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Wednesday, 16 October 2002
Page: 5285

Senator BARTLETT (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (2:47 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Defence. Can the minister comment on reports that after official talks in Jakarta today Australian SAS forces will resume—or, according to some reports, have already resumed—counter-terrorism training for Indonesia's Kopassus special forces, whom we severed links with a couple of years ago? As the minister would know, members of Kopassus have previously been widely suspected of having supported East Timorese militias and of being involved in the bloodbath in that country, and as recently as December last year some Kopassus members were suspected to have been behind the death of a West Papuan leader. Can the minister confirm whether training of Kopassus special forces by Australia has resumed and, if so, on what date? Is the government confident that Kopassus has been adequately reformed?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —No, training with Kopassus has not resumed. There have not been joint exercises, for example, with Kopassus, and the reasons relate to historical circumstances that the honourable senator outlined. However, we are aware of the role that Kopassus has in relation to counter-terrorism responsibilities in Indonesia. Therefore, it may well be in Australia's interest to redevelop the relationship as it relates to counter-terrorism activities. But it has not progressed to the situation of training as yet.

Senator BARTLETT —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for his answer. Minister, can you confirm whether or not this potential reintroduction of training between Australian SAS forces and Kopassus is a key component of any discussion occurring at the moment with the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Indonesia?

Senator HILL (Minister for Defence) —I am not sure of the detail of what Mr Downer has said. What he is seeking to do is to ensure that those who perpetrated this horrible act of violence are brought to justice as quickly as possible. That is the principal purpose of his visit to Jakarta. I have no doubt that he is also talking with Indonesia about ways we can support Indonesia to provide a safer environment in the future for both Indonesian people and foreign visitors. That is something that we would certainly expect of him. In relation to the detail of his discussions, that will have to await his return.