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Tuesday, 15 August 1989
Page: 11

Senator CALVERT —I refer the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to what could only be described as the dire circumstances facing Tasmanian missionary Miss Jackie Hamill, a member of the Christian City Church, who has been taken hostage by rioting prisoners at a Philippines military gaol on Mindanao Island. Has the Minister received a report from the consular officer who, I understand, was sent to the area yesterday and is in contact with the negotiating team? Is it true that media reports in which it is claimed that Miss Hamill has been singled out for execution by the prisoners are incorrect? As the deadline for the commencement of executions or the provision of a bus has only been extended until 5 p.m. Australian time, can the Minister please advise whether he anticipates any resolution of the problem within that time frame? In the light of the fact that the situation involves an obviously innocent Australian citizen, has the Government offered the Philippines Government the advice of trained Australian military or police negotiating specialists?

Senator GARETH EVANS —I may be able to answer some of those questions. The Australian citizen is caught up in a very distressing circumstance. It occurred when Ms Hamill and her companions, members of the Joyful Assembly of God, were conducting a service at the metropolitan district command detention centre in the Philippines city of Davao. The prisoners holding the hostages demanded one bus, to be provided by 3 o'clock yesterday, to go to an undisclosed location with the hostages. This deadline has been extended by 24 hours. The prisoners holding the hostages have threatened the lives of those hostages if their demands are not met but have not singled out Ms Hamill specifically. The hostages involved are Ms Hamill and seven Filipinos, and the prisoners in question number some 15. The negotiations are continuing.

Since my brief was written I have had some rather confused reports over the wire service, supplemented very briefly by a report from a consular official just a few minutes ago, suggesting that some hostages have escaped. I am not clear but I think that Ms Hamill is not among those who have escaped. There is a report that Ms Hamill has a slight facial wound but is not seriously hurt. I am sorry that my answer sounds a bit disjointed but I do not have all the details. One or more remaining prisoners are still holding hostages. The authorities have sent in the mother of the main prisoner involved to negotiate with him, so there is some hope or expectation that some sanity will prevail in this very difficult situation. I will report further to individual honourable senators with an interest in this matter as soon as the situation becomes clearer. Yesterday we sent a consular official to Davao, and that official is in contact with the Philippines Government negotiating team. Obviously everything that can be done will be done on behalf of the Australian caught up in this situation.

Senator CALVERT —I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr President. In the last part of my question I asked the Minister whether the Government has offered the Philippines Government the advice of any trained Australian military or police negotiating specialists.

Senator GARETH EVANS —I am not able to answer that question. I do not believe so, but that is something we will bear in mind depending on how the situation develops over the next little while.