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JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE (UN Subcommittee)
Australia's relations with the United Nations in the post Cold War environment
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JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE (UN Subcommittee)
Australia's relations with the United Nations in the post Cold War environment
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JOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE (UN Subcommittee)
(JOINT-Friday, 7 July 2000)
- Committee front matter
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Sister Pak Poy
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ACTING CHAIR (Mr Hollis)
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Content WindowJOINT STANDING COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS, DEFENCE AND TRADE (UN Subcommittee) - 07/07/2000 - Australia's relations with the United Nations in the post Cold War environment
ACTING CHAIR —Welcome. I must advise you that the proceedings here today are legal proceedings of the parliament and warrant the same respect which proceedings in the respective houses of parliament demand. The subcommittee prefers that all evidence is given in public but, should you at any stage wish to give any evidence in private, you may ask to do so and the subcommittee will give consideration to your request. We have received your submission and it has been authorised for publication. Do you have any alterations or additional submissions to the submission you put into us?
Mr Hanney —I certainly have some extra things to put in.
ACTING CHAIR —We just have to get this authorised—this is a formality. I will then invite you to make an opening statement. Are you happy to have the submission, as you it put in, stand? Do you want to make any alterations to that now?
Mr Hanney —I think just a very minor one, perhaps. On page 1, in the third paragraph of the introduction where it says `While the United Nations is only as effective as its member states will allow it', after `member states', I should have added, `and the major powers'. It may be fairly obvious. Apart from that, I think it is generally okay.
ACTING CHAIR —I invite you to make a short opening statement before the committee proceeds to questions.
Mr Hanney —I might start off by putting up some of the recommendations that we think are necessary to reform the United Nations and then, perhaps, add some detail as to why. I draw much of these from the Australian Peace Committee's submission. They have put up a number of proposals and I will not go through them all. But there are some which pertain to us and which we would agree with, and we might do well to alert the committee to these.
I do not know whether people have the Australian Peace Committee's submission in front of them but, on page 2, they state that:
We believe that the only permanent positions on the Security Council should be one from each of the six main regions of the world (Europe, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia Pacific, West Asia and Africa) with Australia and New Zealand being part of the Asia Pacific group. We believe that these six representatives should be elected from the regions on a rotational basis with a time-span to be decided by the members of the General Assembly.
The submission then states::
We believe that the overall number of Security Council members should be at least 18.
We believe that there should be no power of veto in the Security Council.
The last one is very important to us. Another quote that I will take from the Australian Peace Committee's submission in calling upon the Australian government to lobby for these changes is this:
.intensify lobbying for the UN to exert more influence on the IMF and World Bank for a more humane and structured approach to Third World debt;
Because I am representing the Campaign for an Independent East Timor, all of my stuff here will apply to East Timor and what lessons we can draw from that, so I will try and make it quickly.
There probably is not much point in going back into dark and deep history, but most people would possibly agree that we have had 25 years of Western complicity in the occupation. First of all, there was the invasion and occupation of East Timor. The United Nations intervention was in fact a very minimalist diplomatic venture until very recent times, of course, when an Australian-led peacekeeping force was sent in. This was sent in after the damage was done, and we would be critical of the way in which the Australian government dealt with requests, in particular from the United States, to send in an earlier peacekeeping force before the ballot took place rather than after, especially as they had information that there was going to be a bloodbath of sorts, which there was, and great devastation.
We also call on the Australian government, in relation to Australia's role over the last 25 years, to release to the public all intelligence information regarding East Timorese atrocities—for prosecution purposes. At the moment the Indonesian government has volunteered to take that up, although we believe that the United Nations ought to very carefully monitor that, and it must be seen to be credible and effective. We also note that on 15 June in the Age there was a letter signed by a number of prominent Australian people calling for the release of this information from the Australian government for the benefit of the international community in prosecuting war criminals over East Timor. It said, `The continued domination of Indonesia by the military represents a threat to the wellbeing of all the archipelago and beyond.' Some of the people who signed this were Judith Wright, now not with us, Peter Garrett, Faith Bandler, Jane Campion and a number of other people from many fields of life.
