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Thursday, 14 August 2003
Page: 18579

Mr RUDD (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to page 147 of the Department of Foreign Affairs publication East Timor in Transition 1998-2000, which records an incident at Suai on 6 October 1999. Does the minister recall that, in this incident, an INTERFET vehicle came under fire in a militia ambush? The two Australian INTERFET soldiers were seriously wounded and two militia were killed in the exchange. Can the minister assure the House that neither Gardapaksi, described by the minister's department as closely associated with Kopassus and used to conduct activities on its behalf, nor any other Kopassus-trained militia unit were responsible for opening fire on Australian troops on that occasion? How will the minister ensure that, in the re-establishment of links with Kopassus, all those Kopassus troops responsible for the training of militia in East Timor for operations against pro-independence elements and the Australian Defence Force will not form part of the Kopassus units with whom the minister now proposes to re-establish links?

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —It has been a longstanding policy not just of this government but of the previous Australian government that, where we are aware of known people being involved in partner militaries—and I refer in particular to what used to be ABRI and is now TNI—we endeavour not to be involved in any activities jointly with those people. That is the policy of this government, it was the policy, as I understand it, of the last government and we will continue to maintain that policy. Our view, as I expressed it two days ago, is that, where we are aware of TNI members, be they in Kopassus or in other units of TNI with which we may have, through necessity, some degree of cooperation, and where those people have been involved in egregious human rights abuses of one kind or another, then we will not be participating in activities with those people.

I make another point: this government believe that it is fundamentally important that we at least do all that we possibly can to protect the security of Australians. We make no apology for the fact that we are prepared to work with those elements in Indonesia—

Mr Rudd —So why aren't the Americans?

The SPEAKER —The member for Griffith has asked his question!

Mr DOWNER —that have the greatest capacity to help release Australians who may be taken hostage in that country or who may be part of some hijacking drama—

The SPEAKER —The member for Griffith is defying the chair!

Mr DOWNER —We make no apology for working with those organisations to help Australians because, on this side of the House, we are unapologetic about standing up for our national security and the safety of our people. One of the most ironic interjections I think I have heard in a very long time from the rather anti-American Labor Party is the interjection of the member for Griffith, who says, `What about the Americans?' No, sir, we do not take our instructions on this matter from the Americans.