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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee
Economic, social and political conditions in East Timor
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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee
Economic, social and political conditions in East Timor
Air Cdre Clarke
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Content WindowForeign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee - 11/11/99 - Economic, social and political conditions in East Timor
CHAIR —I welcome officers of the Department of Defence. The committee prefers all evidence to be given in public, but should you at any stage wish to give any part of your evidence in private you may ask to do so and the committee will consider your request. You will not be required to comment on reasons for certain policy decisions or on the advice that you have tendered in the formulation of policy or to express a personal opinion on matters of policy. The committee has before it your department's submission. Are there any alterations or additions you would like to make to the submission at this stage?
Mr Scrafton —No.
CHAIR —I now invite you to make an opening statement and then we will proceed to questions.
Air Cdre Clarke —I would like to make a brief opening statement. Aside from regular visits to East Timor by our defence attache staff from Jakarta, direct military involvement in East Timor in support of government policy started with the positioning of a small number of military liaison officers in the United Nations mission in East Timor to observe military preparations for the consultation on autonomy. The first personnel were deployed around 25 June this year. In a broad sense, that was followed later by evacuation—after the violence following the autonomy vote—of Australians, United Nations personnel and a number of internally displaced personnel who were sheltering in the United Nations compound. That occurred from the 10th of September.
The direct military involvement has culminated obviously in today's contribution to what is called INTERFET, the International Force East Timor, of which there are around 9[half ] thousand military personnel on the ground including 5,300 Australians. The Australians comprise Army, Navy and Air Force elements. The coalition forming INTERFET is led by Australia and consists at this stage of 16 nations with a further five who may commit forces or force element groups to it during its duration.
INTERFET was established under United Nations Security Council resolution 1264. It is responsible for restoring peace and security. The support of UNAMET and now UNTAET—the United Nations mission in East Timor and the subsequently established United Nations Transitional Authority East Timor—adds to the force capabilities of facilitating humanitarian assistance to the East Timorese. On the 25th of October the United Nations Security Council passed United Nations Security Council resolution 1272, which established UNTAET. It had three components: a governance and public administration component, the humanitarian and emergency rehabilitation component, and a military component of up to 8,950 personnel and an additional 200 military observers. Australia plans to contribute to both those elements of the UNTAET mandate.
The period from July to November has been one of the most demanding and dynamic in the recent history of Defence. The success of the evacuation and of INTERFET is a matter of public record and has bought wide acclaim to defence personnel and to the defence department, both on the international record and on the public record. Defence is justifiably proud of that activity. It has been my personal pleasure to be a part of that process.
CHAIR —Mr Scrafton, do you have any statement to make?
Mr Scrafton —No.
Senator BROWNHILL —Can I start by congratulating the defence forces on their preparedness and their ability to carry out their functions since they have been in East Timor in a very professional way. As an Australian citizen I can feel justifiably proud that we are being represented overseas in quite a desperate situation in a way that makes me want to hold my hand over my heart a little, and it gives me a great feeling of pride. Obviously there must be a lot of differences, not that we are militarily antagonistic towards Indonesia but we have been training with Indonesian troops, so has there been any concern on behalf of Defence about the fact that a country that is very close to our northern shores that we have been having close military cooperation with and with which we are now in a different type of situation?
Air Cdre Clarke —At no stage was Australia attempting to fight against the TNI in any way. In fact, without the cooperation and the baseline relationship that we had established, the introduction of military observers and in fact the evacuation of Australian UN and internationally displaced personnel could not have occurred. The TNI were very cooperative in that activity and that was, perhaps, at odds with the some of the public's view of TNI.
Senator BROWNHILL —I was trying to give you some way of correcting some of the public perceptions of what has been going on.
Air Cdre Clarke —The personal relationships on the ground in Dili were absolutely pivotal to the success of that activity and to the success of the initial footprint of INTERFET on the ground. The relationship between the TNI commander at the time and General Cosgrove was professional and effective, and we are justifiably proud that the TNI cohabited with INTERFET and, in fact, that they subsequently withdrew after the MPR decision without any confrontation between TNI and INTERFET personnel. So, the basis of a relationship that has formed over the years stood us in good stead at the time.
Mr Scrafton —I will just take this opportunity to put that into a slightly broader context for you. There are now, as a consequence of the political situation, some strains on the relationship. But, if you step back a little further from East Timor to the events in Indonesia over the last couple of years, last year when we were looking at the safety of Australian citizens in Jakarta when the Suharto regime fell and there were very difficult situations in Jakarta itself, it was largely as a consequence of the good relationship we had built up that the Indonesians did something very unusual in terms of international relations through the TNI and gave us blanket clearance for our aircraft and helicopters in preparation for a possible evacuation. So, in our view, there have been very clear benefits to Australia's
objectives in the region out of the relationship, not least of which were the ways in which we managed to handle the relationship in East Timor when things got tough there.
Senator BROWNHILL —Do you think that it is too easy and glib to say the Australian peacekeeping force rather than the United Nations peacekeeping force or transition force—or whatever words you want to use? Do you think there has been a misconception by people at large in Australia? Has there been any misunderstanding by the Indonesian forces that you are a part of the United Nations outfit?
Air Cdre Clarke —We do not have any evidence that that is the case. I think there is no doubt that early on in the deployment of INTERFET it was primarily Australian. If you look at the numbers that I have just read, of a force of about 9[half ] thousand, just over half are Australian and the rest are coalition partners. It is very much a multinational force now, and Indonesia recognises it as such, as do the United Nations.
Senator BROWNHILL —How long do you believe it is going to be in that sort of mode?
Air Cdre Clarke —INTERFET was established as a transitionary arrangement. In establishing the mandate at the time, the United Nations understood that they themselves could not get an international force together in the time frame that was necessary to solve the humanitarian crisis occurring. The need for security was paramount, and it needed to happen very quickly. Australia was in the position to be able to lead a force, and we undertook to build the coalition force while the United Nations got themselves in good order. That process is ongoing. The establishment of UNSCR 1272 is a step in that activity, and the United Nations are currently planning to bring a coalition force in. There will be a number of coalition partners who will transition from the current INTERFET force to the United Nations UNTAET force—around 60 per cent or 70 per cent. That process is ongoing but, of course, to put an end date on it is not easy. The Australian government's position is that we want it to occur as soon as possible, and that is what we are working towards.
Mr Scrafton —I will just add that I think there was some confusion earlier on as to the nature of the operation, that this is not in fact a United Nations operation that INTERFET is undertaking but an operation under a mandate given by the United Nations. I think there was a considerable misunderstanding about the distinction between a normal blue helmeted United Nations operation and this sort of coalition of forces, which is more similar to the sorts of things that were done in Haiti and Somalia than to the sorts of activities that have occurred in other places where the UN have been directly administratively controlling the operation.
Senator BROWNHILL —As we have that goodwill, if you like, as you have just said, do you think there is going to be a change in the attitude there as the humanitarian issues are unearthed?
Mr Scrafton —I think one of the aspects of this that needs to be borne in mind is that the Indonesian defence forces are not one cohesive group of people. Even during the activities that were taking place in East Timor—which at least had the passive acceptance of TNI if not, with some elements, assistance—there were still considerable elements that we
were aware of in TNI in Jakarta and in other places who disapproved of the activities that were taking place there. That is particularly so of their air force and naval personnel, who have less direct historical connections with East Timor, but even for the considerable parts of the reform elements in TNI itself. So, again, I think there will be a fractured response to the way in which the Indonesian armed forces respond to the crimes against humanity investigations.
