Subject: ABC: Minister upbeat about Greater Sunrise prospects

Also: AM AM - Downer responds to Balibo five reports; The World Today - Balibo five inquest wraps up

ABC News Online

Last Update: Wednesday, May 30, 2007. 7:13pm (AEST)

Minister upbeat about Greater Sunrise prospects

The federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane is confident the Greater Sunrise gas project will go ahead, but is less certain that its LNG will be processed in Darwin.

Mr Macfarlane today visited the $2.5 billion LNG plant at Darwin's Wickham Point.

The plant produces three-and-a-half-million tonnes of LNG a year for export to Japan.

The Minister says East Timor has agreed to a joint development agreement with Australia for the Greater Sunrise field in the Timor Sea.

But he says Darwin will not be in the running to process gas from the Greater Sunrise field until East Timor makes its own proposal for an onshore LNG plant.

Mr Macfarlane says the gas field's proponents have promised to give East Timor a fair hearing.

"Once they are satisfied with the outcome of those discussions as to where the gas will be processed, then I think you'll see that project proceed," he said.

"But for Australia it has lost its place in a queue which already features Browse, already features Pluto and already features the Chevron project at Barrow Island in Western Australia.

"The proponents of Sunrise are going to cooperate with the Timorese request.

"Once that is done, Sunrise is a very big project that will go ahead."


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AM - Downer responds to Balibo five reports

[This is the print version of story]

AM - Wednesday, 30 May , 2007 08:14:00

Reporter: Tony Eastley

TONY EASTLEY: Reports from Indonesia say the Australian Government has given a guarantee that Jakarta has nothing to worry about from a coronial inquest into the Balibo five.

An inquest in Sydney has been raking over the events in 1975 that led to the deaths of five Australian journalists and cameramen, at Balibo in East Timor, just as the Indonesian military invaded.

According to local wire reports, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda says the Australian Government has more or less guaranteed that in relation to the coronial inquiry, Indonesia doesn't have to worry.

Joining me now is the Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

Good morning Minister.


TONY EASTLEY: Did you or the Australian Government give Hassan Wirajuda or the Indonesian Government, such an assurance?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well I wouldn't put it in those terms. We've had a, from my recollection, a very brief discussion about this quite some time ago, not that it wasn't anything to worry about, but this was an investigation into events that occurred over 30 years ago and obviously we will just take it as it comes.

We as a government have been cooperating, or my department have been cooperating with the coronial inquiry in terms of the provision of documents from 32 years ago and there's not much more we can do. Of course, I don't have any myself and in particular knowledge of those events.

TONY EASTLEY: If I can just clarify that. You didn't give an assurance, but you gave something like an assurance?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: No, if I may say so with the greatest of respect, I have had, from recollection, a very brief discussion in the context of discussing many other issues with the Indonesian Foreign Minister, there's a brief discussion about this coronial inquiry, and just explained the facts of the inquiry to him.

TONY EASTLEY: Did anyone on your behalf have conversations with the Indonesians in regard to that quote that I mentioned there, that Mr Wirajuda was told that there was nothing to worry about?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: I haven't seen the quote and I haven't seen the context of the quote and it's attributed to a foreign minister, so I'm not getting into a micro-analysis of the quote, I'm just explaining to you what our position is and our position is this, that here is an inquiry by the Deputy Coroner of New South Wales into events that took place 32 years ago, way, way beyond my time, I have nothing personally to offer on this issue.

We've fully cooperated with that investigation, and when that investigation is complete the Coroner produces a report and recommendations for action, if that has any implications for my portfolio, we'll have a look at it. But that hasn't happened, it's all entirely hypothetical.

TONY EASTLEY: So if we take these local wire reports in Indonesia as being true, you have no idea how Mr Wirajuda got the impression that an assurance had been given by Australia?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well look, I haven't even seen the reports to be honest with you. It's not a way to conduct diplomacy, to just say well here's the report that somebody says something and who said this to that person and so on. I mean, I haven't seen the report, let alone be able to provide you with any particular information over and above what I have provided you with.

I mean, this has not been a focus of my work particularly, this Deputy Coroner's inquiry, because it's not something that I have ever had any involvement with, of course. These are events of many, many years ago and Hassan Wirajuda and President Yudhoyono haven't had anything to do with it either.

So, you know, we will let the Coroner's report, inquiry, take its course and when its report is concluded, if there are recommendations, if they have any bearing on foreign policy, we will have a look at them.

TONY EASTLEY: The inquest has heard from an international law expert, Ben Saul, who says if the Coroner recommends charges be laid against any Indonesians that it's very much in the Government's hands to decide whether to pursue such action. Are you committed to helping this inquest seek justice for the families of the five journalists who were killed?

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well we've provided information to the Coroner or the Deputy Coroner to assist with the coronial inquiry. I mean, over and above that, to be honest with you, I have no idea what the report is going to conclude.

These are events that took place 32 years ago. This isn't an investigation into something a year or two ago. I mean I don't know that all the dramatis personae, or alleged dramatis personae, are even alive anymore let alone are people who could be charged somehow under New South Wales' jurisdiction.

All of those sorts of legal issues would have to be looked at if the situation ever arose. But, you know, it's all entirely hypothetical and one of the lessons of foreign policy is not to get into the hypothetical.

TONY EASTLEY: Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.


