Doorstop Interview, Opening of Australian Embassy, Jakarta

  • Transcript, E&OE
21 March 2016

JULIE BISHOP Ladies and gentleman, I am delighted that you are meeting here in the courtyard of the new Australian Embassy in Jakarta and I was delighted to have the opportunity to officially open our embassy in Indonesia and our ASEAN mission for the region.

We were honoured to have so many distinguished guests from Indonesia here at our official opening including former President Habibie. He is a neighbour so we're particularly pleased to see him here.

This building symbolises the strength and durability of our two way relationship. Australia and Indonesia are close neighbours, close friends, we cooperate across a whole range of areas. And having this most significant building here really symbolises the strength of that relationship. Indeed, as I pointed out during the speech today, this is Australia's largest overseas embassy and I think it is fitting it should be here in Jakarta.

Tomorrow I will be opening the Australia's consulate general in Makassar, again underscoring the strength, depth, and the breadth of the Australia Indonesia relationship.

JOURNALIST This began, and I guess the thought for this building began after the attack on the former building in 2004. I gather the security here is second to none.

JULIE BISHOP We are constantly reviewing the safety and security of our representatives overseas and here in Indonesia, the Jakarta Embassy takes into account some of the best technology, best design, as well as the creativity of the Australian people. So security of course was an issue and likewise we needed a building that spoke to the strength and the importance of the relationship.

JOURNALIST Minister Bishop, you've arrived in Jakarta in what looks like a growing crisis regarding the standoff in what Indonesia says is its exclusive economic zone, there is a fishing boat that has been sunk by the Chinese but the Indonesians have not approved. Where does Australia stand on this?

JULIE BISHOP I have had discussions with Foreign Minister Marsudi and with the Minister for Political and Security Affairs, Minister Luhut, and also Vice President Kalla, and it is clear that there has been an incident involving a Chinese fishing boat in these waters. Australia takes this opportunity to reiterate the importance of all nations adhering to international law. There must be freedom of navigation and freedom of over-flight in the South China Sea. All countries must adhere to the international legal principles that ensure that we can have a rules-based order. I am not aware of the specific details, I've had a general discussion about the matter, I understand that Indonesia will likely make a statement about this. But I have taken this opportunity to reiterate our view that international law must be paramount and that all countries must do all they can to de-escalate tensions, to negotiate in a peaceful way any differences and to ensure that this doesn't become an area of increasing tensions but an area of decreasing tensions.

JOURNALIST Is there a sense that Beijing is getting that message, Minister, given that Indonesia is not even a claimant in this growing hostile area. Is there a sense they're getting that message?

JULIE BISHOP Australia is not a claimant either and that's why we do not take sides when it comes to territorial claims, but we do have an interest in ensuring that the South China Sea enables trade to flow in an unimpeded way. We support the right of freedom of over-flight and freedom of navigation and we urge all countries to ensure that any differences are negotiated peacefully. And I believe that Indonesia takes a similar stand.

JOURNALIST Looks like the Chinese are arguing that this is part of their traditional fishing grounds, sounds a bit farcical as it is about 2,000 km from the mainland of China.

JULIE BISHOP The specific details of this incident are yet to be released but I understand that the Chinese are making a claim that they were entitled to be there, Indonesia rejects that claim, I do understand that Indonesia has detained the Chinese fisherman aboard the boat but I'm waiting until Indonesia makes a statement about its position. What I do know is that both Indonesia and Australia uphold the international law when it comes to the seas around this area.

JOURNALIST The Indonesian Government grants Australia free tourist visa for the short visit. Do you expect that the Australian Government also should give the same treatment to Indonesian nationals to visit Australia?

JULIE BISHOP We are delighted that Indonesia has provided this opportunity for Australians to visit Indonesia without a visa and there are significant visits by Australians to Indonesia and significant numbers about a million Australian tourists here every year and so this visa status is very welcome.

Australia has a universal visa system, it applies around the globe but what we are doing is ensuring that Indonesians, whether they be tourists or business people, can have multiple entry visas, they pay one fee once and the visa can extend over a number of years. We're also working on online visas so that the issue of visas won't be a concern but it's a universal application.

JOURNALIST Is there a reason why Australia can't reciprocate the same arrangements that Indonesia has just extended?

JULIE BISHOP Because Australia has the same arrangements with every country around the world. We have a universal visa program and apart from New Zealand where there are particular arrangements in place built up over 30 years, all visitors to Australia require a visa. But with multiple entry visas over three years and with our efforts to put visa applications online, and with just one fee, then I don't believe that applying for a visa to Australia should be a problem. And as you can see, we are encouraging more Indonesians to visit Australia as more Australians visit Indonesia; there is a significant two way exchange of people.

JOURNALIST Minister, just back on the Bali Process, there has been some criticism of Australia's policy which cuts off any intake of refugees in Indonesia, even UNHCR referred refugees, after June 2014. Is there any suggestion or any sense that you might be revisiting that policy?

JULIE BISHOP Australia continues to take those who are deemed to be refugees. In fact since 2010, we have taken some 2,000 people who have been deemed to be refugees from Indonesia and we continue to do that but it is those who arrived before July 2014. Overall, Australia has an intake of refugees, and those on humanitarian visas of 13,750 per year, we are taking a further 12,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict and we provide about $90 million over two years to Indonesia to support those who are here in Indonesia planning refugee status.

So Australia is more than carrying its share of the burden. What we want to see from the Bali Process is that all countries and there are more than 40 countries in the Bali Process, all countries, to play a role in trying to resolve this issue, and ensure that the people smuggling trade, the criminal people smuggling trade, does not have a business model to sell and to take advantage of those who would otherwise pay to get to another country illegally. So we believe the Bali Process will be a very productive meeting and I'm looking forward to co-chairing it with Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

JOURNALIST So that's a no, you won't be revisiting?

JULIE BISHOP I just said that Australia's position is we take a number of refugees who arrived prior to July 2014. It's been around 2000, we provide significant funding to Indonesia, and if other countries are prepared to shoulder the burden then that will make the resolution of this challenge much easier for us all.

Media enquiries