One thing we wish to emphasise is that we note the guidelines for the inquiry appear to be looking at intervening within nation states. East Timor was never legally a part of Indonesia, although it was treated that way by certainly Australian governments over the years and in a de facto way by the United Nations. They always had to ask Indonesia if they could send someone there to check out human rights abuses or whatever, and right to the end they had to ask them if they could send in a peacekeeping force, until, of course, it was too late. We just want to emphasise that there was never a problem with East Timor being an internal dispute of Indonesia. It always was a non-self governing territory, and previously, of course, a Portuguese colony. We also would add that it is a great tragedy that West Papua in 1969 was allowed to be basically handed over to the Indonesian government after a very farcical so-called act of free choice.
On the matter of internal disputes, in the arc above Australia from the eastern Indonesian islands down to Fiji and beyond at the moment we are seeing a fair amount of internal dispute. We would hold that there is no call for any military action, and I think the present government is probably acting appropriately in using its diplomacy in resolving these issues. I must add though that as far as Australia is concerned, with Ambon and the Malukus generally, there has been much evidence—and it has been backed up by the foreign minister of Indonesia who admits straight out—that the Suharto clique is funding the jihad militias who are causing rampage in that region. I should also add that the militias are also now active in West Papua and they are still in West Timor preventing 80,000 to 100,000 abductees from returning to East Timor.
It is therefore incumbent on the Australian government not to resume military cooperation with the Indonesian military. The Indonesian military is not the government of Indonesia; however it would probably like to be, given half a chance, and it used to be. If anything, Australia ought to be supporting democratic processes in Indonesia and steering clear of the military, full stop, and I believe both major parties have indicated that they may take that up as a policy. Our committee is very concerned with that suggestion. I think we have learnt a lesson over 25 years: there is nothing to be gained for us or for the region.
In relation to the way the United Nations is operating at present—that is, the UNTAET people in East Timor—there has been much criticism widely broadcast and telecast vis-[agrave]-vis the East Timorese with respect to self-governing and the CNRT, which is basically the government-in-waiting led by Xanana Gusmao, Ramos Horta and other well known people. It is a very wide political grouping, an umbrella organisation comprising the total political spectrum of East Timor. It is also very conciliatory in that it has even included members of the militias on this council of the United Nations.
We would call for an independent ombudsman, or ombudsperson, for accountability. That certainly has been suggested after the Rwanda experience but, also, in light of what is happening in East Timor where much criticism has come from Timorese. One Timorese said, `We are being recolonised by the World Bank'. Agio Pereira, the Executive Officer of the East Timor Relief Association and coordinator of the National Emergency Commission based in Dili, said, `The foreign experts are trying to establish the ground on which to build a solid foundation for a prosperous economy where the market forces dictate the rules. The IMF, World Bank and Asia Development Bank have entered the stage with their models, controlling the leash and pushing UNTAET into submission. Capacity building has become part of the fashionable jargon.'
Unfortunately, the Timorese have not been consulted adequately. I believe that recently the United Nations have increased the number of members on the council—the United Nations have jumped. There has been criticism from within the United Nations as well, I might add. One bureaucrat in particular resigned recently and was very scathing of the administration side of the United Nations.
I suppose we are looking at two things: at the general restructuring of the United Nations to make the world body more answerable and democratic—to do with its members; and, secondly, the administration itself which tends to be very top-heavy and bureaucratic. We have all seen pictures of the Hotel Olympia sitting outside Dili just opposite a big rubbish pile with the Timorese scrounging for food and the aid workers and the United Nations staff having parties on board this huge monstrosity parked in the bay. So there needs to be some micro reforms administratively. There needs to be some macro reforms as far as the members of the United Nations are concerned.
