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Transcript of joint press conference: 4 September 2012: Indonesian relationship

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Joint Press Conference in Indonesia

4 September 2012



TOPICS: Indonesian relationship

MINISTER PURNOMO: [Introduction in Bahasa Indonesia]

Do you want to add something?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well thank you very much Pak Purnomo. I am very pleased to be here as

Minister for Defence, together with my Ministerial colleagues Anthony Albanese, the Minister

for Transport and Infrastructure and Jason Clare, the Minister for Defence Materiel, Home

Affairs and Justice.

This is my seventh visit to Indonesia since becoming a Minister, but my first visit as Defence

Minister to coincide with the holding of the first annual Defence Ministers Dialogue between

Australian and Indonesian Defence Ministers. This follows on from the first annual meeting of

leaders, the President and Prime Minister’s meeting in Darwin earlier this year and the so-called two plus two in Canberra earlier this year between Defence and Foreign Affairs


As Pak Purnomo has explained to you, we’re essentially meeting in three sessions this

morning, Pak Purnomo and I met, as did the Transport Ministers and the Home Affairs

Ministers. We have just come from a session dealing exclusively with search and rescue

matters and tomorrow Pak Purnomo and I will sign the Defence Cooperation Agreement

between Australia and Indonesia, make some Defence announcements, and we’ll also deal

with Justice Jason Clare, wearing his Defence Materiel cap and his counterpart, in Defence

procurement and Defence materiel issues.

Later this afternoon we will call upon the Vice President, and we’re very honoured to be able

to do so and earlier today we met with Coordinating Minister Djoko Suyanto. So we’ve been

very pleased to have significant calls.

The focus of today, as Pak Purnomo has said is in the search and rescue area and I’ll ask, Pak

Purnomo if you’re happy, Anthony Albanese to make some remarks in that respect but we’ve

had very good conversations in the course of the day, very productive, again reinforcing my

view that Australian and Indonesian relations have never been better.

There is such a high level of cooperation now that the search and rescue matters have been

dealt with were flagged inDarwina short period of time ago, and our respective agencies have

been working very hard to bring these matters to a conclusion.

Our Ambassador tells me that since January 2008 there has been something like 100 two-way Ministerial visits, which is a high level of Ministerial exchanges, and Pak Purnomo and I

will elaborate tomorrow on the Defence-to-Defence and military-to- military relationship has

never been better.

So, I’ll ask Anthony Albanese to make some remarks about transport and search and rescue

matters, followed by his counterpart, which I understand for transport there will be a

separate briefing by the two Ministers in the Transport Minister’s office.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: Thank you Stephen and to my Ministerial colleagues and to the

Defence Minister and his Ministerial colleagues. It has indeed been a very warm welcome

back here in Jakarta. This is the third time I’ve attended a Transport Ministerial Dialogue

here, between Ministers inJakarta.

The first visit I made after being appointed Minister in 2007 was here in January 2008. I think

emphasising the importance of the relationship. Today has seen a focus on search and rescue

and the specifics of what has been agreed. I will be outlining that with the Transport Minister

shortly at anotherc venue but in general terms I think it’s important to recognise that we

officials have been undertaking discussions since the meeting between Prime Minister Gillard

and President Yudhoyono inDarwina short time ago.

There was a basis for the cooperation through the Indonesian Transport Assistance Package.

This has been an extremely successful program and one in which on previous visits to

Jakarta, I sat down with people involved in the maritime sector at BASARNAS and each and

every one of them has had contact directly with Australia whether it be engagement with

AMSA inCanberraor whether it be the ongoing cooperation at sea.

So there is a basis for our ongoing dialogue and cooperation and that is important when it

comes to the current issues which have been discussed. It’s important also to note that what

we were looking for in terms of outcomes is programs that weren’t just related to issues that

have received some substantial publicity with good reason. Some of the tragedies at sea

which we have seen, between people trying to get to Australia, we were searching for

solutions that would provide greater assistance for capacity for Indonesian maritime search

and rescue services and so the range of programs that have been agreed today, I think, will

see that very much, very much occur.

