16 NOVEMBER, 2001


Mr President,
I congratulate you on being elected President of this 56th Session of the General Assembly. Let me also commend you on your commitment to making the most efficient use of the Assembly's time, including by beginning meetings punctually. I join other speakers in congratulating the Secretary General, Mr Annan, and the UN Organisation, on their heartily deserved receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize.


Mr President

The terrorist attacks on September 11, in Washington DC and here in New York City, were not just attacks on the United States.

Australia, along with more than 80 other nations, lost innocent civilians. We are united in our grief for the victims and their families.

Australia condemns these attacks and reaffirms, unequivocally, that terrorism is never justified, and must never be tolerated.

Australia has joined the international coalition against terrorism. We have invoked our mutual security pact with the United States. We are contributing military forces to the campaign against those responsible for the 11 September attacks.

The international community is obliged to close ranks against terrorism. We must starve terrorists of their support - financial, political and moral. We must deny terrorists safe haven. We must bring terrorists to account.

Mr President

Australia commends the Security Council's Resolution 1373 of 28 September, which targets comprehensively the terrorist menace. Australia will work closely with the Counter Terrorism Committee of the Security Council.

Australia has introduced new measures to prevent and suppress the financing of terrorism and is already party to all but one of the 12 international counter-terrorism instruments.

Mr President

A Comprehensive Convention against Terrorism is potentially an important symbol of global commitment on this issue. Australia has taken a leading role in the negotiations - reflecting our strong commitment to strengthening the international legal framework. While we are encouraged by the progress this past month, we join the Secretary-General in urging the parties to conclude the Convention without delay.

Mr President

The events of 11 September underline how important it is that we maintain and strengthen international non-proliferation regimes governing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

If we want to prevent the spread of ballistic missiles and associated technology - and if we want to strengthen mechanisms relating to conventional weapons - then we also need a stronger commitment to other arms control and disarmament instruments.

East Timor

Mr President

We all have a deep interest in a stable, secure, viable and democratic East Timor.

East Timor is no longer an emergency, but instead an emerging nation.

But much more needs to be done. East Timor remains vulnerable, and the UN's role is not complete. We need, after independence, an integrated UN mission of civilians, police and peacekeepers, under a single Security Council mandate funded from UN assessed contributions.

Australia therefore welcomes the Security Council President's statement of 31 October endorsement of the Secretary-General's recommendations for a UN-successor mission in East Timor. We look forward to working with others over the coming months to set a solid and sensible mandate for a successor mission.

Mr President

Cooperative relations between East Timor and Indonesia are key to East Timor's longerterm security, and that of the region. We welcome steps by both sides to resolve outstanding issues.

Australia welcomes progress by the Indonesian Government to resolve the situation in refugee camps in west Timor and we urge continued efforts to ensure security and to facilitate the safe return of refugees.

Justice and reconciliation are important to East Timor's longer-term stability and prosperity. Australia welcomes steps by President Megawati Soekarnoputri to expand the jurisdiction of the ad hoc human rights court and her government's commitment to bring to justice those who have perpetrated human rights crimes in East Timor. This commitment was reconfirmed in a most welcome way in this Assembly yesterday by the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Dr Hassan Wirajuda.

Mr President

Australia will continue to support East Timor generously. We have an agreement to share resources from the Timor Sea. We are helping to reduce poverty in East Timor. And we are building East Timorese capacity to govern peacefully, and democratically.

We urge others to support East Timor. This is our chance to ensure the that UN's historic mission in East Timor is a success.

People smuggling

Mr President

Australia has a proud history as a major country of migration. We are, as a result of over a century of planned and managed legal migration, a tolerant multicultural society. We will continue as a country of migration and we will continue to take more than our fair share of refugees.

Regrettably, Australia is also increasingly a favoured target for illegal migration, assisted by individuals and criminal syndicates engaged in the pernicious crime of people smuggling. Many other countries - as either transit or destination countries - are also affected by this problem.

Like other transnational crimes, combating this phenomenon, which we call "people smuggling" requires not just national but also concerted regional and multilateral action.

People smugglers are primarily organised crime syndicates. They exploit their victims. They find their clients among people who have experienced conflict or persecution, economic downturn, or extreme environmental breakdown. They target those desperate for a better life.

The loss recently of more than 350 lives when a people smuggling boat headed for Australia sank is a tragic reminder of the human costs involved and of the callousness of people smugglers.

Irregular migration - facilitated by people smuggling - undermines the integrity of the international protection system. All countries share an interest in protecting and strengthening the international protection system. To do so we must tackle the problem of people smuggling.

Mr President

A year ago, at the Millennium Summit, leaders committed us to fight people smuggling and other transnational crimes. We should redouble our efforts to do so.

We need coordinated, comprehensive approaches, and concerted international action to address all its aspects. Root causes in source countries need to be addressed. The humanitarian and other needs of displaced persons in countries of first asylum need to be addressed. Transit and destination countries need to cooperate more effectively.

Mr President

Australia is working closely with our neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region to strengthen our capacity to prevent and deter people smuggling, and to bring perpetrators to justice. This will continue to be a high priority for the Australian government.

We will also continue to contribute to broader international efforts to deal with the causes of irregular migration. These efforts, which have the protection needs of refugees at their core, will continue while we work with others in our region and internationally to combat illegal migration and people smuggling.

Mr President

Afghans fleeing the devastation of their homeland pose a particular challenge to the international community. A renewed focus and a more coordinated response are needed.

Australia supports UNHCR's efforts, and those of the countries of first asylum, to protect refugees in South West Asia. We have advocated, consistently and strongly, a comprehensive response to the Afghan situation and substantially increased our assistance to displaced and vulnerable Afghans in South West Asia.

Mr President

The international community faces grave new challenges that threaten global peace and prosperity. At the same time, as the Secretary general said in his statement, the challenges that faced us before September 11 - poverty, disease, development - have not diminished. The need for international cooperation has never been greater. It is therefore tremendously important that agreement was reached in Doha to launch the "development round" of world trade liberalisation. Free trade, including in agriculture, offers benefits for all countries and is crucial for developing countries to overcome poverty.

Mr President

Australia stands ready to support international efforts to combat international terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction.

Australia stands ready to ensure that recent UN successes - such as in East Timor - help create vibrant and sustainable democracies in which people can be assured of their future, and that of their children.

Australia stands ready to contribute to sustained international action against people smuggling - at source, in transit and at destination.

Australia urges that this 56th session of the General Assembly makes substantial progress towards those same goals.