Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Doorstop, Hyatt Hotel, Canberra, 29 November 1995 [Topics: James Peng, East Timor]

Q: A question about Mr Peng's deportation. How likely is it, given all the representations we've made thus far, to finally get a result on that?

GE: Now that the court process is complete, I suppose we've got a better chance of getting some sympathetic consideration at an Executive Government level. We will be asking for immediate deportation, and for clemency in that sense, to be exercised. I can't predict how receptive the Chinese Government will be. We can only keep on plugging away.

Q: The opposition is talking about the Harry Wu similarities, saying that we should have similar success to the Americans.

GE: Well Harry Wu rang me very shortly after his release, to thank me for the representations that I, among others, had made to assist his cause. The point about that of course, is that it was a quintessentially a political exercise from start to finish. He was charged with what was essentially a political crime and he was dealt with politically as a result of the pressure that was put on internationally. The trouble about the James Peng case is that it has been set up as an ordinary commercial crime and there is that much more difficulty in terms of being able to characterise it as something justifying some special consideration. But we will continue to be very assiduous in the representations we make because we are unhappy about a great many aspects of the way the justice system operated in this case. And I can only say to his family that we'll keep trying. We understand their frustration and distress.

Q: One other brief question - a member of the East Timorese community rang me this morning to say that you are about to announce an investigation involving the Australian Government Solicitor?

GE: Well, as I said a few weeks ago when this new material started emerging in the public domain, if there is compelling prima facie evidence that we haven't previously been aware of, which suggests that we ought to raise the matter again with the Indonesians, we will certainly be willing to do that. What we're embarking upon now is an exercise to test the weight and quality of that evidence which is said to now be available from East Timorese resident in Australia and Portugal in particular. And I am asking the former Australian Government Solicitor, Tom Sherman, who will be retiring at the end of January as Chairman of the National Crime Authority, to conduct that investigation, if you like, for us: to report back to Government on what the weight and character of the new evidence might be. When we get that report we will be in a better position to judge what the sensible way to move forward might be.

Q: And the last question. I know that certain members of the East Timorese community have made an approach to the International Jurists to have some sort of independent enquiry. What's your position on that?

GE: Well, that was one of the options that we considered, and I talked to the Independent Commission of Jurists about that, as well as to the East Timorese representatives. I think everybody is now happy with this particular course that I'm now proposing to take. This is not necessarily the last word on all of this. But it is a way of taking the issue forward, and just seeing what evidence there might be that would justify some further response. But at this stage, I think, any bells and whistles judicial type enquiry would have been quite premature or misconceived. What we do need to do is to just see what new evidence there is which might enhance our understanding of what actually happened in that terrible event 20 years ago.