In the budget earlier this year, we, in spite of the fact that it was a tough budget, have

capacity to have an extension of that program because we regarded it as such a priority and

I’ll be back in Indonesia later this year for discussions with the Transport Minister and the

Assistant Minister to complete our signatures on the extension of that agreement. So that will

occur later this year.

It has been an extremely productive session and this is an issue in which AMSA and

BASARNAS are particularly engaged in the maritime sector is international by its very nature

and hence the area of cooperation in order to save lives at sea, particularly we know there

are many incidents with vessels here in Indonesia with the archipelago spread over 5200

kilometres east to west. It is an issue that if we can provide any assistance, I think it is one

in which we can be another element of what is already a strong relationship between our two


MINISTER PURNOMO [Speaks in Bahasa Indonesia]

JASON CLARE: We have made some important decisions today which will help save lives and

the Transport Minister will go into that in some more detail at a separate press conference. I

just wanted to make the point that we face a significant challenge here. More than 400

people have died on the sea betweenAustralia, betweenIndonesiaandAustraliaover the last

few months and hundreds of Indonesians have died, have drowned between the islands of


We shouldn’t underestimate how difficult search and rescue is; rough seas, very large areas

and a very large archipelago to cover and it is impossible to cover all of that and the key part

of that is making better use of merchant vessels. We learned in discussions today that there

are 1000 merchant vessels that go through the Indonesian search and rescue area every day

and the recommendations that we looked at today draw very heavily on that information and

making better use of that capability.

Today I also took the opportunity to meet with KAPOLRI General Prabono, to pass on the

condolences of the Australian Government for the death of the INP officer recently in Solo,

Central Java, and to continue our discussion on cooperation in counter terrorism and in

addition to that, work on preparations for the 10th Anniversary of theBalibombing.

I also met with the Minister for Law and Human Rights, Minister Syamsuddin. That’s given me

an opportunity to provide the Indonesian Government with an update on changes that have

recently been made to the law in Australia with respect to off-shore processing and

mandatory sentencing and minors and that meeting has also provided an opportunity for us

to agree to continue the work that our two government’s are doing in developing an

international transfer of prisoner’s agreement.

JOURNALIST: My name is George Roberts from ABC Australia; my first question is to Jason

Clare [indistinct]. Last week Australiahanded over 55 people who were from an Asylum

seeker tragedy who were handed back to their country under the refugee convention. You

said you wouldn’t turn back boats to Indonesia, so doesn’t this represent a U-Turn on that

policy and also government policy against what Australia has committed to as a signatory to

the Refugee convention? And toIndonesia, Pak Purnomo, are you happy with today as far as

cooperation withAustralia, given that two months ago you expressed a keenness for

Australian authorities to come into your area?

JASON CLARE: The tragedy that occurred last week is a good example of how Australian

agencies and Indonesian agencies work together. Many of the people who worked on that

search and rescue were in the room today; BASRANAS, Indonesian police, as well as our

Customs and Border Protection people and the Australian Marine and Safety Authority.

We were able to save as many people as we did because those agencies were working

together and the discussion we had was how we further improve the work we do together.

The decision to transfer those people who survived to Merak was made by the operational

experts on the ground, based on the fact that it was the closest port and those survivors

needed to get to hospital care as quickly as possible as you would know. Many of the people

rescued were in very poor health, some of them needed hospital care very quickly and the

closest port of call where they could receive that hospital care was in Indonesia.

JOURNALIST: With respect, the question I asked was the decision to hand over survivors to a

country that was not a Refugee Convention signatory, given that those asylum seekers had

asked Australian authorities on board HMAS Maitland to take them to Australia.

JASON CLARE: Just let me emphasise again, the decision was made by the operational

experts on the ground based on where we can get survivors to hospital care as quick as

possible. There is a party inAustraliawhich is different to the government which has a

different position on whether you should take survivors or people on a boat to another

country whether they have or haven’t signed the UN Convention on Human

Rights.JOURNALIST: So you feel comfortable with that?

