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Subject: PRESS RELEASE BY AUSTRALIAN SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
Date: Thu, 05 Nov 1998 20:25:39 PST
From: "Philip Dorling" <pdorling@hotmail.com>

NEWS RELEASE SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS LAURIE BRERETON MP

5 November 1998

PARLIAMENTARY INQUIRIES ON THE BALIBO DEATHS AND EAST TIMOR POLICY

The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laurie Brereton, today released proposed terms of reference for two parliamentary inquiries.

The first reference for the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade concerns the circumstances leading to the deaths of Australia-based journalists in East Timor in 1975. The second reference for the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade concerns present Australian Government policy toward East Timor and the prospects for a just and lasting settlement of the East Timor conflict. Labor will seek to establish the inquiries by means of Senate resolutions.

“The proposed terms of reference are intended to encourage a new measure of openness and transparency in Australian policy toward East Timor -- past and present”, Mr Brereton said.

“As I have previously indicated, Labor considers new information necessitates a comprehensive review of the events surrounding the deaths of the five journalists at Balibo in October 1975.”

“The terms of reference for the Joint Standing Committee should provide an appropriate basis for a bipartisan parliamentary inquiry into events at Balibo in October 1975 including examination of the 1996 Sherman Report and any further findings by Mr Sherman following the recent disclosure of new information.”

“In addition, the terms of reference extend to the issue of knowledge by Australian authorities of military activity in the vicinity of Balibo and other relevant information prior to the deaths of the journalists and subsequent efforts by Australian authorities to establish the facts of what happened at Balibo.”

“These are matters of enduring controversy which were not fully addressed by the Sherman Report. They need to be examined for any satisfactory resolution of this issue. Accordingly the terms of reference provide that the Joint Standing Committee seek access to all relevant Australian Government records and archival material, including holdings of relevant intelligence material. The Joint Standing Committee should also actively seek submissions from relevant persons and organisations in Australia and overseas.”

“A comprehensive parliamentary inquiry should make a significant contribution both to understanding what happened at Balibo twenty-three years ago and to consideration of such further measures as may be required to uncover the truth.”

“Labor is also determined that present Australian Government policy toward East Timor should be subject to detailed scrutiny.”

“Developments over the past six months have opened the possibility that real progress may be achieved toward a resolution of the East Timor conflict. Australia should be doing everything possible to progress dialogue and negotiation between the parties. Labor’s considered view is that a just and lasting settlement is unlikely to be achieved without a process of negotiation through which the people of East Timor can exercise their right of self-determination.”

“The proposed inquiry by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade should involve a comprehensive review of the prospects for settlement of the East Timor conflict; present conditions in East Timor; respect for human rights in the territory; and Australian Government policy toward East Timor including the key issue of East Timorese self-determination.”

“Although the Joint Standing Committee has examined East Timor issues in the course of several wider inquiries over the past decade, the last parliamentary committee report specifically devoted to the subject of East Timor was completed by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence in 1983.”

“Fifteen years on, a comprehensive parliamentary investigation of Australia’s East Timor policy is both timely and long overdue.”

Attachments

Proposed Reference to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

1. That the following matters be referred to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade for inquiry and report:

(a) the circumstances leading to the deaths of Gary Cunningham, Greg Shackleton, Tony Stewart, Brian Peters, and Malcolm Rennie at Balibo, East Timor, on 16 October 1975; and the death of Roger East, at Dili, East Timor, on 8 December 1975;

(b) the extent of knowledge by Australian authorities of military activity in the vicinity of Balibo and other relevant information prior to the deaths of the five Australia-based journalists on 16 October 1975;

(c) the subsequent extent of knowledge by Australian authorities of events at Balibo on 16 October 1975 and efforts made by Australian authorities to establish the facts concerning the deaths of the five journalists at Balibo and the death of Roger East in Dili.

2. That without limiting the scope of the inquiry, the Committee shall review the report of Mr Tom Sherman tabled in the House of Representatives on 27 June 1996 and any further report or findings by Mr Sherman following the referral to him by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of claims concerning the events at Balibo broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on 20 October 1998.

3. That in conducting the inquiry, the Committee shall seek access to all relevant Australian Government records and archival material, including holdings of relevant intelligence material; and seek relevant information from persons and organisations in Australia and overseas.

4. That the Committee shall also give consideration to such further inquiries and/or measures which may be considered necessary to determine facts concerning the deaths of the six Australia-based journalists in East Timor in 1975.

Ends.

Proposed Reference to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

That the following matters be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade for inquiry and report:

(a) the prospects for a just and lasting settlement of the East Timor conflict;

(b) economic, social and political conditions in East Timor including respect for human rights in the territory;

(c) the scale of Indonesia’s military presence in East Timor and reports of ongoing conflict in the territory;

(d) Australian Government policy toward East Timor including the issue of East Timorese self-determination;

(e) the Timor Gap Zone of Cooperation Treaty;

(f) Australia’s humanitarian and development assistance in East Timor.

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