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Monday, 10 May 1993
Page: 355


Senator HILL (Leader of the Opposition) (3.31 p.m.) —The fourth matter that I regard as unsatisfactory is that it is not until now that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Gareth Evans) has apparently raised the issue with the Indonesian authorities as to whether and how the children were able to obtain passage through Indonesia. I accept what the Minister has said about Mr Alatas seeking to pursue the matter and not being able to find any relevant information at the time, but within a few days of that statement, the children were found in Malaysia and I think it was accepted by everyone that their passage to Malaysia had been through Indonesia.

  I would have thought it was obvious that the Australian Government would have made inquiries as to how this could have occurred—how one can get through the, in some ways, quite rigorous customs procedures of Indonesia and how the children might have obtained passage—at the very least to reduce the risk of such an occurrence again occurring. I find it astonishing that it is not until now, another eight months since we pressed this in estimates, that the Australian Government has been prepared to at least ask questions as to how this might have occurred.

  One would have thought that, for example, when the accomplice was arrested over a month ago and no doubt told the police exactly the same story that he told in court in Melbourne last week, the Australian Government at the very least would then have started making inquiries of the Indonesian Government as to how this might have occurred. It seems to me to be totally unsatisfactorily explained to the Senate why it is not until now that the Australian Government would make any inquiry of Indonesian authorities as to how this passage might have been obtained.

  Therefore, it seems to me that this is a matter that should not be let lie. These Australian citizens are still beyond the protection of the Australian courts. The Australian Government has not acted in a satisfactory way in relation to this matter. The efforts made to apprehend the children before they were taken out of the country were unsatisfactory, and the breakdowns in communication were intolerable. The efforts of Senator Evans and his department to obtain consular access have been insufficient and his disinterest in the matter has been unsatisfactory.

  The Government's lack of interest in pursuing the Indonesian question—how the children might have obtained passage through the country is unsatisfactory. The incredibly slow process in commencing extradition proceedings against this man—proceedings under the Family Law Act have already been instituted—has not been satisfactorily explained by this Government. The matter should not be allowed to lie at this stage, but requires further pursuit.