JASON CLARE: The focus here is on saving people’s lives and that was legislation which was

passed through parliament is what drives the people aboard our patrol boats, our aircrafts in

the air and the decisions that we made today. The faster we act, the more coordinated our

actions, the more people that we can save and last week the decisions that were made were

intended to make sure the people got hospital care as soon as they possibly could.

MINISTER PURNOMO: So far we are happy with Australian the Defence cooperation. This

morning we discussed a lot of areas. Starting from the international issues, regional issues

and then bilateral issues and then things that interest both of us. Regarding the joint

statement on search and rescue, as what mentioned before, the press conference on the

search and rescue will be held in the office of the Transport Minister.

You can see that both Ministers of Transportation are here because they want to announce

the statement in their office and I don’t want to step on their toes. After this you have to go

to their office to listen to what has been achieved in the meeting. What I can share with you,

because I was also in the meeting was that the meeting was very very productive and they

achieved their conclusion on what has to be done between your country, especially in the

search and rescue in the sea. Thank you.

STEPHEN SMITH: I might add because I have probably got a little more capacity to not tread

on Pak Purnomo’s colleagues’ toes. You might recall in Darwin in the margins of President

Yudhoyono’s visit that Pak Purnomo and I met, and one of the issues that arose from our

discussions was whether it was possible in a search and rescue context to see whether rapid

clearance could be given to search and rescue planes which are needed for search and rescue

purposes to go into sovereign Indonesian territorial airspace.

We had further discussion about that issue today, as Defence Ministers, but more importantly

it was also the subject of conversation at the meeting of the Transport Minister, the Minister

of Home Affairs, Pak Purnomo and I and the Vice Transport Minister and the detail of that, as

Pak Purnomo said in the beginning, will be given at their press conference, but we had a very

productive conversation on that issue and Pak Purnomo and I are pleased with the outcome

of that.

As officials have done more work betweenDarwinand here, what we’ve also discovered as a

potential improvement for practical cooperation is the capacity potentially for search and

rescue planes to land and refuel inIndonesia. Because what often occurs is that if a search

and rescue obligation falls upon Australia and they’re flying north from Australia or from

Christmas Island, as they run short of fuel they have to return to Christmas Island or to the

Australian mainland for refuelling purposes.

We’ve had a substantive conversation about that today to explore the possibility of

permission being given to land for refuelling purposes to save that time and as Jason Clare

has emphasised, time is always of the essence in such matters. The two transport ministers

will deal with that in more detail with that, but as Pak Purnomo said, we had a very

productive and positive conversation as Defence Ministers on our Defence Cooperation

Program, which we’ll detail tomorrow. That will culminate in the signature of the Defence

Cooperation Agreement, which is a very significant step, and we’ve made our small

contribution to the list of positive initiatives which Mr Albanese and his counterpart will


JOURNALIST: My first question is to Jason Clare. TheIndonesiaJustice Minister today has

given some assurances that the people smuggler or alleged people smuggler known as Sayed

Abbas will be extradited toIndonesiaafter he finishes his sentence here in Indonesia. Can you

comment on that please, and confirm if you’ve had any discussions with him today about


And Bapak Purnomo, there have been some suggestions and calls in Australia from some

parts of Government for the asylum seeker boats going to Australia to be turned back by the

Australian Navy and towed back to Indonesia, forcibly towed back. What is your opinion of

that, do you think that is something would be a negative, something that is not good for the

relationship betweenAustralia and Indonesia, perhaps unhelpful?

JASON CLARE: Sayed Abbas is currently serving a sentence here in Indonesia at the moment

and the Australian Government has made it clear that we would seek to extradite him to

Australiaat the conclusion of his sentence here in Indonesia. This was one of the issues that

we discussed this morning.Australiastands firm on its intention to apply to extradite Sayed

Abbas to Australiaat the conclusion of his sentence and we had a good discussion this

morning with the Minister about that. It was a fruitful discussion.

