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Monday, 30 March 1987
Page: 1740


Mr MILTON(10.30) —I go on record tonight in strong support of the Timorese struggle for self-determination. It is most disappointing that the Federal Government has not taken an active role in support of the Timorese, particularly bearing in mind the 1986 Australian Labor Party National Conference policy resolution which states:

Conference regrets that an appropriate internationally supervised act of self-determination has not occurred.

Whilst it is true that the Conference also resolved that there should be a broadening of cultural, political and economic ties between Australia and Indonesia, this resolution did not mean that we should provide economic aid which helps Indonesia to continue its current armed offensive against the Timorese people. The Indonesian Government has continually refused to allow Australian and British parliamentarians to visit East Timor. Only recently-in January 1987-the Australian and British parliamentary Amnesty International groups were refused permission to visit East Timor to investigate the claim that a violation of human rights was occurring in the country. The Chairman of the British parliamentary group, Lord Avebury, spoke in the House of Lords on 11 February on the matter, and I quote from his speech:

On 1st October last year I wrote, as chairman of the group, to the Indonesian Foreign Minister. Our colleague, Robert Tickner MP, the Chairman of the Australian Parliamentary Human Rights Group wrote simultaneously to the Indonesian Foreign Minister via the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra. Our friend Mr Tickner received an answer after some weeks that it was inconvenient for a visit by members of Parliament from Australia and Britain to go to East Timor because of the preparations that were taking place for the so-called elections in April.

We had a reply from the Ambassador here dated 11th December saying:

``We regret to inform you that your request has been unsuccessful''.

The Ambassador did not explain why our visit was not welcome but obviously it had nothing whatever to do with the elections. I suspect the Indonesians would like entirely to prevent the outside world from knowing what they are doing in East Timor. Particularly they do not want anybody to observe the military operations that are currently taking place in the territory.

It is particularly sad that Australia should appear to be indifferent to the plight of the Timorese people because they gave much needed help to Australian troops during the desperate Pacific battles of the Second World War. Since the Indonesian invasion of 1975, of the total estimated Timorese population at that time of 650,000, up to one-third have been eliminated. One only has to read Jose Ramos-Hortas's new book Funu-The Unfinished Saga of East Timor to appreciate the sense of betrayal which Timorese leaders feel in regard to Australia's official acceptance of Indonesia's occupation of East Timor. As Jose Ramos-Hortas points out in his book, which should be read by all members of this House, only 364 miles separate Australia and East Timor. It was because of our close proximity to East Timor and because of the strong ties forged between Australian veterans of the East Timor campaign that the Timorese people and their leaders turned to us for help after the Indonesian invasion in 1975. Unfortunately, successive Australian governments, including the Whitlam Australian Labor Party Government, the Fraser Liberal-National Party Government and now the Hawke ALP Government seem completely obsessed by the need to appease Indonesia in almost all the demands it makes upon us. Of course we should not ignore the fifth most populous nation in the world. Indeed, our Federal policy requires that we should maintain friendly relations with Indonesia. It is my view that the Indonesian Government would treat us with much more respect if we were more frank and open in our criticisms of its actions in East Timor. Surely we have had enough examples in foreign affairs in past years to realise that our refusal to recognise the brutal realities of Indonesian army actions in East Timor is seen by the military government in Jakarta as weakness and subservience by Australia. Noam Chomsky states in a foreword to the book Funu:

The torture of the people of East Timor will continue as long as we are willing to look the other way. The Timorese will survive at best ``under arrest,'' in the words of a recent West German parliamentarian delegation, describing what they saw in a country where ``people do not laugh.'' Meanwhile, Western journalists on guided tours will applaud the efforts being undertaken by the Indonesians to bring the benefits of civilisation to the benighted Timorese, who will soon suffer the fate of the people of West Papua, cynically consigned to Indonesia by the West years earlier, now facing obliteration as their territory becomes the site of the ``largest colonisation program in history,'' Survival International informs us. But profits flow, and all is well.