Government statements – Howard government

Government statements – Howard government


Following the April/May 2006 crisis in Timor-Leste, the conservative Coalition government led by Prime Minister John Howard deployed significant police and military forces to Dili, through the International Stabilisation Force (ISF). The renewed intervention in Timor faced debates over command and control issues and relations with the United Nations and the forces of other countries in Timor. The Howard government maintained the deployment until its loss of office in November 2007 national elections, which saw the victory of an Australian Labor Party (ALP) government led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Government sources

Joint Press Conference with His Excellence Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta, President of East Timor, Palacio Das Cinzas, East Timor, Interview Transcript, Prime Minister of Australia, Pandora Archive, 26 July 2007

“PRESIDENT: …today during the discussion with the Prime Minsiter I ask that the Australian forces, New Zealand, ISF should proceed to stay here into end of 2008…

PRIME MINISTER:…I’ve taken note of the request you’ve made about the presence of the ISF…that is a matter that the Australian Government has under continuing consideration. We will not turn our backs on the people of East Timor but as I know you appreciate the goal is always one of self-sufficiency…

JOURNALIST:… Do you [Prime Minister] share the outrage of your Foreign Minister about that [Forca 2020] report?

PRIME MINISTER: I share most of the view of my Foreign Minister, including that one.”

Interview with Keiran Gilbert, Sky News, East Timor, Interview Transcript, Prime Minister of Australia, Pandora Archive, 28 July 2007 

“PRIME MINISTER:…Australia is a good friend of East Timor’s, a very special friend. We want to see a prosperous East Timor. It’s an underdeveloped country, it’s got a small population, it has high unemployment and it’s got huge challenges but unlike many other underdeveloped countries it has oil and gas resources and uif it uses them intelligently the revenue from those resources can build quite a good future for the country.We will stay there as long as we are wanted and our presence has the sanction of the United Nations. Although…our committment is not indefinite.”

Constructing a regional security community, Minister of Defence Brendan Nelson, Australian Defence Report, MIN180607/07, 14 June 2007

“And so too in East Timor – that is, it’s not just about providing security in partnership with the New Zealanders and previously the Portuguese and Malaysians; it’s also about how we build effective governance in these nations, and work with other partner countries to do so. The other thing that’s important, and why we would even focus on it, is as I said earlier, it’s in our interests. We cannot afford any of these nations to be havens for transnational crime, terrorism or other forms of instability, let along an ongoing humanitarian crisis.”

The Situation in Timor-Leste, Statement by H.E. Mr. Robert Hill, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations, United Nations Security Council, 15 August 2006

“We currently have a military force of some 2000 in Timor-Leste. Whilst we are gradually drawing down that force as conditions improve we have indicated that we would be prepared at our cost to continue to provide the force that is required to meet the above needs. In consultation with the Timor-Leste Government, we would seek regional participation in such a force, which would provide both rapid deployment capability and security for the UN.

“The advantages of our offer are:

1. A flexible force with its own air mobility which could, at short notice, be bolstered to meet unexpected circumstances.

2. A force familiar with the environment and the tasks with proven command and control.

3. A significantly reduced mission operation cost to the UN and a mission that is focused on the tasks that can be best done by the UN and where a real need exists.

“With both the policing and military tasks it is important that the Security Council provides authority under Chapter VII to enable the effective functioning of the forces with the support they are entitled to expect.”

Transcript of the Hon John Howard MP Doorstop Interview, East Timor, Prime Minister of Australia, Pandora Archive, 18 July 2006

“JOURNALIST:Could you see this no primarily going forward as a police mission more than a military mission or how do you…?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I think that it’s too early to say that it is, overwhelmingly a police mission, but increasingly, and this is my point about re-balancing, increasingly as we go ahead the police part of it assumes a greater prominence.”

Transcript of the Hon John Howard MP interview with Jon Faine, ABC Radio, Melbourne, Prime Minister of Australia, Pandora Archive, 9 June 2006

“PRIME MINISTER: There was a view a generation ago that no matter how small the country might be it should have its independence without a lot of thought given at the time to whether some of those countries were viable…I hope the sobering experience of having to get international help to bring about a restoration of law and order will bring home to the leaders of East Timor that there are responsibilities as well as freedoms and privileges associated with independence.”

Constructing a regional security community, Dr. Brendan Nelson, Minister for Defence, Australia, 5th International Institute for Strategic Studies, Shangri-La Dialogue, Singapore, 4 June 2006

“It is important from our perspective that the political and judicial and administrative reconciliation and reconstruction of Timor Leste be led essentially by the United Nations and supported by the Timor Leste government, but, in terms of supporting its security, that it should be endorsed by the United Nations, but include a broad coalition of countries from our region…

“It’s in all of our interests to see that we do not have failed states in our region, that we cannot afford to have Timor Leste become one of those, and, in doing so, become a haven, perhaps, for transnational crime,for terrorism, and indeed humanitarian disasters and injustice….we believe, for humanitarian and also security reasons, that security in our region is important to our security; that whether it be Pacific Island nations or whether it be nations in our region, that economic, political and perhaps even military threats to our neighbours are threats to us.”

Transcript of the Hon John Howard MP interview with Madonna King, ABC Radio 612, Brisbane, Prime Minister of Australia, Pandora Archive, 29 May 2006

“KING: Alright and what humanitarian aid will Australia offer?

PRIME MINISTER: Well we have been giving humanitarian aid for the last few years and that will go on.

KING: Will there be any increase in that?

PRIME MINISTER: Everytime something arises people think it’s solved by throwing more money at it. The fundamental problem in East Timor is that the country is not being governed…now the division between east and west and the lack of political capacity has caused a problem…We stayed for a long period of time as part of the United Nations force and then the United Nations decided it was time to let them run their own show. Now sadly they haven’t done a very good job of it.”

See also:

Australian government policy