7 February 2008, Perth
Joint Press Conference with the Indonesian Foreign Minister
Subjects: Visit of Indonesian Foreign Minister to Australia
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, thanks very much for turning up. I'd firstly like to formally welcome Indonesia's Foreign Minister Dr Wirajuda to Australia for his first visit to Australia with the new Rudd Labor Government, the new Australian government.
I'm very pleased that our first meeting in Australia takes place in Perth. This is Dr Wirajuda's first visit to Perth, and so I'm very pleased that he agreed to my suggestion that we meet in Perth. We've just had a very successful bilateral meeting. This follows on from our successful bilateral meeting in Bali, which Dr Wirajuda and I had as an adjunct to the Bali Climate Change Conference.
Our meeting today reflects the very strong and warm and productive relationship between Australia and Indonesia. It's very important that Australia and Indonesia have a good relationship, and we certainly have that. We actually believe that the relationship between Australia and Indonesia has never been better, but we do believe that we can take the relationship to an even stronger and better level. And that's reflected by the first thing which we've done today, which has been to officially sign and exchange the Australia Indonesia Framework for Security Cooperation, or the Lombok Treaty.
The Lombok Treaty establishes the framework for cooperation between Australia and Indonesia in a whole range of important areas: defence, counter-terrorism, law enforcement, maritime security and emergency preparation. This is a very, very important framework arrangement, and we've agreed that officers of Australia and Indonesia will now work towards the development of an action plan to be progressed under the treaty. That will report to the Australia Indonesia Ministerial Forum, which is regularly held, the next meeting of which will be in Australia later in the course of this year.
So that's the first very important thing that we've done today, and I'm very pleased that we've been able to exchange - ratify the treaty and exchange it today in Perth.
Secondly today, we've also agreed to extend for a period of three years the Memorandum of Understanding between Australia and Indonesia on Combating International Terrorism. This is very important. We previously had memorandums of understanding in respect of combating terrorism, which have been of one year's duration. Now that we have the Lombok Treaty framework in place, we believe and have agreed that it's appropriate to extend the Memorandum of Understanding, so far as counter-terrorism is concerned, for a three year period. And this reflects the importance that we place on counter-terrorism measures. And officials will again meet and discuss detailed implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding.
The third thing that I can announce today is that, some of you may be aware that Australia has made a $100 million commitment over an eight year period to assist Indonesia in helping to combat HIV under an Australia Indonesia HIV Cooperation Program. And today I can announce that $40 million of that program will be made available to Indonesia to assist in the prevention of AIDS in Indonesia, and to help those at risk from contracting HIV in Indonesia.
Can I make a final point before handing over and inviting Dr Wirajuda to make some remarks: one of the things that Dr Wirajuda and I very, very strongly agree about is the importance of education and the importance of education exchange between Australia and Indonesia.
Australia currently has a $355 million program under its overseas development and aid assistance program, to help either construct or repair 2000 junior secondary schools in Indonesia. This is a very, very important program, and just as Dr Wirajuda has agreed today to visit my old school in my electorate, Chisholm Catholic College, to see and meet and talk to a class who are studying Bahasa Indonesia, I've agreed that on my next visit to Indonesia, I'll visit one of the schools in Indonesia which has benefited from the Australian assistance program. So we see education and the exchange and the links between Australia and Indonesia in education issues as being very, very important.
So there are some significant decisions and announcements that we make today. Again I'm very pleased to formally welcome Dr Wirajuda to Perth for his first visit. Just as we did in Indonesia, we've had a very, very productive and successful meeting, and I invite Dr Wirajuda to make some remarks. We'll then happily respond to your questions, but we are on a reasonably tight timeframe, as we've got to head off for lunch with Premier Carpenter. Thanks very much. Dr Wirajuda.
DR HASSAN WIRAJUDA: Thank you very much. His Excellency, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, friends from the mass media, ladies and gentleman, thank you very much Foreign Minister Smith for your warm welcome extended to me and members of my delegation.
We have just concluded a very productive meeting this morning with my distinguished friend and colleague, the Honourable Stephen Smith. This is the second meeting between us. The first one was in Bali, on the margins of the UN FCCC in December 2007. During these two meetings, we have seized the opportunity to initiate solid working relationships, and to establish good personal rapport between his excellency the Honourable Stephen Smith and myself.
