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Thursday, 5 December 2002
Page: 7283


Senator JOHNSTON (2:45 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Justice and Customs. Will the minister update the Senate on the progress of the investigation into the Bali bombings and on the important contribution that Australia is making to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice?


Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —This question is a very important one. The headlines about the investigation in Bali might be fading somewhat, but I can assure the Senate that the investigation is continuing. It is a comprehensive investigation. Just yesterday, a number of people were taken into custody by the Indonesian police. We still have Australian Federal Police in Bali. Some 68 Australian law enforcement officers continue to work there. Of those, 36 are members of the Australian Federal Police, five are Australian Protective Service personnel and the remainder are from the various state and territory police forces, which have been of great assistance. Three crime scenes are being investigated in addition to the bomb site itself. We have been able to assist the Indonesian authorities in the analysis of a great deal of forensic evidence. It is important that we acknowledge the great cooperation we have had from Indonesia, especially the Indonesian police, in this matter. It is on occasions like this that we should continue to place that acknowledgment on the record.

Over the last six weeks we have made progress in the identification of disaster victims. The government is of course sympathetic to the families and loved ones of victims who have been waiting through a harrowing time. Seventy-eight Australian victims have been identified. Five Australians have died back in Australia and one Australian died in Singapore. The progress in disaster victim identification has been much better than first anticipated. Under the circumstances, the personnel involved have done a fantastic job and I want to place on the record the government's appreciation for the great work they have done.

When the Bali atrocity occurred some six weeks ago, I do not think anyone envisaged that the investigation would be this far down the track by now. The Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Mr Keelty, said at the time that we are in it for the long haul. This is a complicated investigation, occurring on foreign soil. Mr Keelty prepared the Australian public for an investigation that could go on for some time. I think the progress we have made has been remarkable. We are continuing to work with the Indonesians in other ways. AUSTRAC is working on an investigation into the financing of terrorism and, as Senator Hill mentioned earlier, we are working with our neighbours in the region. I will be going to Bali, Indonesia on 17 and 18 December this year. With the Indonesian foreign affairs minister, Mr Wirajuda, I will open a conference on the financing of terrorism. I understand that over 30 countries from the Asia-Pacific region will be represented. This is a very important conference in relation to money laundering and the financing of terrorism, and it is significant that Australia is cohosting it with Indonesia—yet again signifying the great cooperation that we have with Indonesia in the fight against terrorism.