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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2219

Senator GARETH EVANS —Mr President, I have another supplementary answer to a question asked of me in my capacity as Acting Foreign Minister by Senator McIntosh on 16 May on the question of the Indonesian transmigration program. I seek leave to incorporate the supplementary answer in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows-

The Australian Government maintains a continuing dialogue with the World Bank on a range of issues.

Since the 1970s, the Indonesian authorities have been engaged in moving large numbers of people from Java to less populated areas, especially Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and more recently Irian Jaya. The stated aim of the program is to reduce population pressure in Java and to stimulate economic development in outlying regions. Planning figures indicate that in the period 1984-89, 600,000 people are to be moved to Irian Jaya, out of a program involving approximately four million transmigrants.

The Australian Government has expressed the view to the World Bank, and to other concerned agencies, that support for the transmigration program, particularly as it applies to the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya, should be based on ensuring that social and cultural differences of indigenous peoples should be taken into account in the implementation of the program.

Recently, Indonesia agreed to an Australian proposal made at the Inter-Governmental Group on Indonesia (IGGI) meeting in The Hague in June 1984, that the Indonesian Government arrange a briefing on the transmigration program as a whole for interested IGGI representatives in Jakarta. This was held in Jakarta on 20 March 1985 and was attended by senior Indonesian officials and officers of the Australian Embassy.

The Australian Government is grateful for this briefing and the opportunity to discuss Indonesia's transmigration program. The Government looks forward to further constructive discussions on transmigration with the Indonesian authorities.

The Australian Government has received no information or evidence to suggest that implementation of the Indonesian transmigration program to date has caused any basic or major violations of human rights. It acknowledges that there might in certain circumstances be scope for problems to arise and has therefore urged a sensitive and cautious approach to the question on the part of all concerned.

The transmigration program has clearly been an important factor in Indonesia's continuing economic progress. It has worked well in the areas of initial settlement. The Government is conscious that the extension of the program to areas where there are pronounced cultural and social differences, especially Irian Jaya, requires a considered and sympathetic approach if potential problems are to be avoided.

Australia, as a close neighbour to Indonesia, would naturally be concerned if difficulties in the transmigration program were to lead to complications in Indonesia's relations with its neighbours. Concern in this regard has been brought to the attention of the Indonesian authorities since late 1983 and has been reaffirmed on a number of subsequent occasions. Australian representations have been made in a constructive manner and with full regard to the priorities of the Indonesian Government and the difficulties it faces in encouraging broadly based economic development in Irian Jaya as elsewhere in the country. The Australian Government has indicated to the Indonesian authorities its belief that Melanesian cultural values should be accommodated within the framework of Indonesia's national development, and that the transmigration program in Irian Jaya should be conducted in such a way as to avoid any adverse effects on Indonesia's relations with neighbouring countries.