There are very clear indications from the Indonesian government at the moment that they are taking these things very seriously. Their own independent commission has issued a very strong statement recently on this, and our understanding is that this is a first step in a series of strong statements that will lead up to some sort of action by their government against what they consider to be criminal activities in East Timor. Again, it is not easy question to answer. There will be people in the Indonesian armed forces who will be, to some extent, concerned because the investigations might focus on them. There will be people who will feel a little of the betrayal that some of them feel in the sense that we handled this perhaps a bit more heavy-handedly than we might have done, as a close friend. But there will still be a whole range of elements within their structure who will see this as an appropriate activity. So there is no clear answer to that question.
Senator BROWNHILL —My last question for the moment is on the defence wider assessment of the region—this is not a policy question, it is purely defence—and the fact that we have had good relationships, and hopefully they will continue, with Indonesia. If we have a lot of independent states—we have one now and we may have more—that obviously creates a much deeper question for Defence than having one neighbour who we were doing joint military exercises with.
Mr Scrafton —Very clearly the view of a succession of governments has been that a large unitary state that was prosperous and stable in the archipelago is much more in our security interests than a larger number of states which we would have to manage in a much more complex environment. At this stage I think our general assessment would be that to a very large extent East Timor is a separate case in that the United Nations never recognised Indonesia's sovereignty and the question of whether it was going to break away or not was always a question. I think we are less concerned at this point in our assessment about other parts of Indonesia separating off. But these are certainly a range of issues that will be being looked at in the current white paper that we are developing for the government at the moment.
Senator QUIRKE —I was actually quite relaxed until you gave that answer to that question. It seems to me that that is exactly what went wrong with Timor, that in fact there was a view around here by bureaucrats that fed into governments of both persuasions that even on the day Timor would be able to incorporate into Indonesia quietly, that it would be done with less violence, and then when the violence was there it was always going to be tomorrow when things would get better—and they never got any better. The argument you have just put forward, unless I am wrong, is that, because this place used to belong to Portugal, it is in a slightly different category. I put it to you that in fact most of the bits which constitute Indonesia in the greater sense have become Javanese colonies. I think it is very wishful thinking if you assume that Timor is going to be the only bit of this conglomerate to our north that is going to go its own way. If you are basing policy on that, I
suggest that you had better think again, because that is exactly what has gone wrong here for the last 30 or 40 years, or longer.
Mr Scrafton —I might just clarify that I did not make an argument on that point. What I stated was that successive governments' policies have recognised that as a factor in our strategic environment and that there is in international law a difference between East Timor's status and the rest of Indonesia. I accept completely your position that there is no guarantee one way or the other about the way in which events might evolve to the north of us. I am simply making a point that successive governments for over 40 years now have accepted the judgment that our interests were better served by a unitary state. Whether that is in fact the future point is not something any of us can predict and not something that we are basing policy on.
Senator QUIRKE —There is no doubt that successive governments have taken the view that one state up there instead of a large number is definitely in our interests. That is how we got into this Timor mess. That is how we turned a blind eye to all the myriad amounts of intelligence that came over government ministers's desks in governments from both sides of parliament. Maybe bureaucrats do not even feed it in there; I do not know. But at the end of the day we turned a blind eye to what has gone on up there. It blew up in our face. I put it you that I do not think too many of the Indonesian provinces read international law and I do not think they are going to like the fine differences that you are making on this.
I think it would be wise for Australia to have a number of contingency plans, because I suspect that Timor is not going to be the only place up there that is going to prove this policy wrong. I would suggest to you that we will have to varying degrees interests in what happens in Irian Jaya; in Aceh, which arguably is well outside of the region and I accept that, but the implications of it are considerable; in Sulawesi; and in a number of other places where you see movements for much greater autonomy. I think after Timor they will not settle for much less than full independence.
Mr Scrafton —I do not disagree with you at all. I might add that most of those issues are issues for my colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to deal with. In our context, as a defence organisation we certainly plan on a range of contingencies. One of the traps we cannot fall into is predicting the future, because that always leaves you in the wrong position. So defence planning is in general planned on a range of contingencies. The question of what sort of position government takes on the outcomes of the sorts of things you are talking about really is not a defence issue to be dealt with.
Senator QUIRKE —It will affect defence procurement, though, won't it?
Mr Scrafton —The possibility of these things certainly affects the way we plan and structure our force. I have indicated that we are in the process, as a consequence of a range of things that have happened over the last couple of years, including the financial crisis that has in a sense led to all of this, of developing a white paper at the moment in Defence for government consideration some time next year. We are certainly apprised of the sorts of issues you are discussing. In a sense questions about the policy the government takes towards that is really for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to manage.
CHAIR —The first question I want to go to is an issue that was raised with us at our hearing in Sydney a week ago today by the Australian section of the International Commission of Jurists. They put to us in their submission the need to protect the evidence that will be uncovered by the INTERFET force as it moves through East Timor, where there have been human rights abuses. They are saying that the evidence should not be contaminated, and by contaminated I mean touched by people who do not have the skills to deal with this. They are very concerned about that.
They put to us that they had approached the Department of Defence offering their assistance by making available to the Department of Defence—I cannot give you an exact date but I understand it was very early on in the piece—forensic experts to assist our forces at least, and I would assume that would flow over to the other INTERFET forces, once they had been landed in East Timor. Their claim to us was that basically they had made four attempts to contact the department. They even gave us the name of the person they contacted, Mr Geoff Early. I do not know Mr Early from a bar of soap. To their amazement, there was no response from the department of defence, in spite of their four attempts to be in touch with the department. I have only got notes, I have not got the Hansard , but my memory is that they found out some way or other that there was an inter-departmental committee of AG's, DFAT and the Department of Defence on this issue. It seems to me that here were a group of people with a degree of expertise in an area where they obviously practise offering their assistance and, in spite of their good intentions, they seem to be ignored by the department. Why would that be?
Air Cdre Clarke —When INTERFET first put its footprint on the ground, its prime concern was providing a security environment. The second step past that was to provide an environment which allowed basic humanitarian support to the East Timorese—food, water, and shelter. Our prime focus in the first six weeks of the deployment has been to achieve widespread security, to allow people to move back to their home locations and for them to then be provided through NGO services with the basic necessities of life.
CHAIR —I accept that, but one must also accept that if one is going into an area where—to put it bluntly—there was apparent genocide at worst, but at best there was a complete abuse of human rights by the militia and supported by the TNI, this would become an issue. It would seem that it would be elementary to take at least some preliminary steps to ensure or that either there was a specialised group within our forces or a broader understanding of the need to protect the forensic evidence that would be needed for the humanitarian crimes, given the scale of what happened post the consultation.
I am just very surprised. I understand the security aspect and I understand the support aspect, and I am not in any way trying to denigrate that. It is just that, because of the nature of the reaction of the military and the militia post that consultation, one would have thought that, where we are taking a reasonable and leading role, the concerns of the International Commission of Jurists would have been addressed in some way.
Air Cdre Clarke —I was not directly involved in the contact, but my memory was that this group was referred to the United Nations. You will recall that at the same time INTERFET was on the ground, UNAMET, the United Nations mission in East Timor, was still established and still had a mandate. Also UNHCR and OCHR were also coming onto
the ground. My memory was that this group was referred to those organisations to provide the assistance that was necessary to fulfil the requirement which you have correctly identified. INTERFET's mandate and task was not about forensic support, but those organisations clearly had under their existing mandates capabilities to do those things.
CHAIR —I accept that, but nonetheless it would seem that, if one was going into this environment, one would have at least taken the precaution of briefing our forces on the need to protect forensic evidence. Did we do that?
