed” by the meeting.

“At a time when Yasir Arafat is calling for the murder of immigrants in transit to Israel, and in light of the terrorist raid on Israel’s coastline at the time of the meeting, it was not the time to encourage the PLO,” Caplan said.

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