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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2880

Senator ELSTOB —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It concerns the Treaty of Mutual Respect, Co-operation and Friendship recently signed by Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Will the signing lead to the likelihood of joint Papua New Guinea-Indonesian military operations in border disturbances, as suggested by Indonesia's Dr Mochtar? What are the likely consequences of the signing for the 10,000 Irian Jaya border crossers currently living in the camps near the border? Does the Treaty serve to diminish opportunities for Australian participation in attempts to bring about a satisfactory resolution of the border crossers problem?

Senator GARETH EVANS —There have been some misunderstandings about the scope, effect and implications of this Treaty on the border crosser issue. Let me try to clarify the situation. The Treaty of Mutual Respect, Co-operation and Friendship between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea was signed by the Indonesian and Papua New Guinean Foreign Ministers on 27 October in Port Moresby. The legislatures of those two countries must still ratify the Treaty. The express purposes of the Treaty are to promote respect for both country's territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence; and to commit both countries to the avoidance and peaceful resolution of disputes and to the facilitation of contacts and exchanges between their peoples. The Treaty refers to each party's right to be free from external interference in their internal affairs. The Australian Government welcomes all steps taken by Papua New Guinea and Indonesia to develop and expand their relationship, given that both countries are important regional partners of Australia.

The Treaty does not directly address border issues between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, nor does it provide for joint military operations in the border area. Border issues are handled by both countries through separate bilateral machinery set up for that purpose. It is not anticipated that the Treaty will have any immediate consequences for the approximately 11,000 Irian Jayans who are in border camps in Papua New Guinea. At the request of the Papua New Guinea Government, these border crossers are being cared for with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Australia has provided assistance, as is well known, for the Irian Jayans through the UNHCR. There is no reason why Australia should not be able to continue to provide such assistance in the future if the need for it remains.