Air Cdre Clarke —Yes, we did, and we established a small team to investigate reports and to document locations and evidence. You would be aware of a number of sites that INTERFET has gone to as a result of advice they have received from either the local population or from other sources. They now have a documented trail which is to be handed over—and in fact, is being handed over right now—to the UN as they get their forces and forensic experts on the ground. We were sensitive to the issue, but we certainly did not have a great forensic resource to be able to go and do it and do the detailed sorts of investigations that perhaps you are anticipating the jurists could have provided the resource for.
CHAIR —Their submission to us was that they were prepared to offer this service to the Department of Defence. Was the offer of the International Commission of Jurists raised at the interdepartmental committee with A-G's, DFAT and the Department of Defence?
Mr Scrafton —It was. That interdepartmental committee is a standing group, a strategic policy coordination group, that DFAT or PM&C chair. It involves most of the departments involved. It was discussed. What needs to be borne in mind is that this was very much early on in the operation. There was very little understanding of what was actually happening on the ground there. There were very huge demands on INTERFET and a lack of clarity about where the internally displaced people were. In fact, we were finding whole villages which were completely deserted and people had disappeared. There was a range of issues that influenced the decision of that group to recommend that the offer not be taken up. I am not aware of what the mechanics were of advising them, and if that has fallen down, that is one thing.
CHAIR —Did anyone actually bother to go back to the International Commission of Jurists to advise them?
Mr Scrafton —I am not aware of that. Commodore Earley is Director-General of our Defence Legal Office. I would be surprised if he had not gone back, but I am not aware of the details of his communications with them. As a consequence of the issue being raised by the International Commission of Jurists, the action was taken that Kerry has just mentioned, that is, advising INTERFET that they would have to keep a record of whatever they discovered, make whatever inquiries they could at the time, and in preparation for handing over what was already starting to have the appearance of a United Nations investigation into crimes against humanity, they have been keeping that information and will hand it across.
CHAIR —Is there a section within the defence forces that looks specifically on a permanent basis at the issue of forensic evidence?
Air Cdre Clarke —No, there is not. The only sort of forensic capability that exists relates to our own surgical capability for our own hospital/medical uses. We do not have an investigation capability that you refer to.
CHAIR —It seemed to me that the level of assistance that was being offered by the International Commission of Jurists was of the highest standard. They were talking about the Victorian Forensic Institute, which apparently was prepared to participate. I know the horse has bolted now, so I am not trying to shut the gate afterwards. It seemed to me that these people had made four attempts and there was no response to them. They are a fairly responsible group in our community.
Can you find out for me what efforts were made to communicate to the International Commission of Jurists the findings of your interdepartmental committee and/or from Defence itself? Can you let us know what training we may have imparted through our component of INTERFET to the other nations of the multinational force on the issue of the importance of the maintenance of the forensic evidence that is being uncovered? As I say, they have expressed to us a grave concern about the contamination of evidence and that this may in some way inhibit the pursuit of the crimes against humanity which have been committed in East Timor as such.
Mr Scrafton —Can I just add that the UN commission, Mary Robinson's commission, has special rapporteurs in East Timor at the moment and they have commented very positively on the processes that have been put in place by General Cosgrove to manage the evidence, but we will follow up your questions.
CHAIR —Thank you for that. I now invite people to stand and observe one minute's silence in memory of those who have fallen in war.
The committee having observed one minute's silence—
Lest we forget. Thank you.
To finish up on the forensic side: as we have extended the security of East Timor more, has there been a need for greater forensic involvement by our forces, or are we more or less simply still concentrating on those priorities that you outlined earlier—the security support and the rebuilding of the basic facilities?
Air Cdre Clarke —We are still concentrating primarily on that and facilitating the return of displaced personnel to their homes. As Michael Scrafton has said, the UNHCR delegation is on the ground. Mary Robinson's team is moving. They are bringing the sorts of skills sets that the jurists offered. They are moving into theatre and, because we now have a secure environment, they are looking at our evidence and then moving to the locations that they see as priorities as a result of that.
Mr Scrafton —I add that, in the interdepartmental consideration, one of the issues was the extent of the INTERFET mandate which, you might recall, gave responsibility—however realistic it was—to Indonesia to actually manage a legal administration on the ground in East
Timor. So there was a range of issues that impacted on the decision of how, in the early days, it was possible to support these sorts of activities.
CHAIR —The second issue that I want to raise is, again, an issue that has been raised by a number of groups before this inquiry—that is the role of the Australian defence forces as part of our cooperation with the Indonesian defence forces over a period of time, in training people from the Indonesian defence forces. Submissions have been put to this committee that Defence should supply, in effect, the name, rank and serial number of those who have participated in Australian training, such that these organisations can trace these people once they get back to their own nation. The second thing is that, I can only say, oblique allegations have been made that Australia has trained either individuals or elements of the Indonesian defence force who have used the skills they have obtained in Australia in a negative sense against either the Indonesian people themselves or, more pointedly, against the East Timorese.
Given those allegations, can you outline for this committee what has been the role of the Australian defence training that has been given to Indonesian forces and does it vary significantly from our defence training that happens with other defence forces throughout the region including the United States, and can you tell us if you have any evidence of the abuse of training provided by Australian forces and if so what actions have you taken to redress any such breaches of trust that may have existed government to government or, in this case, defence force to defence force? It is a fairly broad question, but I will come back to it in bits and pieces if need be.
Mr Scrafton —The broad nature of the training that we have undertaken with the Indonesian forces has been the same sorts of things as we have undertaken with all of the regional countries around the area. In terms of the specifics of this question, things like our maritime surveillance exercises and navy to navy exercises are somewhat irrelevant to this point. They are just normal military exercises in terms of basic skills training, doctrine development and those sorts of issues.
In terms of the Indonesian army and specifically the most contentious element, Kopassus, the training has been very specific. The intention of the training with Kopassus and the Indonesian army has been in two major areas—primarily about basic military skills training. It is nothing to do with insurgency training or managing internal security issues, but primarily in the areas of basic infantry training and infantry skills.
CHAIR —Can you describe for the record what you mean by basic military skills and basic infantry skills? Some people would have no idea what that might mean.
Air Cdre Clarke —The sorts of skills that we are talking about are basic cleanliness, health, safety, organisation in the sense of discipline and responsibilities of the individual soldiers in the command chain—that sort of basic building block which makes the difference between the average person perhaps out in a hostile environment and a professional soldier. Those are the sorts of skills that we are talking about.
Mr Scrafton —It includes communication skills and that sorts of things that small units use in terms of operating—normal discipline and tactical sorts of activities related directly to specific military type tasks.
CHAIR —Can I interrupt you there? Are these skills, when they are imparted by our training officers, done in conformity with a code of ethics or a code of operation?
Mr Scrafton —Unlike the American system, we train them with the ADF as against the ADF standards against what we intend to impart to our own officers. So yes, a component of a number of these training activities has been human rights training—the same sort of human rights training that we provide to our own troops. As Kerry has indicated, one of the more critical elements in that is questions of responsibility in command, discipline in command and those sorts of issues. The same sorts of standards we would apply to our own troops are the sorts of standards we are trying to impart to the Indonesians and to other regional countries.
Air Cdre Clarke —An example is that the Australian Defence Force has quite rigid criteria for the use of lethal force or of force. We have provided that information to the Indonesians and have seen them using those sorts of structures. As Michael said earlier, that does not mean that it is widespread across the entire TNI. But certainly for the elements where Australia has had direct contact, we find those groups now using the same sorts of constructs—orders for opening fire, for example—that we in Australia use.
