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Tuesday, 18 October 1983
Page: 1820

Mr HAYDEN (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER —Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr HAYDEN —I claim to have been misrepresented in a newspaper article appearing in the Age of this morning. It refers to the administration of my Department and I accept responsibility for that.

Mr SPEAKER —The Minister may proceed with his personal explanation.

Mr HAYDEN —In the Age newspaper this morning there appeared on page 3 an article by Mr Ian Davis headed: 'Red Cross aid being blocked from Timor: secret papers'. Mr Speaker, with your indulgence, I have to quote four or five paragraphs from the article to make the point I want to make.

Mr SPEAKER —The Minister may proceed.

Mr HAYDEN —The article states:

Internal Foreign Affairs Department cables show that the International Red Cross is being prevented--

I stress the word 'prevented'--

from providing aid in East Timor during the present Indonesian military offensive.

The cables say the Red Cross is being frustrated--

which is a considerably different word--

in its work by the Indonesian military.

The article then states:

The cables are dated between 16 and 20 September, two weeks before the Attorney -General, Senator Evans, assured the Senate that the Red Cross had not been denied access to East Timor. (Senator Evans represents the Foreign Minister, Mr Hayden, in the Senate.)

I draw the attention of honourable members to what is stated there-that Senator Evans is supposed to have declared that the Red Cross had not been denied access to East Timor. The implication is that it had been denied access to East Timor and that the cables made that clear. That is the context in which the first paragraph-at least where the word 'prevented' is used-of this story is being presented. The article goes on to state:

The apparent divergence between what the Government has been told about the present situation in East Timor-where Indonesia started a new military offensive in September against the Fretilin independence movement-and what it has said publicly, may further fuel concern in the Labor Party about the Government's handling of the East Timor issue.

The quote for these purposes ends. That is a quite inaccurate report. It is mischievously inaccurate. It is unnecessarily provocative, given the nature of feelings on this matter in some quarters within this country. Of course, it will be provocative to Indonesia because it is mischievous. It is wrong in fact. The facts are that in the Senate on 7 October Senator Evans, quite accurately reflecting advice from my Department given to him, speaking in relation to a question on this matter, in summary, said:

On 26 September the International Committee of the Red Cross representative in Jakarta denied media reports that the ICRC had been refused access to East Timor . He said that the ICRC still had access to the territory, although with significant restrictions of movement on the main island.

That is, the Red Cross does have access but there is significant restriction. He acknowledged that. Senator Evans further said:

He did, however, confirm that the ICRC-

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I am a little confused by the Minister. It seems to me that the misrepresentation is not so much misrepresentation of what he said but of what someone else said.

Mr HAYDEN —No, the misrepresentation is simply this: Either Senator Evans misled the Senate or my Department misled Senator Evans. I am responsible for the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Mr MacKellar —You have not been misrepresented.

Mr HAYDEN —The poor dope. He has not found that out yet and he is the spokesman for the Opposition on these matters.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! If the honourable member for Warringah wishes to take over this Chair he had better take some action instead of giving rulings from the front seat. I point out to the Minister for Foreign Affairs that personal explanations are allowed when he has been represented as a person. This really is more a matter for a statement by leave. I fail to find where the Minister has personally been misrepresented.

Mr HAYDEN —I happen to administer the Department. I will not take any more time of the House. I will table an unclassified cable on this matter which amply justifies the answer which Senator Evans gave and makes it clear that, once again, Mr Davis of the Age can be dangerous when he is reporting on foreign affairs. He gets his facts wrong.