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Tuesday, 6 September 1983
Page: 385


Mr MORRISON —by leave-Mr Speaker, I present the official report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Indonesia and seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.

Leave granted.


Mr MORRISON —I suspect that all of us as members of Parliament have at one time or another been placed in what might be described as a no-win situation. Anyone following the events associated with the visit to Indonesia of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation would have been struck by the immaculate timing of alleged exposes of Indonesian activities in East Timor. There certainly has been a determined and seemingly concerted effort to undermine the credibility of the Delegation before it left Australia, whilst it was in Indonesia and when it returned. Lest I be accused of paranoia, let me rehearse the main features of the campaign.

The line of attack has ranged from charges that the Indonesians would veto the membership of the Delegation and would decide where the Delegation would be allowed to go, to such other matters as the inadequacy of time in East Timor and censored interpretation.

I wish to make it clear that the composition of the Delegation was decided by this Parliament. At no time did the Indonesian authorities raise any objection to the membership of the Delegation. The decision as to the main places visited was made by the Delegation. Honourable members may recall that Mr Whitlam's report on his visit to East Timor was criticised because he had not visited areas considered significant by Fretilin supporters in Australia. So before departure for Indonesia I asked a supporter of the Fretilin position for a list of villages that he thought the Delegation should visit. My colleague the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) gave me a list of nine villages. The Delegation visited all of those villages with the exception of one village, Lackluta, the circumstances of which are explained in the report. As the report notes, the selection of the villages could have been regarded as provocative. At no stage did the Indonesians demur and, as promised both by President Suharto and Governor Carrascalao, the Delegation not only went wherever it wanted to go but also was provided with the facilities and the transport to do so.

I come now to the question of time. The amount of time spent in East Timor was a matter of concern to the Delegation. The original Indonesian proposal was not considered satisfactory by the Delegation and following further discussion after the Delegation arrived in Jakarta the period spent in East Timor was extended. The end result was that the Delegation arrived in East Timor on Wednesday 27 July and departed on Monday 1 August. There is little doubt that whatever length of time the Delegation spent in East Timor it would have been criticised by some authorities and some sources as being insufficient. What has to be kept in mind is that any visit, without the access to air and land transport made available by the Indonesian authorities, could take weeks to cover the same ground as the Delegation was able to cover.

Publicity has also been given to the alleged inadequacies of the interpreters to the Delegation which, because of the ready acceptance of those charges in some quarters, calls for a comment. Before taking up those charges I refer honourable members to the section of the report dealing with interpreters. It will be noted that the Delegation had the services of an Indonesian speaking officer from our own Department of Foreign Affairs. The Portugese and Tetum- Tetum is a local language-interpreters were selected by the Delegation. In fact, the principal interpreter was chosen by Senator McIntosh. Neither of the local interpreters were employees of Indonesian authorities and the Delegation used its own funds for a payment to the interpreters.

I now want to turn to the particular charges made in an Australian Broadcasting Corporation program Background Briefing presented on Sunday 14 August. The thrust of the ABC program fully accords with what I have been saying about deliberate efforts to undermine the credibility of the Delegation. The reporter made his intended point very clear. He said:

It is the question of translation which could well place the findings of the delegation under a cloud.

The reporter questioned 'the integrity of the translators present at the meeting between Mr Morrison and the Fretilin guerrillas' and accused the interpreters of manipulating the conversation and providing 'deceitful translations'. Although the question of translation was the centre-piece of the program I cannot recall the reporter questioning me on the subject and certainly nothing was taken to air. As I am the person directly involved in the situation, this is a curious omission. Nor was there any attempt to ascertain the peculiar circumstances of that meeting. It was, in the first place, a chance meeting and in the circumstances, which are described in the report, I was not accompanied by the interpreters selected by the Delegation. The arrangements for interpretation on this occasion were makeshift with Mr Jimenez, a member of the provincial Government, reluctantly filling in at my request.

