|Subject: Australia Earmarks Three Billion
Dollars for East Timor
Australian Broadcasting Corporation first broadcast May 9, 2000
AUSTRALIA EARMARKS THREE BILLION DOLLARS FOR EAST TIMOR
Australia is preparing to spend three billion dollars on East Timor over five years.
The national budget released in Canberra gives the estimated spending on military forces, police and aid for East Timor to the year 2004.
The Treasurer, Peter Costello, announced that the Government will NOT go ahead with a one-year Timor tax, originally designed to keep the budget in surplus.
But the budget begins with what's set to be a period of increased defence spending.
Linda Lopresti asked Graeme Dobell in Canberra about the Budget forecasting on Australia's commitment to East Timor.
DOBELL: It predicts that in a five-year period, from when Australian troops went into East Timor in September, last year, up to the middle of 2004, Australia will spend nearly three billion dollars on East Timor.
The budget cost for Australia's defence personnel alone, is over three billion, although reimbursements from the United Nations will take 370 million dollars off that figure. But adding in the aid pledge -- 150 million dollars over the five years, and the provision of Australian civilian police officers, another 100 million dollars, brings up that three billion dollar figure.
The government has, though, decided NOT to go ahead with the one-off....12 month...Timor tax, to pay for the deployment and keep the budget in surplus.
This is how the Treasurer, Peter Costello, announced the Timor levy will NOT be brought in from JULY..
COSTELLO: "Our forces performed magnificently. INTERFET was able to hand over smoothly to a new UN peacekeeping force. This meant a saving on the expected cost. And our economy has grown stronger than we expected back in November last year. We can now afford to maintain the Australian Defence Force role as part of the UN force and keep budget in surplus. Since the levy was announced as a one-off measure to keep the Budget in surplus, and the Budget will now be in surplus without it, it would not be right to proceed with the levy.
DOBELL: And Mr Costello is, literally, pulling his surplus out of thin air. The Government is anticipating 2-point-six billion dollars from the sale of mobile phone spectrum, which is nearly the amount predicted for the budget cash surplus.
LOPRESTI: And the budget is also predicting a sizeable Australian military commitment to East Timor until 2004?
DOBELL: Yes is it is... and raises some interesting questions about what's supposed to be only a two to three years UN mandate...and even bigger questions about what Australia anticipates about East Timor's relations with Indonesia along the West Timor border.
The Budget anticipates that even by 2003...2004, Australia will still be spending 675-million dollars on military personnel in East Timor. Now Australia has already cut its deployment there from six-and-a-half thousand troops last year, down to about 2000 soldiers now. The budget paper speaks of helping rebuild a secure East Timor. But the implicit message is that there'll still have to be a sizeable Australian troop presence...perhaps even after the UN mandate ends or with a much-extended UN mandate, and these budget numbers reflect the recent line from the Defence Minister about the instability and unpredictability in the inner arc of islands to Australia's north.
LOPRESTI: Graeme what details can you give us about the anticipated increase in defence spending?
DOBELL: This is the beginning .. there are some one-offs to meet immediate problems ... one measure related to East Timor is an extra 100 million dollars for defence force reserves and improved logistics. There's also an extra 128-million dollars for two of the troubled new Collins Class submarines, so that they can be in service by next year.
But this is the start of a long term increase in defence spending, there's to be a Defence discussion paper released later this month, and a policy paper, a White Paper, by the end of the year.
LOPRESTI: And what does the Budget show about the response to the recent efforts by Middle East asylum-seekers entering Australia by boat from Indonesia?
DOBELL: Having coped with two recent waves of people-smuggling, first from China and now by refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan.. the government is increasing the resources giong to secure Australia's borders.
It's going to spend an extra 100-million dollars over four years. It'll build a new 500-bed detention centre in Darwin and a 200-bed detention centre in Brisbane, along with upgrading existing detention centres.
The new holding centre created at the old rocket range at Woomera is to be retained and consolidated.
And to deal with the people-smuggling or visa-overtayers at source, Australia is to station immigration compliance officers in Islamabad, Amman, Tehran, Cairo, Moscow and in the South Pacific, in Suva. ++
First broadcast on 9 May 2000
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