I'm glad that here, at the Exchange Building of Perth, we have just signed a Process Verbale on the exchange of notes. The first thing that both countries have completed, their interval requirements for the entry into force of the Lombok Treaty, which we signed in November 2006. Thus the Lombok Treaty enters into force in accordance with its article 10, as of today. I'm also grateful for the opportunity to pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister the Honourable Kevin Rudd in Sydney tomorrow.
During the meeting this morning, we focused our discussions on some issues of strategic importance, such as how the two countries would ensure effective implementation of the Lombok Treaty, as well as how Australia and Indonesia would cooperate more closely to promote democracy in the Asia Pacific region. The two sides also exchanged views on some regional and international issues of common interest.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and I reached an understanding on the need for a plan of action that will guide us in the pursuit of security cooperation and Article 3 of the Lombok Treaty, which includes defence cooperation, law enforcement cooperation, counter-terrorism cooperation, intelligence cooperation, maritime security, aviation safety and security, preventing weapons of mass destruction proliferation, cooperation in the defence of natural disaster, cooperation in international organisations on security related issues as well as community understanding and people to people cooperation. As my colleague Mr Smith has just mentioned, at this meeting we also agreed to extend the MoU on counter-terrorism for three years.
During our meeting this morning we also agreed to intensify cooperation to nurture democracy and respect for human rights through various capacity building and training programs. We also discussed, for that matter, the Indonesian initiative to convene the Bali Democracy Forum, Learning for better Governance, that will bring together Governments in the Asia Pacific to share with one another knowledge, experiences, best practices and insights on democracy and the process of democratisation.
I'm myself am looking forward to coming back to Australia in June to participate in the Australia-Indonesia Ministerial Forum. Certainly, this forum will be a good opportunity for both sides, Ministers from Australia and Indonesia to review the state of our bilateral relations with a view to strengthening from the one we have now. And we have very strong conditions in expanding and deepen our bilateral relations since we signed in 2005, the Indonesia-Australia comprehensive partnership. And in that regard we do appreciate the assistance that Australia has extended, beginning with the assistance that Australia has extended to us to cope with the North Sumatra earthquake and tsunami, as well as the major earthquakes that occurred in Yogyakarta and parts of the province of Central Java. We remember very well the contribution that Australia made in those efforts, including during which a number of Army personnel from Australia were killed in an incident in Nias.
So we are hoping that by ratifying the framework agreements on security cooperation, we are now in much better shape to not only stabilise the bilateral relations between our two countries and peoples, but provide stronger foundations, for us to do better in the future. So I thank you very much.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks very much Dr Wirajuda. If I can just place on the record Australia's support for the Bali Democracy Initiative, which Doctor Wirajuda has referred to and we've agreed at officer level that we will look at those practical things which Australia can do to support that forum.
Now, we're now happy to take your questions. We've got some Indonesian travelling journalists, and some Australian journalists. I might be a bit formal - I'll take one from my left hand side first and then we'll alternate. So, one on this side first.
QUESTION: The MOU which is continuing on for three years. Can you be a bit more specific about what the sorts of things you're looking to get from it over the next three years?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well the essential thing is to continue to combat international terrorism. One of the reasons that we have decided to extend the Memorandum of Understanding between Australia and Indonesia on Combating Terrorism, is that we don't want anyone to be anything other than vigilant when it comes to combating terrorism.
We spoke in general terms about what we see as ongoing threats, so far as terrorism is concerned, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The dangers of terrorism being mobile and the ever present danger for terrorism in Indonesia and in Australia. Both nation states - both Australia and Indonesia have been on the adverse receiving-end of terrorism, as Bali showed us. So it's to make the point that yes, combating terrorism is covered by the Lombok Treaty. But we have a separate and special three-year Memorandum of Understanding to make the point that we are ever vigilant in this area. And as I said, some of the detailed arrangements of that will have officers look at to continue practical and detailed measures on an ongoing basis.
The array of things that we do to combat terrorism are extensive. They go both to police cooperation, to security cooperation, to intelligence cooperation. But they also go to practical things, which are -one of which Doctor Wirajuda has referred to, the notion of the Bali Democracy Forum, which is to indicate to the world generally that both nation states support the values and virtues of democracy and respecting human rights and of ensuring that people live in peace and security and stability. But we are ever vigilant, and that is reflected by the three-year Memorandum of Understanding.