Mr Scrafton —We saw an example of this in East Timor. Some time ago we had some involvement with the Indonesians in developing a handbook with simple rules of engagement guidelines that could be handed out to troops. We became aware of a very similar document, almost a replica, being handed out to troops on the West Timor side of the border.
Air Cdre Clarke —We can provide the advice and the expertise—that is what the intent is. It is the intent to make the organisation more responsible—in the command sense and of course in the ultimate sense—to the civil authority. That is the way the Australian mechanism runs and it is exactly what we try to impart in our training to any of the regional nations or any of the nations with which we are involved.
Mr Scrafton —To continue with your question, the difference with the US is dramatic. In fact to a large extent in lots of areas we learn off, rather than teach, the US. The US training is much more, in our context, a benchmarking exercise for our forces against the world's most capable force, so there is a significant qualitative difference in the way in which we exercise with the US.
In terms of the way in which we exercise with the rest of the region, however, these are very similar sorts of activities. One of the common threads through a lot of this training—and the way in which we got involved with Kopassus forces—concerns Australian citizens in regional countries where incidents blow up that might require counterterrorist or counterhijack types of capabilities. One of our priorities is having some confidence that the countries have some capacity to deal with the incidents or that there is sufficient similarity between the way in which we and they would approach the problem that we could work together on a particular incident.
In terms of Kopassus, there are only two areas in which we have actually conducted training with them. One is directly in this counterterrorist/counterhijack area—we are talking about very specific skills here—and the other is in basic infantry skills where we make no distinction between the sort of training we did with Kopassus and with the rest of TNI.
CHAIR —Where would most of this training have been focused, at the officer level or at the ordinary ranks?
Mr Scrafton —Again, it is a broad spectrum. Most of the sorts of training we are talking about for military skills would have been at junior officer ranks. As for the exercises that took place, we conducted them both in Australia and in Indonesia up until the suspension of the activities.
Air Cdre Clarke —One of the things that we tried to do was to train the trainers—obviously you get much better value out of that. So the senior NCOs, the people who are directly involved in training their own troops, are the sorts of people that we try to target our work at.
Mr Scrafton —I refer to the next part of your question about any evidence of abuse of training. We have no evidence of that at all. It almost begs the question of whether or not in any sense you could abuse the sort of training we have been giving. Our judgment would be it is very specific.
One of the things we are very concerned about, for example, in East Timor was that, if our period of staying there became very long, the ADF might be reduced to doing policing type activities or internal security type activities. We have no capacity for that. There is no training capacity in the ADF for policing type functions or for internal security type functions. So we are just simply not in a capacity to pass those sorts of skills across to people.
As to whether in East Timor there was any collusion by us with Indonesian troops: no. We can categorically say that the ADF has not been involved in any sort of operations with TNI or any parts of the Indonesian military. Exceptions would be things like AUSINDO JAYA, where we did the humanitarian relief activity last year when the drought hit the eastern archipelago. So the answer to the rest of your question is that we have taken no actions on that basis.
CHAIR —So you say there is no evidence of abuse. What actions have you taken to track if those who may well have been involved in high level training in Australia have been involved in areas where there have been severe abuses?
Mr Scrafton —We have made no effort to track people in that sense. I might add that it is probably well beyond our capacity to do that. Except for very junior officers who may now be in very senior positions, who is posted where in the Indonesian military structure is something that is not easily accessible to us. That aside, when INTERFET went into Dili, some of the INTERFET deploying forces recognised around the airport people whom they had trained with in Australia. It would be very difficult to track the dispersement of personnel throughout the region.
CHAIR —The other issue that was raised before the committee was a call by some of the witnesses for the names of those that are trained by Australia at our defence force facilities. What is your response to that?
Mr Scrafton —We have consistently said that would put us in a position which would sufficiently damage our capability to conduct relations with not only the Indonesians but regional countries more generally. The invitation to witch-hunts for people is something that would simply start to make our pursuit of our security interests untenable.
CHAIR —The other issue I want to pursue before I get into a range of questions is defence aid. People have put submissions to us that all defence aid with Indonesia should be suspended. Is that the current situation?
Mr Scrafton —The current situation is that the minister announced earlier this year—I think it was in May—that we have suspended all military skills training and all exercising with Indonesia. However, we are still conducting staff college level exchanges, strategic dialogues—although none of those have taken place—and educational activities but all are related to non-skills training. What this means is that we have a number of scholarships where middle ranking officers are put on management courses at the defence academy or at universities—those sorts of things are taking place. Our exchangees are still in the staff academies in Indonesia, air force staff college and navy staff college. The Indonesians have people here at the Australian Defence College doing the senior officers course. It is military skills training and exercising which has been suspended.
Air Cdre Clarke —There is one exercise which still remains. That is the joint air surveillance activity between the TNI air force and the Australian Air Force for the Timor Gap and the Timor Sea. That is an irregular activity. It occurs for about a week every six months or so.
CHAIR —So that activity has not been suspended?
Air Cdre Clarke —It has not, but it is not currently running by virtue of the cycle of activity.
Mr Scrafton —It is not effectively a military skills activity in the sense of combat skills, which is what has been completely stopped. It is about monitoring movement across the Timor Sea, not only around the oilfields and gas fields but illegal people movements and those sorts of activities.
CHAIR —The other issue that falls under the umbrella of defence aid, as I understand it, is the assistance we gave in Irian Jaya. When people have called for the suspension of defence aid, I have been one to point out that the humanitarian elements of defence aid should be persisted with because they are helping those people who are invariably most vulnerable in the Indonesian archipelago. Are there any of those defence aid projects currently around?
Mr Scrafton —There are no operations currently active. But they have not been specifically embargoed, so if there were a request we would seriously look at it.
CHAIR —Moving on to another issue, are you able to assist me on what is the status of the defence cooperation treaty between us and Indonesia?
Mr Scrafton —The AMS has been abrogated from the Indonesian side. The government has decided not to respond to that one way or another, so effectively that is no longer an arrangement between us and Indonesia. However, the framework of activities around which the defence cooperation took place were not dependent on that agreement; it was not the head of authority for it. At this stage there is still in theory an agreement with us in existence, of which you have asked for a copy.
CHAIR —Yes, could we have a copy of it?
Mr Scrafton —I am happy to provide that to you today. It basically sets out the framework for the sorts of activities, the sort of direction and the strategic objectives mutually being pursued. That is supported by a range of committees which look at the overall conduct of those activities, starting at the head with a ministerial level committee which our minister chairs and supported by a series of subsequent committees, one of which is chaired by the vice chief and one at international policy head level. There are a series of working groups on areas like training and education and science and technology—the range of issues of that militaries engage in.
CHAIR —Do we still have defence attaches in Indonesia?
Mr Scrafton —Yes, we have a brigadier who has just been accredited. There are Air Force, Navy and Army assistant attaches at the colonel equivalent level, and a subsequent staff underneath. It is quite a significant presence for Australia for defence overseas.
CHAIR —There have been reports that Kopassus are operating within East Timor. As a matter of fact, it has been put to me that some people under the guise of militia were found to have Kopassus identification. What is your response?
Mr Scrafton —I would be happy to talk to you privately about that rather than publicly.
CHAIR —We will go off the record later on. Getting now to the make-up of the Interfet operation—and you might need to take this on notice—can you give us exactly the ADF resources that are committed to the Interfet at the moment? What are the numbers of troops, and what are the major pieces of equipment that we have involved?
Air Cdre Clarke —I can give it to you in the broad sense. In essence, the primary land force are a brigade of three battalion groups. That includes their logistics, communications and other supporting infrastructure—for example, combat engineer regiments and aviation support. That is the primary land force. In naval terms, there are two major fleet units and a number of smaller craft, primarily used for supporting the force by sea from Dili around the coast of East Timor or for moving equipment and stores from Darwin to Dili by sea. I might add that we have quite a strong proportion of that naval force out of our coalition partners. For example, the Singaporeans are providing landing ships and the Canadians are providing an oiler for replenishment at sea—that sort of construct.
