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Wednesday, 18 September 1985
Page: 730

Senator MISSEN(6.58) —Tonight I desire to raise three interwoven matters concerning relationships between Australia and Indonesia. They are matters of concern to the Parliamentary Group of Amnesty International. They indicate, at least in two instances, that the Government of this country is not prepared to stand up and be counted in regard to certain matters of concern to us. I will try to deal as briefly as possible with these matters. The first matter, about which no criticism can be levelled at the Government, concerns a newspaper article written by Ian Davis two days ago entitled `Indons Execute Political Activists'. The article states that three remaining persons of the five who were threatened with execution after being in goal for a long period have now been executed by the Indonesian Government. In fact, the three political prisoners in question had been kept in goal for almost 20 years. The report states:

The three were executed despite Australian Government requests that the death penalties not be carried out in view of the long jail terms already served.

It was the approach not only of Amnesty International but also of our country that capital punishment is an undesirable course of action. In this case there is a double penalty. These people-men in their sixties-who were in goal for 20 years, have at last been executed by the Indonesian Government. I find this deplorable. Representations have been made by me, the Amnesty organisation and by the Australian Government in respect of this matter. On 30 May 1985 I wrote to Mr August Marpaung, the Ambassador of Indonesia in Canberra, and complained about this matter in the terms which I have already mentioned. I have not had the courtesy of any reply from Mr Marpaung. I also wrote to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Hayden) pointing out the concern of the Parliamentary Amnesty Group and enclosing the Press statement from Amnesty International in which, among other things, it states:

The recent executions of PKI prisoners were the first in more than 10 years and took place despite informal assurances to other governments in 1980 and 1984 by the Indonesian authorities that no prisoners accused of involvement in the attempted coup would be put to death.

That referred to prisoners who had earlier been killed and now three more have been put to death. The statement continues:

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases as a violation of the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and the right to life as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Thus Amnesty also made this protest. I believe the Australian Government also made a similar protest but the result has been that it has been entirely ignored by the Indonesian Government which has used this double penalty on prisoners. This must be of concern to us as a neighbour of Indonesia.

The second matter I wish to refer to does involve criticism of this Government. I refer to the problem which has arisen with East Timor. It is a long-standing problem. I think I can safely say that all governments over the last 10 years have had a very sorry record in regard to the claims, particularly the human rights claims, made about this area. East Timor is close to this country and we have obligations to those people following their war-time services for our country. We have let them down very badly over the years. We have taken a number of them into our country, which is at least something that can be said. But we have been pusillanimous in our attempts to uphold their rights throughout that period.

What is worse is that this year Amnesty International has issued a report which sets out a record of the human rights disgraces of the Indonesian Government over the past 10 years. :That report, and other matters related to it, has been sought to be discussed by National Amnesty with the Foreign Minister, Mr Hayden. But apparently he is unable to see anyone at any time during this year. When these Amnesty International representatives go to see officers of his Department they are told that the departmental officers are not in a position to make decisions and that they must await Mr Hayden's decision. It is outrageous that at no stage during this year, 1985, will the Foreign Minister be able to meet and discuss the human rights allegations. I am not talking about other matters which are of significance such as the question of the takeover of the country, the right to an act of a free choice and whether anything can be done about that. I am speaking about disgraceful behaviour towards people inside that country, as pointed out in that report which is based on fact. Yet the Foreign Minister has declined throughout 1985 to discuss their plight with Amnesty. We in Amnesty find this extraordinary behaviour. I have put on notice various questions that the Amnesty organisation wants asked and I hope that the Foreign Minister will see fit to answer them soon. But that is no excuse or solution to the problem, which is the desire of Amnesty International to discuss with the Foreign Minister these very important allegations. That is the second allegation.

The third matter, to which I wish to devote most of my time, relates to the five Irian Jayan refugees who are now held on Thursday Island. There has been a great deal of obfuscation and there are mistakes in the statements made about these people. A suggestion has been made that they are the forefront of some great flood of people into this country. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr Hurford, has gone on record as indicating, in the most outrageous terms, I believe, his desire that they should not stay here as it may upset the Indonesian Government and his intention to send them to some other country, which is something he cannot do, as I understand it, under the terms of the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees or even the Migration Act of this country. The fact is that we have five men who have not just travelled a few miles across the water, as has been said, but have travelled hundreds of miles through jungle to get away from persecution. In fact, one could say that they were in fear of death. The Melanesian people of Irian Jaya do have this fear. I understand that they are deeply religious men. They have come this distance and at the moment are held while the Australian Government decides its course of action. I will go on to show that the Australian Government is adopting a very curious course in these matters.