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The World Today - Balibo five inquest wraps up

[This is the print version of story]

The World Today - Wednesday, 30 May , 2007 12:21:00

Reporter: Emma Alberici

ELEANOR HALL: The coronial inquest into the death of Brian Peters, one of the five journalists killed in Balibo in East Timor in October 1975, is hearing final submissions today.

Seven earlier inquiries into the men's death all concluded they'd been killed in crossfire between Indonesian invading forces, and the Fretilin defenders at Balibo.

But the Counsel Assisting the Coroner, Mark Tedeschi, stunned the court by stating that there's incontrovertible evidence that the five Australians did not die in crossfire, but were deliberately killed by the Indonesian Special Forces, acting on the command of their superiors in Jakarta.

Emma Alberici is at Glebe Coroner's Court in Sydney, and she joins us now.

So Emma what evidence is Mr Tedeschi using to back up this scenario?

EMMA ALBERICI: Well, Mark Tedeschi, Eleanor, was referring to both eyewitness accounts and the second-hand accounts of people who had been close by and had spoken to those who did actually see the events as they took place.

He conceded that none of the witnesses were in a position to give a full account of the sequence of events. Their stories all varied slightly because they were members of what was known as the partisan troops, the East Timorese soldiers that were fighting alongside the Indonesian invading forces. They came into Balibo behind the Indonesian Special Forces and indeed the partisans never actually fired a shot themselves.

The conclusion reached this morning was that the two members of the Channel Nine crew, including Brian Peters, were filming at the fort at about four am on October 16th, 1975 and three members of the Channel Seven crew were in Balibo Square, in the vicinity of what was know as the Chinese house, not the house that was painted with the Australian flag.

By the time the Indonesian troops reached the town square, all five were around that Chinese house and they were rounded up by the invading forces. One fell to the ground. It's assumed that was Brian Peters, who was filming at the time. The others fled - and he was shot - and the others fled inside the Chinese house where three of the others were shot and the fifth man try to hide in a bathroom but was forced out and then stabbed to death.

The bodies were then clothed in military uniforms, placed around the captured Fretilin guns and photographed, to give the impression that these men were fighting alongside Fretilin and to be used for propaganda purposes and they were then, their bodies burned repeatedly over the ensuing four days. So that was what left, a member of the Australian ambassadorial offices, later was said was unrecognisable as human remains.

And it's got to be said that there was no firing. Mark Tedeschi said there had been no firing whatsoever in the Balibo town square. So that absolutely negates any possibility of crossfire, because Fretilin had already retreated by the time the Indonesian Army had moved into Balibo and the journalists themselves were not armed so there was no fire.

ELEANOR HALL: So does Mr Tedeschi explain why he thinks the Indonesians made this decision to kill these men?

EMMA ALBERICI: Yes. Well the Indonesians were very sensitive, of course, to the international reaction of their attempts to overthrow East Timor. Indeed, they wanted the appearance at least to be that this was an act of, to be achieved by an act of self-determination. So there was to be no evidence to the contrary that this was by any means a forced takeover of the country.

ELEANOR HALL: And what's been said about the Australian Government's involvement in all of this?

EMMA ALBERICI: Well, extraordinarily at the conclusion of his first bit of submission, he says the only conclusion, and I'll read you this because it's explosive, he says, "the only conclusion that one can reasonably reach is that the Indonesian plan to compromise Australia's reaction to the invasion was spectacularly successful". Because, of course, the Indonesians gave the Australian Government advanced warning, through absolutely specific, detailed advanced warnings, of what they were intending to do in Balibo and Maliana - those border towns.

"If Your Honour accepts" Mark Tedeschi goes on this, "it's apparent that the Indonesian leaders engaged in a masterful power-play worthy of an international chess grandmaster, using Australian leaders and departmental officers as their pawns. The plan depended entirely upon the Indonesian Government and the Indonesian military being able to maintain the facade in public, particularly for the benefit of the Australian public, that there troops were not involved in the deaths of the journalists."

"The whole gambit, however, depended upon no reliable news getting into the public arena about an Indonesian involvement in the attacks on Balibo and in particular no film footage", which is exactly what these men were collecting.

ELEANOR HALL: So, Emma, is there any indication yet as to what recommendations the Coroner might make?

EMMA ALBERICI: Well, Eleanor, we've heard from Ben Saul, an international law expert who didn't actually front the inquiry but gave the Coroner some evidence, that the Commonwealth Department, the Director of Public Prosecutions is within his rights to pursue any of the men responsible in Indonesia, but then it will become a matter between our two Governments and of course a diplomatic nightmare, you would have to assume, as to what happens next, whether they might be tried in Indonesia or brought to Australia, or indeed whether nothing happens at all.

The Indonesian Foreign Minister in fact yesterday claimed that the Australian Government had given him assurances that the Indonesians had nothing to worry about regarding this inquest and this is what Foreign Minister Alexander Downer had to say on that matter on AM this morning when asked about those claims.

ALEXANDER DOWNER: Well I wouldn't put it in those terms. We've had from my recollection a very brief discussion about this quite some time ago. Not that it wasn't anything to worry about but that this was an investigation into events that occurred over 30 years ago and obviously we will just take it as it comes.

We as a government have been cooperating, or my department has been cooperating, with the coronial inquiry in terms of the provision of documents from 32 years ago and there's not much more we can do of course. I don't have any myself any particular knowledge about those events.

ELEANOR HALL: And that's the Foreign Minister Alexander Downer speaking this morning about the coronial inquest and Emma Alberici down at the Glebe's Coroner's Court in Sydney.

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