On his first overseas visit after devolving all political authority to the democratic leadership, His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be arriving at Australia’s capital Canberra tomorrow.
Earlier today, the Australian Prime Minister Jullian Gillard ruled out meeting the Dalai Lama, giving a cold shoulder to public requests from coalition partner and long time Tibet supporter Green Senator Bob Brown.
“Australians will want the Prime Minister to meet the Dalai Lama at Parliament House,” Senator Brown had told reporters in Hobart.
Senator Brown met the Dalai Lama on Friday, and plans to meet him again next week.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott had already committed to a meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader last week.
A spokesman for the PM’s office told reporters of Gillard’s failure to meet the Dalai Lama but confirmed that a member of the government would meet him privately.
“The prime minister will not meet with the Dalai Lama on this visit to Australia … Given the frequency of his travel to Australia, the government believes the current arrangements are appropriate,” the spokesman told reporters suggesting that a future meeting was possible.
The Australian Tibet Council and Labour MP Michael Danby had also lobbied hard for a meeting.
“Realistically, I hoped in light of recent developments in China, related to the Jasmine Revolution, that at least Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd would seek the Dalai Lama’s insights,” Mr Danby said in a statement.
Previous Australian prime ministers have held unofficial meetings with the Dalai Lama, including the then-prime minister John Howard in 2007 but even those low-key talks have irked China, Australia’s most important trading partner.