MINISTER PURNOMO: The cooperation between the AMSA and BASARNAS has been there for

a long time and they have been there successfully doing a good job to rescue the people,

including also illegal immigrants. Really we are talking to which point that they’re going to

have to move the illegal immigrant. The way I look at that will depend on the case by case;

we’ll have to look at it and see. I cannot be speaking on behalf of BASARNAS because we also

have a Navy here in Indonesia. At sea you will meet with seven agencies. One is, call it the

National Guard - he is the head of the national guard - and then second is the Navy, is us,

and then police, and then also from Fisheries and then from Customs, and then from

Immigration. You are the coordinator. He is the coordinator. So we have to look at really a

case by case basis. We cannot just put a line that has to be bring this, has to be bring back

at that point so I cannot answer it generally. I will look at that case by case, you know, in

these matters.

JOURNALIST: Bapak with respect though, I guess the question is that there is calls in

Australia for the boats that travel almost all the way to Australia, that are beyond Indonesian

territory, to be towed back by the Australian Navy, and towed back into Indonesian territory

and be basically told to go back to Indonesia and be left for Indonesia to deal with. I’m

wondering whether you think that would be negative for the relationship, and perhaps even

in breach of the Lombok Treaty?

MINISTER PURNOMO: We discussed in fact with my colleague here Minister Stephen Smith

there way that, if the rescue has to be made in our territory, or the rescue has to be made in

international waters, what kind of conduct, what kind of rule of standard and procedure has

to be made, so far that what we tried to do in search and rescue and also with AMSA, is that

if there is an SOS signal [that indicates a boat] has to be rescued, then they will be allowed

by the authority to come and rescue them, because what is important is human assistance.

To which end, the point to be made for these people, you know, I think really has to be

discussed further in a meeting. Because this is usually the domain - it’s not only us and

Defence but also Customs and other agencies and I think the search and rescue operation

under BASARNAS and AMSA I think will have to make a decision whether that will happen,

case by case.

JOURNALIST: But would you accept the Australian Navy forcing boats that are in Australian

waters - the Australian Navy forcing them - to return toIndonesia?

MINISTER PURNOMO: Well, as I said to you before, for the Australian good effort, the ship

that crosses jurisdiction, there has to be a rule, and the rule that before when we were in

Darwin was brought up, is what kind of conduct we have to meet for any ships across the

border of the jurisdiction. For instance, if there is a ship in our waters, and someone, or

whoever, I did not say an Australian, that tries to come into our waters, especially for rescue,

what kind of rule and procedure has to be done in order to do that. And this afternoon, in the

second meeting, we have also from, not only from BASARNAS, from the search and rescue

International Agency, but also from the National Air Defence Command. The trouble with

rescue, it may not be only be done by boat but by also by the Dornier aircraft and also by the

Dash 8.

So what kind of conduct, code of conduct, has to be made in order to do that. That is now

being discussed. And I think we came to a conclusion that is covered by the six points

announced in the Ministry of Transportation

STEPHEN SMITH: The Minister has given you his answer in the search and rescue context

maybe I can help -

KARLIS SALNA, AUSTRALIAN ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yes I was asking in the other context -

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, you had three goes, and the Minister gave you his answers on three

occasions in the search and rescue context. But let me just make this clear, that the

Australian Government’s policy is not to force back into unsafe waters, is not to tow boats

back. We’ve made it very clear from the highest levels, that we regard that practice as

dangerous and not only risking lives of asylum seekers or refugees on the high seas, not only

putting their lives at risk, but also putting the lives and the safety of Australian Defence

personnel at risk.

