Government statements – Rudd government
In opposition, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) was critical of the policy towards Timor-Leste maintained by the conservative Coalition government led by former Prime Minister John Howard (1996-2007). After winning the national elections in November 2007, the incoming ALP government under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was soon thrust into politics in Timor. Following the attempted assassination of Timorese President Jose Ramos Horta in February 2008, the Australian government responded with the deployment of extra Australian troops and police.
Minister for Defence returns from visit to East Timor, Minister for Defence Joel Fitzgibbon, media release, Min 31/09, 6 March 2009
“The Minister for Defence, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon MP, has returned from a visit to East Timor …Mr Fitzgibbon reconfirmed Australia’s enduring commitment to the development of East Timor’s Defence Force and regional security.
“ ‘Australia remains committed to supporting the Government of East Timor and the Australian-led International Stabilisation Force will continue to provide a range of specified security tasks in support of the East Timorese authorities and the United Nations,’ Mr Fitzgibbon said.”
Annual Report 2007-08, Australian Federal Police, p56
“Timor-Leste held successful and peaceful presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007 with the support of the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor (UNMIT) and other bilateral support from international donors. The attempted assassination of President Dr Jose Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao is an example however of the fragile stability of this area of operation for the AFP….The Australian Government approved the deployment of additional AFP and ADF personnel following the attacks on President Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Gusmao. A total of 70 AFP personnel were deployed to support the International Stabilisation Force and UNMIT civilian police immediately following the attacks.”
National Security Statement to the Australian Parliament, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, 4 December 2008
“Intrastate conflict in our region and beyond will continue to flare. It will be caused by weak state institutions struggling to cope with a complex mix of political, socio-economic, cultural, criminal and religious factors. And it will bring disastrous consequences to local communities when it occurs. Australia has made major long term commitments to help resolve conflict in Solomon Islands and Timor Leste. But the risk of fragile states disrupting stability and prosperity in our region is an ongoing challenge. The Government is committed to a policy of cooperation with the island nations of the Pacific through Pacific Partnerships for Development and in particular helping them to reach the Millennium Development Goals. This is designed to build the basic capacity for long term economic capacity building – essential to long term political stability.”
Joint Press Conference with Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, Xanana Gusmao, Parliament House, Canberra, 25 August 2008
“Australia’s national security interests require that we have a good relationship with our near neighbour East Timor, that we have a stable East Timor, that we have prosperous East Timor and that we have an East Timor anchored into a strong path for development for the future.”
Statement to Parliament, Minister for Defence Joel Fitzgibbon, 23 June 2008
“Helping to build a solid, well trained and apolitical Defence Force for East Timor is one way that my Department can create the conditions necessary for stability to take hold and for democracy and prosperity to flourish.”
Australian Troops in Timor-Leste Return to Pre-11 February 2008 Levels, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Media Release, 26 April 2008
“Australia will withdraw the additional 200 troops deployed to Timor-Leste following the attacks on 11 February on President Ramos-Horta and Prime Minister Gusmao. This means a rifle company group from the Third Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment will not be replaced when it completes its tour of duty on 27 April. This drawdown in Australian forces reflects the improved security situation in Timor Leste.”
Speech for the Dawn Service at Camp Phoenix in Dili, Minister for Defence Science and Personnel Warren Snowdon, Anzac Day, 25 April 2008
“Hardship, courage, resilience, sticking together—they are also watchwords of Australia and Timor’s history of WWII. In 1942 the 2/2nd and 2/4th Independent Company waged war here in East Timor on the Japanese invaders. In July 1942, there were around 700 Australians in Timor fighting a force of as many as 20,000. And losing 40 Australians, Sparrow force caused 1500 Japanese casualties. And today’s service has particular poignancy, because it is very close to here that eleven of those 40 men lost their lives.”
Media interview, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, ‘Today show’ Channel 9, 12 February 2008
PM: “…we have always said as Government, as a new Australian Government, that we are going to need to have defence capabilities available within Australia for quick deployment for problems in our own region, our own neighbourhood, our own backyard. Putting those assets on the ground is important, but we want to do so in close cooperation with the UN, because the UN is doing other things in East Timor which are important for that country’s long term development.
KARL: It does, as you know only too well, remain an uneasy peace. Our time there is open ended isn’t it?
PM: Well we keep that under continuing review but I was, when I was in opposition, I was critical of the decision by our predecessors to pull our troops out too early and that, together with other factors I think did not help when it came to the outbreak of violence in East Timor a year or more ago. I think we have got to be very cautious about when you move substantial troops out of a country to make sure that everything is right in terms of the local police and armed forces controlled by the government of East Timor and their ability to do the job. And that is part of our mission in East Timor today, to bring that country to self reliance for its security long term.
Press conference with Xanana Gusmao, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, 15 February 2008
“The purpose of my visit today is to state in clear and loud terms that Australia will stand shoulder to shoulder with East Timor into the future in the defence of its democratic system of government. The Australian people and the Australian Government have been long committed to this country both through our brave men and women in uniforms – the Australian Defence Force; though our officers in the AFP; and through our diplomats and aid workers and others who have assisted in the development of this country in recent years.
“That assistance will continue into the future. Australia is not just a fair-weather friend of Timor Leste, but is here for the good times, the bad times and difficult times. We are therefore a partner with Timor Leste into the future. The Prime Minister spoke just now of the values which we hold in common as two democracies. In Timor Leste’s case – a new democracy, in our case – one of the world’s oldest continuing democracies Australia. And that core value is this, it is by the ballot box, not by the barrel of the gun that decisions of our countries will be made.
