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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (16 May) . . Page.. 1757 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

Australia must shoulder some responsibility for what happened in East Timor while it was under Indonesian rule. Our economy profited from the repression of Timorese people, and many turned a blind eye to the deaths and disappearances that took place through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. But as we congratulate the East Timorese on achieving independence, let us grow from these lessons and look to the future of this new nation.

The East Timorese people have emerged unbowed from a period of great trial and have enthusiastically begun the task of rebuilding their country. The recent discussions around the Timor Gap treaty have provided some hope that the East Timorese will be able to resource the reconstruction of their roads, schools and hospitals, with some international assistance.

The new East Timorese government is currently organising the training of local people in a range of skilled professions and developing the machinery of government that we take for granted here in Australia. We have an opportunity to provide assistance in this process, and I know that there are many people in the ACT who have already made great contributions to programs in East Timor. I hope these partnerships continue to strengthen. I hope that the people of the ACT will be able to look back and say that they provided real technical, educational and other assistance to East Timor at this time of great need.

I support this government motion extending congratulations and best wishes to the East Timorese people on the momentous occasion of achieving independence. May this new nation grow and prosper.

MS TUCKER (5.30): It is a pleasure for me to add the ACT Greens' voice to this message of congratulations. Many of us have been long-time supporters of the East Timor independence movement, and it is a fantastic affirmation of the right of people to self-determination. It is a reminder that in the end the strength of community and human spirit can triumph over the pragmatism of business and politics.

If, in our small ways, through the protests and activity that have been conducted here in Canberra-outside the Indonesian Embassy, for example, and in the face of Liberal and Labor governments over the years-we have contributed to that triumph in some small way, then we should be proud.

But we also have a responsibility for our newest independent neighbour. We are all well aware of the terrible devastation suffered by the people of East Timor and the enormous task they now face in rebuilding.

I am pleased to note that at the meeting at the Assembly in February people from a range of community organisations expressed great enthusiasm for establishing some form of friendship city relationship between Canberra and Dili. Since that time I know that the Chief Minister has written to the Dili district administrator offering to support such a relationship, and I note also that my colleague Helen Cross has recently visited East Timor and has expressed similar enthusiasm and commitment, which we are very pleased to see. I am also aware that a steering group has emerged from that community

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