COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA
Official Committee Hansard
JOINT COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC WORKS
Reference: Defence Intelligence Training Centre at Kokoda Barracks, Canungra, Queensland
THURSDAY, 2 AUGUST 2001
BY AUTHORITY OF THE PARLIAMENT
The Proof and Official Hansard transcripts of Senate committee hearings, some House of Representatives committee hearings and some joint committee hearings are available on the Internet. Some House of Representatives committees and some joint committees make available only Official Hansard transcripts.
[BD Comment: See also a presentation to this inquiry by the "Back Creek Gorge Conservation Association Inc".
To find it try the following procedure:
Go to: http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard
Click on JOINT (takes a while)
Click on Public Works
Click on 2/08/01 Defence Intelligence Training etc etc
Open using AcroExch - click open
Saves as file: C:/WINDOWS\TEMP\h2y+9x6k.pdf]
The Internet address is: http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard
To search the parliamentary database, go to: http://search.aph.gov.au
JOINT COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC
Thursday, 2 August 2001
Members: Mrs Moylan (Chair), Mrs Crosio (Vice-Chair), Senators Calvert, Ferguson and Murphy and Mr Forrest, Mr Hollis, Mr Lindsay and Mr Ripoll
Senators and members in attendance: Mrs Crosio and Mrs Moylan and Senators Ferguson and Murphy
Terms of reference for the inquiry:
New facilities for the Defence Intelligence Training Centre at Kokoda Barracks, Canungra, Queensland
HARRISON, Ms Rachael, Member, Catholic Worker [witness - BD]
le GOULLON, Mr Damian, Member, Catholic Worker [witness - BD]
CHAIR—On behalf of the committee, I welcome you. The committee has received a submission from Catholic Worker, which will be made available in a volume of submissions for the inquiry and also on the committee’s web site. Do you wish to propose any amendment to your submission?
Mr le Goullon—Only to clarify and complete that submission.
CHAIR—Yes. The committee has had time to consider your written submission, so would you please make a brief statement in support of it.
Mr le Goullon—I am acting as a witness for the Catholic Worker. I represent, in a sense, a very difficult thing to define. Just as Christianity is very difficult to define, so is the Catholic Worker. In a sense we see ourselves as a set of Christians who are acting in moral conscience and we have a number of supporters who also support our concerns over the use of this military facility and any possible further use of the military facility in terms of training Indonesian forces. We have been presenting public protest and concerns about this military facility for the past 10 years, over the training of Indonesian military forces. We submit that the facility should not upgrade and increase its capacity to provide this military assistance until it reviews its past conduct in encouraging forces, such as the Indonesian armed forces, to believe that their actions have the support of the armed forces of Australia.
To put some context and some past to our concerns, in 1991 the Dili massacre presented to all Australians clear evidence of the Indonesian forces and officers being involved in frightening human rights abuses. Despite this, in 1993, this facility—and I refer to Hansard question No. 1752 on 31 January 1995—provided military assistance to 36 Indonesian military personnel. In 1994—and I refer to question No. 2331 of Hansard on 28 August 1995—the facility also provided military assistance to 46 Indonesian military personnel despite clear evidence, as I said, that Indonesian forces were involved in human rights abuses. In 1997 over 100 people protested under the leadership of the Catholic Worker at this facility, including a priest, a professor of ethics and the leader of the Queensland Greens, about the use of this training facility.
In 1999 the Indonesian forces did indeed initiate a conspiracy of terror against the East Timorese people. Prior to this, we had been told by officers of this base that this military assistance and training would have a ‘democratising effect’ on the Indonesian armed forces. Subsequently, we have seen in 1999 that these forces were involved in a conspiracy of terror against the East Timorese people—terror which the Australian Defence Force was forced to engage and to stop, placing at risk the lives of thousands of Australians. Looking at the present: Indonesian forces continue campaigns of terror in West Papua and campaigns against the democratisation process of Indonesia. Not having learned the lessons of the past, there are still those in Australia who are arguing that the accommodation and the training of these forces will encourage professionalism in their ranks.
