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Thursday, 23 September 1999
Page: 10454

Mr MURPHY (10:56 AM) —I am very pleased to be able to participate in the debate on the motion before the House this morning. I would like to start by responding to the recent events in East Timor, and in particular the plight of the dispossessed East Timorese, forcibly removed from their land to West Timor and other parts of the archipelago.

On Saturday, 18 September 1999, Sister Susan Connelly, of the Mary MacKillop Institute of East Timorese Studies, gave an address to a large crowd at the East Timor rally assembled in Sydney's Hyde Park. It is worth quoting from those words, placing them on public record. The speech is a demand to the government to use all force necessary to give those dispossessed people of East Timor the right to be repatriated to East Timor if it is their wish.

Sister Connelly notes the United States comments likening East Timor to a `speed hump' in the path of Indonesian diplomatic progress. `East Timor,' they say, `is a speed hump on the way to Jakarta and we must get over it safely. Indonesia is such a big place and so central to the stability of the region.' This statement represents a profound ignorance of policy and I note Sister Connelly's observation:

This speed hump insult betrays a monumental ignorance of human nature and human self-understanding . . . All of our cultural traditions and religions present us with stories and reflections which show that the small ones are ignored, not only to their peril but to ours.

We too are a small nation, of only just under 20 million, neighbouring a powerful country of 211 million. Are we going to allow ourselves to be subject to the same rules that we allow East Timor to be subject to?

To put this another way, the ethic we have applied here alongside the United States is now the same ethic being applied to Australia. It is the ancient pre-Christian ethic of Greek origin that, indeed, `might makes right'. The weaker give way to the stronger. It is the central rule of law. It is purely nihilist, purely secular. It asserts that, because I am stronger than you, therefore I am morally right to do whatever I do to you and you are wrong. This is the ethic of our modern government, this government, in rewarding the rich and punishing the poor because they are incapable of defending themselves.

What was the principal factor that led to the United States winning the Cold War? Was it that the United States had more military force than the communists? No, they were not always stronger militarily. The former Soviet Union, at certain points in time, easily outmatched the United States and her allies militarily. The United States and her allies did not win the Cold War; the former Soviet Union lost the Cold War. The communist regime was so hated that it literally disintegrated. It was unsustainable.

Any regime, be it fascism, communism or the regime in Indonesia, that places its foundations on cultural relativism or other false ideologies faces the same destiny of disintegration. Thus Australia faces the same plight so long as we place our trust in philosophies that violate the rule of law and the natural law. That does not mean we do not apply force. That means that our policy formulation must acknowledge up front when the ballot in East Timor is imminently likely to be violated by parties that do not honour the rule of law but seek to violate its principles with alternative false and evil philosophies.

What can we as Australians say now without the assistance of the false United States umbrella of protection—that delusional lie that we have been living for so very long? What will be our response when we too are subject to the same worldly philosophy that drives mobs of militia or even governments to perpetrate what we know in our hearts and minds to be the most conspicuous evil?

It is clear that we as a culture in Australia have lost the Christian ethic that underpins our legal system, our very notion of the rule of law. I note that the rule of law has been said a lot lately in respect of the United Nations peace enforcement charter in East Timor, but do we know what that means? Let me tell you what that means. It means that a law is applied probatively and predictably without favour. It does not discriminate between one citizen and another. The rule of law is universalist in its perspective. It is not cultural relativist.

What does this mean in East Timor? It means we are dealing with regional powers that have no concept of the rule of law. They apply cultural relativist standards. I go so far as to say that if the East Timorese had not been Christian then we would not have seen anything like the massacre that happened. I note that even Mr Xanana Gusmao was surprised and shocked at the extent of the carnage. Even he did not anticipate the scale of the reprisal.

Sister Connelly is totally correct when she begs the question, `After 2000 years, haven't we yet understood that might is not always right, that big is not always better?' Sister Connelly reflects on the law of the world, that Greek philosophy that is so seductive, so evil, so wrong. We face the same threat here in Australia. We are just one big populated island with vast resources. Are we too to be subject to the same ethic by which we adjudged East Timor, allowing ourselves to carry on in some vain hope of an idyllic world where Indonesia would seriously honour the commitment following a vote?

