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Max Bradford John Moore Joint Media Conference

Minister for Defence



THE HON. JOHN MOORE: This morning Max Bradford who is the New Zealand Defence Minister and I continue discussions that we had in Darwin yesterday. Max came across, to take the occasion to meet with Secretary Cohen who met with us in Cairns and Darwin yesterday.

I have to say the meeting was very successful. Max has played a very prominent role in New Zealand in getting the Defence issues organised. He's played a very prominent role in supporting the operations of the United Nations force in East Timor.

Can I just say briefly about the situation there this morning. INTERFET has now 3,377 Australians on the ground, 718 other nationals. So we've now passed the 4,000 mark in position in East Timor. To date I think the operation has gone particularly well and there has been no unforeseen circumstances arising. The movement into the area has been well-controlled.

The operation has been carried out under the direction of General Cosgrove. I think it's gone remarkably well. As was said in the press I think overnight and on television last night that food drops have stopped. That was always going to be a doubtful proposition when you couldn't control distribution on the ground.

The INTERFET continues to provide support for the many NGOs and humanitarian efforts that are there so that their three-pronged commitment continues in support of the United Nations organisations, support for humanitarian causes on the ground, as well as pushing out around East Timor and making sure that the security position now sort of spreads out around the whole of the territory.

Returning to the conference this morning, I think it's fair to say that Max and I paid a lot of attention to the question of phase 3 of the United Nations effort. While we regard phase 2 as going very successfully at the moment, ultimately it must revert to a blue helmet operation at which civil control can be brought into the equation as well as what we're doing at the present moment.

We would urge the United Nations to start planning and push right now for what we hope will be a position, say at the end of February/March, when phase 3 take over. But can I hand over to Max and say how pleased I am, Max, to see you here. I know we're very grateful as part of the old ANZAC alliance, to see you committed to the United Nations cause. I know your government has made other announcements very recently and I look forward to your comments this morning.

THE HON. MAX BRADFORD: Well thanks very much, John. Can I just how much of a pleasure it is to be here to get in behind Australia's leadership in the role of introducing democracy into East Timor. New Zealand remains very committed to that ideal and we have very much put our money and our people where that ideal is.

Today, this morning the Prime Minister has announced, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jenny Shipley, has announced our intention to upgrade our commitment to a full battalion. That's around 800 to 1,000 people. It's a big commitment for New Zealand and is the largest post-war commitment that we will have made continuously on the ground for any action that's been taken. And it's demonstrated, I think, very much the commitment to Australia's leadership in this issue and commitment to East Timor peace and security.

In addition the Prime Minister has announced that we will be taking three hundred refugees from East Timor to New Zealand to help share some of the burden that Australia has very generously undertaken over the last few months and it's a commitment that we will try and match as much as we can, given our relative size.

I must say I think one of the most important things that came out of our discussion this morning was a desire to see the United Nations move as quickly as possible to phase 3. Any Chapter 7 operation is one that I think these days people don't want to see extended for any longer than is necessary and the quicker that we can get real peace on the ground through the activities of the Australian-led operation the better. We will put our diplomatic effort in behind establishing a UNAMET 3 arrangement as quickly as is possible.

So I just want to express our, not only our commitment, but our delight really to be working so closely together as an ANZAC force. Today and tomorrow is the two days when our company operation is being put into East Timor. We have a ship which is loading at the moment and will be very soon on its way with all of our heavy equipment. So you'll see a lot more Kiwis on the ground in the next few days.

JOHN MOORE: Max, I thank you very much for that extra commitment because it's certainly welcomed by us. Eight hundred plus us is a significant contribution to the United Nations coalition. I know the quality of the forces that you will be able to put on the ground there. Working together with New Zealand has always been something we have wanted to do and I look forward to this contribution.

Now are there any questions?

QUESTION: What's the timeframe you're discussing for phase 3?

JOHN MOORE: Well phase 3 we anticipate would flow in the predictable area, that the Indonesian Parliament would vote on the referendum. We anticipate that that will be sort of the order of end October/November, in that area there. It's unsure exactly how the program will work out. That being the case, we would anticipate that the United Nations would then be pre-planned to have a thorough phase 3 organisation set out on the ground and possible by the end of February/March.

QUESTION: How many Australians and New Zealanders do you think would remain with the force when it becomes blue helmet?

JOHN MOORE: I think it's too early to put numbers on that at present. We're still putting together the coalition for phase 2 and frankly we're doing pretty well at that. What happens in the future, I'm not sure.

QUESTION: But would you expect it to be a wind-down?

JOHN MOORE: I anticipate that, if it's a thorough blue helmet operation run under the United Nations control that Australia's size of commitment would be less than it is today.