We would like to argue to the contrary, that such training encourages and rewards a lack of professionalism and supports the immoral interests of these forces, making us complicit in their crimes. As long as the Indonesian forces occupy West Papua, Australia must protect herself against complicity with violations of the international law and treaties. I am no international law expert, but I would give passing reference to some very important documents in the history of this country. For example, the Atlantic Treaty says that all nations should respect the rights of people to choose the form of government in which they live and that they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them—just as West Papuans have been forcibly deprived of this right.
The Human Rights Charter says that people have the right to take part in government—and the West Papuans certainly are struggling to even maintain any control and any say in their country at the moment; and this is well documented by international bodies. Indeed, at the moment, the Indonesian forces are under review for crimes against humanity, in the eyes of the international community—which makes us question whether principle 7 of the Nuremberg principles, which suggests that complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime or a crime against humanity—as set forth in principle 6—is a crime under international law.
To put it simply, this facility is building further accommodation. Building a house might not seem to be much of a crime but, when you look at the purpose that the house is intended to be used for, you must consider whether that house should be built at all. For example, would the innocent huts that were built in Nazi Germany to basically act as concentration camps be seen by a public works committee as just an innocent building? Should we also look at the idea that any expansion of ability to accommodate further armed forces, without a complete review of our past actions, must basically ask whether we are actually accommodating human rights abuses? So we are asking that no further support for the upgrading of this facility be allowed, until the public is told whom in the near it will accommodate and we are assured that it will not accommodate the Indonesian armed forces.
CHAIR—Thank you. I now invite the committee’s questions.
Senator MURPHY—Taking account of what you have said, with regard to this particular training centre, would you acknowledge that it is important for the security of our own country to at least have some form of intelligence?
Mr le GOULLON—If that intelligence is supporting the human rights of our regional nations, yes, it is in the interests of our own country. But if that military intelligence is supporting people who are averse to the principles which belie our Constitution and our commitments to international treaties, then it is against our security as a nation.
Senator MURPHY—I accept that. I was asking whether it was important to have intelligence for the protection of our own nation.
Mr le GOULLON—As long as that intelligence is accountable to the Australian people and is to serve the interests of the Australian people. The last couple of years mean you have to question whether our security has been put at risk by the activities of secrecy and support of the Indonesian armed forces. It is a very clear historical case that this country’s security is put at risk by allowing those Indonesian forces the feeling, and the cultural illusion, that they are not responsible to their obligations under international treaties.
Senator MURPHY—I do not want to have a long debate about it, but we are dealing with a human rights issue on the one hand and an intelligence issue on the other.
Mr le GOULLON—Intelligence is very connected to human rights. Intelligence skills most certainly affect—
Senator MURPHY—I am thinking about Australian human rights and about whether they are being adequately protected. I have got to say that it might also be in the interests of people in West Papua in the longer term. You could go around the world and look at all of the arguments about human rights—and there are plenty of them; I agree with that—but not all of them are being fixed up overnight. It may well serve the interests of this country, in terms of the long-term objectives of human rights, to have some strategic intelligence about how people are working in defence forces elsewhere in the world.
Mr le GOULLON—I put it to you that it does not serve the interests of Australia.
Senator MURPHY—That is a matter of opinion.
Mr le Goullon—It does not serve the moral interests of Australia. It may serve certain interests in the Australian economic community, but it does not serve the interests of Australia to support human rights abuses globally.
Senator MURPHY—I was not suggesting that. I do not think that anyone here is suggesting that.
Mr le Goullon—Well, military training is—
Senator MURPHY—What I would suggest to you is that it is in our interests—
Mrs CROSIO—Actually, I find it obscene to have in evidence here at a public meeting that you believe that our forces are supporting human rights abuses. I will follow my questions up after my Senate colleague.
Mr le Goullon—I put it to you, Janice, that I am putting the case that, in the past, the hospitality we have given Indonesian armed forces has been seen as a green light of support to those forces for their actions.
Senator MURPHY—It is an interesting thing that in a democracy like ours we are able to have variances of opinions. I guess that is where we are at the moment.
Mr le Goullon—Absolutely.