“Therefore the purpose of my visit is to reinforce that core value which unites our two countries and our two people. I state again in a clear-cut terms that we are here to stand shoulder to shoulder with the government and people of Timor Leste in this difficult time in defence of their democracy. I have also in discussions today with the Prime Minister spoken of areas of further cooperation in the area of police and law enforcement.”
Press conference after assassination attempt on Jose Ramos Horta, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, transcript, 11 February 2008
“Australia will stand resolutely behind East Timor at this time of crisis in their democracy. Australia is a long standing partner and friend of East Timor, in the past. We will remain that way in the future, including at this time of national need…..Our Government, the Australian Government, believes that if we get a request from the East Timorese Government, we need to respond quickly and substantially to that request. I believe that when you have got something as fundamentally destabilising as the attempted assassination of the entire senior democratically elected leadership of one of our neighbours, it is obviously a destabilising time with rogue elements at play. Therefore, an appropriate show of force is necessary. That is the judgement of the East Timorese, hence the request that they have made, hence why we have responded to that request.”
Former Indonesian President Soeharto, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Media Release, 27 January 2008
“On behalf of the Government and people of Australia I extend to the President and people of the Republic of Indonesia our condolences on the passing of former Indonesian President Soeharto….The former president was also a controversial figure in respect of human rights and East Timor and many have disagreed with his approach. Now the world’s third largest democracy, Indonesia is a close friend and neighbour with which Australia shares vital political and security interests. Indonesia’s success as a modern democracy is a major interest not just to Australia, but to our region and the world.”
Kevin Rudd visits East Timor, Transcript, PM, ABC Radio, 14 December 2007
“JOSE RAMOS HORTA: I have reiterated to the Prime Minster that we believe that ISF (International Stabilisation Force) should at least stay until the end of 2008, at least. We will review it along the way, together with the United Nations and with Australia. And that international police force (inaudible), the UN itself, should stay here after 2011
ANNE BARKER: Kevin Rudd was giving no precise time frame, but said he had no objection to Australian troops staying on in East Timor, until the end of 2008.
KEVIN RUDD: I’ve noted carefully what has been said about the requirements for 2008. And from our point of view, as the Australian Government, we stand ready to assist our friends in Timor-Leste, with their continuing security needs.”
Statement on Timor-Leste delivered by Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nation H.E. Robert Hill, to the Security Council on Timor Leste, 13 December 2007
“With the full support of the Timor-Leste Government, Australia intends to continue to provide military support to UNPOL for as long as the security situation warrants. Australia is also looking to provide enhanced bilateral assistance in support of police and defence force development…”
Press conference, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Bali, 13 December 2007
“There is plainly a continued challenge for us all to guarantee the maximisation of security into the long-term for East Timor. East Timor has a very complex development challenge. But underpinning that development challenge is security. I was critical, as you know, in the past, of Australia having withdrawn too early from East Timor. I believe that was not helpful at the time. And therefore, we will take an exceptionally conservative approach to how best to maintain East Timor’s security long-term, doing so in close partnership with the Government of Timor-Leste. And for the troops themselves, what I’ll be saying to them is their work for Australia is much valued and much appreciated. The troops which Australia has abroad at the moment are operating in a whole range of difficult and dangerous environments and I’ll be there in part to pass our message to them that the nation appreciates their service.”
ALP pre-election policy
Australia Should Back New East Timor President With A New Strategy For Assistance & Cooperation, Media Statement, Robert McClelland, Australian Labor Party, 11 May 2007
“We still don’t have a formal country strategy for our aid assistance to East Timor – the Government’s country strategy has been pending for 5 years…Using our military…as the primary instrument of foreign policy will not achieve a long term solution to these entrenched problems…Mr Ramos Horta is a good man with whom we have an excellent relationship. His election as President could be used to usher in a new period of cooperation…effective nation building requires far more than ‘band-aid’ military interventions. That is why Labor is firmly committed to a major revision of strategy that focuses on developing productive partnerships at all levels including Government, non government and business.”
Downer’s dithering on Dili, Kevin Rudd, Media Statement, Australian Labor Party, 5 September 2006
“It is clear that Mr Downer has not learnt the lessons of his decision to cut and run from East Timor too early in 2005. On that occasion, Australia withdrew its troop presence in the face of requests from the United Nations and the East Timorese Government to remain in country. Only months later, the security situation imploded..
“On East Timor, as a first step [Foreign Minister Downer] needs to undertake a review of Australia’s programs of assistance to East Timor, particularly in the areas of our levels of training assistance to the East Timorese Defence Force and to the East Timorese National Police.”
Rudd says keep troops in East Timor, Unity, No. 467, 14 July 2006
[Kevin Rudd] “… we have elections due in East Timor next year. Australia must remain committed in order to ensure that stability underpins those elections…we should be looking very soon at a UN Security Council mandate which provides…for a continued UN force in East Timor where Australia should be the main contributor.”
Kevin Rudd on the week in politics, Transcript, Insiders, ABC TV, 27 August 2006
“East Timor is looming as a case of pretty significant mismanagement of our national security interests…The cold, hard reality of what happened early this year is that within six months of the final Australian troops being pulled out, a vacuum was created – what was perceived to be a significant security policy vacuum. And the East Timorese Armed Forces and police forces could not handle it. ….[Mr Downer and Mr Nelson should] have another job on their conduct an immediate and urgent audit of the adequacy of the police and defence training programs in Timor. Plainly they’ve failed hugely in the past and if we’re to fix this problem in the long-term, those two forces have to be put back in a proper state of repair.”