ACTING CHAIR —Thank you very much, Mr Hanney. You have highlighted a problem that this committee is grappling with, and I think this is our fifth hearing that we have been grappling with it. That whole question about intervention and, rightly or wrongly, the United Nations as such being based on sovereignty has been put to us before. People have put to us that argument about whether Timor was sovereign or a part of Indonesian sovereignty or Portuguese sovereignty. You can always get a transcript of our evidence. There have been lots of questions this past week about sovereignty: just what is state sovereignty? How do you define it? Should the UN have the power to intervene? It does not at the moment. And what do you do with sovereignty when, indeed—as the previous speaker said—some multinational organisations have more economic power than many so-called sovereign states? So it is a real question. Many members of parliament have been involved in the whole Timor thing, but, rightly or wrongly, my own personal view is that the government had no option—tragic as it was—but to wait for an invitation because otherwise it would have been an invasion or a declaration of war on Indonesia. That is just my own view. Anyway that is enough from me—I am not here to put forward my own point of view.
Dr SOUTHCOTT —Thank you, Mr Hanney, for putting in a submission to the committee. In your letter I think you are perhaps a bit unfair on the United Nations. I would like to ask you a couple of questions. Do you think the tripartite talks between Portugal, Indonesia and United Nations had any influence or bearing on the decision to hold a ballot for self-determination last year?
Mr Hanney —I think certainly, to be fair to the UN, they contributed to some extent. They did go on for some time—I think for about 10 years. I am not exactly sure when they started, but they went on for a fair time. They were certainly helpful, but in that time of course many other people died. I think stronger pressure could have been put on in that time. I do not know whether the talks themselves were a major part of it. I think, basically, it was the collapse of the Suharto government and the statement that Habibie made—which he may have regretted afterwards—that East Timor ought to be independent that really brought on that ballot. Of course everyone jumped up and said, `All right—you have said it.' I do not know what effect those tripartite talks had. I would say they played a minimal role, but nonetheless they kept the issue on the agenda. I think the Suharto government's demise that was brought on by domestic issues—economic and social—really brought the thing to a head.
Dr SOUTHCOTT —So you think the change of government and the change in president from Suharto to Habibie played a more important role?
Mr Hanney —There is no doubt about that, in my mind.
Dr SOUTHCOTT —Do you think the Prime Minister's December 1998 letter to Habibie suggesting a ballot for greater autonomy for East Timor played any role?
—Yes. I imagine that it certainly would have played a role. It may not have been the only pressure put on; I assume the United States put pressure on, behind the scenes. I do not know. But, certainly, the letter would have helped; there is no doubt about that.
Dr SOUTHCOTT —Just exploring some of the issues you have raised, do you think the United Nations should have sent peacekeepers to East Timor without the agreement of Indonesia?
Mr Hanney —I think we should have. As I said before, East Timor was never officially a part of Indonesia. It was not recognised as such by the United Nations, yet it was treated as if it were in a kind of de facto way by the UN itself. There were seven resolutions in the first seven years that gradually got diluted from 1975 to 1982, which basically called for Indonesia to withdraw and for East Timor to be given self-determination. East Timor was always seen as a non-self-governing territory, with Portugal still there to play a role in the decolonisation process. It is not Ambon, it is not Aceh or something else. It actually was seen and recognised as a non-self-governing territory.
Obviously, the balance of power factors come into it and a bit of realism. I think in the Cold War period there was no chance of the UN doing much, because basically Indonesia had to be appeased because they were on our side. It is history now, it has gone and it has only been in the last 10 years or so that the United States have changed their position. In fact, they changed their position to a more critical position than Australia. Australia tended to be lagging behind the United States, and it was the United States that actually suggested to John Howard and Alexander Downer last year in March or April—I am not exactly sure now—that the situation there was getting pretty bad and that they would, with approval and support, send in a peacekeeping force.
Mr Fisher —It was February. Stanley Roth, the US Secretary of State, suggested at the time that peacekeepers should be sent to East Timor. Dr Ashton Calvert, the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, went to Washington to meet Stanley Roth, and he argued very strongly against sending in peacekeepers at the time. This was February 1999.
Dr SOUTHCOTT —I understand the international law consequences but, practically, if you are saying, `Send in UN peacekeepers without Indonesia's agreement,' it appears to me that would have been problematic to say the least.
