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Thursday, 1 September 1994
Page: 856

Senator MARGETTS (7.39 p.m.) —I would like to take this opportunity to mention that today is an important day for the people of Bougainville as it is the 19th anniversary of Bougainville Independence Day. It is very significant that we are moving towards a peace process around the time that Bougainville declared independence. I am pleased to see that the newly elected Papua New Guinean Prime Minister, Sir Julius Chan, has placed the Bougainville issue and proposed peace talks at the forefront of the government's agenda.

  I hope Sir Julius Chan does not repeat the mistakes of his predecessor, Mr Paias Wingti, who believed there was a military solution to Bougainville and has been a part of PNG's bloodshed and repression in Bougainville. Since the conflict in Bougainville began, we should take time to think about the 5,000 deaths that have occurred in Bougainville, 2,000 of which were children.

  The Wingti government strategy relied on a military solution with the object of re-opening the Panguna copper mine. This was an immoral and ill-conceived plan which was doomed to fail. This is because the Panguna copper mine is at the heart of the conflict in Bougainville and not until there is peace should the inherent problems of the mine be worked out between Bougainville and Papua New Guinea. So long as the mine is forcefully taken by one side or another without conciliation and negotiation, so too will the conflict be prolonged. Ultimately, the Wingti government's strategy worked against the consummation of a peace process, tightened the blockade which brought hardship on the local Bougainvillean population and served to intensify the war.

  Some of these problems were illustrated in the report of the June delegation to Bougainville, led by Senator Loosley, which recommended a peace plan and a non-military solution to the crisis. Unfortunately, the delegation also recommended the tightening of the blockade which has starved many of the local population of medicines and has caused many needless and innocent deaths. Australia's role has been hypocritical.

  Although we espouse these kinds of `peaceful' solutions, we remained awfully quiet as the PNG defence force attacked the BRA at the Panguna copper mine last week. We are complicit in the military aid we provide to Papua New Guinea, the training of elite Papua New Guinea corps to fight in Bougainville and the provision of patrol boats and Iroquois helicopters used in the repressive blockade and war.

  Australia has trained half the PNG defence force, or around 2,000 soldiers, since the Bougainville conflict began six years ago. This year we are training 201 PNG defence force personnel in Australia and have sent 77 Australian advisers to PNG, most of them from the army with some providing support to the PNG air wing and one adviser with each of the four Australian supplied Pacific class patrol boats. It is also likely that every senior army officer, lieutenant-colonel and above in the PNG defence force was trained at Fort Queenscliff. Brigadier-General Dademo, commander of the PNG defence force, was trained at Fort Queenscliff.

  Australia must follow UNESCO Council resolutions 19/92, 76/93 and 81/94 which call upon the PNG government to negotiate a peaceful settlement on Bougainville and to allow humanitarian aid in the country. I am glad that the new Chan government hopes to make the peace process its new priority. On this Bougainville Independence Day I hope it will look favourably at the demands of the BRA, which include an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of all PNG troops from Bougainville, an immediate lifting of the blockade which has resulted in thousands of needless deaths and the immediate facilitation of medical supplies and humanitarian services to all areas of Bougainville. If the process can amount to respectful negotiation we will be one step closer to resolving this long and violent conflict by peaceful means.