House debates

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Delegation Reports

Parliamentary Delegation to the 2007 Presidential Election in East Timor

4:33 pm

Photo of Dave TollnerDave Tollner (Solomon, Country Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I present the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to observe the first round of the 2007 presidential election in East Timor and seek leave to make a short statement in connection with the report.

Leave granted.

I had the honour to lead an official Australian parliamentary delegation to East Timor over Easter this year, from 7 to 10 April, to observe the presidential election, the first round of which took place on 9 April. The delegation included Senator Claire Moore, Mr Iain Loganathan from the Australian Electoral Commission, Mr Chris Munn from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and my wife, Alicia Tollner. At the locations that the delegation visited we observed that the elections were free and fair and East Timor’s citizens participated in a very peaceful manner. This was the first national election managed by the East Timorese and we thought that they did more than a fair job of it.

Since then, the UN Secretary-General has appointed a three-person electoral certification team to verify the conduct of each phase of the East Timorese electoral process. That team has concluded that, while progress has been good, further improvements can be made with respect to the legislative framework in areas such as the use of state resources to support political parties, controls over national electoral observers and a clear separation between electoral authorities and the relevant minister and the East Timorese police. The Australian government is helping in this regard by providing $1.3 million to support a UNDP project aimed at strengthening East Timorese electoral institutions and processes.

I warmly congratulate Dr Jose Ramos-Horta, who won the East Timorese presidential run-off election with 69.2 per cent of the vote, defeating the Fretilin candidate, Francisco Guterres, also known as Lu Olo, who had 30.8 per cent of the vote. The East Timorese government held a low-key ceremony for the President’s inauguration and celebrated Restoration of Independence Day on 20 May, with a more significant event scheduled for the inauguration of the new parliament on 30 August. Parliamentary elections will be held soon—on 30 June. The campaigning began on 28 May. East Timor’s future is ultimately a matter for the East Timorese and its leaders need to resolve their differences democratically and peacefully and address the many challenges facing the country. The elections have been an important step in the development of East Timor’s democracy and electoral institutions.

It would be very remiss of me if I did not extend the very heartfelt thanks of the delegation to a number of people. The delegation received a warm welcome and good support from various officials from the East Timorese National Election Commission, the CNE; and the Technical Secretariat of the Electoral Administration, the STAE. We understand that this was the first election that they had conducted since gaining independence in 2002 and their support in what must have been a very trying experience was appreciated.

The Australian embassy did a fantastic job, as we expected it would. Ambassador Margaret Twomey made plenty of time for us and there was nothing we wanted for that Margaret and her staff could not fix. Her staff, Brent Hall, Liz Day and Penny Jones; embassy visit officer Joao Fernandes from AusAID; and drivers Helder, Miguel, Acacio and Raul are all wonderful people and tireless workers. They obviously have a great love for East Timor and the Timorese people. They were great helpers and guides, and they made our trip. While I am at it, I also thank Brigadier Mal Rerden, his men, Brendan Doran and the DFAT liaison officer to international security forces for the great briefings and hospitality the delegation received at Camp Phoenix.

Finally, the delegation believes we need to thank one of our own. Chris Munn, the DFAT observer, really was our ‘go to’ man. He did a truly great job of pulling everything together, organising everyone, knowing where we had to be and when and knowing who was who. He was our note taker, diplomatic adviser, interpreter and good friend. All these people have our greatest respect and heartfelt thanks. I commend the report to the parliament.