Mr Hanney —Of course, in the end it was sent in without their agreement, wasn't it?
Dr SOUTHCOTT —No, that is not true.
Mr Hanney —They were pressured into agreeing.
Dr SOUTHCOTT —Indonesia did agree.
Mr Hanney —Yes.
—In fact, General Cosgrove has just recently said that there was a lot of cooperation in the early days of INTERFET between INTERFET and the Indonesian military. What will your campaign be doing now?
Mr Hanney —We have been boxing up goods to send to Timor to help them get on their feet. We have decided to keep our name for the time being until the country does achieve its actual real independence, which I believe is now mooted to be around September next year. We certainly intend to keep supporting the people there.
There is still a security problem on the West Timor border, as you would be aware, and that is something that the Australian government could be pressuring Indonesia on as well. I know Wahid is under pressure from his military and from more conservative members or military members on the MPR. But, once again, following on from what Bill said, I think one of the reasons why we did not act beforehand was our very close military links. We were meeting at high level with the Indonesian military right up to the start, and it was only after basically we sent the forces in that we actually put a stop to our links, but it was going right up to then. There were a lot of people in the military who were quietly dissenting against our position, and that had come out in certain documents.
I still maintain that Australia missed an opportunity with the United States. The United States should not run the world, but they were suggesting that they could send in a peacekeeping force with or without the approval of the Indonesian government, which was basically sitting on its hands. There were leaks coming out that there was going to be a massacre, a revenge, and people in the Australian bureaucracy had been told to shut up. There is the case of Lansell Taudevin, who has now written a book East Timor: Too Little Too Late about his experiences. I really think that they could have done something, but that is history now and we need to look to the future. I think it is incumbent upon the United Nations and its member states to take up issues like East Timor, which, as I say, has always been seen as an invaded and occupied country. There was never any doubt about that and yet, for some reason, it was kept off the world scale for some 15 years.
Senator BOURNE —Mr Hanney, you mentioned that someone had said that they believed East Timor was currently, de facto, being colonised by the World Bank.
Mr Hanney —Yes.
Senator BOURNE —I must say I have seen a couple of things that would indicate that to me, too. We had evidence yesterday that one of the other witnesses thought that the influence of Portugal was a bit excessive, particularly in the use of the Mozambique police force as a model for the East Timorese one and other things. The problem is that you have to look somewhere to get help to find models for things. When a nation is building itself up from nothing, where do you think the UN could be useful in giving help whilst trying to avoid any perceived undue influence?
—It is a very difficult one to answer, because they are caught between a rock and a hard place. As I suggested before, and as some high ranking Timorese have indicated, the World Bank is pushing the agenda a bit. The World Bank does not belong to the UN but obviously they are closely linked. They really push the line. They have already structurally adjusted the place before it has had a chance. They now have a cap of 9,000 civil servants, going up to 12,000 in the next few years. These civil servants are not just public servants—people who work in offices. Half of those are teachers, health workers and policemen, among others. That is a very small number. The Indonesians withdrew 23,000, and East Timor was seen as one of the undeveloped parts of Indonesia. So they had more than double the number and yet the World Bank has seen fit to impose this cap, which, once again, is one of the problems.
It is an economic thing as well and, quite frankly, I think the only way the East Timorese are going to get around it is to adopt a dual policy. On the one hand, they have to subscribe to the global economic situation and the forces that be and, on the other hand, they are going to have to have lots of volunteer doctors. It is a horrible thing to have to do, but it has been done in some places. As far as a model is concerned, yes, I do not know whether there is any precise model that would apply but various things could be taken from various countries. Certainly, the Truth and Reconciliation Council, where they are looking at bringing justice and reconciling the warring factors, could be taken from South Africa. What they called barefoot doctors in the 1960s in China might be one option. I am not expressing any support for the present regime in China but things like that are going to have to be done. Unfortunately, in prescribing such things, one is accused of being protectionist, or not being the full Monty in free trade and globalisation. But you are looking at a country that has nothing and who cannot compete. Their cash crop is coffee, which we all enjoy. Basically, that is not going to pay for very much. They are not going to get much out of that. They probably have tourism, but there is a problem there in that the environment has already been savaged enough.