In coming to a conclusion on this matter, I refer honourable senators to a report by Paul Kelly in the Australian of 17 September headed `Hawke puts Jakarta first in refugee row'. I think that is very much what has happened. He has determined that he will not have any trouble with Indonesia by giving any credence or any possible acceptance to the refugee status which these people seek. The article states:

Acknowledging the imperatives of Indonesian and PNG sovereignty, Mr Hawke said that Australia's interests were also involved.

Australia's position, in private rather than in public, is that PNG's relations with Indonesia must prevail over sympathy for the ethnic Melanesian people of Irian Jaya. The view towards Indonesia is that caution should accompany the far-reaching trans-migration program which is one of the most significant movements of people in Australia's part of the world for decades.

Indeed it is. One sees developing an enormous transfer of Javanese people into lands held for many centuries by Melanesian people, forcing them out. There are many examples that we know of, from what has been reported, of deaths and the fleeing of some 8,000 or 9,000 people across the border into Papua New Guinea.

The Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, Hon. Bill Morrison, comes into the picture. He has just completed a visit to Irian Jaya lasting 10 days and has made statements about the Free Papua Organisation. He has expressed views critical of it. I read the news release that Mr Michael Hodgman, MP, issued the other night about Mr Morrison's intervention. He said:

The Ambassador is behaving like an appeasing apologist for Indonesia. He should be told bluntly that his job is to represent Australia-not to behave like a lap-dog for Indonesia.

I think Mr Hodgman was a little mild in his language when referring to Mr Morrison because, in my opinion, Mr Morrison has for years been not a lapdog but nothing more or less than a spokesman for Indonesia. It is an outrage that our country should be represented in Indonesia by one who is really a friend and supporter of the dictators who control that country. His views should not be heard in Papua New Guinea, out of his own range of territory, anyway.

Be that as it may, at a Presss conference in Papua New Guinea, Mr Hawke reaffirmed Australia's policy on the five West Irianese who came directly to Australia last June and applied for refugee status. He said:

They are not getting refugee status.

I want to make it quite clear as far as Australia is concerned we do not want to see any exodus of West Irianese into Australia.

I am saying that that is a breach of our obligations. I refer to Cabinet decisions which are in breach of our obligations under international covenants. It is also in breach of our Migration Act. Finally, these decisions are racist because they are based on the fact that these people are Irian Jayan residents and therefore by reason of law are deemed not to be allowed in. We have a recognised system in this country whereby people are brought before the Determination of Refugee Status Committee in which arguments on refugee status are considered. Here we have the Prime Minister of this country trying to king-hit and decide this matter in advance before any evidence has been called or determined. He went on to say:

I want to make it quite clear as far as Australia is concerned we do not want to see any exodus of West Irianese into Australia.

Mr Kelly's report continues:

The Australian Government is anxious to signal that its own territory cannot be seen as an ultimate haven for either genuine refugees or OPM sympathisers.

It want to cut off any such interest in Australia before it takes hold.

It is clear from the material I have, including a very substantial brief supplied to me by the solicitor for these people, that they are not OPM people; they are genuine refugees who have come to this country because of a state of fear and we should treat them in the way we normally treat people and not prejudge them in this way. I have been involved in this matter for some time, and as Chairman of the Parliamentary Amnesty Group I wrote to the Hon. Chris Hurford after he made the statement that they would be sent to some other country, perhaps to a cold climate, and some other offensive remarks he made. To save time, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard my letter of 31 July 1985 and the Minister's reply of 28 August 1985.

Leave granted.

The letters read as follows-







Telephone: 62 2521

31st July 1985

The Hon. Chris Hurford, MP

Minister for Immigration &Ethnic Affairs

Parliament House


Dear Sir,

Re: Five Refugees from Irian Jaya

My attention has been drawn to your statement reported in the Age of the 30th July 1985 and earlier, whereby you indicated that you were ruling out permanent residence status for the five men who have come to Thursday Island from Irian Jaya. It has been pointed out to me that such a claim based upon their race would appear to be a breach of Articles 5 and 1, paragraph 3 of the International Convention on Racial Discrimination because it specifically specifies their race as a determinant. It also seems to me to be contrary to justice that such a determination should be made prior to proper consideration of the reasons for their coming and the dangers imposed upon them should they have to return.

I have had correspondence with the Foreign Minister, and I will send a copy of this letter to him, about the problems of border crossers and refugees from Irian Jaya. I believe this is a very serious problem and, although the Australian Government has done something, it has tended to sheer away from the responsibility for this area. I am not satisfied that your action does other than to cause embarrassment to this country by prematurely determining an attitude against these five men.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Missen

Senator of Victoria

C.C. Hon. W. G. Hayden

Minister for Foreign Affairs

M. Clothier




The Hon. Chris HURFORD, M.P.

Parliament House, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600


28 August 1985

Senator Alan Missen

Senator for Victoria

Commonwealth Parliament Offices

400 Flinders Street


Dear Alan

Thank you for your letter of 31 July 1985 in which you express your interest in the situation of the five Irian Jayans presently on Thursday Island.

