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Tuesday, 4 September 1984
Page: 435

(Question No. 978)


Senator Watson asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs , upon notice, on 15 June 1984:

(1) Why have representatives in the Department of Foreign Affairs expressed surprise at a retaliation by Indonesia in cancelling the planned visit to East Timor by the Australian Ambassador in Indonesia, Mr Dalrymple, when it must be received against a background of Australia giving offence to Indonesia in allowing East Timorese Guerilla Fretilin Leader Mr Jose Horta permission for a six week speaking tour of Australia.

(2) Is this not yet another demonstration of Australian Government vanity in insulating and distancing itself on issues deemed important to our ASEAN neighbours and trading partners.


Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The visit to Australia of Mr Jose Ramos Horta, Fretilin's representative at the United Nations, reflects the Government's belief that as a matter of general principle, such persons should not be refused entry solely on the grounds that they are likely to express controversial views while they are here. In allowing Mr Morta to visit Australia, the Government made it clear, including to the Indonesian authorities, that the visit was in Mr Horta's personal capacity, that he would not receive any Government assistance and that the visit did not imply any change in the Government's attitude towards Fretilin.

The initial cancellation of Ambassador Dalrymple's visit to East Timor, for whatever reasons, caused some surprise. The foregoing circumstances surrounding Mr Horta's visit to Australia were clearly understood by Indonesian authorities and a similar visit had been made in June 1983 by two Fretilin Central Committee Members, Abilio Araujo and Roque Rodriquez.

The Government held the view that a visit to East Timor to examine developments in the province since the visit of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation in August 1983 was in both countries' interest. This point was accepted by the Indonesian Government and the visit took place from 4 to 7 July 1984.

(2) No. The Government has not in any way sought to distance itself from its ASEAN neighbours and trading partners on this or any other issue. Indeed the whole thrust of the Government's foreign policy is to involve Australia more directly and immediately in the issues facing our region. While, as a natural part of this process, there have been some differences of view with our asean colleagues on particular issues, Australia's role and interests in the region are accepted and our continuing consultations have proved productive for Australia and the region.