CHAIR—And public discussion like this is about this issue. I do not think that the green light has been given to any such thing but, again, we are able to have this open and public discussion about this issue in this country.
Mr le Goullon—The point is: can we take the risk that we may be complicit? Can we put ourselves at that risk?
Mrs CROSIO—Can I put to you the
question—and I should not be here to question that risk rate—of whether
we can also take the risk, as the fourth largest continent in the world,
and an island continent at that, of becoming isolated in the long run because
we have, in our Defence Forces, a lack of intelligence and expertise and
training? If we are going to close our doors to everything, people are
not going to know what is going on in the rest of the world. I also put
it to you that I did find it rather offensive—and I put it on the public
record—that we, in the Public Works Committee, would build a house with
Nazi Germany thinking it was going to be a
Mr le Goullon—I did not suggest that the Public Works Committee—
Mrs CROSIO—Well, it was almost implicit—
Mr le Goullon—I was using it as a metaphor to highlight the concern that just a simple building or accommodation may have many moral issues surrounding it and to present the relevance of my submission.
Mrs CROSIO—I see what you are saying, but can I also take it then—on account of what you have said and what is in the submission that your association has supplied to us—that, basically, you are objecting to Indonesians being trained.
Mr le Goullon—No, Indonesian military personnel. Look, I would be happy for Indonesian children to be taught some subjects at school here. We are concerned about Indonesian military personnel.
Senator FERGUSON—What about Philippine military personnel?
Mr le Goullon—At one time—in 1989—we had grave concerns. We heard evidence and felt that it would be inappropriate, given the human rights record of the Philippines under the Marcos regime, to undertake that training. We have to be realistic that times do change. We are hoping for the democratisation of Indonesia in the future, but we cannot accept that democracy lives unless West Papuans are given active self-determination.
CHAIR—Excuse me, I must vacate the chair and ask my colleague Mrs Crosio to deputise for me.
Senator MURPHY—I did not think that there would be too many in the Indonesian army currently that would think that Australia’s hospitality has extended any benefit to them.
Mr le Goullon—We are in contact with the East Timorese community, who quite openly claim that Indonesian armed forces boast of their time in Australia.
VICE-CHAIR(Mrs Crosio)—That would be in the past.
Mr le Goullon—In the past.
Senator MURPHY—They may well have done that, but I do not think that there are too many now—I do not see too many handshakes going on.
VICE CHAIR—No, we are not the most popular nation in Indonesia—fortunately or unfortunately. We could go on and have a foreign affairs debate here, but this is not what our charter is as far as public works are concerned. As you realise, we have an obligation to look at the costing and also the structure going on. Does your organisation actually feel that the role of training of foreign intelligence personnel at Canungra should continue in any shape or form?
Mr le Goullon—I feel that it should not continue until it is fixed to a set of principles that include the public being regularly informed about which military personnel are to be trained and that allow for community consultation and the ability of experts such as Amnesty International to give the government advice as to the human rights consequences of the military aid in the countries involved. Amnesty International has at times clearly and quite publicly not supported the training of Indonesian military personnel.
Senator FERGUSON—I must say, it is very interesting to have a policy debate on foreign affairs when we are trying to determine public expenditure of money on the facilities here. We have been assured by the people here that we are only replacing existing dysfunctional facilities, overcrowded accommodation and purpose built facilities. There is no introduction of any new capability at Kokoda Barracks.
Mr le Goullon—I think it is pretty clear from my reading of the Army submission that there will be an increased capacity to accommodate personnel.
Senator FERGUSON—There will be an increased capacity, but it does not say anything about an increased capacity to accommodate foreign people. It does not say anything about that at all. To the best of my knowledge, there have been no Indonesians trained here for at least two years. We, as the Public Works Committee, cannot commit future governments; we do not have a role to commit future governments. Our role is to determine whether the expenditure of public money in this facility is justified. In fact, those are the issues that we should be talking about. If you want to debate the issues of Irian Jaya or West Papua—whatever you choose to call it—or those other things, they are for a different forum, not the Public Works Committee. Our job is to make sure that the taxpayers’ dollars that we are using here in this facility are used for the purpose for which they are designed and that they are justified. Other foreign policy matters are for another debate, but not here.
