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AUS: Sustainability Of East Timor Force

Government Ensures Sustainability Of East Timor Force

MEDIA RELEASE

The Hon. John Moore, MP Minister for Defence

Thursday, 23 September 1999

Government Ensures Sustainability of East Timor Force

The Minister for Defence, John Moore, today said that Australia has sufficient forces available to deploy and maintain a contingent of up to 4,500 personnel for about a year on East Timor.

This includes sufficient forces to allow for a rotation of personnel.

The Government has been advised by the ADF that they are planning for personnel to spend no more than nine months on deployment, and if possible, somewhat less.

We are conscious of the families of our troops on East Timor and within the bounds of operational requirement, we will try to provide as much as certainty to families as possible, regarding the expected duration of deployment.

At the same time, the Government is determined that our present force will also allow Australia to maintain significant forces to deal with other contingencies that may arise, and to ensure that we have the forces for critical national tasks such as counter-terrorism for the 2000 Olympics.

The Government hopes that within a year, the situation in East Timor will have improved to the point that a formal United Nations peacekeeping operation can take over and allow our forces to be significantly reduced.

However, the Government recognises there is a possibility that we may need to sustain such a deployment for longer than that.

The Government is therefore developing plans to provide the extra forces that would be needed to sustain a deployment of 4,500 personnel beyond the initial twelve months.

That would involve raising the readiness of a number of additional battalions. The Government will be taking decisions over coming weeks about ways in which this can best be done, to ensure that the preparation of these forces can begin early, so that they will be well-prepared if they are needed.

At present, Reserves are not required to meet our main personnel needs for the deployment to East Timor, although we will seek Reserve volunteers in some specialist areas, such as medical, dental legal and engineering services, as we often do for deployments of this nature. Over the next week, the Government will also consider the role of the Reserves in the event of a longer-term commitment.

The Government is working closely with the leadership of the ADF to ensure our deployment to East Timor is adequately resourced. That is the case at the moment and it will continue to be the case.

The Government is totally committed to ensuring that the Australian Defence Force is properly resourced.

SPEECH BY THE MINISTER FOR DEFENCE

(Matter of Public Importance)

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES - 23rd SEPTEMBER 1999

Mr Speaker

* I reject completely the allegations made by the Member for Cunningham.

* They are totally without foundation.

* They are mischievous and entirely inappropriate at a time when the men and women of our defence forces are deploying on the largest operation of its kind in a generation.

Mr Speaker

* The ADF is adequately resourced

* we can maintain a deployment of 4500 troops in East Timor for 12 months

* And we can rotate those forces within that 12 months period.

Mr Speaker

* The issue we are considering today is a critical one, and it is therefore important to be aware of the background of this historic deployment.

* As is well known, the Government supported the decision by the Indonesian Government, set out in the May 5 tripartite agreement, to hold an act of consultation on East Timor on 30 August.

* It is well known that Indonesia had responsibility for security in the period surrounding the ballot, and that on the day of the vote, there was little disturbance.

--> and we have acknowledged the role of the Indonesian Government in achieving this.

* The widespread violence after the ballot, however, was completely unacceptable.

* Since then, the Australian Government has worked tirelessly to help stabilise the situation, and to provide a path for the will of the East Timorese people to be given effect.

* We were pleased when the Indonesian Government announced their decision to accept a multinational peacekeeping force.

* The Australian Government worked very closely with the international community to then obtain the agreement of the United Nations to allow the deployment of troops into East Timor.

* The UN Security Council reached their resolution in an incredibly short time, and the UN Mandate is a strong one

- we believe it fully meets INTERFET's requirements.

* The mandate authorises INTERFET to:

- restore peace and security in East Timor, - to protect and support UNAMET, - and to facilitate humanitarian assistance operations.

--> importantly INTERFET is authorised to take 'all necessary measures' to fulfil it's mandate.

* At the request of the UN Secretary General, Australia accepted leadership of this peacekeeping force.

