Channel 10 - Ten Late News

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

15 July 2013

HERMIONE KITSON: We are joined now by Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr Marty Natalegawa. Mr Carr, if I can start with you, you've spent the day with Dr Natalegawa and you've just had a dinner. You've asked to do this interview together. Is your relationship, the Australian-Indonesian relationship, as strong as it's ever been?

BOB CARR: I believe it is. We've got our biggest concentration of diplomats in Jakarta. Not in Washington but in Indonesia.

HERMIONE KITSON: We just spoke about another arrival of asylum seekers in Broome. Is it something that you have been discussing with Dr Natalegawa over the course of today?

BOB CARR: Indeed it is, we've spoken about getting that regional cooperation strengthened. But all the countries of the region are dealing with a common problem. This is as much a problem for Indonesia. You've had Iranian arrivals streaming through Indonesia and linking up with people smugglers to come to Australia. It's a problem for Indonesia as it is for us, and very constructively the Indonesian President put to Prime Minister Rudd the notion of a regional conference to draw in all the countries from South East Asia affected by and South Asia affected by this problem of people smuggling.

HERMIONE KITSON: Dr Natalegawa, the Opposition here in Australia has seized upon comments you made today. Can I ask you to clarify them? Would you say that Indonesia is open to a turn back the votes policy when it comes to asylum seekers?

MARTY NATALEGAWA: Well, absolutely. Let me just say - clarify certain issues. First of all, we have said when the Prime Minister visited Indonesia recently and met with our President, we are not in a position to support any type of unilateral measures that can cause(*) inside operational implications to countries of the region. On the contrary, what we wish to see is a more cooperative regional framework type of approach.

Now, if I was asked whether we support or not support the push back the boat policy, clearly in our perspective, such a policy would constitute a unilateral type of measure that we do not support, an that is why, in my earlier remarks today, what I had said basically is that let's hear what the policy is all about. We have said our position on the opposition to the unilateral type of approach but, you know, we have not really heard any proper communication from those who are espousing such a policy, what it all entails.

HERMIONE KITSON: So you are happy to have discussions about a policy like that but you would not support a policy like that?

MARTY NATALEGAWA: We are not ecstatic about it, for sure, but in terms of - in the spirit of wanting to hear the various policy options that countries are proposing, parties are proposing, you know, it is good to have this dialogue.

HERMIONE KITSON: Mr Carr, can I ask you then, you've just heard Dr Natalegawa say Indonesia wouldn't be ecstatic about that policy. That's quite different to what Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was saying a few weeks ago, that the turn back the policy would spark an international diplomatic row.

BOB CARR: No it's not. Dr Natalegawa referred to the communique between the Indonesian President and Prime Minister Rudd, and that communique said neither side should take unilateral action. That's the communique, and what Mr Abbott is proposing is unilateral action. Now, the Indonesian position is very clear to me. They are opposed to the boats being turned back and towed into Indonesian waters. Opposed to it. They'll allow Tony Abbott put his case for it because he's failed to put his case on two previous occasions.

HERMIONE KITSON: So, Dr Natalegawa, if the Coalition forms government and Tony Abbott becomes the Prime Minister and the turn back the boats policy is the policy, will it cause a diplomatic row?

MARTY NATALEGAWA: I mean, I am not in the business of discussing "what if" type of scenario. I am just stating it is a matter of policy. We have always found that the issue of people smuggling is best addressed in a coherent and a comprehensive manner. Any other methods other than that we don't think will achieve the desired outcome.

HERMIONE KITSON: We will wait and see on the outcome of that conference in August I understand it's set down for. Thank you so much for your time, Foreign Minister Bob Carr and Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr Natalegawa.

BOB CARR: Thank you.

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