Question Time - 18/3/15 - Death Penalty and relationship with Indonesia

  • Transcript, E&OE
18 March 2015

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (14:16): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Fin Review quotes retired ASIO chief David Irvine:

… look at the … Indonesian Parliament and you see the level of criticism and … dislike of Australia …

We project an air of condescension. Every year drugs kill 1,000 innocent Australians. Doesn't fighting for traffickers, however justified, reinforce to Indonesia our government's manifest colonial-like indifference to Asian sensitivities, laws and customs? First Australians found that friction causes fire. Northern cattlemen got burnt. Who next, Minister? (Time expired)

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:17): I thank the member for Kennedy for his question. Australia and Indonesia enjoy a strong, bilateral, longstanding relationship. In recent times, the former foreign minister and I actually assessed the breadth and the depth of the relationship between Australia and Indonesia, and we were able to produce 60 different areas of shared common interest across about 20 separate government departments and agencies. These were formal treaties, agreements, working groups, summits. It just underscored the breadth, the depth and the diversity of the relationship with Indonesia. We have a very healthy and respectful relationship with the new Widodo administration. Indeed, President Widodo came to the G20 meeting in Brisbane and we were able to discuss a range of matters of mutual interest and concern.

Australia opposes the death penalty both at home and abroad, and we have made respectful submissions–and I thank the Labor Party for their support. We have made very respectful submissions to Indonesia. Indeed, I note that Indonesia also opposes the death penalty for its citizens when they face death row in other countries abroad. So we are not asking of Indonesia or the Indonesian President anything that Indonesia does not ask and receive from other countries.

I do concede that we inherited a number of tensions when we came to office. There was, of course, the issue of the failure in border protection. That failure meant that Indonesia self-described as a victim because so many people were being lured to Australia by the people-smuggling trade, which then flourished in Indonesia once more. When 1,200 people died at sea as a result of those failed border protection laws, I know Indonesia felt it as seriously as Australia did.

We also inherited the Snowden allegations, but I am pleased to say that we were able to work through those issues, quietly, behind the scenes, and we have come to an accommodation on intelligence sharing. We have probably the highest level of intelligence sharing and counterterrorism cooperation that we have ever seen, for we both face the challenge of foreign terrorist fighters and we are working very closely together.

Of course, as you alluded, there was the issue of the overnight announcement of a ban on live cattle to Indonesia, and that was a terrible moment in the life of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government. But we have done a lot of work to restore that, and I pay tribute to the Minister for Agriculture for the work that he has done in ensuring that the cattle producers in Australia can continue to supply live cattle to Indonesia. We are a trusted and reliable trading partner. We will continue to be so.

And, yes, there will be challenges in the relationship, as there are with any relationships, but Australia is determined to ensure that this is a strong relationship that endures.

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