QUESTION: Many Indonesians still remember good things about Labor's past Government, especially under the Prime Minister Keating. And also there are a lot of problems under the Government of Prime Minister Howard. Questions for both of you. What will be the direction of the better relations in the future with the new Government?
DR HASSAN WIRAJUDA: Yes, Indonesia always enjoyed close healthy relations with Australia and the Labor Party Governments. Back in the early days of Indonesian Independence, it was Australia that brought the case of decolonisation of Indonesia by the Netherlands, to the UN Security Council. We always remember that very well. But also on the successive governments under the Labor Party here in Australia.
But I must say that in the past six years, we also enjoyed close, very close relations with Australia and Prime Minister Howard. The fact that we signed the Lombok Treaty is one reflections of that close relation between our two countries. That's why we see the importance of the ceremony we just have it here the signing of the Note Verbale on the exchange of notes which are then entering into force of the Lombok Treaty. Here we symbolise the continuity of strong relations with all Governments of Australia. And I think this is something new and which creates a sense of optimism.
We worked well with Australia and Prime Minister Howard and I'm sure will be working quite well with the Government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. That's why, from the Minister's perspective, we need from time-to-time to strengthen the foundations of our bilateral relations. The Lombok Treaty is one, as I said before, one of the important pillars that help contribute in our effort to strengthen mandatory relations.
But likewise we have created an important umbrella, namely we show Australia's comprehensive partnership, which means the determination of both Governments to expand and deepen the areas of cooperation between our two countries. We have created the mechanisms, namely the Australia Indonesia Ministerial Forum, which allowed us from time-to-time to review the state of our relations, with a view to strengthening them.
So I think, we have not only strong conditions for promoting better relations, but also we have got good mechanisms. Nonetheless, we share the importance of continuing exchange, contacts and consultations. That's why in a short period of time, I have benefited from those two meetings we have had. The first was in Bali on the sidelines of the Climate Change Conference and now here in Perth. But likewise, in the past weeks I've met with visiting Australian Ministers in Indonesia and there will be more Ministers in Australia as well from Indonesia. Don't forget that in the early weeks of his Government Prime Minister Kevin Rudd met with President Yudhoyono, so I am optimistic in that regard that we'll be able to successfully [indistinct] relations between our two countries.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you. Labor in government has a proud history so far as its relationship with Indonesia is concerned. As the foreign minister has said, it was a Labor foreign minister Evatt who took the cause of Indonesian independence to the Security Council and Australia was very supportive of Indonesian independence. More recently with the Hawke and Keating Labor Governments, our relationship with Indonesia and Indonesian people was very good.
But I seek - I don't seek to make any political point about the relationship between Australia and Indonesia. It is in Australia's national interest, Australia's national interest, for there to be a very good relationship between Australia and Indonesia. And I make no bones about the fact, no secret about the fact that the Rudd Government inherited from the Howard Government a good relationship with Indonesia. We think it's a very good relationship but we think we can take it to an even better plane. And that's why, today we've signed and exchanged the Lombok Treaty. That puts the relationship on a very, very firm basis for future cooperation in a whole range of areas. Indonesia is closer to mainland Australia than a plane flight from Melbourne to Sydney so it's absolutely essential that Indonesia and Australia have a good relationship.
And it's also very, very important for our region. It's important for the Asia-Pacific region that Australia and Indonesia have a good relationship, that's what we have and we're both very optimistic, very optimistic about taking that relationship to an even better level and looking very much forward to working closely with each other into the future.
QUESTION: Mr Smith, conscious of the time, [outside interruption] ask you a question on another subject.
STEPHEN SMITH: Sure.
QUESTION: We've heard on the news this morning that PNG Landholders might be taking action, economic action against the Kokoda Trail, in view of - and in their support for a mine. Have you got a view on what's happening and how it might it happening?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well Australia has a very strong view that the Kokoda Trail needs to be protected. The Kokoda Trail for Australia and Australians is iconic. It's one of the great Australian symbols and this point was made by Prime Minister Rudd to Mr Somare when Prime Minister Rudd and Mr Somare had a Prime Ministerial meeting in Bali. I'll be meeting with the Papua New Guinea Foreign Minister next week in Canberra, Mr Abal and I'll make exactly the same point to him.
