Australian Broadcasting Corporation



Broadcast: 06/04/2006

Stop encouraging asylum seekers, Howard warns
Reporter: Greg Jennett

TONY JONES: In a move calculated to placate Indonesia, John Howard has appealed to Papuan separatists in Australia to stop encouraging asylum seekers. The Prime Minister says Australia will not support any kind of independence movement. And infuriating Papuan supporters here, he's held up the disputed 1969 United Nations' ballot as the official expression of Papua's will to become part of Indonesia. The Government was today relieved by news that a boatload of six Papuans has not landed on Australian soil. From Canberra, Greg Jennett reports.


CHRIS ELLISON, CUSTOMS MINISTER: In relation to the West Papuans, we don't believe they've landed in Australia. There are reports that they went to New Guinea.

JOHN HOWARD, PRIME MINISTER: That's a good thing in the context of the relationship between Australia and Indonesia.

GREG JENNETT: Despite the tensions between them, both countries agree that keeping Papuans in Papua is in their mutual interest. Indonesia's already stepping up patrols off the Papuan coast and Brendan Nelson's eager to help.

BRENDAN NELSON, DEFENCE MINISTER: Australia would be quite interested in conducting joint and coordinated naval patrols in this part of the world with the Indonesian navy.

GREG JENNETT: In Jakarta, supporters of Papuan independence - emboldened by international attention - have taken to the streets. To them and others supporting the cause, John Howard is making it clear Papuans are not welcome.

JOHN HOWARD: I would say to people in West Papua, and I would say to any people in Australia who are working with them and any who may be encouraging them to come to Australia, that that is not something the Australian Government, or I believe the majority of the Australian public, wants.

GREG JENNETT: Indonesian intelligence agencies are deeply concerned about the presence of pro-independence sympathisers in Australia. And they know who they are. In a briefing note prepared for an Indonesian delegation, the intelligence agency, BIN, names high-profile academics and politicians involved in what it calls a "network". Senators Bob Brown, Kerry Nettle, Natasha Stott Despoja, Andrew Bartlett and Labor's Duncan Kerr are all listed. So keen is John Howard to distance his Government from pro-independence groups, he's embarked on a charm offensive, lauding President Yudhoyono as one of the most capable, moderate Islamic leaders in the world, and offering a version of Indonesian history that could only please Jakarta.

JOHN HOWARD: There was a forcible takeover of East Timor by Indonesia, remember? Back in 1975. So the history is quite different. Whereas there was a referendum supervised by the United Nations, which resulted in West Papua becoming part of Indonesia.

GREG JENNETT: But Papuan independence supporters have never recognised the legitimacy of the UN's 1969 ballot.

BOB BROWN, GREENS SENATOR: They had a sham where a thousand selected people, terrified West Papuans, all voted 'yes'. But they have never had a democratic opportunity to express their right to self-determination.

JOHN HOWARD: I don't think anyone can say I'm kowtowing to Indonesia.

GREG JENNETT: If he had been, Mr Howard says, he'd have moved to overrule the asylum visas for the group of 42 who now live here. Greg Jennett, Lateline.


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