I also draw the attention of honourable members to the comments made by the interpreter who checked the tapes of the Delegation when it returned to Australia. This is included in the report. Mr Repper, who was a translator recommended to us by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, pointed out that the Fretilin spokesman had a very poor command of Portuguese, that he showed a lack of coherence and that 'many of his sentences made no sense'. The inference mischievously drawn by the ABC from this single episode seeking to discredit all the findings of the delegation therefore does not hold. Moreover, the main thrust of what the Fretilin spokesman sought to convey to me was translated. I also had handed to me the letter in which these points were amplified. My efforts to get the name of the translator used by the ABC to discuss some aspects of the translation were fruitless. The Acting General Manager of the ABC, Mr Mackriell, denied my request. At this stage I seek the leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard a Press release I issued as the Leader of the Delegation.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

PRESS RELEASE

Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Indonesia

The media has pursued with interest one aspect of the activities of the Australian Delegation concerning the interpretation at the chance meeting between the Leader of the Delegation Mr Morrison and four armed members of Fretilin.

The facts are:

1. At the chance meeting with the Fretilin Group the interpreters selected by the Delegation were not travelling in cars 4 and 5 which stopped.

2. The Portuguese translation was done by Mr Jimenez, a representative of the Provincial Government who reluctantly filled in as interpreter at Mr Morrison's request. He was the only Portuguese speaker present. The translation from Indonesian to English was checked by Mr John Holloway of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Delegation's Indonesian interpreter.

3. According to the translator recommended by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs who checked the tapes in Australia, the standard of Portuguese used by the Fretilin spokesman was poor and difficult to follow.

4. In the initial stages of the discussions with Fretilin which were marked by some confusion as each party measured the other up, the references in Portuguese to the name of the village of Salari and the description of that village as according to one translation a ''concentration camp'' and according to another version as a ''village of concentrated settlement'' did not come to Mr Morrison in the English translation.

5. As the literal translation done after the event and with the benefit of playing the tape several times now stands there is clearly an inconsistency in the statement of the Fretilin spokesman:

(a) he invited Mr Morrison to go to Salari to meet other members of his group

(b) the village of Salari was ''a concentration camp set up by those of Java''.

If the translation had come through literally Mr Morrison would certainly have sought to clarify the inherent inconsistency in the two statements.

6. The ABC Radio's Background Briefing program on Sunday 21 August sought to discredit the Delegation's work in East Timor, by inferring from the omitted parts of the literal translation that all the translations of conversations held by the Delegation in East Timor were suspect.

As pointed out, in the unusual circumstances of the chance visit the two interpreters used by the Delegation throughout East Timor were not present at the Fretilin meeting. The inference drawn by the ABC Program therefore does not hold.

7. Mr Morrison does not accept that the translation on this occasion was deliberately distorted or censored. He rejects completely the assertions in the program that the translation was ''deceitful''. The main points that the Fretilin spokesman wanted to make about the position of Fretilin were conveyed in English to Mr Morrison and are a matter of record. The letter handed to Mr Morrison repeated most of the points raised by the Fretilin spokesman.

8. In an effort to discuss the translation used by the ABC Talks Department with the translator, Mr Morrison sent a telegram to the Acting General Manager of the ABC, Mr Mackriell asking for the interpreter's name and address. Mr Mackriell advised Mr Morrison on 16 August that the ABC was ''unwilling to disclose at this stage the information you have requested''.

Mr Morrison said that it was curious that in a technical matter such as translation the ABC had taken refuge in anonymity. He regretted the lack of cooperation from the ABC.

9. Mr Morrison said that he had recorded on 15 August an interview for another ABC Program, ''PM'', which was critical of the presentation of the Background Briefing program. This interview had not gone to air.