As you are aware, I announced on 17 July 1985 that the Government would not, as a matter of policy, grant permanent resident status to any of the five.

In your letter you allege that the Government's decision is in breach of the International Convention on Racial Discrimination. I am afraid I cannot agree. The policy I announced applies to anyone who could make such easy entry to Australia and undermine the integrity of our migration policies.

Each of the five has made an application for refugee status; these applications are individually under consideration by my Department. Should the Determination of Refugee Status Committee recommend that the five be awarded refugee status, I have decided that they will be regarded as refugees temporarily in this country until a permanent solution can be found for them.

My statements do not in any way predetermine the outcome of the Committee's deliberations: in deciding who is a refugee and who is not, you may be assured that normal procedures will be followed.

In all of the circumstances, I believe that this is the only responsible approach open to me. In coming to this decision, I have weighed up the many implications involved. I am firmly of the opinion that a potentially damaging precedent may be set if we are not able to control direct arrivals on our shores and if we seem to be willing to accept permanently all those who can arrive so easily from our near neighbours.

At the same time, you may be assured that in accordance with Australia's humanitarian obligations under the United Nations Convention and Protocol the interests of the individuals concerned will be full protected.

PS. We're following well established international practice. For instance, Ian McPhee, in advocating the policy we've adopted, drew attention to the Austrians seeking third country resettlement of Poles!

Yours sincerely


In the reply the Minister said that the people would be regarded as refugees only temporarily. He said:

My statements do not in any way predetermine the outcome of the Committee's deliberations: in deciding who is a refugee and who is not, you may be assured that normal procedures will be followed.

I do not accept that assurance. I do not believe that the facts show that that has been done. In a footnote to that letter is a reference to Mr Macphee. I have every reason to believe that Mr Macphee does not approve of the course of action which has been taken by the Government in this regard, or of some things that have been done.

The position as I see it, and as I am informed by the solicitor for the parties concerned, is that the Cabinet made a decision on this matter very early in the piece. The Cabinet decision was made on 17 July 1985 and it was made rather hurriedly. The Cabinet decision was that these five people would not be granted refugee status at all. I call on the Government to produce the minutes of that Cabinet meeting. As I have said, I believe that the Cabinet decision is in breach of the international law because it takes into account local and domestic concerns, whereas the international convenant provides that it will be a breach of international law if the domestic immigration concerns and bilateral foreign policy implications are taken into account, yet it is clear from the description I have of the Cabinet decision that these matters were taken into account. I believe that that decision was substituted for another decision which was even more objectionable. The letter from Mr Collaery states:

. . . Secret Cabinet Decision of 17 July 1985 alluded to the rejection of both refugee and permanent resident status for my clients. I understand that a substitute version dropping reference to the refusal of refugee status has been produced. I refer you to Mr Hurford's letters published in the Age and Canberra Times and to his assurances to Senator Missen.

I believe that the Government decided, in breach of its international obligations, to do this, I believe also that what has been done is in breach of the Migration Act and the Racial Discrimination Act, which do not enable these things to be done in this country. Section 41 of the Migration Act 1958 states:

Where a person is in custody under this Act the person having his custody shall, at the request of the person in custody, afford him all reasonable facilities . . . for obtaining legal advice or taking legal proceedings in relation to his custody.

I will not go into detail. I believe these five people did not have the proper opportunity to obtain legal advice before they made statements and I believe also that the statements were withheld from the solicitor. Mr Collaery is a former chairman of the DORS Committee and is able to say-and has checked that this is still the case-that statements are automatically given to the solicitor for people whom the Committee is investigating. These were delayed and they are still unable to know what the determination is. I believe therefore that the practices which have been adopted over many years have been affronted and denied in the case of these five innocent refugees. The Act provides also that there shall be no intimidation, yet attempts have been made to persuade these people to go to other places. They do not want to go to Vanuatu. They are not OPM sympathisers, they are not politically involved; they want to stay on Thursday Island and then come into Australia. I do not believe for one moment that they will be the forerunners of a flood of people coming into this country.

I believe that the Government has acted disgracefully in regard to these five people and I will await production of the Cabinet meeting minutes to see how the decision was made and how the Government responded to these matters I have raised. I believe therefore that the Parliament has a right to know from the Government just how it has acted in this regard. Will it comply with the normal procedures? Will it recognise the possibility that these are genuine people who are entitled to refugee status, or will it use the fear of Indonesia, the fear of what might happen. This has been a cowardly show by a government of this country which the Indonesians will never respect. We should have learnt by now that this sort of attitude of appeasement to the bullies in this community is not the way to achieve anything internationally. The results of 1938 and 1939 should have told us that. I believe that it is time the Government stood up on this matter and on the other matters to which I have referred tonight.