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Wednesday, 13 August 2003
Page: 18395

Mr CHARLES (2:13 PM) —My question without notice is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Would the minister update the House on Australia's current travel advice for Indonesia? Following the attack last week at the Marriott hotel, does the minister have any particular advice for Australians currently in Jakarta?

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —I thank the honourable member for La Trobe for his question. I think he has done a marvellous job in representing the electorate of La Trobe. All of us will regret very much the press release he has put out to say that he will be retiring at the next election. I am very disappointed that he has done that, because he has been a great member. He is a great bloke as well.

Honourable members—Hear, hear!

Honourable members interjecting

Mr Tanner —They love you when you leave, Bob.

Mr DOWNER —We love quite a lot of you, by the way, because you are so completely incompetent.

The SPEAKER —I appreciate the fact that the interjections have been good natured, but the minister has the call.

Mr DOWNER —Mr Speaker, to get to the serious business here, last night on the basis of new and concerning information my department amended its travel advice for Indonesia. Given the priority the government places on the safety and security of Australians travelling abroad, it is important to emphasise the key elements of this advice. I think the House generally would be quite interested in this because this is a very important issue that gets to the heart of the security of Australians who might be travelling to Indonesia or are in Indonesia. My department continues to recommend that Australians defer non-essential travel to Indonesia. The message to defer non-essential travel is a serious one contained in fewer than 20 of my department's 139 country-specific advisories. In response to this new information that terrorists continue to plan attacks, Australians should avoid international hotels in Jakarta. This advice is based on new information which has led to an assessment that any international hotel in Jakarta could well be an attractive terrorist target. I remind the House that terrorists may also target other, what are sometimes called, soft targets, including shopping centres or identifiably Western businesses.

I strongly recommend that Australians in Indonesia, particularly those in Jakarta, closely heed this advice. The travel advice for Indonesia also continues to recommend to Australians that they exercise extreme caution throughout the country, especially in commercial and public places frequented by foreigners, and that caution should be exercised in particular in Jakarta, including the central business and embassy districts. Australians still planning travel to Indonesia should consider whether their travel is essential. Any Australians in Indonesia concerned for security should consider departing. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade continues to monitor closely the travel advice for Indonesia and will continue to review its advice in light of all new information about possible threats to the safety and security of Australians in that country. I would urge Australians to heed all aspects of my department's travel advice, particularly those in Jakarta at this time.