Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (2 April) . . Page.. 1276 ..
MRS CROSS (continuing):
But Gusmao wants a new approach. He asks Australia to take a decision on the East Timorese as a category for humanitarian reasons.
It then says:
... domestic politics suggests this is a one-off issue. The Northern Territory parliament passed a bipartisan motion for the East Timorese in the NT to be permitted to stay.
Having spent some years in the region and having visited East Timor a number of times, I have got to know the East Timorese people very well, and I have had a close association with them since 1990. I was in Indonesia when the Dili massacre took place. I visited the Santa Cruz cemetery, which was at the centre of the impending catalyst for independence for East Timor. I met and spoke to many East Timorese people, going back to the early 1990s and, more recently, last year when I visited.
I was inspired by the incredible attitude of people who have very little. In fact, I do not think most Australians could comprehend how one can survive and smile at the same time with very little and have an attitude that is soldiering on.
It reminds me a little of the Australian Anzacs who fought for us at Gallipoli, who suffered terribly, lost their lives and who came back, perhaps, without limbs. Those are people who soldiered on and showed incredible bravery and humanitarian spirit. What I saw in the faces of the East Timorese when I was there was truly inspirational. It certainly puts your life in perspective and makes you appreciate more the things you have and gripe less about things that are not as important as you think they are.
I commend this motion to the Assembly, and I hope that the federal government sees a way clear to allow these people who have made Australia their home during the past decade to stay.
MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for the Environment) (5.21): The government is happy to support Mrs Cross's motion in relation to the East Timorese people currently residing in Australia.
Mrs Cross has starkly detailed the circumstance of so many East Timorese people who are living in Australia. There are up to 1,600 people, as Mrs Cross indicated, and it appears to be the Australian government's intention to deport them now that there has been a return to some stability in East Timor. Now that East Timor has gained independence, stability has to some extent returned. It is the view of the federal government, a view consistent with some of its past behaviours in relation to refugees and temporary protection visa holders, that they return to their homes.
The threat of deportation now facing the 1,600 East Timorese people living in Australia on temporary protection visas is a huge blow to their hopes and dreams. As Mrs Cross said, these people have been through significant hardship. Many East Timorese came to Australia after experiencing threats of execution or torture or, indeed, having been tortured. With the passage of time, these people have unavoidably become part of our