7 Jun 2013

Australian politicians clash over West Papua

5:20 pm on 7 June 2013

Australia's Foreign Minister has accused people who advocate self-determination rights of West Papuans of misleading the indigenous people of Indonesia's Papua region.

Bob Carr made the comment during a Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee hearing on his government's response to ongoing human rights abuses in West Papua.

Johnny Blades looks at the growing scrutiny on Canberra's support for Indonesia's hold on West Papua.

JOHNNY BLADES: It's not the first time that Bob Carr has been called on to defend Canberra's stand on issues of human rights abuses and the conduct of Indonesia's military in West Papua. But when taken to task over West Papua by the Greens Senator Richard Di Natale, the Minister launched an unprecedented attack. Insisting that Canberra regularly raises rights issues in West Papua with Jakarta, Bob Carr criticised the international West Papuan solidarity movement.

BOB CARR: The people who fly Papuan flags are the people who talk the language of secession and independence. They are planting in the minds of people who actually live in the place the notion that this campaign has some kind of international resonance. And that is a cruel deceit by self-indulgent people safe in their own beds, safe in a democracy - a cruel deceit about the potential of a demand for secessionism. Australia and the world recognise Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua.

JOHNNY BLADES: Senator Di Natale found Mr Carr's comments deeply offensive.

RICHARD DI NATALE: It is incredibly patronising and incredibly arrogant that you would suggest that a movement within a nation of people who are able to make decisions for themselves are somehow being controlled by people externally.

BOB CARR: This is the Green Party cause of the day. It's a game for the Green Party, it's a little game, but its implications on the ground for Papua can be very serious.

RICHARD DI NATALE: Can I finish... Can I finish my question, Senator Carr? Well, again, I find the notion that somehow standing up for the democratic rights of the people is a cause for the day. That is, again, deeply offensive.

JOHNNY BLADES: The Greens senator asked the government about the lack of impact from its representations to Jakarta over ongoing rights violations and a growing list of security forces atrocities in West Papua. Allaster Cox from the South-East Asia Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs explained that Canberra supports Jakarta's efforts to improve life in West Papua through economic development.

ALLASTER COX: It's correct to say that the situation is not adequate yet - the Indonesians themselves recognise that, including on issues of freedom of expression and so forth. And I think if you ask any of the Indonesian officials and people concerned with this policy area they will say, 'Yes, it is not yet where we want it to be'.

JOHNNY BLADES: Canberra recently boosted military co-operation with Indonesia. However, echoing calls in the Senate by the Democratic Labour Party, Senator Di Natale said the time has come for Australia to make its extensive funding and support for Indonesian security forces conditional on an end to human rights abuses in West Papua.