Rick Wallace, Victorian political reporter | August 31, 2007
TONY Blair decided to try to bring peace to the Middle East when he stepped down as British prime minister. Now Steve Bracks hopes to do the same for East Timor.
The former Victorian premier has taken a post advising new Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao on establishing a stable government in the coming months.
Mr Bracks has taken on the job pro bono but will be supported in flying to and from East Timor by the philanthropic trust of prominent advertising identity Harold Mitchell.
He said yesterday he was humbled by the opportunity to help Mr Gusmao stabilise the strife-torn nation and establish a strong public service and rigorous government procedures.
"(This) is a position, which is a pro-bono position, which the Prime Minister of East Timor has asked me to undertake and that is to assist in the early days of his administration, in the establishment of his Government, in the establishment of key government departments, and the scrutiny and advice those departments receive and looking at the 100-day plan for the East Timorese people," he said.
"I have a strong relationship with the current administration in East Timor. I am very honoured but in some ways daunted by it because I don't think it's going to be an easy task.
"But I will do my best ... to assist in that early period which is so crucial in setting up good systems of government."
Mr Gusmao was recently named Prime Minister after several years in the position of president of East Timor, which won independence from Indonesia in 2002.
The move was announced in a press release from Mr Gusmao's office, which said Mr Bracks was "seen as one of the most successful premiers in Victorian history and has been a good friend of Timor-Leste".
Mr Bracks has established ties with Mr Gusmao and President Jose Ramos-Horta, and his wife, Terry, has developed a strong relationship with Mr Gusmao's Australian-born wife, Kirsty Sword-Gusmao.