So I would like to see the World Bank being pressured by the United Nations members and member states on the World Bank board to actually take note of their own guidelines, which they have not been doing. They actually have guidelines on environment, on labour policy, on social policies, et cetera, and they do not actually subscribe to their own policies, I believe. I cannot exactly quote now what I have read, but I read that somewhere. It might have been in the same article. If the member organisations—and Australia is one—actually brought the World Bank to task on its own constitution and its own policies, that might help as well.
Senator BOURNE —It might be worth our while to have a look at the World Bank web site and see what they have got for their guidelines. You mentioned an independent ombudsman on accountability, which sounds good. Can you expand on that a little bit?
Mr Hanney —I have picked that up from one of the submissions. Basically, it came out of the Rwanda experience. It was mentioned—and I got the tail end of it—by the last speaker. It was a matter of the will of the Security Council, but it was also a problem with the administration at the time—it was Boutros-Ghali, but I think Kofi Annan actually was in charge of that section. They pulled out after they had heard there was going to be a massacre. But there was no accountability. I am not going to point the finger at Kofi Annan and say that he is guilty of genocide, but you would have to say there is certainly something wrong when a United Nations bureaucrat in a position like that could, for whatever reason, just pull people out and allow a million people to be basically massacred.
There has got to be some accountability, and there does not seem to be. That is why there ought to be an independent ombudsperson who can basically take the United Nations administration to task if an issue arises. And there often are issues that get submerged. If the United Nations was a government, they would have been sacked the day after. If they are going to have the power to do things they also have to have the accountability. It has to go both ways.
Senator BOURNE —Do you think that accountability should perhaps come through the International Court of Justice?
Mr Hanney —I have not thought this out in minute detail—
Senator BOURNE —I have not either; I am doing the same as you.
Mr Hanney —but that could be a possibility. The ICJ do not have very many teeth.
Senator BOURNE —You would think that if they had any teeth it would be with the UN though, surely.
Mr Hanney —That is right, yes. It could be a possibility, yes.
Senator PAYNE —I want to follow on from Dr Southcott's questions. You were skirting around your views on military links between Indonesia and Australia. But, if I can encapsulate them, you basically do not approve of the military links between Australia and Indonesia that existed before this particular part of the East Timor crisis.
Mr Hanney —No. We never did.
Senator PAYNE —Can you take a question on notice. Major General Peter Cosgrove gave a speech about two weeks ago—perhaps even three now—to the Sydney Institute in Sydney on Tuesday, 21 June. It was a widely publicised speech recorded by the ABC in which he traversed at length some of the links that had been established between the two defence forces—the TNI and the ADF—over the years and what he, as the commander of INTERFET, had taken as positives from that process in relation to not just Indonesia but also other defence forces in our region. Can you take on notice that question. Could you have a look at his comments and then respond to the committee in the context of whether you think there is any value in what he has said. I would be grateful for that.
Mr Hanney —I would probably have to see the actual content and then get back to you on it.
Senator PAYNE —Yes, I do not expect you to do it without reading it. In your submission, you mention war crimes and crimes of genocide, referring positively to President Wahid's efforts at this stage. What level of confidence does your organisation have in the inquiry that is being undertaken in Indonesia at the moment? What level of confidence do you have in people like Attorney-General Marzuki Darusman to pursue this issue as he has been doing thus far and as he has also indicated to pursue the question of the behaviour of people in relation to the refugees, so-called, in West Timor?
—We tend to think that President Abdurrahman Wahid is motivated by genuine concern. Probably what we could say is that we have hoped that something may come out of it but, as time goes on and with the pressures being brought to bear on the government—
Senator PAYNE —Meaning what?
Mr Hanney —Pressures by opposition members in Indonesia and by the military itself. So far all we have seen in the investigation is a number of lower ranking officers and soldiers. They still have not touched people like General Wiranto, who, I think most parties would agree, was the person at the top and in charge who gave the word. This was reported in the Australian Financial Review in February. It has also been covered by other Australian papers. I will have to check that out. But I think that has been fairly widely agreed—in spite of previous assumptions that there were rogue forces, as the government was saying, and that Wiranto was a good guy. In fact, it came up that our intelligence knew that he was the pig in the poke, I suppose. Yes, we would prefer to see an international investigation for war crimes.
