Subject: Reactions to Australian Documents Release

Reactions to Australian Documents Release

Also: Balibo documents "almost funny" says widow Shackleton

September 12, 2000, Tuesday Dunn says cables show Aust foreign policy ill-conceived CANBERRA, Sept 12 AAP - Former diplomat James Dunn said today's release of secret diplomatic cables showed Australia's foreign policy towards Indonesia and East Timor in the 1970s was completely wrong. Mr Dunn, a former consul to then Portuguese Timor and the author of several books about the invasion and its aftermath, said Australia's attitude had been disastrous. The cables showed Australian officials had a secret stream of information and knew about the pending attack on Balibo, where five Australian journalists were killed, three days before it occurred. "It shows that Australian foreign policy was ill-conceived and utterly unrealistically carried out," Mr Dunn told AAP. "Anybody who knew the situation would have known there was no way East Timor would have been persuaded to join with Indonesia for any kind of self-determination.

"I think it had quite disastrous consequences because it showed Indonesia it could acquire East Timor by any means."

September 12, 2000, Tuesday Balibo documents "almost funny" says widow Shackleton

PERTH, Sept 12 AAP - The widow of murdered Australian reporter Greg Shackleton today described newly-released documents about the killings of five Australians in East Timor as "almost funny" and "Basil Fawlty-ish".

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer today released almost 900 pages of confidential diplomatic cables which showed Australia knew of Indonesia's plan to invade East Timor through Balibo three days before the newsmen died.

Shirley Shackleton said she had not seen the documents but believed some vital details had been withheld.

"It makes me suspect the ones (documents) that were withdrawn must be dynamite," Mrs Shackleton said.

"It's bizarre. It's almost funny. It's Basil Fawlty-ish."

Mrs Shackleton said the government should have acted to ensure the men's safety immediately upon learning of the imminent invasion.

"What should have been done was for Mr Whitlam to tell the Indonesian ambassador Mr Woolcott to go to the Indonesians and say 'the Australian and British men are in Balibo, see that they're not hurt'.

"It was as simple as that. They shouldn't have even had to have fought for a minute.

"It would've been bad enough if they'd done nothing, but what they've done was tell lies.

"It's time to put an end to the farce and get real.

"It's comforting to think we've got them on the run in that they felt they needed to do something (but) they're still covering up and carrying on with the same pantomime".

Greg Shackleton, a Channel Seven reporter, was among the five newsmen who had gone to Balibo to check out reports of Indonesian troops in the area.

He was killed along with Seven sound recordist Tony Stewart and cameraman Gary Cunningham from New Zealand, and Channel Nine crew Malcolm Rennie and cameraman Brian Peters, both British citizens.

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