* Major General Peter Cosgrove, one of Australia's most distinguished serving combat soldiers, has been appointed as Commander.

--> and I am sure that all Australians are very proud of the role he and his colleagues are playing.

* This was all achieved within the space of three weeks. - it is a credit to the diplomatic efforts of the Prime Minister, my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and to the senior officials of our Departments.

Mr Speaker

* This deployment is a very important one.

* As I said in the House earlier this week, it clearly meets the test of Australia's national interest.

* We have a vital strategic interest in promoting peace and stability in East Timor.

* Without that peace and stability we cannot be confident of our own security.

* So our leadership of INTERFET is not only about being a good international citizen, it is equally about promoting regional peace, security and Australia's national interests.

Mr Speaker

* It is our objective is to ensure the UN process moves back on course, as soon as possible.

* Our aim is for Phase Three of the UN Process - the period after the Indonesian Parliament ratifies the August 30 vote and a UN transitional authority takes over - to commence as soon as possible.

* The intention of the Australian government is for the multinational force to carry out its mandate and hand over to this UN transitional authority as soon as possible.

* Currently, Phase 2 of the operation, INTERFET, is expected to last for up to four months.

Mr Speaker

* I would now like to turn to the current status of the INTERFET operation.

* As of this morning there were 2750 personnel deployed to East Timor, comprising 2468 Australian and 282 foreign forces.

* Another 987 Australian personnel are serving on ships involved in Operation STABILISE.

* The build up of troops, stores and equipment will continue today through both the port and Dili airport.

* INTERFET is continuing to develop its operations.

* Yesterday Baucau airfield was secured by a company group in preparation for deployment of further INTERFET forces.

* A suspected militia location, the Tropicana Hotel in Dili, was investigated by INTERFET forces yesterday. A cache of approximately 40 weapons (mostly handmade) was discovered and five personnel were detained for questioning.

* 12 Blackhawk helicopters are now located in Dili.

* Security elements will deploy to Dare and Uamori today.

* Twenty C130 sorties, including 9 Australian, are planned between Darwin and Dili for today, including three airdrops of humanitarian aid, two Australian and one French.

* A total of 85 C130 sorties, 52 of these Australian, have been completed between Darwin and Dili up to and including yesterday.

* This includes six humanitarian drops delivering over 100,000 pounds of food and supplies.

Mr Speaker

* As far as the current state of the INTERFET coalition is concerned, firm commitments have now been received from 12 countries.

* These are the Philippines, United Kingdom, United States, Singapore, Thailand, New Zealand, Italy, France, Canada, Ireland, Brazil and Malaysia.

* Eight other countries have indicated a willingness to contribute but actual commitments have not yet been agreed. These are Fiji, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Mozambique, Norway, Spain, and Denmark.

* National contingents continue to arrive in Australia and will be deployed to Dili in due course as part of the force build up.

* Forces, or elements, from UK, NZ, France, Thailand, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and the US are located in Darwin and will continue to deploy forward to East Timor. Brazilian and Italian force elements are undergoing force preparation in Townsville prior to deployment.

Mr Speaker

* This has been an excellent deployment and an excellent example of international cooperation between nations:

* I commend the ADF on this well-planned and well-executed operation, and I thank the nations involved for their contribution and, in particular, for their speedy response to the request of the United Nations.

Mr Speaker

* I now turn to the issue of the sustainability of our contribution to INTERFET in East Timor.

* Clearly the scale of our deployment to East Timor is posing major challenges for the ADF.

* However, because of the decision we took in February this year to raise the readiness of a second brigade, we have now available to us sufficient forces to deploy and maintain on East Timor a contingent of up to 4,500 personnel for about a year.

* That includes sufficient forces to allow for a rotation of units.

* The Government has been advised by the ADF that they are planning for units to spend no more than nine months on deployment, and if possible somewhat less.

