|Subject: CALL FOR COMPREHENSIVE RELEASE OF
AUSTRALIAN TIMOR DOCUMENTS
Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1999 17:17:31 PST
From: "Philip Dorling" <email@example.com>
LAURIE BRERETON MP SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
5/99 19 January 1999
EAST TIMOR: COMPREHENSIVE RELEASE OF HISTORICAL RECORDS REQUIRED
The Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Laurie Brereton, today called for the comprehensive declassification of official records relating to Australian policy toward East Timor in the 1970s.
The news that the Howard Government is considering the release of documents on the development of Australian Government policy toward East Timor between 1974 and 1976 is welcome, but any declassification must be comprehensive, Mr Brereton said.
There is clearly a need for much greater openness and public scrutiny of Australias East Timor policy, Mr Brereton said. To this end Labor last year established a comprehensive Senate inquiry into East Timor policy - past and present.
To assist the Senate inquiry, what is required is the comprehensive declassification of material not only from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but also relevant Cabinet records, records of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Defence and Australian diplomatic posts overseas, especially our Embassy in Jakarta.
The value of opening the Australias East Timor archive in advance of the 30-year rule would be greatly diminished if it were merely a partial release of material selected by a partisan government. If some records are released, and others are not, the onus will be on the Government to explain why and a failure to do so will only reinforce persistent allegations of a cover-up.
The reported intention of the Howard Government to withhold records created prior to 1974 and after 1976 is unacceptable.
If a decision is taken to release records from 1974 to 1976, there is no reason why this should not extend to include declassification of records created by the Gorton and McMahon Coalition Governments and in the first year of the Whitlam Labor Government.
The Howard Governments proposed release of records will be further compromised if it stops at 1976. Public scrutiny of the historical record cannot stop with the Fraser Governments token protests against Indonesias invasion.
The Government must open the records that deal with extent of the Fraser Governments knowledge of the atrocities which took place in the early years of Indonesias occupation. The Government must also release the records which document the Fraser Governments rapid acceptance of the Indonesian take-over and its decisions to extend de facto recognition in January 1978 and then de jure recognition with the opening of the Timor Gap seabed boundary negotiations in February 1979.
If the Howard Government fails to release these records which deal with the foundations of present government policy toward East Timor, it will clearly be exposed to the charge that it is much less concerned with public scrutiny than with playing partisan games and protecting the reputation of the Fraser Government.