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Joint Press Conference: Mark Burton And John Moore

Transcript ot the Joint Press Conference

with the New Zealand Minister for Defence Mark Burton

and the Defence Minister John Moore


Parliament House, Canberra
27 July 2000

JOHN MOORE: Look, this morning I'd like to very much welcome Mike Burton, the New Zealand Defence Minister, in town.

We had discussions in Wellington about a month ago, and during the course of those discussions we reflected on defence organisations - what we were doing in Australia. And the minister is in Australia today to see something of that and also further those discussions. But the discussions are rather hung over by the death of Private Manning in East Timor. A loss to the New Zealand forces such as that of course is felt nationally within Australia. New Zealand and Australia have operated together as comrades in arms for at least a hundred years, and therefore those significant losses to the New Zealand defence forces are equally felt by us.

The other matter that I wish to announce today is that we are deploying to East Timor four Black Hawk helicopters to assist the forces up there. This decision is not a reaction to what happened to Private Manning, but was a decision made by the government some weeks ago. They are there to assist in maintaining what security is necessary for the Australian forces.

Finally can I just say the discussions with Minister Burton in relation to defence cooperation. We've always found a high degree of mutuality in our discussions, and I commend the minister for the active role he's played in advancing defence matters in New Zealand.

MARK BURTON: Yeah. Thank you. It's good to be back in Australia.

I want to start by acknowledging the practical support and expressions of sympathy that we've had with the death of Private Manning in East Timor, the practical assistance has been given I know to assist us in attending to him, to his family, and I know in particular the appreciation of New Zealanders and Private Manning's family for the attendance of Australian Defence personnel when he arrived back in Darwin to join an honour guard along with our Irish colleagues to form a three-nation honour guard for him when he arrived back at Darwin Airport. I was able to be there as well. I was in Darwin for a tourism ministers conference. So they're the sorts of things I think that underline the relationship that Minister Moore was talking about and the sorts of things that will matter to his family in the weeks and months ahead.

In wider matters. It's been from my point of view very useful to pick up the threads of the many discussions that we were having in Wellington a few weeks ago. Obviously East Timor and the future of our involvements there have been a matter of some importance in our discussions this morning and also the ongoing relationship and cooperation that we enjoy and some of the practical aspects of that. I expect to be looking in more detail at some of the organisational arrangements in Australia and some of the transformation that's taking place in defence organisation here in the next few hours and have appreciated the full and open access that we have been given in order to maintain that level of understanding.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Did Private Manning's death effect the level of deployment of either Australian or New Zealand forces in Timor. And will you - what representations have you made to the Indonesian government about that?

MARK BURTON: I don't expect Private Manning's death to have, certainly from New Zealand's point of view, any direct influence on the level. I think it's been a tragic but timely reminder that this is still a serious active operational area. Perhaps the level of incident so far has been a testament more to the skill, training and competence of New Zealand and Australian troops than to the absence of danger.

As to the second part of your question. Clear messages are being delivered by the New Zealand Foreign Minister directly to his counterpart from Indonesia. We do believe that Indonesia has to redouble its efforts, particularly as to the security in the border, addressing the issue of the refugee camps and taking some responsibility for the western side of the border.

QUESTION: Do you believe that the United Nations mandate that they're operating under there and the United Nations military leadership is robust enough to offer the sort of protection for your troops (both of you) that was offered under the INTERFET operation?

JOHN MOORE: We have no reason to believe that the current command structure up there is something else but adequate. Quite clearly the Australians and New Zealanders carry the major load there, being on the border itself. As we move into next year, that year will of course presumably lead to some changes in the political structure of East Timor. And that will lead to certain judgements to be made then. But at - of this moment we don't have any complaints about the structure.

QUESTION: So [inaudible] actually to be able to pursue these so-called militias across the border into West Timor?

JOHN MOORE: No. What we're saying is that we are adequately supported, have adequate numbers there. With the four helicopters we should be in a position to carry out whatever is required in our zone.

QUESTION: Why was the decision made then to put four extra Black Hawk -

JOHN MOORE: It was the advice of the CDF to government that on a visit he made there he thought it was appropriate that some level of helicopter support be afforded to the troops there. Now, we have no -

QUESTION: Was it -

JOHN MOORE: Pardon?

QUESTION: Was it a UN decision?

