Meeting with Australia's Ambassador to Indonesia Paul Grigson

  • Transcript, E&OE

JULIE BISHOP Thank you for joining us this afternoon.

Last week the Prime Minister and I confirmed we would be recalling Australia's Ambassador to Indonesia Mr Paul Grigson for consultations. The recalling of an ambassador is a sign that the Australian Government was very displeased and dismayed at the failure of the Indonesian Government to heed our pleas for clemency for Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran.

It is also an opportunity for us to consult with the Ambassador about the ongoing relationship with Indonesia. For the past three months the focus of that relationship has been very much on seeking a stay of the executions, and hoping that President Widodo would change his mind in relation to the execution of the two Australians and indeed others. Having the Ambassador here means that we can now move to the next stage of managing the fall-out from the failure of the Indonesian Government and the President to heed our pleas for clemency. We will now discuss the short, medium and long-term consequences and how we will manage the relationship going forward.

I note that the Australian Federal Police have made a statement today. That statement speaks for itself, but it does highlight the challenges, the complexities and the sensitivities that our police face when Australians commit crimes in countries that have the death penalty. I believe that this statement has given us some insight into the challenges that will continue to occur while ever Australians commit crimes in countries that have the death penalty.

The Ambassador and I will spend some time now going over the details of the last few months, particularly the work of our consular staff, and I do want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Ambassador, the previous Ambassador, and the consular staff and particularly the Consul-General in Bali, who have been working around the clock for many, many months. They will be as dismayed as the Australian Government that we were not able to achieve another outcome.

I understand that the Chan and Sukumaran families are now home. They are back in Australia. They have asked for privacy and I would ask that that be respected. I'll take one or two questions.

JOURNALIST What's the response been from Indonesia of pulling Mr Grigson out?

JULIE BISHOP The Indonesian Government is well aware that this signals the Australian Government's displeasure. Indonesia has in the past recalled their Ambassador. This is unprecedented for Australia. We have not recalled our Ambassador in relation to Indonesia before, so I don't want to understate the importance of it. However, we are aware that our relationship with Indonesia is one of our most important and we need to discuss with the Ambassador the way forward.

JOURNALIST How long until we send the Ambassador back?

JULIE BISHOP It will depend on what issues arise in Indonesia. Of course the presence of an Australian Ambassador in Indonesia is very important. It is our busiest post, it is our largest post overseas, and the Ambassador's presence is important, which is why recalling the Ambassador sends a significant signal. But we will work on that with the Ambassador over the coming days.

JOURNALIST Has this caused any permanent damage between the two countries?

JULIE BISHOP Australia and Indonesia are close friends, we are close neighbours. We cooperate across a whole range of areas whether it be people smuggling, drug trafficking - in terms of the trade, but also in education, in trade and commerce, in scientific research, in law enforcement, there is a range of areas. Indeed I recall former Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and I once drew up a matrix of the number of government agencies and departments that had formal relations with Australian agencies and departments through treaties, frameworks, dialogues, and there are over 20 departments and agencies, over 60 areas of formal cooperation. So it is a very deeply engaged relationship, and we have been through an exceedingly difficult time. So we must manage the fall-out, we must manage the short, medium and long-term consequences of this. The relationship is important and that's why the Ambassador is here, to discuss the detail of that.

JOURNALIST Can you tell us how Budget aid cuts might feature in the discussion?

JULIE BISHOP The discussion on the aid budget is a matter for ERC and the Cabinet, and those discussions are ongoing.

Media enquiries