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Thursday, 21 August 2003
Page: 19214

Mrs ELSON (2:03 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Would the minister update the House on the state of Australia's relationship with Indonesia and East Timor?

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —I thank the honourable member for Forde for the interest she shows in these important bilateral relationships. Today we have visiting us here in Canberra the foreign minister of Indonesia, Hassan Wirajuda, and I have had a very enjoyable part of the morning with him. I know the Prime Minister has seen him this morning and I think the Treasurer and other ministers either have seen him or are to see him.

Amongst other topics that the foreign minister and I discussed, we agreed that Australia and Indonesia would co-host a regional ministerial conference on counter-terrorism early next year. We have been able to work through some of the broad details of who will be invited to that conference and the nature of it. I would just say that both Hassan Wirajuda and I believe that the more we can do to contribute to strengthening regional cooperation on counter-terrorism the better. Our two countries have worked extraordinarily well together on counter-terrorism since the Bali bombing and this will be a very major step forward, I believe, in enhancing regional cooperation right across the region into the future.

Both of us agreed that our bilateral relationship is in good shape. The Minister for Trade can take some credit for the fact that we have never in Australia's history had more trade with Indonesia than we had during last calendar year. We have been able to discuss in a constructive way issues of mutual concern such as Papua and Aceh and also the very important and significant issue for the ASEAN region, and that is the current situation in Burma.

On Monday Hassan Wirajuda is coming to the Adelaide Hills, as is Jose Ramos-Horta, the foreign minister of East Timor. We will all meet together in the electorate of Mayo and we will hold the second trilateral dialogue at the ministerial level between Australia, Indonesia and East Timor. I know those two foreign ministers will be warmly welcomed in Mayo, and they are warmly welcomed, more generally of course, in Australia. That trilateral dialogue worked very well the last time it was held in Indonesia. I think it provides a valuable opportunity for the three of us to talk in an informal setting part-icularly about security developments in the region, and obviously the issue of terrorism, but importantly the future of United Nations involvement in East Timor now that East Timorese independence is well and truly under way. So I think our relationship with Indonesia, as well as with East Timor, is in very good shape and is a very strong relationship. It is built partly on the strong people-to-people links we have and our commercial links, but I think the work we have been doing together on counter-terrorism, through our military, our police, our intelligence services and our diplomats, has really thrown our two countries together in a way that we have not worked together in the past.