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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 5 Hansard (10 May) . . Page.. 1475..


MR PRATT (continuing):

exchanges that occur as part of that relationship. We also acknowledge that they are important and we certainly warmly welcome those. City relationships utilising our local institutions can be very effective in the overall scheme of country-to-country relationships. Sometimes they may even have a bit of a spin-off in that what is good for the relationship may also provide some growth in some of our own community capabilities.

I was pleased to hear Mr Gentleman acknowledge, though, in his speech, the fact that this country quite terribly let Timor down in recent history. We know that three successive governments really did not take notice of the fact that Timor suffered badly once Timor had been taken in under Indonesia's wing, and rather forcefully so. Mr Gentleman talked about a figure of 200,000 Timorese who had perhaps been killed under the regime. That is the figure that I generally know of. Of that 200,000, 60,000, from my research, were killed almost in the first year of annexation of Timor. Why Prime Minister Whitlam at the time made those decisions, which were then reinforced by three successive prime ministers, is something that we do not know.

It is to this country's eternal shame that perhaps a real-politic approach to dealing with our neighbours, a concern that we did not want to unsteady our relationship with a very large and near neighbour, in this case certainly meant that great injustices and killings went undeterred. This has been the issue around the world. Just as Western governments have failed to intervene in other trouble spots, perhaps this was Australia's example of that. The blind-sidedness to bend to the whims of the Suharto government then continued through two more governments. The 1999 intervention by Howard broke the nexus of that.

Whilst we are talking about Timor, I exhort the federal government to very carefully maintain an eye on current events, as they unfold. I hope they will; I am sure they will. By the way, I hope that our students who are involved in these exchange programs fully understand and are being educated on the full facts of what has happened with the whole Timor question since 1974. One hopes that the government, if it is sponsoring our educational institutions to be involved in those exchange activities, is also ensuring that ACT children and ACT students involved in these programs are fully educated and understand the entire balanced history of what happened with Timor once the Portuguese had decided to pack up and go home under the previous regime's arrangements.

The opposition congratulates the Canberra Friends of Dili; we congratulate our schools and the CIT, which are involved in the city-to-city relationship issue. We also go on and congratulate Australian NGOs who are involved at the national level for their role in assisting Timor-Leste to come out of its dark past and develop as a new nation. Again, as I started out, the opposition supports this motion.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (3.41): It is hardly surprising to hear that the Greens support Mr Gentleman's motion. In fact, we applaud Mr Gentleman and the Stanhope government for their ongoing commitment to the friendship relationship with Dili. It is very important to remind the Assembly that that commitment was made due to community action and concern in the Canberra community about what was happening in Indonesia. People living in Canberra have been active ever since the shameful behaviour of our government—the Whitlam government, the government that we otherwise like to


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