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Wednesday, 30 November 1983
Page: 3122

Question No. 612

Dr Everingham asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 12 October 1983:

(1) Is he able to say whether Indonesia banned Red Cross visits to East Timor from early September 1983 ostensibly because of military operations around Viqueque and Los Palos aimed at flushing out members of the East Timor independence front.

(2) Will Australia cease military aid to Indonesia until an internationally endorsed act of self-determination occurs in East Timor; if not, why not.

Mr Hayden —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The relief operations of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC ) on the main island of East Timor were suspended in July 1983 as a result of restrictions placed on the movement of ICRC delegates by the Indonesian authorities. However, the ICRC's family reunion activities on the main island and its food and medical program on Atauro Island have continued uninterrupted.

The Indonesian representative at the United Nations said on 14 October that the 'temporary suspension was due to recent security disturbances and here ( Indonesia's) concern is solely with the safety of ICRC personnel in the area where the earlier mentioned incident (that is the attack near Dilor on 8 August in which 15 Indonesian soldiers were killed) occurred'. The fact that the ICRC still has access to East Timor was shown by the arrival in Dili on 27 and 31 October respectively of the ICRC nurse and the ICRC doctor from Geneva. The ICRC tracing officer is expected to visit East Timor shortly.

As a major contributor to ICRC operations in East Timor, the Government is naturally concerned by the restrictions which have been placed on relief operations on the main island and has made its concern known to the Indonesian authorities.

The Government hopes that the negotiations now taking place between the Indonesian authorities and the ICRC will result in the ICRC being able to resume the full range of its operations without delay.

(2) The Defence Cooperation Program developed in recent years with our neighbours in South-East Asia forms an important facet of our overall relationship with most of them. Activities under the Defence programs complement those in the political, economic and cultural fields which are designed to encourage friendly and cooperative bilateral relations with our near neighbours, serving both their interests and those of Australia.

In the case of Indonesia, I announced in Jakarta on 8 April that existing programs, projects and exchanges with Indonesia would be maintained subject to a thorough review of all aspects of our bilateral relations, including defence cooperation. When that review is concluded it will then be possible to make informed decisions on the nature of the relationship. In the meantime, and as a matter of realistic practice, relations will continue to function as they have to the present.