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Thursday, 10 March 1977

The belief that security can be obtained by throwing a small State to the wolves is a fatal delusion.' . . . Winston Churchill (2 1.9.38).

Any thinking Australian must be concerned about and distressed by, recent allegations of atrocities having been committed in East Timor. Many were gravely concerned by the act of annexation of East Timor by Indonesia, following the Portuguese withdrawal. I must confess that for some time I have been deeply troubled about what happened in East Timor and Australia 's reaction to it.

My personal anxiety has been heightened by a massive campaign to brand any person concerned about East Timor as ' pro-Fretilin ' and therefore, ' pro-communist. '

This is not so. Even my most bitter political opponents would concede that I am staunchly anti-communist and I have, on one occasion, been described as 'the worst Redbaiter' in the House of Representatives.

One could hardly call the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, headed by Bishop Mulkearns, of Ballarat, a 'leftist 'organisation.

Last December, the commission publicly expressed its dismay over East Timor, asserting that the situation (of up to SOO 000 East Timorese) had become 'critical' for food, clothing and medical supplies.

The commission eloquently pressed for international humanitarian aid to be allowed into East Timor. The commission's anxiety has no doubt been increased by the persistent recent reports of alleged atrocities.

These reports cannot forever be swept under the carpet, and our penchant for non-involvement should not extend to abstaining from probing for the truth behind the allegations of massacres, and the sul) unresolved mystery of the deaths of five Australian journalists in 1 97S.

In conscience, I can no longer countenance that we, as a nation, should recline in supine acquiescence. As a nation, we do not emerge with any pride or credibility in the eyes of the free world and those who expouse the cause of freedom.


I take considerable inspiration from the immortal speech of Winston Churchill in the House of Commons, 5 October 1 938 when, following the Munich debacle, he said: ... the terrible words have, for the time being, been pronounced against the Western democracies: "Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting ' '. '

Churchill went on to say, ' . . . and do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us, year by year, unless by a supreme recovery of moral health ... we rise again and take our stand for freedom as in olden times. '

The Munich experience must surely have shattered, for all dme, the false logic of equating appeasement with peace.

The recent allegations by Senator Kilgariff, and the former Australian Consul in Dili ( Mr Dunn) cry out for prompt and painstaking investigation, either by a United Nations mission (as Mr Gordon Bryant, MHR, has suggested) or by a visit to East Timor by an Australian parliamentary delegation, as I have advocated.

The eyes of the free world are on Australia, and many nations will base their attitude on the stand we take.

We are passing through 'an awful milstone in our history' (Churchill) and as Alexander Solzhenitsyn has said: '(our) obligation to those still alive out weighs (our) obligation to the dead.'

I commit myself to the course of action of seeking, and revealing, the truth concerning East Timor.

For us, as Australians, to bury our heads in the sand and turn our backs on what is alleged to have occurred would be a gross act of national moral cowardice. We would be degrading Australia, and future generations would have to bear the same shame and disgrace which fell upon those citizens of nazi Germany who turned a blind eye to Auschwitz by the simple process of saying to themselves: 'It does not exist- it has not occurred. '

The dilemma of East Timor will not go away- it will not conveniently disappear. The ghosts of the dead will haunt each and every one of us who seeks solace in silent acquiescence.

I cannot put out of my mind the knowledge of the thousands of Timorese who laid down their lives in World War II in the cause of freedom- many of them dying alongside Australian service men.

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