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NSW Parliament House, 6 October 1999, transcript of doorstop interview.



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HON. LAURIE BRERETON MP

SHADOW MINISTER 

FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

 

 

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP, NSW PARLIAMENT HOUSE

6 OCTOBER 1999

 

 

Brereton:

 

The Bulletin shows that the Government’s East Timor diplomacy has been marked by absolute deceit. That magazine clearly reveals the repeated lies by the Australian government in a number of areas.

 

Firstly, in respect of the question of peacekeeping when John Howard says that he sought peacekeepers, the Bulletin magazine reveals very clearly that his own departmental officer, Mr Varghese was arguing against peacekeepers in Washington in February this year.

 

The second area which is revealed as being absolutely deceitful is the question of Kopassus involvement in the operation for the TNI in East Timor. Kopassus is of course the Indonesian special forces, and Kopassus was the subject of questioning in the Australian Senate under oath to officers sent along by Alexander Downer to do his bidding. Those officers indicated in their sworn testimony that they were unable to confirm any Kopassus involvement whatsoever.

 

The Bulletin article this morning clearly shows that seven weeks before that, Air Marshal Riding, the Deputy Head of the Australian Defence Forces, was putting before the Indonesians themselves detailed, evidence of Kopassus involvement and the Bulletin further confirms that three days after that sworn testimony was given in the Australian senate we had our officials meeting in the United States and agreeing that Kopassus were deeply involved.

 

The third area, can I say, involves similarly the deceit of the Australian people and that is the question of the aiming of the militias by the Indonesian TNI. It is now clear from the revelations that two weeks before Alexander Downer appeared on the Channel Nine Network’s Sunday Program and indicated that there was no Indonesian Government involvement or Indonesian military involvement in the arming of the militias, Ali Alatas in a meeting with Alexander Downer indicated quite openly that they were arming these paramilitaries groups.

 

These repeated deceits require high level consideration, review and report to the Australian people. Nothing short of a judicial inquiry will suffice. A judicial inquiry to look into this, to look into the repeated lies of the Australian Government as to their handling of their East Timor diplomacy this year.

 

This is not an unusual call let me say, when there has been a blunder of this scale, and Alexander Downer himself will be aware that the British government led by Margaret Thatcher had a full inquiry into the Falklands crisis, and just as the Blair government has had an inquiry into the supply of arms to Sierre Leone.

 

Alexander Downer’s statement this morning that an inquiry would not be appropriate because it would deal with classified security information holds no water whatsoever, the inquiry the British have just held into the question of Sierra Leone covers matters of detailed security consideration.

 

Let me repeat, we need a judicial inquiry into the Government's East Timor diplomacy. We need an inquiry that will have Max Moore Wilton give evidence as to the authority that his officer, Mr Varghese, had when he met with the Americans and argued against peacekeepers in February. All of these things in the public interest need to be laid on the table for all concerned,

 

Journalist:  

 

Wouldn’t an inquiry at the moment just provide ammunition to Australia’s critics overseas?

 

Brereton:  

 

Well, I’m saying at the end of this, there needs to be an inquiry. I’m not saying that it has to start tomorrow, but clearly it needs to be done. Clearly you can’t have repeated deceits, lie after lie in respect of crucial issues like the involvement of Kopassus, the arming of the paramilitaries and this absolute confusion about the peacekeepers when it is now revealed that the Federal government was arguing against peacekeepers. We can’t have this go without proper and complete scrutiny.

 

Journalist:  

 

Mr Downer says that cable refers to the arming of auxiliaries not militias, why aren’t you drawing that distinction?

 

Brereton:  

 

Well in the case of East Timor these were basically one and the same. The fact is that the Australian Government knew from detailed advice from our own Defence Intelligence Organisation, advice tended months ago that the chain of command went to the top of the Indonesian military and the Indonesian military were deeply involved in the arming and orchestration of the militias,

 

The DIO predicted that further violence was certain and Dili would be the focus. It is no good Alexander Downer suggesting there was any ignorance here. The only people that have been kept ignorant are the Australian public. So I’m saying it is absolutely imperative at the end of this that there be a full inquiry to ascertain all the facts, the sort of inquiry that Britain used both in the Falklands crisis and arms sales to Sierra Leone.

 

Journalist:  

 

Is this attack by yourself and former identities of the Labor party helping Australia at the moment, this continuing attack on what the Government has done at this important time?

 

Brereton:  

 

You know that no one has campaigne4 harder for peacekeepers than myself on behalf of the Labor Party. I have campaigned all of this year. You would all recall the repeated efforts of Alexander Downer to make light of that campaign, his claims that it would result in body bags of Australian soldiers, his claims that any consideration of peacekeepers was premature, his claims that for us to be advocating pressing Jakarta for peacekeepers was akin to making war on Jakarta. No-one can have any doubt as to our support for peacekeepers, but we do believe it vitally important in the wake of the Bulletin revelations today that the Government agree to an open public inquiry at the end of this process, nothing less will suffice. I repeat we need Max Moore Wilton to give an account of the authority with which his officer was speaking when he argued against peacekeepers with the United States this year.

 

Journalist:  

 

Do you agree with Mr Howard’s comments that Mr Keating’s comments affect the national interest?

 

Brereton:  

 

Well I made it very clear that Paul Keating’s intervention on the weekend was completely unhelpful and I think it distracted attention from the responsibility of the Howard Government on this vital question of peacekeepers, peacekeepers that should have been there before the ballot but at the very latest when the ballot was declared.

 

Journalist:  

 

Do you call on Mr Keating to stop his public outbursts?

 

Brereton:  

 

I have indicated in public what I think and I don’t expect to hear too much more from Paul on that subject, you’ll have to direct any more questions to him.

 

Journalist:  

 

Is it appropriate that Mr Keating act as a paid lobbyist in Jakarta?

 

Brereton:  

 

Well, I’m not sure that he is. I don’t have any knowledge of that so I am not able to comment.

 

Journalist:  

 

Could Australia help by fast-tracking the exploration of the East Timor Gap?

 

Brereton:  

 

There is no doubt that this should be an urgent priority of the Howard government and we have called upon the Government to fast-track consideration of the developments in the Timor Gap. They must do so with the full cooperation and consultation of the East Timorese.

 

Ends/...

 

 

al  1999-10-08  09:01