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MPR vote, House of Representatives, Wednesday, 20 October 1999: transcript of doorstop.



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Hon. Laurie Brereton, MP

Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs

 

 

TRANSCRIPT OF DOORSTOP RE MPR VOTE

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, WEDNESDAY 20 OCTOBER, 1999

 

 

BRERETON:

 

Well this is a most important day for Australia’s neighbours, a most important day for Indonesia and a most important day for East Timor. It’s a day that can mark the start of a new relationship between Australia and our neighbours and it’s certainly a day that marks a fundamental and most important step forward in the birth of a free East Timor. But it’s also a day, can I say, that Indonesia must recognise that it can have no territorial claim in the future to East Timor or to the petroleum resources of East Timor. It’s a day for Indonesia to understand that it must finally act to disarm the militias who have been operating in West Timor and across the border into East Timor. And it’s a day for Indonesia to accept that there is no longer any role or any right for their TNI officers and military personnel to be in East Timor. They’re the important messages that I think should be noted on this very, very important day.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Do you think the Indonesian army will accept the ratification?

 

BRERETON:

 

Well the indications from the MPR was that by consensus there is such an acceptance, but whether that is given effect to in practice on the ground will depend upon whether the TNI turn over a new leaf; whether they finally desist from arming the militias as they have in the past and whether they effectively withdraw from any role in East Timor whatsoever.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Has the Opposition yet given any thought to what would be an appropriate level of aid for an independent East Timor given it’s in a pretty poor situation?

 

BRERETON:

 

Well obviously we need to play a major role in the reconstruction of East Timor and in the provision of humanitarian aid for East Timor, and in helping the international community in maximising the support that is going to be necessary to guarantee security there as Blue Helmets will arrive in the course of the next three months or so. We’ve got a key role in that, that’s been part of our dialogue with Ramos Horta and Xanana Gusmao last week, and we would expect Australia to play a major role.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Is it time for Australia to withdraw de jure recognition?

 

BRERETON:

 

Well I think Labor’s been calling for that for many weeks, the Government’s been resisting it. I think it’s been finally given effect to by the Indonesian parliament — if it didn’t, that Australia didn’t join the rest of the world overwhelmingly in taking action before today, but it’s particularly pleasing to see Indonesia revoke its 1978 Act of Incorporation.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

What does President Habibie’s departure mean for Australia’s relations with Indonesia?

 

BRERETON:

 

Well I think it’s already signalled a mad scramble by John Howard to get to know the potential leader or leaders of Indonesia. Labor of course has been calling for three years for Australia to establish a dialogue with not just the Suharto and the Habibie government in turn but with the independence leaders, the democracy leaders as they’ve emerged. For that reason, Labor has already established its dialogue with Megawati, with Gus Dur, with Amien Rais. It’s significant that John Howard yesterday on the Alan Jones Program was scrambling to get aboard having finally been briefed and told that it was unlikely that B J Habibie would be returned. It’s significant because up to date I’m sure John Howard has never so much as met Megawati and I think the Foreign Minister has only met her but twice, and both occasions quite recently.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Do you think that she is the most suitable candidate to lead Indonesia?

 

BRERETON:

 

Unlike the Prime Minister, I’m not going to express a view about who’s most suitable. Australia’s role is to have a dialogue with all the potential leaders but it’s a matter for Indonesia to determine and it’s our hope that that will be done through the processes, the full processes, of democracy and we look forward to working with whoever is successful rather than scrambling at this eleventh hour, five minutes to midnight, to finally get around, as John Howard did yesterday, to saying something favourable about Megawati.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Do you think the vote gives her a legitimate title though, the vote she got?

 

BRERETON:

 

Well she got the highest vote, it’s in the 30 percentile bracket but the real question is who can muster the votes on the floor of the MPR and you saw yesterday B J Habibie fall some 33 votes short of what was required for an endorsement of his policy approach. That was only 17 the difference in a ballot of 700 odd voters so you can see it’s critically poised and we’ll have to see what happens in the course of today.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

Given how close that vote was, what prospect do you think there is of this new Golkar ticket of Tanjung and Wiranto getting up?

 

BRERETON:

 

I think we’ve got to follow it very, very closely and it will be impossible to predict with any accuracy what will happen there until the final count of votes is in but clearly things are moving apace, B J Habibie is no longer with us and Australia is involved in a scramble to catch up.

 

JOURNALIST:

 

But given the role of General Wiranto in East Timor and the role of his troops and his management of it, how comfortable would you be to see him ... as Indonesia’s Vice President?

 

BRERETON:

 

I haven’t seen confirmation from him of his candidacy, although it has been predicted by spokesmen for Golkar; we’ll have to see how that works but I don’t think Australia expressing a view in the course of the ballot is appropriate, rather for us to say in general terms that we hope that democracy triumphs, that’s the important thing, that the will of the people as expressed in the Indonesian elections earlier this year is given effect to and that we see the start of a new relationship with a new Indonesia, a new and democratic Indonesia and at the same time, see the successful birth of a free East Timor.

 

Ends/...

 

 

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jy  1999-10-27  11:25