Senator PAYNE —On the question of an international inquiry, are you aware of the Commission of Inquiry into East Timor which was being carried out in December of last year? Are you aware of its findings and do you have a view on whether or not they were useful or constructive?
Mr Hanney —The international inquiry?
Senator PAYNE —The international Commission of Inquiry into East Timor.
Mr Fisher —Yes, we are aware of the findings and we are satisfied with most of them, but we think they did not go far enough in many areas—for example, in the area of the Australian government's responsibility for the whole thing last year.
Senator PAYNE —I am not sure that was part of their brief, but I might be wrong.
Mr Fisher —They had pretty broad terms of reference which included Australia's role in the whole history of the East Timor problem. So it should have touched on Australia's role in bringing about the whole crisis in East Timor. We do not think it paid enough attention to that for obvious reasons.
Can I elaborate on Marzuki Darusman, for example? It seems that perhaps we have more confidence in Marzuki Darusman's investigations than some of the shadowy forces in Indonesia itself who were trying to plant bombs. While we would like to see Marzuki Darusman pursue Wiranto and achieve—
Senator PAYNE —That is not a criticism of the Attorney-General; that is an observation of what is happening in Indonesia.
—No, that is precisely what I am talking about. The Australian government has got a very important role to play here. It should come out very strongly condemning the intimidation of Marzuki Darusman and Abdurrahman Wahid and I feel that it is not doing that. In fact, if anything, it is playing a bit of a spoiler role in some areas. Where the Americans try to put pressure on the Indonesian military, Australia has frequently, in the last few months, tried to defray that pressure from the Americans.
ACTING CHAIR —I do not want to interrupt anyone here, but basically what we are trying to establish is the UN involvement, rather than what happened in East Timor in respect of what the Australians or the Americans should or should not have done.
What we are interested in from this inquiry's point of view is learning from the mistakes, if there were mistakes in Timor, or the shortcomings, and learning more about the role of the United Nations. If you want to relate Australia's role within the United Nations by all means you are free to do that, but I do not want to get into a debate about the rights or wrongs of Timor. I know it is difficult with your special brief on East Timor, but that is what the committee is going to be doing, though—looking at the United Nations role. Some of us think it is a good example of shortcomings as well as strengths on the part of the UN in East Timor.
Mr Fisher —We are a bit short of time now. Could I just quickly answer some of the questions that have been put to us?
ACTING CHAIR —Yes, sure.
Mr Fisher —As to Prime Minister Howard's letter to President Habibie and what role did it play in bringing on a referendum, it did play a very significant role in bringing on a referendum, but I put it to you that the motive for Prime Minister Howard's letter—which I regard as unacceptable—was to try to remove the pebble in the shoe which Ali Alatas, the Indonesian foreign minister, frequently referred to in relation to East Timor. Prime Minister Howard's motive in sending that letter to President Habibie was actually to try to remove the pebble in the shoe of Australia pirating East Timor's oil through the Timor Gap treaty. That was his motive. Unfortunately for him it came unstuck because the East Timorese of course wanted independence, so this was something he should have been well informed about but apparently was not.
Another question: should the United Nations have sent peacekeepers to East Timor without Indonesian agreement? No, I do not think so. I think we should have operated inside the United Nations system, and in fact we did. The point that I was trying to make earlier was that in February—when it became clear that there was going to be a referendum in East Timor about whether they wanted independence from Indonesia or not—Dr Ashton Calvert, the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, went to Washington to speak to the US Assistant Secretary of State, Stanley Roth, about peacekeepers in East Timor. Roth was pushing the line that there should be peacekeepers and that pressure should be applied to the Indonesian government to achieve this, and Dr Ashton Calvert, with the full support of the Australian government, opposed that strongly. And for several months after that, in fact until 10 September 1999, the Australian government continued to oppose the placing of peacekeepers in East Timor.