Mr MORRISON —At this stage I want to take up the unusual circumstances in which a document described as a dissenting report is attached to an agreed report. Many of these points are dealt with in the letter of transmission which is contained in the report. The document signed by Senator McIntosh relies for much of its argumentation on alleged quotations from the report. The sentences he quoted are demonstrably not in the agreed report. It is almost as though the writer of the document had not been present at the meetings of the delegation. The status of the document as a dissenting report is, therefore, open to question. Whatever the document is dissenting from, in the examples cited-these are contained in the letter of transmission-it is not dissenting from the agreed report. Senator McIntosh has admitted to me that he attended a meeting of some of his parliamentary colleagues on Sunday 21 August at which the visit to East Timor had been discussed. It was on the very next day-Monday-that he advised me of his intention to add a couple of pages, as he put it, to the report he had agreed to on the previous Thursday. Senator McIntosh has been reported as claiming that he was under pressure. I believe I can say on behalf of the Delegation that that pressure did not come from his colleagues on the Delegation .

I want now to turn to the main findings of the Delegation and these are recorded at length in the Delegation's report. The first finding is that the Goverment in East Timor appeared to be in effective control of all settled areas . As we have noted, the Delegation was invited to go anywhere in East Timor it wished to go, and it did so. In all the villages visited by the Delegation-I emphasise again that the Delegation visited the villages proposed by my colleague, the honourable member for Fraser-the provincial administration was fully in place. It seems there is a widespread misconception in Australia that Fretilin occupies and administers a large part of East Timor. For instance, the Chairman of the International Affairs Commission of the Australian Council of Churches, Mr Ian Williams, in a telegram sent to me urged that the Delegation accept the invitation of the Fretilin representatives-presumably those in Australia at the time-to visit Fretilin areas in East Timor. As such, it was an empty invitation. I think that if honourable members look at the areas covered by the Delegation-maps are contained in the report-they will see that we criss- crossed East Timor north, south, east and west. There are undoubtedly Fretilin camps in the rugged terrain of East Timor but that would appear to be the extent of Fretilin's territorial control.

I now turn to the security situation. The Delegation's findings on the security situation in East Timor are recorded in chapter 8 of the report. From early this year and since the talks between the Government and Fretilin in March, and up to and including the visit of the Delegation, no military encounters have taken place. Certainly at the time of its visit, the delegation found that the security situation was quiet. As noted in the report, the delegation travelled without military escort and was able to walk through all the villages visited without any security protection.

With the strong support of the new Governor, Mr Carrascalao, the Indonesian authorities have opted for a hearts and minds campaign to encourage Fretilin groups to lay down their arms. Details of this campaign are described in the extensive documentation of the delegation contained in the report, particularly the conversations that the delegation had with Governor Carrascalao and the leader and the military commander in East Timor, Colonel Purwanto. I do not think that anyone knowing the resources of the Indonesians would deny that the Indonesians certainly have the resources to defeat the Fretilin groups if they so wished. It seemed to us as a delegation that they were anxious to prevent further loss of life.

The difficulty for the Indonesians is that the current campaign-that is, the hearts and minds campaign-is being depicted as a sign of weakness, particularly by Fretilin supporters outside East Timor who continue to encourage the resistance movement. The impact of propaganda generated from abroad was evident to me in the discussion that I had with the Fretilin guerrillas in East Timor. During that conversation the Fretilin spokesman expressed surprise that Mr Abilio Araujo had not come with the delegation. Mr Abilio Araujo describes himself as the Minister for Foreign Affairs-I think it is-of the Fretilin Republic. He is an expatriate Fretilin who was, at the very time when we were in Indonesia, in Australia.

It would seem to me that the Fretilin in East Timor had apparently been led to believe that support, in the form of Mr Araujo, was in the way, curiously enough , in company with the Australian Delegation. But the Fretilin spokesman, Mr de Sousa Gama, appeared perplexed when I told him that neither Mr Araujo nor any member of the Fretilin was with the Delegation. I also suspect that the visit of the Delegation had been portrayed as evidence of international support for Fretilin in East Timor to buoy up their expectations. The Fretilin in East Timor have become the main victims of the propaganda of overseas Fretilin supporters. They are living on false expectations. In the circumstances of the situation in Timor, it is, to my mind, a cruel deception.

