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Monday, 21 October 2002
Page: 8101

Ms JULIE BISHOP (2:18 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Would the minister update the House about Australia's cooperation with Indonesia on antiterrorism? What do the new regulations signed by President Megawati mean for investigations into the Bali bombings?

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —I thank the honourable member for Curtin for her question and for her interest. We commend the Indonesian government for the firm action that it has been taking since 12 October in the face of the threat of terrorism. In answer to the previous question, I spoke a little bit about the detention of Abu Bakar Bashir. Very late on Friday night, President Megawati signed two emergency antiterrorism decrees. These decrees will enable Indonesia to act immediately by providing wider powers to Indonesia's law enforcement authorities to investigate suspects and prosecute those charged with terrorist crimes, including on the basis of intelligence reports. These are not powers that the Indonesian authorities had prior to the signing of the decree. Very significantly, this decree is retrospective with respect to action against the suspected perpetrators of the Bali bombings.

The government welcomes this much stronger action being taken by the Indonesian government and Indonesian authorities to address terrorism. While we understand that there have been, in the past, some reservations about decrees of this kind—particularly bearing in mind Indonesia's history—nevertheless it is our view and the view of many of our allies and other regional countries, that Indonesia must act decisively and with fortitude to deal with the problem of terrorism. The signing by President Megawati of these decrees was an important step forward.

As the House knows, Senator Ellison and I visited Bali and Jakarta last week and talked extensively about the priority we gave to there being immediate cooperation between Australia and Indonesia, including cooperation in bringing the perpetrators of the Bali bombings to justice. Let me say five or so days on that I am very encouraged by the positive way in which both our countries have pulled together in the wake of the terrible tragedy. As I said last week, in talks with President Megawati we agreed to establish a joint investigation and intelligence team. That joint investigation and intelligence team had an initial meeting on Friday and it has been agreed that further meetings of the team will be held this week. For our side, the team will include senior officials from our embassy in Jakarta, from ASIO, from the Department of Defence, from the Australian Federal Police as well as the Australian Defence Force.

Australia and Indonesia are also cooperating very closely in their joint investigations of the Bali crime scene, and the House will be interested to know that in addition to the 30 DFAT officers in Bali there are currently more than 81 Australian police in Bali assisting with the investigation. We have 28 Defence personnel, including four chaplains and six investigators. There are six ASIO officers there to assist with the police investigations, four DIMIA staff and two AusAID staff, as well as two AusAID funded medical inventory specialists to assist particularly the hospital in Bali. There are two Federal Police psychologists there and an additional two Defence psychologists will be deployed to Bali.

The point I want to make in answer to the honourable member's question is that when you look at all of these things together it has to be said that it is extremely encouraging that in the period of just over one week since the tragic bombing in Bali not only has there been good progress made within Indonesia towards addressing the question of terrorism and extremist organisations within Indonesia but also the level of cooperation between Australia and Indonesia is, as we had hoped, without precedent and extraordinarily strong. The joint commitments of our governments in particular not just to provide relief to those affected but also to bring to justice the perpetrators of this heinous crime are extremely strong.