Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 23 September 1999
Page: 10457


Mr HOCKEY (Financial Services and Regulation) (11:06 AM) —We all appreciate the heartfelt comments of our colleagues on both sides of the House in relation to this very difficult matter. It gives me great comfort to know that in my comments I enjoy the broad support of the people from right across my electorate, from East Roseville to the Harbour Bridge and from Linley Point to Cremorne. The 140,000 people of my electorate have certainly, as one, spoken with a sense of frustration, at times outrage, and occasionally deep anger at the events that have occurred in East Timor over the last few weeks.

At a time when the world around us seems to unravel and events, including those causing great emotion, start to unfold, it is important that we keep a level head. That is the great test of leadership—your strength at a time when things are going badly, when you are under enormous pressure. The test of leadership does not come when things are going well. So Australia's leadership—and I say that as a nation we have displayed leadership—in helping to resolve the problems of East Timor has had a profound impact not only on our relationship with our near neighbours in Asia but also, importantly, in a global context. I say that because if we put in some perspective the events that have occurred over the last few weeks, we will start to get a grasp of how significant the reaction of the world has been to the events that have occurred in East Timor.

The United Nations throughout its history since 1944 has been developing as a body to try and resolve human conflicts. It has had police actions initiated by the most powerful countries in the world, such as the United States or the Soviet Union. It has always had a Security Council where the veto has been exercised on a regular basis. But, most importantly, when you have a good look as an outside observer at international relations you start to pick up that very few actions by the world's peacekeepers are an answer to a matter of principle. Sometimes political ideology is involved; sometimes religion is involved; sometimes—mostly, in fact—economic interests are involved. Where was the principle of the UN action in Kuwait when around 27 countries participated to push Iraq out of Kuwait? Where was the principle in Rwanda when the Hutus and the Tutsis were turning the rivers into a flow of red bodies, and the world stood back and watched TV each night? Where was the principle? There was no principle. Economic interests were the main focus in Kuwait, and the world did not react on principle in Rwanda.

Whenever you look at international relations, you see one constant theme: that there is virtually no principle regarding humanity that results in an immediate reaction. Everything was weighing against the world reacting swiftly to the events in East Timor. The first question you need to ask is: how long should it take for the world to react to a domestic activity in East Timor? Before any government commits troops, it needs to ask the question: what are the army and the troops of the existing nation doing to protect the interests of the people? Timor is still a domestic matter.

President Habibie had the courage—and I say that not lightly—to have a vote, when President Suharto and every Indonesian leader of any consequence to challenge President Suharto over the last 25 years had always rejected a vote. There was a free vote, supervised by the United Nations and taken with the knowledge that it would be, effectively, an overwhelming vote in support of full independence. When did that last happen in the history of the modern world? When did the existing government of a sovereign nation agree to have a secessionist vote, supervised by an outside body? The only case I can think of is Quebec, in Canada, but even then it was not supervised by the United Nations. In this case, President Habibie then went on to agree to have UN peacekeepers there. I commend him for that.

The United Nations Security Council reacted within days, in a time frame that has been unheard of. Most importantly and most far-sightedly, the United Nations reacted by sending troops to enforce a matter of principle, one that is fundamental to the charter of the United Nations: the freedom of individuals, the liberty of a people to declare their culture, to have their own government. This, hopefully, wraps up the end of a dramatic century in the history of humanity, when—for all the wrong reasons, and all the right reasons at times—we have gone to war. Hopefully, at the end of the 20th century and as we approach the new millennium, this act of principle involving East Timor by the United Nations and the world community is going to have a profound effect.

There have been numerous people in my electorate that have felt the pain of what has happened in East Timor. I particularly reach out to my friends in the Jesuit community, who have lost three of their colleagues to the murderous treachery of the TNI and the militia. The Jesuits are fantastic human beings and their sacrifice, like those of the nuns of the world, is never ending. The sacrifices they made in defence of humanity in East Timor have certainly not been lost on me, and I reach out to the communities around St Aloysius College and St Ignatius, Riverview, and also the parishes of St Mary's, in North Sydney, and St Francis Xavier, at Lavender Bay.

Others in my community, like James Harker-Mortlock of North Sydney, have long been advocates of a free East Timor, a peaceful East Timor, and an independent East Timor. But, at the end of the day, the challenge for all of us is to maintain relations with Indonesia, our nearest neighbour, and to recognise that the people of Indonesia do not support the bloodshed inflicted by the militia and the TNI in East Timor. Most Indonesians are peace-loving people. Most Indonesians are happy to have warm and close relationships with Australia. They are our nearest neighbour. They are a developing country. They are the fifth largest country in the world. They are a Muslim country occupying 17,000 islands.

We must have the courage at this moment to recognise and exact appropriate justice on the people who have inflicted crimes against humanity. Whoever they may be, we will go after them. When I say `we', I mean the world community that will not tolerate crimes against humanity in a century where we have had the most heinous crimes in the history of mankind. But, we also need to keep our heads and recognise that the leadership displayed by Australia, and particularly by our Prime Minister, in a very difficult situation, means that we will prevent, hopefully, further bloodshed in what will be a very volatile region in the years ahead.