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Tuesday, 8 May 1984
Page: 1771

(Question No. 724)

Senator Mason asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 8 March 1984:

(1) Does the Government believe it has an accurate assessment of the current situation in East Timor resulting from the Indonesian offensive which began in the wake of the visit of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation in July-August 1983, in the light of the Minister for Defence's acknowledgement of receiving regular briefings from the Department of Defence on developments of interest in Australia's neighbourhood.

(2) Is the Government aware of the report broadcast on Radio Australia on 7 December 1983 that Governor Carrascalao had called for the restoration of order in the province and asserted that as a result of recent upheavals more than one quarter of the population were in serious need of attention from government agencies.

(3) Is the report in accordance with the Government's assessment of the situation in East Timor.

(4) Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the restrictions imposed on International Red Cross operations in East Timor by the Indonesian Government, and detailed by the Australian Government in recent months, are still in force, in light of the statement by Governor Carrascalao; if so, has the Government made approaches to the Indonesian Government seeking the immediate lifting of all such restrictions; if not, when will it do so.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1), (2) and (3) I refer the honourable senator to the reply given to him on 2 March in response to his question No. 635. (Hansard page 345).

(4) The Foreign Minister has advised that, as a major contributor to the International Committee of the Red Cross operations in East Timor, the Government was concerned by the restrictions placed on relief activities on the main island in 1983 and made its concern known to the Indonesian authorities. Following discussions concluded in February between the ICRC and the Indonesian authorities the following undertstanding has now been reached on ICRC operations on the main island:

ICRC representatives are permitted to visit detention centres in Dili. Visits to detention centres outside Dili are being extended in agreed stages up to October 1984.

ICRC relief and aid activities on the main island will be carried out by the Indonesian Red Cross and the Provincial Government of East Timor.

the ICRC will continue to be responsible for tracing but implementation will be channelled through the Indonesian Red Cross.

the Indonesian Red Cross will be responsible for mailing procedures but the ICRC will assist and have access to all aspects of the programme.

The ICRC's food and medical programme on Atauro Island has continued uninterrupted.