So we very strongly believe that Australia and Papua New Guinea can work cooperatively to protect the iconic value of the Kokoda Trail. We also very strongly believe that to Papua New Guinea, the Kokoda Trail provides great potential and capacity for tourism. You know, we've already provided assistance to Papua New Guinea for development of tourism and we think that that is essential so far as the Papua New Guinea economy is concerned.
So far as minerals development in PNG is concerned, that is obviously a matter for the Papua New Guinea government to determine and resolve. But we think there is a way forward where the iconic value of the Kokoda Trail can be protected, preserved and enhanced, where PNG can develop from the - can benefit from the tourism potential of that and of course a detailed arrangement so far as minerals development is concerned, is a matter for the PNG government. But the Prime Minister made all of those points to Mr Somare in Bali and I'll be making those points to Mr Abal next week. But I am very confident that we can resolve these issues in a productive and cooperative way.
QUESTION: Thank you Minister. Antara News Agency. One of the points of the Lombok Treaty's cooperation is about how do poor countries build people to people understanding and - but at the same time, to my knowledge, that the travel advisory is supposed to be the challenge of the efforts of both sides to promote the ability for cooperation. For example many Australian students and teachers cannot go to Indonesia. Instead of going to Indonesia and learning Bahasa Indonesia they go to Malaysia. How can the Labor Government balance the obligation of the Government to its people and balance the interests of the two bilateral relations? Thank you.
STEPHEN SMITH: Sure, thank you. Well, this is an issue that's been raised with me today by the foreign minister. It's been raised previously with Australia. But when it comes to travel advisories what is absolutely paramount in the eyes of the Australian Government is the protection, the safety and security of Australians overseas. That is our paramount concern and our travel advisories reflect that paramount concern.
We monitor the state of those travel advisories on a regular basis, they are regularly updated and constantly reviewed. But we always bear upper most in mind the paramount concern of the protection, safety and security of our people. And we understand the point that is being made but I've also made this point publicly and privately. But the more effective, not just Australian, not just Indonesian, but the more effective the international community is in combating international terrorism, then the more easily-able all citizens are to travel around the world in safety and security.
In this area, our very strong view is that if we're going to err we would rather to use a great Australian expression, we would rather, be safe than sorry. And it's not the actions of the Indonesian Government, nor the actions of the Australian Government which put people at risk. It is the actions of extremists and terrorists who have no concern for human life or human safety. And that is why the state of our travel advisories, irrespective of which country they relate to always bear upper most in mind, the safety and security of travelling Australian citizens.
QUESTION: Mr Smith, just a question about whaling: customs has released a video today of the Japanese whaling. Is there any international court action that Australia can take against Japan?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, we've made it clear from day one that the purpose of the Oceanic Viking mission was to effect a monitoring and surveillance operation to gather evidence for potential use in an international legal case. Either before the International Court of Justice or before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. And when I was in Japan, recently, I made that point to my counterpart Foreign Minister Koumura, but also indicated that I would keep him informed of our consideration and deliberation in this area.
So yes, we are giving consideration to such international legal action with the purpose of the material that we are gathering in the Southern Oceans at the moment is for potential use in such a potential legal action. I understand that in the first instance Ministerially, this is a matter for my colleague Mr Debus, but I understand Mr Debus has released some materials today because he came to conclusion that such was the evidence that had been gathered, he thought it was in the public interest to release some of the materials which had been gathered.
I also understand that he's come to the conclusion that it's open to the Oceanic Viking to extend its mission to gather further evidence so, yes, as I previously said, the potential for an international legal action on this matter is open to us. We're giving careful thought to that and we'll make a decision in due course. In the meantime, as I've said publicly and as I said to the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister of Japan, we believe, Australia very strongly believes, that the Japanese should cease whaling in the Southern Ocean.
QUESTION: Do you know which of those two courts would be the most likely [indistinct] on what grounds?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, we're giving consideration to whether it's open to us to take out legal action internationally, what forum that would be best pursued in and the basis of our public policy argument, which would be reflected by any potential legal action is that we don't believe what is occurring is scientific research. We believe what is occurring is the killing of whales.
QUESTION: Is that the grounds that you would use?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, we're giving careful consideration to what legal grounds, if any, but our public policy position is quite straightforward and our objective is to have the Japanese stop whaling in the Southern Oceans. We don't believe it's scientific research, we believe it's simply the killing of whales.
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