Similarly, we have a number of C130s involved in moving stores by air from Darwin, primarily to Dili, Bacau and shortly to Suai. We have two airfield support organisations, one at Bacau and one at Dili, running the airfields, and there are a small group of defence guards around the Dili location. That is the structure of the ADF force. So you see it balanced primarily in land. It is something in the order of 4,800 land personnel, and there are smaller groups which make up the 5,300 that I pointed out to you earlier.
CHAIR —We have heard there are F111s. What is their role?
Air Cdre Clarke —That is correct. We have flown two reconnaissance sortis using F111s—one last Friday and one last Sunday. The prime aim of that platform is to determine the breadth of infrastructure damage and to improve our understanding of the topography and the maps. So we are trying to do some ground truthing of map locations and map support as well as coming to terms with the border infrastructure damage. That aircraft is flying over East Timor proper only and is not currently moving down to the enclave of Oecussi.
Mr Scrafton —There is some lack of clarity about where the border exists and what the conditions of the border are even from the Indonesian side, so it is an important issue.
CHAIR —What steps are being taken to clarify the border? One of the things that has been said in evidence before this committee is that the securing of the border was paramount to the integrity of not only East Timor but Oecussi as well. It seemed that it depended on who pulled out what map as to where the border was. How is that being resolved? Is that being resolved through the UN with the Indonesians? Or is there a no-go zone on the border?
Mr Scrafton —There are two aspects to this. One is the question of border security. The Commander of INTERFET is working on the issue of a buffer zone because of the lack of certainty about where the border actually is. One of the difficulties we have had with that has been putting in place a management regime. Former KODAM IX commander, Major General Damiri, was less than forthcoming in wanting to talk to Cosgrove about how to manage it. His replacement, Major General Syahnakri, has already indicated that he will make it a priority to talk to Cosgrove, so some mechanisms will be put into place, agreed to by TNI and Australia, about border security.
The question of the actual location of the border is something for the UN to negotiate with the Indonesian government. The new mandate for the UNTAET effectively makes them the legal authority for those sorts of issues in East Timor. I understand one of the priorities for the new special representative, de Mello, is to take up with the Indonesians a resolution of the actual location of the border.
CHAIR —Have there been any problems at the border as a result of its ill-defined nature, particularly in the movement of refugees back across the border? Do we know whether there is any evidence of incursions across the border of the militia? At one stage there were threats by them to come across the border and wreak havoc.
Air Cdre Clarke —Firstly, since 10 October—when we had an incident between an INTERFET patrol and TNI POLRI patrol in Montaan on the northern coast—there have been
no incidents across the border. That incident was jointly investigated by TNI and by INTERFET. A joint report has recently been submitted to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on that. Out of that came a number of recommendations, which INTERFET and TNI are working on cooperatively. It is one of those recommendations that Michael talked about in terms of the meeting between General Cosgrove and General Damiri being a necessary step.
In spite of that, recently we have had very good cooperation with TNI forces on the border, both in Oecussi and in the crossing points of the East Timor-West Timor proper border. Let me go back a step. Do not hold me to the exact number, but I think there are 14 border crossing points along the East Timor-West Timor border. They are now being adequately and cooperatively controlled between TNI and INTERFET. So the movement of IDPs across that border is unimpeded in that sense; the processes are in place. How they get to the border on the West Timor side, of course, is a different issue. In the Oecussi environment there is only one major border crossing point, and that is also controlled in the way I have just described—cooperatively between the TNI commander and the local INTERFET commander.
Senator BROWNHILL —What is the situation with people coming and going by sea?
Air Cdre Clarke —There has been very little activity in the sense of the maritime border, and there is no direct patrolling of the lines. The sort of work that was referred to earlier between the United Nations and Indonesia, which has to take place to define the maritime boundaries, is complex and will take time. The movement of refugees by sea is already agreed, and we are seeing a ship a day arriving in Dili from either Kupang or other locations in West Timor. Today, we have taken one of our own ships, the catamaran Jervis Bay , and moved a number of those people from Dili around to the southern port of Suai, so that they can be put back where they came from in other words. So we are facilitating within the force resources for the sorts of humanitarian movements that you are talking about.
CHAIR —On the issue of communications between the TNI and INTERFET, I presume, from what you are saying, that there are regular communications and that that they could be described as being professional and harmonious. Is that a reasonable way in which to characterise the relations, because there was a certain animosity displayed by the TNI at their necessity to withdraw from East Timor?
Mr Scrafton —I think `harmonious' is probably too strong a description. But they have certainly been professional and effective, particularly at the operational and tactical level where people have had to get on with each other and work together; they have worked quite well. As I indicated, there had been some greater reluctance because of personalities at the top level and, quite clearly, Major-General Damiri was reluctant to meet with Cosgrove over the particular issues of the border incident. But, that was much more an exception. When General Syahnakri was actually the representative of the TNI in East Timor, he and General Cosgrove had very good communications and the cooperation was professional.
Air Cdre Clarke —During that time, as a result of negotiation in New York very early on, there was a joint consultative group established between TNI and INTERFET on the ground so that as soon as INTERFET was on the ground, as Michael has said, that group
came into play and quickly diffused any sorts of clashes of activity that we might have expected between TNI and INTERFET in East Timor. The relationship with TNI outside of East Timor is primarily driven through Jakarta and/or Bali, with Jakarta being our prime focus, hence our need to keep our defence attaches in location to facilitate that data flow, which covers things as simple as ship movements to the western enclave and aircraft movements across that environment—the normal sorts of things that we need to make sure that TNI are aware of so that there are not any mistakes or confusions. That sort of activity has been ongoing.
Mr Scrafton —When I was in Dili about three weeks ago, General Cosgrove and I drove through the TNI compound and all we encountered were waves and smiles as we moved through. So, between the TNI troops and the Australian troops on the ground, there is not much tension. The tension, if there is any, is largely politically driven, I think, and comes at the top ranks.
CHAIR —Can I just go to the issue that you have now raised. In respect of our defence attaches, therefore, there is a professional—I will not use the word harmonious—relationship operating between their defence people and our defence attaches in Jakarta?
Air Cdre Clarke —Yes.
Mr Scrafton —As you are probably aware, there has just been what they call a `mutation' at the top of TNI, where a large number of the senior positions have all been reshuffled. Over the past week or so, Brigadier Millen, who is the HADS in Jakarta, has had visits on a number of the new senior appointments. The issues surrounding the relationship have been discussed quite openly and frankly with him. Certainly the relationship is under review on both sides, and quite understandably, but the way in which that review and the discussions are taking place is still very much at a frank and professional level.
Senator QUIRKE —Can I just ask a question. When can you tell us what role the defence organisation will have in the development of and assistance to an East Timor defence force in the future?
Mr Scrafton —That is very much to be resolved. This is an issue that Gusmao raised with our minister in Dili when he was up there. It is very much a question of what sort of defence force, whether it is a paramilitary force, a genuine defence force or police and border patrols, and is really a question for the United Nations administration and for the East Timorese to sort out between themselves. We are certainly watching those developments and, clearly, it is in our interests that East Timor as an independent country has an appropriate capability to secure itself. When whatever it is falls out of the current negotiations, we will look at ways in which we can assist them, as we do with the rest of the regional nations.
Senator QUIRKE —What arrangements are being put in place for long-term security, particularly for the western border of East Timor?