Mr le Goullon—I put it to you, Senator, that this expenditure of public money is basically part and parcel of AusAID’s commitment to military support. I feel that for any military assistance there is a set of guidelining principles, which include concerns about human rights within AusAID’s guidelines, which are available for public comment.
Senator FERGUSON—How do you commit AusAID to the spending that is proposed here at Kokoda Barracks?
Mr le Goullon—Defence cooperation and military training are, in a sense, a form of aid and assistance to these countries and, therefore, facilities which are made available to them are also accountable to our general guidelines of assistance and aid to other countries.
Senator FERGUSON—I think we are travelling down different tracks, Mr le Goullon. I am not sure that yours is the majority view in Australia. I think that we will just have to take into account what you have said when we are making our final deliberations on these proposed works.
Mr le Goullon—Yes, we would hope that you could make a recommendation which will ensure the public concern over this issue.
Senator FERGUSON—It is your concern; it not necessarily a major public concern.
Mr le Goullon—I think it is fairly clear that Australians are incredibly concerned about our relations with Indonesia. Historically, I think I can speak with confidence in saying that.
Senator FERGUSON—I do not think we will debate the issue here.
VICE CHAIR—Nevertheless, I think you will have to agree. We can always supply you with a copy of our act. It is one of the oldest acts of the parliament. I think the Public Works Committee was set up in 1913 to make sure that the taxpayers’ dollar is being spent wisely and well. Regarding some of our definitions, even though we refer to houses being built and we do not know how they are going to be used in the future, it is a pertinent point. At least it allows the public access to bring their grievances forward, as you have done today, and this is what our committees are all about.
Mr le Goullon—Yes.
VICE CHAIR—But, as my senator colleagues have said, this is a bit wide of the mark. We did hear from our committees earlier today, too, regarding the environmental aspects of it. Again, it is a bit wide of the mark, but it gave at least a public forum so that all of this can be taken on board for reference in years to come. I think that is part of your referral to us. Reading your submission when it was supplied to us—and I come from New South Wales, not Queensland—what is the ‘Catholic Worker’? I know you say it is a community group, but is it an association, a committee of people or a group of people?
Mr le Goullon—It is very difficult to define, as I said, because we are not—
VICE CHAIR—Do you have a committee of 10, 20 or 50 people?
Mr le Goullon—No, we are not an incorporated body and we do not see ourselves as having a systemic structure, because under our faith we believe that people who speak with a prophetic voice to the moral conscience of the nation are, in a sense, in community with us. Therefore, there were 90 people who decided to come into community with us to do actions of protest to the point of arrest at this military facility, including a priest and a professor of ethics. As I say, we see the Catholic Worker as people who are in community with our concerns. [such as BACK DOOR - BD]
Senator FERGUSON—Although this is not your submission why, after a very short letter written by Jim Dowling, did we then proceed to have a response to a final report from the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee?
Mr le Goullon—Could you repeat the question?
Senator FERGUSON—Yes. We have a hearing of the Public Works Committee and we received a very short letter from Jim Dowling—
Mr le Goullon—Yes.
Senator FERGUSON—which raised issues about foreign troops, but the rest of the submission is just a response to a final report of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee which talks about things which have absolutely nothing to do with the Army world.
Mr le Goullon—In a sense, Jim provided that as evidence. He is seeking a public forum for his concerns and he has felt, up to this point, that his concerns have not been dealt with adequately and that they continue. I suppose he is presenting that as evidence that he has continuing concerns. He has raised them in a responsible public fashion and he will continue to do that.
Senator FERGUSON—I suggest that he finds another public forum because those are not issues that we can address.
Mr le Goullon—I think that this Public Works Committee has a direct connection to the issues.
VICE CHAIR—We thank you for your submission and we will take your comments on board.
London Catholic Worker: http://www.geocities.com/londoncatholicworker/
Australia - West Papua Association, Brisbane: http://www.geocities.com/awpab
BD: Military and political aid to Indonesia - A collection of recent reports, articles and news
BD: War Crimes & Crimes Against Humanity - A collection of recent press releases, petitions, articles and news