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Thursday, 20 October 1983
Page: 2018

Mr HAYDEN (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.

Mr Goodluck —Never.

Mr SPEAKER —Does the Minister wish to make a personal explanation?

Mr HAYDEN —Yes, Mr Speaker. As hard as it may be to believe it is a fact.

Mr SPEAKER —The Minister may proceed.

Mr HAYDEN —I have been misrepresented by the Age this morning in its editorial and in an article headed 'Portugal backs claims of Timor Red Cross curbs'. The editorial relates to access by the Red Cross to East Timor. It states:

Those arguments have been undermined by recent events and, despite Mr Hayden's disavowal of reports of difficulties facing the Red Cross in East Timor, it seems the international body is being frustrated in its efforts to assist those in need.

That is completely inaccurate. I have never sought to disavow reports of difficulties facing the Red Cross in East Timor. In fact on Tuesday in the Parliament I produced a copy of a cable to show that there were difficulties but that the Red Cross was not being prevented from entering East Timor. The article I mentioned refers to a letter dated 30 September. It states:

The letter, dated 30 September, comes after two days of attacks from the Foreign Minister Mr Hayden and the Attorney-General Senator Evans (who represents Mr Hayden in the Senate) on reports in 'The Age' which said that the Australian Government had not disclosed information which it had on the restrictions imposed on the International Red Cross in East Timor.

The criticisms I sought to make in the House on Tuesday in relation to an article in the Age had nothing at all to do with that sort of observation. I referred to an article headed 'Red Cross aid being blocked from Timor: 'Secret papers'. The part of that article to which I referred stated:

The cables are dated between it and 20 September, two weeks before the Attorney -General, Senator Evans, assured the Senate that the Red Cross had not been denied access to East Timor. (Senator Evans represents the Foreign Minister, Mr Hayden, in the Senate)

That is a confirmed report. Senator Evans in his two answers to the Senate on this matter, acting on advice from my Department, advice which is entirely in conformity with the cable I released here and the cables I received on this matter, acknowledged that there were difficulties but said that access was not being prevented. I regret that Mr Ian Davis seems determined to persist with his misrepresentation in this matter.