Mr Scrafton —There is nothing for the long-term for the moment. There are interim arrangements, as described by Kerry, in terms of managing movements across the border.
But, again, this is still very much a question for the Indonesian government and the East Timorese to sort out.
CHAIR —The only other question that I want to pursue before we go into in camera is the issue of equipment supplies for our defence forces. It was raised early on in the piece that there were not enough flak jackets, helmets and so on. There is also an issue of the supply of munitions, which has arisen at estimates hearings. I know that we have been in short supply of munitions. I know that undertakings have been given at estimates that that deficiency is being overcome. Can you address those issues for me in view of the fact that I still have some people saying to me that there are not sufficient supplies of certain munitions that would be desirable, seeing that we now have changed circumstances where we have a force in the field as opposed to a force on stand-by?
Air Cdre Clarke —In terms of munitions themselves, there is nothing that commander INTERFET has asked for that we have not been able to either deliver or will shortly deliver. We are in a very fortunate position that we have not had to use a lot of munitions—and I use this in a positive sense. It has been an environment where there has not been a lot of shooting. The militia have, to some extent, melted away in the face of INTERFET, and we want to keep it like that. That does not mean that we are not conscious of what commander INTERFET needs and what his stockholding requirements are. We have met all of those in terms of munitions, and in a few very exceptional circumstances some are to be arriving.
The flak jackets that you talked about were more an issue of the quality of the jacket—there are a couple of sorts, I understand—and we wanted the high velocity sort in anticipation that we might be fighting against high velocity military style weapons. That has not been the case, but we now have secured those jackets. We have given them to the personnel in the field, and they now have the high velocity jackets and helmets to meet that requirement. It is our intention, in fact it is my entire day-to-day focus, to ensure that commander INTERFET has exactly what he needs to do the job.
CHAIR —Before we go into in camera, I want to record my appreciation for the work that is being done by our defence forces there.
Evidence was then taken in camera, but later resumed in public —
MALEY, Dr William Lee (Private Capacity)
CHAIR —Welcome. In what capacity do you appear before the committee?
Dr Maley —I am appearing in my capacity as an academic political scientist.
CHAIR —Thank you. The committee prefers all evidence to be given in public but, should you at any stage wish to give any part of your evidence in private, you may ask do so and the committee will consider your request. The committee has before it your submission. Are there any alterations or additions you would like to make to the submission at this stage?
Dr Maley —No.
CHAIR —I now invite you to make an opening statement, and then we will proceed to questions. I apologise for our late start, but we will finish in time for you to get to your appointment.
Dr Maley —Thank you. I have provided the committee with a rather detailed written submission and I do not intend to canvass all the specific points which that submission covers. I would like to start by making some comments about my assessment of the different policy settings at different stages of the East Timor operation. I then want to make some observations about what might explain some of the mistakes along the way and conclude with some suggestions about how we might proceed.
Firstly, it seems to me important to concede and recognise that the Minister for Foreign Affairs was right to raise the issue of East Timor and to recognise that, until the bacillus in the relationship—which had been injected by our acceptance of Indonesia's takeover in 1975—had been removed, it would be impossible to move to a stable bilateral relationship with Indonesia. So I am not at all critical of the government for moving towards a new approach to the East Timor issue and nor am I in any sense critical of the way in which INTERFET has conducted itself since the Indonesian government agreed on 12 September to the deployment of the force. In fact, I think the conduct of General Cosgrove and his troops, not only from Australia but from other states, has brought great credit on Australia and the participating states and sent a powerful and important signal about the willingness of the international community to defend the outcome of the popular consultation.
Where I am critical of the policy relates to the failure of Australia and the international community to push with sufficient force for the deployment of a neutral security force before the conduct of the consultation. I think there was a gross underestimation of the importance of a neutral security force. Policy makers both in the UN Secretariat and Australia failed to learn the lesson of Angola in 1992, which was that, if you have a deeply divided society and you lack a neutral security force in a transition process, you run the risk of slaughter on a grand scale. I think we also underestimated our ability as a nation to promote the option of a neutral security force. One frequently hears the statement that the Indonesians would never have agreed to that and that it would therefore have been pointless to promote the option.
I think this view is defective on two grounds. Firstly, while our influence in Jakarta was fairly limited as a consequence of our policy settings over a quarter of century, we actually had a lot of leverage and power in terms of the Indonesians because of the economic situation and vulnerability of the Indonesian economy to various forms of pressure. I have no doubt that the reason Indonesia agreed on 12 September to the deployment of INTERFET was that the government had been warned that the rupiah was likely to melt down in the foreign exchanges the following day because of the postponement of the visit by the International Monetary Fund delegation. I think this is a good illustration of the type of leverage which could have been brought to bear. Secondly, I think there was a gross miscalculation of the extent to which one could rely on TNI and POLRI to provide security for the conduct of the consultation. Frankly, I think this was as naive as it would have been to believe that the Gestapo could provide neutral security for an autonomy vote in occupied Poland.
I would just like to make a couple of comments on why some of these settings were so wrong. I think it is not to do with defective individuals—I would not go so far as to endorse Mr Plunkett's description of some of our policy makers as `drongos'—so much as to do with organisational culture. The late Bernard Brodie's study of organisational culture in the Pentagon in the 1960s during the Vietnam period is instructive here because it shows the way in which a particular view of the world, a particular Weltanschauung, can take root within organisations and those people within an organisation who are not prepared to accept that way of working are slowly marginalised. I think elements of this were apparent, on the one hand, in a disposition to engage in best case scenario reasoning and, on the other hand—at the worst—to engage in wishful thinking of the dreamiest possible variety, allied with a degree of complacency about what was likely to happen.
I will give an example. I was at a meeting at the foreign affairs department on 14 July, which was actually organised by another department, but DFAT officers were there. Timor came up for discussion and I put my hand up and said that I had very bad feelings about how things were likely to develop and that we should be planning for the worst conceivable outcome and doing so at a high level and my sense was that we weren't. During the coffee break, the chair of the meeting, who was an official from the other department, came up to me and said, `You are wrong. The necessary planning is being done and it is irresponsible to raise the issue.' You might guess the identity of the department—actually, it was not DFAT—if I mention that this is on a par with the comment that was reportedly made by an officer from the immigration minister's office on 9 September—four days after slaughter had started on a grand scale—that, if East Timorese wished to come to Australia, they should apply for visas in Jakarta. I think that falls into the `this one I frame' kind of category!
CHAIR —Do you have that quote?
Dr Maley —I can provide it for you. It is on the ABC web site. Mr Warren Snowdon contacted the immigration minister's office to suggest that safe havens should be established for East Timorese in the Darwin area and that was the response he reportedly received.
I think this was complicated by a metaphor which became dominant within policy making circles—namely, that of a window of opportunity which could close at any time. This is a very dangerous form of thinking. It underplays the flexibility of international
politics in the current circumstance. I do not think that anyone in DFAT or the other agencies would have anticipated that President Abdurrahman Wahid would be talking about a referendum in Aceh at the moment and yet, possibly, that now seems to be on the cards. Windows of opportunity often provide real risks. If one thinks that one must rush ahead before a window of opportunity closes, very often the result is that one does not move with the degree of planning and caution that might be required.
Because of the success of the INTERFET operation, there is a danger that we will not learn the lessons that needed to be learned from what happened in the months before the consultation. There has been quite an effort in what you might call trying to paint a bullseye around the spot where the arrow happened to land. If we fail to learn from the poor policy making that preceded the consultation, we run the risk of repeating that kind of pattern of mistakes in the future—not, let us hope, in another East Timor situation that is going to confront us in those particular details at any time soon but in other areas of multilateral activity in which Australia may be requested to become involved, such as support for transition processes in other parts of the world, where the defence department and other agencies have a lot of skills to offer.
