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Wednesday, 16 March 1977
Page: 243

Mr UREN (REID, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I refer the Foreign Minister to reports of threats of reprisals by the Indonesian Government against Australian persons and property should Mr Jim Dunn give evidence of Indonesian atrocities in East Timor to the House Committee on International Relations of the United States Congress. I ask the Minister to reaffirm the rights of all Australians to take part in political activity and to assure the House that Mr Dunn, like any other citizen, will have the full protection of the Australian Government while overseas.

Mr PEACOCK (KOOYONG, VICTORIA) (Minister for Foreign Affairs) -That can be taken for granted. This Government ensures that Australian citizens are protected where it is within the Government's capacity so to protect and that citizens have the right of comment in this country on any matters within the law. These reports have arisen from both off-the-cuff remarks and a call that the Ambassador received to see senior members of the Foreign Office in Jakarta. Both these matters have been the subject of widespread news coverage in Australia. In regard particularly to the call to Ambassador Woolcott, may I say that it is not my usual practice to discuss in this House the substance of diplomatic exchanges such as these which I regard as confidential between the governments concerned. In this case, however, I can confirm that the Ambassador has been called to the Indonesian Foreign Ministry where a senior official expressed the Indonesian Government's grave concern, in its view, about Mr Dunn's involvement in activities that it believes were hostile to Indonesia.

Obviously this is a delicate question affecting as it does a bilateral relationship of high importance to Indonesia and Australia. The Government is bound to take the representations seriously. But by reacting incautiously- there has been a fair degree not only in Australia but outside it of incautious reaction sometimes to reports on this matter- I would not want to give the whole question a potential for creating misunderstanding between the 2 countries, a potential that it should not have. I have noted concern in some areas of the Parliament about Mr Dunn 's role in relation to Indonesia and Timor. This has already been the subject of questions in the Senate. It seems to be assumed that because Mr Dunn is an Australian public servant his report and his allegations in it have in some strange way official Australian sanction. This is not so. Mr Dunn in this matter is, as implied in the question asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, acting in a purely private and unofficial capacity. Neither he nor his report has any official status.

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