Subject: Indonesia treaty probe 'a charade'

To clarify: I was assessing the government's attitude to the Committee's work, not the Committee's work itself.


Indonesia treaty probe 'a charade' Brendan Nicholson June 14, 2007 THE Government says it will not change the security treaty it signed with Indonesia late last year even though the Treaties Committee it set up is still examining the agreement.

When the Labor government signed its security pact with Indonesia in 1995, opposition foreign affairs spokesman Alexander Downer accused prime minister Paul Keating of treating Australians with "arrogant contempt": "Treaties and conventions (are) being signed, sealed and delivered without any public scrutiny or debate whatsoever."

After its 1996 election victory, the Liberal Government introduced a system whereby a treaty would not be ratified until it was investigated. The Treaties Committee will table its report on the Indonesian agreement next week after months of public hearings.

In February, Ian Melrose, the businessman who paid for advertisements about the plight of 43 Papuan refugees who arrived last year, wrote to Prime Minister John Howard asking him to include in the treaty a clause that Indonesia must allow human rights to be monitored. On March 22, an official from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet wrote back: "The … Government has no intention of amending the treaty."

An expert on Australian-Indonesia relations who lectures at the Australian Defence Force Academy said the committee "process was an elaborate charade that wasted public money and … time".

Dr Clinton Fernandes said: "The Howard Government … struck heroic poses about the need for public consultation when it came to office and now it's showing contempt for public opinion."

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