There’s no better authority on that than the Chief of Navy who’s given evidence at Senate

Estimates of his own personal experience and his very strong view that this is an unsafe

practice. The fact that this is an unsafe practice and not able to be put into effect was

reflected by the review recently done and made public by Angus Houston, Michael L’Estrange

and Paris Aristotle, so it is not Australian Government policy to have the Navy seek to tow

boats back into Indonesian waters, or indeed to leave them on the high seas. We regard that

as an unsafe practice which will only add to the difficulties that we have in terms of search

and rescue on the high seas, but also the safety of Australian Defence Force and Navy


JOURNALIST: Thank you, my name is Amad Faisel from Radio Republic Indonesia, The Voice

of Indonesia. Well, if we see the current situation of international relations around the world,

it seems that there is at such time interdependency among nations to fulfil their basic military

needs. So I would like to ask the Australian Defence Minister, in this case, does your coming

also aim at building military equipment together with Indonesian defence industries. Second

question is that the problem or tension in the South China Sea has [risen] and I know that

your coming coincides with the US Foreign Minister, so does your visit also aim at reducing

the tension in the region together withIndonesiaand the US in the South China Searegion.

Thank you.

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, thank you for your questions and let me deal with them in reverse

order. Yes, we did have a conversation today about regional and international strategic

matters, including maritime or territorial disputes in the South China Sea or East China Sea

or indeed elsewhere, and I think there is a lot of consistency between Australian and

Indonesian policy on this front. Pak Purnomo can speak on behalf of Indonesia, but

Australia’s policy position is that where there are territorial or maritime disputes, whether

they’re in the South China Sea or East China Sea or elsewhere, that firstly these are matters

for the parties to the dispute to resolve, we want to see them resolved amicably, we want

them to be resolved in a way which don’t cause concern and we want them resolved in

accordance with international norms, in accordance international law and in accordance with

the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Australia isn’t a party or doesn’t take sides to such disputes, we simply urge the parties

concerned to resolve them in accordance with those principles. Australia, as an ASEAN

Dialogue Partner, indeed the first ASEAN Dialogue Partner, is also a strong supporter of the

ASEAN code of conduct and, like ASEAN foreign ministers resolved recently, believe that

should be implemented as soon as possible to form the reference point or the basis for

ASEAN consideration in this area. And because these disputes can be causes for concern,

because they can place in front of the region risks of misjudgement or miscalculation, then

relevant international and regional institutions, whether it’s the East Asia Summit, whether

it’s the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus, are entitled to play a role and take a view on these

matters, which the ASEAN defence ministers in Hanoi in 2010 did and which the ASEAN

Foreign Ministers recently did.

I think there is a fair amount of consistency there, so far as Australia’s approach is concerned

andIndonesia’s approach is concerned. Pak Purnomo and I planned this visit some time ago,

so who else is in town is an entire coincidence, so I wouldn’t read too much into that.

ButAustraliais a strong adherent to those principles which I have outlined. We want these

issues and disputes resolved in accordance with international law and the Convention on the

Law of the Sea. We don’t want them to be cause for concern, misjudgement, or


In terms of Australia and Indonesia’s relationship and the potential for us to grow our

relationship where it comes to defence capability or acquisition or procurement or [inaudible]

we’re having a separate session on that tomorrow, that’s one of the reasons why Defence

Materiel Jason Clare is here. And very many countries now are going through a period of

fiscal restraint and difficulty so far as defence budgets and expenditure is concerned, so it

makes sense for good friends and partners to cooperate on these matters, just as we did in

Darwin with the gifting of four Australian C-130H’s to Indonesia to assist Indonesia in its

heavy airlift capability, particularly for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

So tomorrow we’ll explore whether there are further opportunities for us to collaborate and

cooperate. More generally on capability, I’ve made it clear to Pak Purnomo and I’m very

happy to make it clear publicly, that as we move towards our 2013 Defence White Paper

where capability issues will be under consideration, that we will consult fully with Indonesia in

this respect and, just as we are very happy to see Indonesia pursue this so-called ‘minimum

forces’ policy approach, which Pak Purnomo and I spoke about in the course of our meeting


MINISTER PURNOMO: [Conclusion in Bahasa Indonesia]