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Tuesday, 5 June 1984
Page: 2493

Senator GARETH EVANS —Yesterday Senator Missen sought responses from the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hawke) on the Papua New Guinea-Indonesian border situation. I undertook to produce further and more detailed answers as soon as possible. I have spoken to the Minister and I now have the following answer to read into the record: I am aware that Senator Missen has asked a number of questions concerning the death of Mr Arnold Ap in Irian Jaya and the repatriation of Irianese border crossers from Papua New Guinea to Indonesia. Senator Missen's question without notice on 4 April 1984 concerning Mr Ap was subsequently answered in reply by the Minister for Foreign Affairs which Senator Missen read into Hansard on 9 May 1984, at page 1871.

The questions raised by Senator Missen concerning the case of Mr Ap in the adjournment debate of 9 May were answered in a reply from the Minister for Foreign Affairs incorporated in Hansard on 31 May 1984, at page 2316. Those replies made clear the Government's concern over recent developments and the representations which were made on behalf of Mr Ap and the other persons detained for alleged pro-OPM sympathies. Concerning Senator Missen's letter to the Minister for Trade, Mr Bowen, on 23 May 1984, I understand that a reply is being prepared and will be available shortly. As regards the allegation that the Australian Government has advised the Papua New Guinea Government against giving assistance to the OPM and to send border crossers back to Irian Jaya, I can assure the Senate that no such advice has been offered by this Government.

More generally on the question of Irianese border crossings the Government is aware of continuing crossings into Papua New Guinea from the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya. Best estimates put the total number of crossers into Papua New Guinea at around 8,000. The Government has been monitoring developments along the border and has noted recent comments by authorities in both countries to the effect that most of the border crossers will return to Irian Jaya in the near future. This follows agreement to their return between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries at their April meeting in Jakarta and Indonesian assurances that their safety would be guaranteed provided they were not involved in acts violating Indonesian law. We have noted assurances to Parliament by Papua New Guinea's Foreign Minister, Mr Namaliu, that those who have a well founded fear of persecution because of their involvement in dissident activities in Indonesia should be allowed to stay in Papua New Guinea for the time being.

The Government believes that the border problem is one for the two countries themselves to resolve and views the understandings that have been reached between them as a helpful contribution towards resolving the problem. In the Australian Government's view it is necessary that the solution to the problem of border crossers should take full account of the important humanitarian considerations that are involved.