Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 07 Hansard (Wednesday, 22 June 2005) . . Page.. 2175 ..
refers to the need to consider the economic and political sovereignty of Timor-Leste. Sovereignty, as I think everyone is well aware, is the key feature of international relations. Since 1648, when the Treaty of Westphalia was signed, the sovereignty of nations has been the core underlying theme of relations between states. Paragraph (4) does not say anything about putting the economic and political interests of Timor-Leste first. That is a different matter. I might have some quibbles about the wording. I do not think that paragraph (4) is as clear as it could be. Some people—
Mr Hargreaves: I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. I draw your attention to the rabble interrupting Dr Foskey’s speech.
MR SPEAKER: There are too many conversations going on. Dr Foskey has the floor.
DR FOSKEY: Thank you. I just wanted to say that I will be supporting paragraph (4) of the motion. I will support the whole motion, although I do have some issues to raise about the ACT’s commitment to its friendship agreement with East Timor. I think we already know that the federal government, as has been re-expressed today by Mr Smyth, is able to explain its negotiations with East Timor over the oil and gas fields in ways that put its side of the negotiations in the best light. I have contact with East Timor NGOs which are working very hard to try to get an understanding in Australia of what this means.
Mr Smyth asked, when he was misinterpreting paragraph (4) of the motion, why Australia should consider the interests of East Timor above its own. That was his take on the issue. I would not have quibbled if the fourth paragraph of Mr Gentleman’s motion had said that in regard to this issue. The reason for that is that, despite people taking to the streets in 1999, Australia did go and rescue our reputation and our sense of self-worth as Australian citizens. We did go to East Timor and we were instrumental in securing that independence.
But that was after 25 years of support for an Indonesian occupation where human rights investigations have found appalling things happened. They happened not just at the level of people dying. They happened at the level of sterilisation of women. Remember that at the same time what was happening was a transmigration program where the so-called excess population from Java was being moved into East Timor in a bid to outpopulate the East Timorese. This is a well-known device. We have seen it happen in the Middle East. I suppose you could call it demographic warfare. But Australia stood by, and we all know that this happened under both complexions of federal government, Labor and Liberal.
Meanwhile, civil society in Australia continued to work for a change in policy. It is interesting that it actually happened under the Howard government. To me, that says there is real strength in sticking with these issues. If you know what is right, if you know it is ethical, you must stick with it because, in the end, change will occur. If it does not, you know that you have done the right thing.
Another reason that Australia should put East Timorese interests first in these negotiations is the poverty of that country. There were people starving in East Timor earlier this year. We know that. It happens with regularity every year and it will continue to happen until East Timor is in a position to set up its agriculture with the right kinds of