To conclude this opening statement, I think at the end of the day we have been lucky, but a lot of East Timorese have not been so lucky. I have at the moment rather ominous feelings about the exact location of the 80,000 East Timorese for whom it seems difficult to account at present. Given the experience of the tribunals in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, anybody who wanted to engage in organised slaughter would have had to have rocks in their head to do it in East Timor. There are other territories much less accessible to investigators where slaughter on quite a scale could have happened. It does seem to me somewhat optimistic to believe that groups that could engage in property damage on the scale which has recently been witnessed by this country would be squeamish about causing personal injury as well. That tends not to be the pattern of such groups. I hope that at the end of the day we will not come to the conclusion that everything has worked out for the best in the wash-up, because there are some people for whom there is no future. Thank you.
Senator BROWNHILL —You make the comment here:
. . . it ill behoves a leader whose defective and blinkered policy settings have helped contribute to a genocide to accuse expert commentators of being `demented'.
I think that is a comment about the Prime Minister, but obviously it must apply to all in the last 24 years in our foreign affairs policy. That is what you are saying.
Dr Maley —Yes.
Senator BROWNHILL —The question I am asking, though, is about genocide. I have asked the question of everyone who has appeared here, and most people say it has not been a genocide. But you are saying it is a genocide.
Dr Maley —It depends on definitional questions. If you have slaughter on a vast scale which is aborted at a certain point, I still think one can use the word `genocide' because of the intent which underpinned the initial pattern of killings. Some political scientists prefer
the expression `politicide' to genocide on the basis that where people are being killed—not on the basis of membership of a particular ascriptive category but on the basis of their perceived political opinions—it may be better to talk about politicide rather than genocide. I see no particular reason to believe that, had INTERFET not been deployed following the exercise of great pressure on the Indonesians, killing on a grand scale would not have continued for a very long period of time.
Senator BROWNHILL —How many people do you think have been killed? One of the earlier witnesses today said that it may be a couple of hundred thousand over 24 years.
Dr Maley —I think a couple of hundred thousand over 24 years is quite a plausible figure, particularly if you include the most recent killings within that total. That is a very large scale of killing.
Senator BROWNHILL —That is 25 per cent, I guess.
Dr Maley —Yes.
Senator BROWNHILL —But how many people do you think were killed leading up to the referendum and after the referendum? They have found 100 graves or something like that, but nobody has been able to say to me in the last week or two in the hearings that they were taken out on a ship, dumped at sea or relocated to West Timor. So they might not have been slaughtered.
Dr Maley —I think that the jury in a sense is out. If one is looking for bodies as the physical evidence of killing, it is too early to start making an assessment.
Senator BROWNHILL —People could have been burnt or disintegrated in some way. There is no doubt about that. You could not actually do a body count.
Dr Maley —No.
Senator BROWNHILL —Still, there would have to be evidence of that from people coming forward and saying, `There were 50 people taken away last night. They were taken to that compound, and they never came out again,' or whatever. That has not happened yet.
Dr Maley —When people go missing on a large scale, prima facie I think it is wise to assume the worst rather than the best. I am prepared to wait to be pleasantly surprised, but I do not think I will be, somehow. If one looks, for example, at the experience with the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to late 1978 in Cambodia, during the period of Khmer Rouge rule a great deal of the material that came out that pointed to large scale slaughter was rather vague and inchoate. It was on this basis that figures like Noam Chomsky, for example, argued that it was really a matter of Western propaganda that killing on a large scale had taken place. Subsequently, in the 1980s, a lot of mass graves were excavated. It is in the first instance a danger signal if one has property damage on a vast scale and large numbers of people for whom it proves difficult to account. It is on that basis that one needs to be extremely apprehensive about what has happened in East Timor.
CHAIR —You spoke about our being a significant force in foreign affairs. How significant are we in either the world spectrum or even the Asian region when we cannot get into ASEAN? Is our vision outstripping our real position?
Dr Maley —No, I do not think it is. In a way, I think for too long we have underestimated the extent to which we can be a force for good in the politics of the region. It is partly because of an excessive caution within our diplomatic style. There is a reluctance to use the real weight that we have both as an economic power vastly more significant than a number of the regional states with whom we interact and as a power which, whilst capable of deploying only a rather small military force for an extended period, can nonetheless deploy a military force of very considerable quality and capability.
It does seem to me that for too long we have paid too much attention to the issue of not allowing our interlocutors to lose face. That has created a situation in which we too readily treat the opening gambit of a party bargaining with us in a negotiation as if it were the bottom line. One sees speculation in the press that during the Bali summit President Habibie threw a tantrum and suggested that he would never agree to international neutral forces being deployed in East Timor. At that point, we moved back to what was a very defective second option—namely, to deploy civilian police. I am not critical at all of what the Australian Federal Police have done. I think they were amazing in the circumstances in which they were deposited, but they should never have been deposited in that kind of context. It was not an appropriate one for civilian police operations. It seems to me that there is a real danger that in that bargaining context we may have mistaken the opening position of the Indonesian government for their bottom line. Any force, government or bargaining partner, which is capable of getting the other side to accept their opening gambit as the bottom line is in a very strong position.
CHAIR —Basically, what you are saying is that we are not good poker players.
Dr Maley —Yes.
CHAIR —We see the ace drawn and think that they have a full four aces.
Dr Maley —Yes, whereas it seemed to me that, earlier this year, Indonesia probably needed Australia more than Australia needed Indonesia. Australia had been a generous contributor to economic assistance to Indonesia following the financial crisis, and the Indonesian economy, particularly its floating currency, made Indonesian policy circles rather vulnerable to external pressure. Yet I see no evidence that any serious attempt was made to orchestrate the kind of pressure that would have been needed to get the policy settings right in order to secure the situation on the ground for the East Timorese in the run-up to the consultation.
CHAIR —I would like to move on. You said that we could be a force for good and a number of other things. How do we become a force in that foreign affairs arena within the South-East Asian environment and with our near neighbours on a bilateral basis? In terms of the United States, it is easy to see that the size of their economy, their role in the UN and the sheer physical size of the nation makes it a force. How do we become a force, given that we are viewed differently by the ASEAN nations? I am looking at it from their perspective
now, not from our perspective. They do not necessarily see us as being part of South-East Asia. How do we become that force? Is it going and knocking on doors? Do we need to create forums in which we can operate? Is part of it our access through the ASEAN door?
Dr Maley —I think what we do need to do is widen our sense of who are appropriate partners within Asia. Many Asian countries are at the moment going through a process of democratisation or a recrudescence of civil society which to some extent has been supported by the economic crisis of the last two years. As far as Indonesia is concerned, there are a lot of young, very open-minded Indonesians, highly educated, who were appalled by what happened in East Timor and whose aspiration for the future of their country is to see it develop as a democratic and much more liberal state than it was during the Suharto period. We should be trying to engage those sorts of groups in a very serious kind of fashion.
CHAIR —When you say we, who is we?
Dr Maley —I think the Australian government, Australian NGOs, the Australian parliament—it does not have to be a one track kind of approach. The more links that we can build with the liberal and democratic forces in Indonesia and in other countries of the region, the better placed we are to cope with troubles in the future, because those partnerships which are based on shared values are going to be much more robust than alliances which are based on a sense of transient interest.
CHAIR —It has been put to us that we spend too much time dealing with the top echelons rather than looking for the other players who might be in the field as well.