* These are operational matters and the Government is in very close contact with the leadership of the ADF and will naturally act on its advise on this important matter\

* And as I said in Question Time,

* we are also conscious of the families at home of our troops on East Timor and within the bounds of operational requirements we will try to provide as much certainty to families as possible regarding the expected duration of deployment

* We hope that within a year the situation in East Timor will have improved to the point that our forces can be withdrawn or at least significantly reduced, and we are certainly working with the United Nations to ensure this occurs.

* But the Government recognises that there is a possibility that we may need to sustain a deployment for longer than that.

Mr Speaker

* Our present force will also allow us at the same time to maintain significant forces to deal with other contingencies that may arise, and to ensure that we have the forces for critical national tasks such as counter-terrorism response for the Olympics.

* I would now like to turn specifically to the important issue of the possible need for rotation of the Australian contingent.

* This is an issue being given close consideration by the Government.

* Firstly, we need to be clear that the current mandate should not be seen as a substitute for the tri-partite agreement between Indonesia, Portugal and the United Nations.

* The purpose of the current deployment is to create the conditions on the ground that will permit the processes put in place under the agreement to get back on track as quickly as possible.

* If this can be done quickly and effectively, then there should be no need for rotation of the force currently in East Timor. We intend to work vigorously towards that outcome.

* All parties to the mandate are keen to see the situation on the ground stabilised to the point where we can transfer the mandate from a peace enforcement operation to a United Nations Peacekeeping operation in support of a United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor.

* Australia will, of course, contribute to the Peacekeeping Force as well as to the Transitional Authority. The nature and scale of our contribution to the Phase III Peacekeeping Force will be tailored to the situation at the time.

* I can say, however, that I expect that we will not need to deploy on the same scale as under the current peace enforcement mandate.

* It is likely, however, that the Phase III Peacekeeping Force will be required to support the Transitional Authority in East Timor for some considerable time.

* Accordingly, my Department is now planning the likely manpower and resource requirements to allow an effective ADF contribution to such a force.

* Our initial studies indicate that support for the Phase III Peace Keeping Force could largely be sustained from within the current force structure.

* There is a need, however, for prudent planning in case the peace enforcement operation under the current mandate needs to be extended beyond the currently projected period for Phase II.

* As I said in Question Time,

* I am advised that current manning levels are robust enough to support a projected ADF contingent of some 4,500 personnel, including any requirement for rotation, for a period of at least one year, although additional resources will be required to cover equipment and operating costs.

* Any extension of the current mandate beyond twelve months would require some form of expansion to maintain a force at the higher end of the scale. This will require an early decision on the requirement to raise additional regular elements based on 7 Brigade in Brisbane.

* My Department is now doing the detailed planning work on this issue and I expect to take the matter to the National Security Committee very shortly.

* While I do not wish to pre-empt their considerations, I can say with great confidence that

- the Government will take whatever decisions necessary to ensure that our Defence Forces are properly:

- manned, - trained, - equipped and - sustained,

--> to support our forces in East Timor whether under the present peace enforcement mandate, or the Phase III Peacekeeping mandate.

* The Coalition has spent the last three years refocussing Defence on its reason for being - providing combat capability to protect Australia and its interests.

* That focus on combat capability, through the Defence Reform Program has shifted resources from administrative areas to the 'sharp end'.

* Because of this, there are more Regular Army personnel in combat and combat related roles than when the Coalition came to government.

* We have brought a second brigade sized group - 1 Brigade in Darwin to a higher state of readiness at 28 days' notice to move.

* In December 1997, we introduced the Army Individual Readiness Notice. Personnel must now meet set fitness requirements and be ready to deploy - focussing our individual soldiers on their need to be combat ready.

* So, we are in a strong position to support this deployment.

Mr Speaker

* I reject totally the scare mongering of the Opposition on this matter.

* We do have sufficient forces to deploy and maintain a contingent of 4,500 on EAST Timor for a year

* That includes sufficient forces for a rotation of units

* The Government is working closely with the leadership of the ADF to ensure our deployment to East Timor is adequately resourced

* That is the case at the moment and it will continue to be the case

* The Government is committed to ensuring the ADF is properly resourced.


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