MAX BRADFORD: Can I just add there that I think the ability and the speed with which we can establish UNAMET 3 is very much going to depend on how co-operative the Indonesian government is and in particular the TNI and whether they continue to, shall we say, pull the strings from behind.
If things settle down very quickly there, then I would expect - certainly from New Zealand's point of view - we won't need as many people on the ground and I'm sure it would be the same for Australia.

JOHN MOORE: Civil authority is one of the big missing ingredients at the present moment because we are apprehending various people from time to time but as you process them you hand them over to the Indonesian authorities who let them go. So there's no real civil authority. That is a very big requirement of the United Nations...

QUESTION: Can I just ask: February/March, that's the date, the timescale, ideally you would like INTERFET and the peacekeeping operations to begin?

JOHN MOORE: The significance of that date is that's the date of the resolution for the mandate that we've currently got. So it fits in with that.

QUESTION: Is it your expectation that...

JOHN MOORE: Our hope, hope. That the United Nations will be organised and in a position to be able to implement phase 3 [inaudible] . That's our hope.

QUESTION: Has New Zealand been asked to put in extra troops because of tardiness on the part of some of our Asian allies?

JOHN MOORE: No, they have volunteered to do this quite of their own accord. Their Prime Minister made the announcement this morning. Max has been over here to pre-brief us on this decision that was coming and we welcome it enormously.

QUESTION: Mr Bradford mentioned that you were concerned that TNI might still be pulling the strings behind the scenes. Can you both elaborate on the nature of those concerns and how seriously you regard these reports of [inaudible] militia build up on the western border?

JOHN MOORE: Well what we have had since deploying into Dili and to East Timor is fairly reasonable understanding of how TNI and the militia relate. There are some reportings coming from the troops on the ground in East Timor. As to the numbers in West Timor where they're gathering and certainly there are some there, but we are not aware of any plans they may have to activate themselves within East Timor. But currently we certainly have been able to get an idea of how TNI/militia relationship works within East Timor.

QUESTION: Could you elaborate on the circumstances when we would indulge in this hot pursuit across the border?

JOHN MOORE: Well there's a report this morning which certainly is very colourful but the realities of life are that, under Chapter 7, the United Nations forces there have every right to defend themselves. I think every Australian citizen would expect this. To have our troops there unable to defend themselves against hostilities wouldn't make sense to the Australian public.

If they are engaged under those circumstances and they happen to be near the border, there is contacts; in other words action at that particular moment, then they may cross the border. But if they lose contact, they must withdraw completely. The distance they can go is limited and we see this as exceptional circumstances only, exceptional circumstances only.

Under no circumstances are we going to invade the sovereignty of Indonesia by crossing the border into West Timor under general circumstances. It's only under these very precise circumstances. It's a matter of judgment as well.

MAX BRADFORD: To the extent that this would happen very much will depend on the co-operation that the Indonesians themselves want to exercise. I mean the question is do they want to become a harbour for militia raids across the border. That's an expression of the co-operation that we would hopefully get.

QUESTION: And what are the indications that they do wish to become a harbour?

MAX BRADFORD: Well I think it's too early to say as yet. General Cosgrove is gradually expanding the area of influence outside Dili and depending how quickly that occurs and goes up to the border I imagine will determine how much of a problem the cross-border raid issue is. If indeed it does become an issue.

QUESTION: What are the indications of troop build-up on the West Timor side and to what extent has that changed the equation of General Cosgrove's modus operandi on the ground?

JOHN MOORE: We're not concerned to see any great troop build-up, TNI build-up. There are TNI troops there of course. They have a very significant humanitarian problem in West Timor. Probably 150 to 200,000 refugees. We don't know the precise numbers but that's the sort of numbers that have been bandied around. They would therefore have some requirement for security of their own. They'd have their hands pretty full. But there have been reports, widely circulated, that militia people have gone from East Timor to West Timor and that they have been gathering there. We don't place any more reliance on it than that. What we can say is that Cosgrove is confident that he can handle all eventualities. Cosgrove is confident he can handle all eventualities.

QUESTION: If there's no effective civilian authority before say February or March next year, even if you can disarm the militias, how can you then keep them off the streets over that period?

JOHN MOORE: Well we anticipate that once the Indonesian Parliament votes on the referendum and presuming it's a positive vote, then the United Nations would presumably would have to be empowered with some infrastructure or civil authority. Now there's some comment about that already. I think it's not an unreasonable commitment. Up to the present moment the responsibility of civil order rests with the Indonesians right now.

QUESTION: So you think you'll have some kind of civil policing role prior to the blue helmets?