Dr Maley —I think that is absolutely right. But I think we also need to reflect on whether we can keep going with a foreign policy which is based on avowed pragmatism. I have a sense that some foreign policy circles have had a bit of a `road to Damascus' experience as a consequence of the recent events in East Timor and that the time is really ripe for reconsideration of whether the kind of pragmatism that was preached in the mid-1970s as far as Indonesia was concerned is any more viable.
In June this year I was at a UN meeting in Norway, sitting next to a senior Norwegian official. Norway is a country with four million people. I said to him, `How is it that a country with a population as small as yours manages to pack a lot of weight in the world?' He said, `It is because we have a foreign policy which is based on values rather than narrow interests.' I think that is something that we really need to contemplate, that as globalisation processes go ahead a distinction between a pragmatic policy and a value based policy becomes harder and harder to maintain, because the processes of transition which are going on in the countries of the region are increasingly permitting the flourishing of groups that are themselves concerned with defining an appropriate value base for their societies. Very often that is very close to what would be seen as an idealistic set of policy settings in Australia. I think there is real potential for us to engage with those kinds of groups in a fruitful long-term relationship. But they will not trust us if they think we are going in simply as a short-term expedient as part of a pragmatic foreign policy. If they think that for pragmatic reasons we are going to dump them at some point in the future, they are not going to regard us as credible partners.
CHAIR —Having read your submission, I think I can characterise it as being fairly critical of the role of DFAT and the part that DFAT has played over a long period of time.
Dr Maley —Yes.
CHAIR —Are you saying that the politicians, the political parties, the political process, have left too much in the hands of the bureaucracy, or are you saying that the parliamentary processes should have scrutinised more the operations of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade? What is the message you are giving us?
Dr Maley —Much more scrutiny of the foreign policy process by parliament would be helpful.
CHAIR —Are you saying that the government should be more active rather than leave it to the professional people within the department of foreign affairs and the like? I do not want to just single them out, because I think it goes broader than that.
Dr Maley —Yes, there are a range of different actors. I would not be at all worried about realists in the foreign affairs department if I thought they were realistic. The problem I have is that a lot of the policy settings that are derived from the so-called foreign policy experts here have been based on wishful thinking, on presumptions which blind Freddy would not accept uncritically. Cultural factors within organisations can generate that type of misperception over time. We do have a great opportunity now to reflect on what might help in the restructuring of the foreign policy process. A bit more attention to public opinion would help.
If one looks at public opinion on the Timor issue and compares it with elite opinion, particularly organised bureaucratic opinion, broadly one can say that the general public got it right. The general public could see that Suharto was a dictator and that pretty nasty things were happening in East Timor, including to people who had helped Australian service personnel during the Second World War, and they did not like it. I got sick to death of hearing people from foreign policy circles saying that the public were ignorant and that one really needed to insulate foreign policy, that it was too important to be buffeted around by attitudes of the general public. I have rather a lot of respect for public opinion on these sorts of issues.
CHAIR —Could I just interpose, because I know time is running out for you and it is certainly running out for me. Does DFAT listen enough to the NGOs and other people who have experience on the ground, or does it tend to dismiss those views?
Dr Maley —There are a lot of formal avenues of consultation—human rights consultations and regular meetings with NGOs. There is a Russian expression `pokazukha', which means `it's all for show', and sometimes I have the feeling that the people who attend those meetings are not those who are ultimately going to be making policy, that the undoubted courtesy that one encounters at such meetings is not indicative of a broader respect for the opinions that are being expressed by people there.
This does tie in with one other cultural problem, which is that there is a disposition in bureaucratic agencies that have access to diplomatic cables to think that people who do not have the cables cannot possibly know what is going on in remote parts of the world. I am a specialist on Afghanistan, and I go to Afghanistan much more frequently than any Australian officials do. There are a whole range of open source channels now by which people in NGOs and people outside government can get almost real-time information about on the ground situations in war torn societies which I suspect is at least as good as, if not perhaps better than, that which bureaucracies have. My sense is that DFAT and a number of other agencies are so busy coping with the cables coming in that they are not accessing this sort of information.
CHAIR —Are you saying that we suffer from information overload?
Dr Maley —We do suffer from information overload, but we also suffer from a lack of—
CHAIR —Do we suffer from a lack of ability to discreetly work through that information and sort out what is good and what is bad, or what is useful?
Dr Maley —Yes. My sense in the Timor case is that there was plenty of information coming into government suggesting that a disaster was quite likely to occur. In terms of detail about the involvement of TNI with the militias, there were specific statements by militia leaders about exactly what they intended to do if there were a vote for independence rather than autonomy. At some point, this was screened out. The failure was not so much a failure of intelligence gathering in terms of raw data and information but of coming to terms with the implications of the information that was coming in. My suspicion is that at a certain stage people just put their heads down, headed for the door of the maze and hoped that momentum would carry them through. Sometimes it does, but very rarely.
CHAIR —I have a final question. Where do you think we need to go in developing our policy on our relations with Indonesia, given the problems that are unfolding within Indonesia at this stage—like Aceh, Kalimantan, et cetera? What do we need to do?
Dr Maley —We need to do three things. Firstly, we need to improve expertise within DFAT. That may seem a strange thing to say, because the Indonesian-Australian relationship has always been projected as a core element, but the emphasis on generalists within the foreign policy bureaucracy rather than specialists means that sometimes one does not have quite the depth of appreciation of the complexities of an issue that one might like to have. That is not a criticism of the current ambassador, who I think has done a wonderful job, but it is a criticism of the degree of specialisation that has been permitted in the past for some of the people who are working in that area. That is the first thing that needs to be addressed.
The second issue which I think needs to be addressed in that respect is the pragmatic realisation that things have gone very badly in the relationship in the last few months and that we need to take advantage of the strength that we have shown through the INTERFET operation, not to lapse back into the old pattern of being a supplicant to the Indonesians. We do have the opportunity to develop a more equal relationship. As someone pointed out, Australian prime ministers have visited Indonesia on something like 15 occasions in the last 20 years. An Indonesian President has not visited Australia since 1975, and that creates an
impression of Australians running off to Jakarta when Jakarta wants it rather than a relationship of mature equality.
Thirdly, we also need to recognise that the Indonesian situation is a deeply deinstitutionalised one. There are optimistic scenarios, but there are also very pessimistic scenarios about what is likely to happen, starting with the break-up of Indonesia. I am worried about what is going on in Aceh at the moment; I think it could be a touchpaper for much wider developments. We need to start thinking about what our settings will be if Indonesia begins to break up in a big way. We should not just adopt a best-case reasoning scenario, nor should we think there is anything we can really do to stop it if it is going to happen.
If Indonesia breaks up, it will be for deep structural reasons in the political system and society which, by this stage, are far beyond the capacity of the Australian government to influence. We should be looking at how we might go about managing a crisis in such a way as best to protect Australian interests and minimise the scale of disruption and bloodshed which ordinary Indonesians might have to face.
Just as a footnote, we need to put an end to a situation in which the immigration department has a foreign policy of its own. If Indonesia begins to break up, we are going to witness large-scale population movements, and they should be recognised as a foreign policy and security issue that needs to be addressed in a centralised fashion. We need to get away from the situation in which different elements of bureaucracy are pursuing their own policy settings because, if that happens, we are at the same time sending out signals to actors in conflicts in the region that will be blurred, muddled and could potentially complicate our situation in a grave and serious fashion. So more coherence in the foreign policy making process is vital.
CHAIR —Thank you. We will stop there. We thank you for your evidence, and we are sorry that we took you a few minutes late, but that was unavoidable. We have appreciated the evidence that you have given to the committee today.
Proceedings suspended from 12.38 p.m. to 2.02 p.m.