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Monday, 3 November 2003
Page: 21767

Ms HOARE (4:41 PM) —I am also pleased to be able to support this private member's motion put forward by the member for Ballarat, which notes the report of the January 2003 Joint Mission of the Australian Section of the International Commission of Jurists and the Australian Council for Refugees to Papua New Guinea. The previous speaker spoke about the recommendations being put in context. To put this motion in context, this is about Australia being a good regional neighbour to a very close country and supporting people who have suffered hardship and humanitarian abuse over the years which have caused them to leave their homelands and to seek refuge in another country.

The previous speaker also spoke about the recommendation for Papua New Guinea to provide citizenship for children who are born in Papua New Guinea from West Papua parents, because they would otherwise be stateless. As I understand it, any West Papuans who are now living in Papua New Guinea who have been out of West Papua for six years or more are stateless, so I cannot see why a distinction is being made between stateless children and stateless adults. I think that is something which could be extended to all. There has been discussion already about the Transmitter camp and the other camps. As I understand it, since the mid-1980s about 11,000 of these displaced West Papuans have been living in the western areas of Papua New Guinea. This is an issue which requires long-term solutions, and the recommendations in the member for Ballarat's motion provide practical suggestions which would be of minimal cost to Australia. They are small steps which would help address some of the issues which are facing West Papuans.

To put it in historical context, situated on the western half of the island of New Guinea, West Papua was given over to Indonesia when Dutch colonial rule ended in 1963. The questionable act of free choice elections in 1969 confirmed Indonesian hegemony. West Papua is a mineral-rich area, whose reserves of gold, uranium, nickel, natural gas and other resources are coveted by a number of foreign mining companies operating under the protection of the Indonesian security forces.

As a result of the foregoing political and economic developments, West Papua's 2.5 million people continue to bear ongoing challenges to their human rights and dignity as a people. For nearly 40 years there has been a failure on the part of the international community to address a culture of impunity that has tolerated militarism and oppression in West Papua, a situation that bears obvious parallels to earlier conditions in East Timor. More than 100,000 Papuans have been killed over the 38 years of this `integration' into Indonesia. Although Indonesian transmigrants continue to be moved into the region, the indigenous people of West Papua continue to seek ways to ensure the peaceful participation of the entire population in a democratic society.

There has always been residual sympathy in Papua New Guinea for the people of West Papua and for their difficulties under an Indonesian administration. This is hardly surprising. Its very first self-governing elite were often themselves among the schoolchildren who had gone on the crossborder exchanges encouraged under the Dutch-Australian administrative cooperation arrangements. In addition, those who live in the border regions know full well that the refugees who came across in numbers in the lead-up to the act of free choice elections, and periodically thereafter, were not always the nomadic peoples who moved across the often unmarked border for traditional reasons or the `economic refugees' looking for a better life in a more advanced Papua New Guinea, which both the Australia and Papua New Guinea governments were inclined to describe them to be. They were as well the educated elite fleeing political persecution. It is these who sought and were granted permissive residence in Papua New Guinea, where many of them, as we know, remain today. (Time expired)