I want to bring the report up to date with a personal observation. Since the Delegation's visit to Indonesia there has been a report of a Fretilin attack, on 8 August, on a unit of an engineering battalion, in which 15 servicemen were killed. The relaxed conditions which have prevailed and which are described in the report are obviously now at risk, and we should ask ourselves who would benefit from a change in the prevailing conditions. It is worth recalling that, when the delegation was in Indonesia, a report emanating from Australia claimed that the Indonesians would mount what was described as a blood-bath on 17 August , the celebration of the Indonesian national day. We had the opportunity in East Timor for talks with the Fretilin. They made no reference, no mention, either in their letter or in the discussion, to any such possibility, and certainly there was no mention by the Indonesian authorities, by Colonel Purwanto, that this sort of campaign was being contemplated. It would certainly not be consistent with the hearts and minds campaign being pursued by the Indonesians. The Delegation has described the purposes of that campaign. Moreover, it is hardly in the interests of the Indonesians to initiate military operations when United Nations consideration of the question of East Timor is imminent. I do not believe that the same sorts of arguments can be applied to the position of the Fretilin buoyed up by their overseas supporters.

I turn now to, I suppose, the crunch part of what flows from the Delegation's report. In that report we point out, on the basis of discussions that we had with President Suharto and other Indonesians, they they regard the 1976 act of incorporation of East Timor into the Republic of Indonesia as final and irreversible. We should also note that since 1975 Indonesia has lived with what is a critical resolution of the United Nations. At the last session of the General Assembly, the vote was maintained by a slim margin. In that vote, two- thirds of the members either voted in favour of Indonesia's position or abstained, and of importance to Indonesia is that it has the support of its partners in the Association of South East Asian Nations, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and, since 1978, Australia. What is currently at issue is whether the Australian Government should continue with the policy of the previous Government in voting for the Indonesian position, abstaining, or voting against the Indonesian position.

As the report points out, a change in Australia's vote in the United Nations would, in these circumstances, not change the fundamental situation in East Timor; but it would, detrimentally affect Australia's relations with Indonesia and significantly detract from any role that Australia could play in influencing developments in Indonesia, including in East Timor. In reaching a decision on how to vote at the United Nations, if such a vote does take place, any Australian government must face up to the realities of that situation.

The report goes into a number of other issues. It is highly critical of the current civil rights, human rights, position in Indonesia. The Delegation, on a number of occasions, raised what it regarded as questionable practices of the Indonesian authorities in relation to the Press and the freedom of the Press, and we argued very strongly on a number of occasions, including at a meeting with the DPR, the Indonesian Parliament, for the resumption of Australian Press presence in Jakarta, and also to encourage Indonesian Press into Australia. We believe that there are very substantial barriers to understanding between Indonesia and Australia. Australia, from the comfort of its own position, with a non-turbulent history, and where war, civil war and revolution have not impacted upon us, has a certain outlook towards these issues. But we also believe that it is necessary to understand some of the issues that confront countries such as Indonesia-and there are many people who are very critical of the conduct of Indonesia-the conditions that have prevailed in a country which was under colonial power, which had to fight for its independence, and which went throught a bloody civil war in 1965 in which people by the tens of thousands were killed. We have to understand the differences in attitude that people from that sort of background take. In the introductory comments to the report we try to spell out these barriers to understanding and the lack of shared values which create enormous obstacles to a close relationship with Indonesia.

What we sought to do was to point out that we do not have to be buddy-buddies with Indonesia and that we do not have to set ourselves up to be great friends; what we should set ourselves up to be is good neighbours. The President and the Speaker of the Indonesian Parliament quoted an Indonesian proverb which I think is very relevant to the relations between Australia and Indonesia. That proverb was that it is better to have a good neighbour than a distant relative. There is an enormous challenge both to the Indonesian side and to the Australian side in coming to terms with our neighbouring relations. I believe, and I think the Delegation's report substantiates this, that that effort is well worth making.

Motion (by Mr Peter Morris)-by leave-proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.