JOHN MOORE: The decision was made by the Australian government and was sanctioned by the United Nations. We went to the United Nations and they said okay.

MARK BURTON: I think it underscores the deteriorating situation on the border of several weeks ago to Cabinet.

QUESTION: Will there be a greater response to this?

MARK BURTON: Can I just say it underscores though that there are two sides to the border, and it's not the UN administration on the East Timor side that can ultimately take responsibility for all of that. And as I said before, we are looking to Indonesia to - to exercise its full responsibilities on the western side of that border.

JOHN MOORE: We'd completely support that position. I mean, we have said for some considerable time it's up to the Indonesians to do - control the western side of the border.

QUESTION: Is the [inaudible] of complicity [inaudible] or otherwise in Indonesian involvement in Private Manning's death or any other incidents that have happened in the past few months?

MARK BURTON: We don't yet have full and reliable intelligence on who these people were. What is clear is that they were trained and competent and certainly the investigation into who they were, who they may have been trained by will continue. And again we certainly expect the full active involvement of the Indonesians in assisting with that process.

QUESTION: Can both of you provide an assessment of what's occurred in Fiji this morning and last night?

JOHN MOORE: Well, look, Mark's closer to Fiji than I am. But I can -

MARK BURTON: Well, certainly I've been catching up first thing this morning. I think it's fair to say at this stage that we - the messages are confused, but it seems at this stage the defence forces there, the army in particular, has drawn a line in the sand as to compliance with conditions that were agreed to. I think - I cautiously welcome - they seem to be requiring compliance with that agreement. But it's early days, and I think we have to wait and see what happens next.

QUESTION: And should Mr Speight stay in jail?

MARK BURTON: Um, in relation to the breach of that particular undertaking, that's one matter as to New Zeland's view as to Mr Speight's status as an armed gunman who took a parliament and a democratically elected government by force of arms. I think after due process that's probably an appropriate place.

QUESTION: Do you think that Mr Speight took some comfort from the fact that while New Zealand delivered all sorts of deep and thunderous pronouncement about what should be happening in Fiji, in practical miliary terms he had virtually no capacity to deliver any threat.

MARK BURTON: New Zealand has never attempted to or suggested it should deliver a miliary threat to Fiji. New Zealand has expressed a very strong foreign policy view and a regional neighbour view that a duly elected constitutionally elected government should not be allowed to be removed by armed terror. And the statements we have made and the steps we have taken subsequently have all been to underscore that position.

QUESTION: Can I ask -

MARK BURTON: Can I just go back to Timor for a second.

QUESTION: Can I ask about the national missile defence system that William Cohen saying that Australia would be (quote) 'supportive of the system if it went ahead' basically saying that Australia endorses that scheme. Is that how you understand Australia's position?

JOHN MOORE: The discussions I had with Secretary Cohen, what was it, a fortnight ago in that we discussed their proposals. But as I said at the time, we understand what they're on about, but there is - no proposition has been put to the Australian government. When a proposition is put to us, we'll address it. Right now there doesn't exist.
And I might add, he has not made a recommendation to the President on it.

QUESTION: So there is no support, as he claims, at this stage from the Australian government?

JOHN MOORE: No. We understand their position. We understand their position. But until such time as a proposition is put to Australia as to what our involvement may or may not be, then there's nothing to comment on. We just say Cohen has not made a recommendation to the President of America on the subject.

QUESTION: What practical steps would you like the Indonesians to take to sort the situation out on those camps on the West Timor side of the border?

JOHN MOORE: We've always said that the responsibilities for these camps when they were set up was in the territory of Indonesia, and that these camps do appear to be part of the problem. That therefore if it is part of the problem, then we would like the government there to address it because our concern is to be able to deliver a civilian government to East Timor in a timely and appropriate manner. And that presumably comes up the latter part of next year. Under those circumstances at that stage we'd like to see the border situation resolves so that people can peacefully pass across it both ways at that point. That won't come about until the militias are brought under control. And to bring them under control, our view is that a lot of the problems rest with these camps.

QUESTION: So should they be closed?

JOHN MOORE: Well, that's up to the Indonesian government. I mean, they have to act within their own territory. What we're saying is to bring about peace and understanding and a cooperative attitude on the border you've got to bring the militias under control. And if the militias are coming from the west, then they have to be dealt with.

UNIDENTIFIED: Thank you.


[ends]


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