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Monday, 2 April 2001
Page: 26106

Mr TIM FISCHER (12:47 PM) —by leave—I want to commend the members of the committee, noting that a number of committees have gone to East Timor, and focus particularly on the Australian armed forces there and on the transitional work now taking place to allow the elections to proceed on or about 30 August this year. That will be two years exactly since the original vote in the popular consultation, which I had the pleasure of attending as leader of the Australian delegation at that particular time.

I acknowledge the progress that has been made. I think it is genuine progress, especially with regard to security and the standard of living. I am underwhelmed by the culture associated with the bureaucracy and that element of it that lives on the ship tied up at Dili and the subset around it. It is always very difficult when you have those who are in receipt of US dollars—large amounts of US dollars. That is something that has got to be thought about a lot more over this next period of transition. But in this month of Anzac Day I again want to praise the Australian armed forces personnel and other Australians, particularly in CIVPOL, who have made such an enormous contribution in East Timor in the period since the middle of 1999. It has been fantastic work and it should not be allowed to colour the ongoing relationship between two great countries: Australia and Indonesia. East Timor's future lies in having a good friendship and relationship with both Australia and Indonesia.

Finally, the First Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, my old battalion, is up at Balibo and nearby Maliano at this time and about to rotate after several months of very good service. I salute the work that 1RAR have put in. They have been very professional, but so has everyone else with the Australian armed forces, including Colonel Ken Brownrigg, Defence Liaison Officer, who carried the burden, especially during the period of the polling, through to the arrival of General Cosgrove.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The time allotted for the debate has expired.