JOHN MOORE: I think it's, the United Nations would be sensible to be talking to the Indonesians about how to progress civil authority in East Timor prior to the phase 3.

QUESTION: There's been talk of having a country other than Australia lead the phase 3 force, the blue beret force. What's your thoughts on that? If it's not Australia, who is it likely to be?

JOHN MOORE: Well it's no good speculating on it at the present moment. Right at the present moment we're putting together the coalition and it's going very well. When phase 3 comes about, as I say it's right out there, February/March next year, we'll consider that when it comes round. Right at the moment, we've got the coalition going well. We've got the troops' contributions coming in. Max has added significantly to that this morning. And we are confident of the outcome.

QUESTION: Do you see threats to the cohesiveness of the multinational force given what Malaysia has been saying and growing criticism in Asia?

JOHN MOORE: Well I don't see that. I mean I'm very disappointed to hear those sort of comments because it is a United National majority. It is not a low majority. It was a unanimous vote, unanimous vote. All the ASEAN countries have been asked to contribute and they owe it to the United Nations, to their vote in the United Nations, to contribute. And I'm disappointed that they aren't meeting their...In relation to Malaysia, they haven't really come up with the numbers they had the invitation to do.

QUESTION: Well not only that, Minister. But Prime Minister Mahathir says that he feels it's necessary that Australia scales down its forces and wants the peacekeepers to handle the situation in a less belligerent way. Is this a helpful contribution from Malaysia.

JOHN MOORE: Well I would deny that we are acting in a belligerent way. But we are very much doing what we have to do in terms of the Chapter 7 mandate for the United Nations. And I would be disappointed to think that Australian troops who have their responsibilities to their families and to their nation aren't carrying out their actions in a professional manner. And they are carrying it out in a professional manner and I fully support it.

Now to observations about those matters don't help but, most importantly, Malaysia is part of the United Nations agreement to put a mandated force into West Timor, into East Timor I'm sorry. As a consequence you know we continue to look forward to a contribution from them.

QUESTION: Malaysia has sent a few troops though, haven't they?

JOHN MOORE: Yes, I met some troops there yesterday. They're largely interpreters.

MAX BRADFORD: I'll just answer one last question.

QUESTION: Well I was going to ask you, in your view about the advice, is helpful advice from Malaysia to scale down the force. Just wondering what your reaction to this helpful tip from Kuala Lumpur that the force should be scaled down and that the troops should be less belligerent. Will you be instructing Kiwi soldiers to be less belligerent?

MAX BRADFORD: Well our troops are never belligerent except when they're doing a haka. Most often before a Rugby match, and who knows, a major [inaudible] (laughs).

Well one of the most controversial issues that we discussed yesterday in Darwin was how we were going to get an appropriately sized television screen into Dili for the World Cup final. So, which we probably expect will be an Australian/Kiwi one...

But anyway coming back to your question, the, we haven't received any evidence that the belligerence that Prime Minister Mahathir is talking about is a real issue. And I imagine the media will be as well informed about that as anybody.

But at this stage, as Minister Moore has said, we are all operating under a Chapter 7 mandate. That means that appropriate strength has to be exercised when that's necessary, particularly in the situation where ordinary members of the public, the East Timorese, may be under some threat. So I think we just have to listen to what Prime Minister Mahathir has said, take it on board, and actually get on with doing the job.

QUESTION: So far there hasn't been a short fired in anger, has there?


QUESTION: In fact then they haven't engaged?

MAX BRADFORD: Well not by the INTERFET forces anyway.

QUESTION: So not one shot has been fired at anybody by INTERFET forces to this date?

MAX BRADFORD: Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Minister, do you think the nature and timescale of this operation, it's happened in a very short while, does that lend any credence do you think to the view that Australia, that New Zealand rather is somewhat lacking in maritime support and change your view about buying another frigate?

MAX BRADFORD: You're taking us into waters that I'm not sure I'm here to talk about. But what I can say, what I can say is that this whole issue has been something of a wake-up call for New Zealanders, about not only the state of our defence forces and we are going through a very major upgrade process which we started in 1997. The army for example is getting a $500 million refit, and the government that I represent is still committed to a 3 frigate navy, minimum. Well we'll get over the election and address that really that final remaining component. But I think perhaps it's a little like it's been in Australia, the East Timor situation has been a wake-up call; has shown the ordinary members of the public that defence is actually a vital part of what any government does, and you actually need to spend money to get a proper defence force in place.

Well I think we might stop now. Okay. I've got to vote.

QUESTION: Where are you at with the F-16s? Is that project signed off?

MAX BRADFORD: Yes, we've signed off. We've signed the letter of offer and acceptance. It's on track and we expect the first to be delivered towards the end of next year.


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