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Tuesday, 23 August 1994
Page: 156

(Question No. 1476)

Senator Bourne asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 20 June 1994:

  (1) Does the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) intend to discuss the East Timor issue with the Indonesian President on his forthcoming visit to Indonesia.

  (2) What will be the nature of his representations to the Indonesian President over the deteriorating human rights situation in East Timor.

  (3) Will representations be made on behalf of the leader of the East Timorese resistance, Xanana Gusmao, and will the Prime Minister urge for his release from detention.

  (4) Has consideration been given to the establishment of a suitable Australian memorial in East Timor to commemorate the commitment and sacrifice of those Australian and Timorese soldiers who served during the Second World War.

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

  (1) As I have indicated publicly, the issue of East Timor, which is just one part of our total relationship with Indonesia, arose in the context of the very productive discussions which I had with President Soeharto on a wide range of bilateral issues.

  (2) See (1) above. The Australian Government's approach to the East Timor issue is consistent. We recognise Indonesia's sovereign authority over East Timor, but encourage the Indonesian Government to seek long term reconciliation in the province.

  (3) See (1) and (2) above. The Australian Government has closely followed the arrest, trial and detention of Xanana Gusmao. Since Xanana was found guilty on 21 May 1993 of sedition and rebellion we have made a number of representations concerning his health and welfare in detention. We welcomed President Soeharto's reduction in August 1993 of Xanana's sentence from life to twenty years imprisonment. I am also pleased to note that Xanana recently received a visit from his wife and children organised through the International Committee of the Red Cross.

  (4) The Government recognises the considerable contribution and sacrifice of Australian soldiers who served in Timor, and the Timorese who helped them, during the Second World War. No consideration is being given to the establishment of a specific memorial.