It is time this parliament wakes up culturally to who and what we are. The naivety of our beliefs were profoundly ignorant. Indeed, such beliefs are invincibly ignorant. We were told a vote would secure a peaceful transition. We were told that cultural relativism would not be the rule of law for East Timor. We then witnessed cultural relativism at its very best—the systematic annihilation of a people culturally different, and I say religiously different, from those perpetrating the evil. I say `evil' because under any definition it is evil. The action of the militia, backed by the Indonesian army, offends every moral code imaginable, the rule of law, human rights and universalism.

This brings me to the next point about the plight of the displaced persons forcibly expatriated from East Timor to West Timor and other parts of the archipelago. I quote again from Sister Connelly who says, `The East Timorese people's troubles are far from over.' We must pay particular attention to those in West Timor. The majority of East Timorese at present in West Timor have been kidnapped at gunpoint, forced to move to enemy territory and are living in mortal fear for their lives. The retreat of many militias and some Indonesian troops from East Timor to West Timor, defeated, humiliated and vengeful, are a major threat to life and limb. They have proved themselves willing and capable of attacking unarmed women and babies, and so the fear is well founded.

The Indonesian government's reluctance to admit care agencies from outside Indonesia into West Timor and elsewhere, to say nothing of foreign journalists, is a disturbing signal of its intention to allow further ferocious slaughter. We must all redouble our efforts to help an estimated 150,000 East Timorese hostages. We must demand that the Indonesian government face reality and accept the help it needs to repatriate those people safely to East Timor and to protect them in the meantime. We must lobby our leaders and the world's leaders to induce Indonesia to make this happen. We must appeal to the Indonesian leaders to redeem their international image by facilitating the return of these people.

We are starting to hear about the `hurt feelings' of some people. We are told that we have to consider Indonesian sensibilities. Well, I have got news for people pushing this barrow. The life of one Timorese baby, the thumb of one Timorese youth, the pain and terror of one raped Timorese girl, and the sorrow of one Timorese father is of more consequence in the scheme of things than having to consider Indonesian sensibilities.

Australia, the United States and the United Nations got it totally wrong in respect of the East Timorese ballot—fatally wrong. We cannot be fools and get it wrong one more time. A failure to understand our own reasoning has been the cause of an estimated 20,000 deaths, including the deliberate killings of specific individuals such as pro-independence community leaders, priests, community workers, nuns and so forth. For the first time in history the Red Cross has come under attack, its buildings and property destroyed.

Do we now believe that the philosophy of cultural relativism has suddenly lifted from the paradigms of Indonesian thought? I do not believe it has. For that matter, neither have our paradigms shifted. We are patting ourselves on the back for a so-called leadership role we cannot lay claim to. We play a significant but limited role in the initiative of the United Nations. Only by the grace of the unanimous vote of the Security Council are we in East Timor at all.

Thus, the scene is set for recalcitrant and recidivist tendencies that may see the matter resurface again. Both our views are institutionalised in terms of belief systems. They are not remorseful because they have killed innocent women, babies and other people. They are remorseful because they did not get away with it. They will now attempt to do exactly the same with the displaced persons in West Timor and elsewhere. We, on the other hand, will fall into the same error of judgment and will repeat history if we do not change our process of reasoning now.

I urge the government to encourage the international community to press the Indonesian government to repatriate the displaced people of East Timor who have been forcibly removed against their will to West Timor and elsewhere. I urge the government to not become complacent in seeing that these displaced persons be placed under the immediate care and control of international care agencies and ensuring their safe repatriation to East Timor.

I strongly endorse the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs Mary Robinson, in seeking an international commission of inquiry into all aspects of these atrocities, and expect Australia to make available all intelligence resources at our disposal to present evidence in support of the laying of charges and convictions flowing from a commission. I would hope this parliament likewise endorses the president's recommendations.

Finally, God bless the people of East Timor and all the members of the peacekeeping force, guard their safety and unity and preserve their harmony, for therein lies our strength and peace. Amen.