Now that was the Australian government's role behind the scenes in the United Nations system, which we strongly disagree with. But we did operate within the UN system and we did prevent the pressure being applied to Indonesia. In fact, in the end, the reason why peacekeepers were sent was because the Americans applied pressure to send in peacekeepers which the Jakarta government could not resist. That could have been done in February. It could have prevented a whole lot of massacres.
One other question: what will CIET be doing now? That is partly up to you and how seriously you take our concerns. We could turn into a relief and aid organisation just helping the unfortunate East Timorese who have seen their homes and livelihoods totally destroyed by Indonesians and many people massacred, or we could continue to actively politically lobby if you do not take our concerns seriously. For example, I want to raise again Mr Hanney's question about what the Australian government intends to do about intelligence information which the Australian government has in its possession about the massacres and the part played in the massacres in East Timor by General Wiranto and some other generals, Adam Damiri and Zaki Anwar. It has this intelligence information and we want to know if it is going to be turned over to the Indonesian authorities. We are told we should have a lot of faith in Marzuki Darusman's investigations. We would have more faith if the Australian government did make this information available to him. Does the Australian government intend to do that?
ACTING CHAIR —Okay. Do committee members have any further questions or comment? The committee members have no further comment. Is there any last issue you want to leave with us?
Mr Fisher —On that last question, I note that Judith Wright actually sent that letter, in tandem with a lot of other people, about a week before her death, so it is almost a dying wish of Judith Wright, so I want to know how seriously you are going to take Judith Wright's dying wish.
ACTING CHAIR —Let us not get emotional about it.
Senator BOURNE —You are not alone, Mr Fisher. A lot of people in the parliament, including the Democrats, including the opposition, I think, and probably a lot of members of the government are on side with you on this.
ACTING CHAIR —The other point I want to stress—which I have stressed before—is that this is not an inquiry into Australia's role in East Timor. This is a subcommittee of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. We actually visited East Timor last year and met with the special UN human rights inquiry team there, and issues such as the one that you have raised with us are covered in a report that we published on that visit. It is a perfectly legitimate claim that you are raising, but there are other avenues for it within the parliament. Basically, our mandate is to look at Australia's role in the United Nations in a post-Cold War period. Maybe that intelligence will come into it, but it is not the main focus—so do not ask us how seriously we are going to take Judith Wright's dying wish.
Mr Fisher —This comes back to the whole question—
ACTING CHAIR —Let us not have a debate about it now.
—of Australia's operation within the United Nations and how it undermines the normal operations of the United Nations which would have, in the normal course of events, sent peacekeepers to East Timor in a responsible manner to prevent the massacres that happened last year.
ACTING CHAIR —Okay.
Mr Fisher —You say `okay', but I am not satisfied—
ACTING CHAIR —I do not care whether you are satisfied or not. I have told you the reference of our inquiry. Your time has now expired. You have had a good hearing before the committee, and we have listened to your comments. We might not respond to them immediately, but you have put your concerns on the public record—
Mr Fisher —Yes, I have one more concern to put.
ACTING CHAIR —You will have to be quick. The committee will consider those concerns when we are writing up our report. We are not going to make commitments here and now. We try not to be emotional in this because we have had a lot of views since we started this hearing—very strong views—for and against. What we have to do, in an unbiased way, is weigh up the evidence and make a recommendation to the government. Do you have one more comment?
Mr Fisher —You made a very important point. You did go to East Timor yourself to see the situation. I went to East Timor to observe the vote last year—
ACTING CHAIR —So did some of our committee members—Senator Payne and Senator Bourne.
Mr Fisher —Yes, I know. I am concerned that all of our lives are in danger as a result of the Australian government's actions last year.
ACTING CHAIR —Thank you very much for that. Thank you, gentlemen, for appearing before the committee and for your submission. If there are any further details that you want to include, please forward those on to the secretary. Mr Fisher, Hansard may wish to clarify the comments you made before you came to the table.
—I thank you all for listening to us as well.