Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of the Prime Minister, the Hon P J Keating MP press conference, Jakarta

Download PDFDownload PDF






May I have your attention please.

Your Excellency, the Prime Minister of Australia, attending journalists, ladies and gentlemen. First of all let me express our deepest gratitude to His Excellency, Mr Paul Keating, Prime Minister of Australia for making his honourable self available for this press conference. I would like to inform your Excellency that attending this

press conference does not only include Indonesian journalists, but also proper foreign journalists residing in Jakarta and our colleagues from Australia. In the opening of this press conference I would like to ask your Excellency

to present an introductory statement on your historical visit to Indonesia. Afterwards, I will invite our colleagues the journalists, to make direct interview with your Excellency. _

Your Excellency, the Prime Minister.

PM: Thank you very much.

Well, ladies and gentlemen of the media, could I begin by saying that this has been for me a very good and productive visit. I pointedly chose to come to Indonesia as my fist visit abroad as Prime Minister of

Australia and I have done so because of two clear facts. One is that Australia and Indonesia are destined to be neighbours forever, to be living together forever in this region of the world. And because of the fact that the emergence of President

Soeharto's new order government was one of the most significant and beneficial events in Australia's strategic history. Those points make Indonesia a priority for Australia, the region's a priority, and we have Indonesia in the top order of that priority. I am very grateful for the warm welcome by rv~*— — *■


Soeharto and his Ministers. I have had a very worthwhile program to date and there is still, as you know, more to come. The centre-piece of the program is

the meeting I have just concluded with the President which was very warm indeed. A most stimulating conversation which took two hours duration and confirmed, I think, a commitment on both our parts to

work together to establish a firm basis for the longer term development of the relationship and to put into the relationship as many struts and structural members as we can put into it to make it a more resilient relationship. A relationship with, indeed, a real

framework of reference. We discussed concrete steps to that end. And as you know, we just signed a very basic and important bilateral instrument and other concrete

steps will be undertaken as I'll mention in a moment. As well as bilateral issues and regional issues. Bilateral including the economic and political issues and including in that East Timor; and the regional

issues, and including in that the development of the Asia-Pacific and APEC as an institution. The signature today of the three bilateral agreements are very significant, they cover double taxation and there can be no secure basis for longer term investment without

businessmen and women corporations knowing on what basis they are going to be taxed. If there is any ambiguity about the basis of the taxation, it is a real inhibition to trade investment commerce. So it was a

very important agreement which was signed by the Foreign Minsiter and Ambassador Flood on our behalf. Fisheries cooperation, so that we develop the fishing potential of the area. Essentially, Indonesia relies heavily upon the product of the sea and we do, and it

is important that we clear fisheries policy between our two countries and also a treaty on extradition which is again a matter of importance. Two other agreements were also signed on East Timor; a water supply project

as part of our aid program, and the Australian Department of Industry Technology and Commerce cooperation with its counterpart, BPPT. We have also agreed to negotiate new agreements and they include

investment promotion and protection which is well under way - that is negotiation is well underway and can be drawn to a reasonably quick conclusion. Agreement

about copyright, an agreement on the delimitation of outstanding maritime boundaries, and an agreement on mutual assistance on criminal matters. Now they are

all significant. Obviously the investment promotion and protection, along with the double taxation signed today, will be entirely significant in terms of the commercial relationship, as the others will be in terms of the social relationship, and including the maritime boundaries which goes of course to our national

relationships. We have also agreed, I think in a very significant step, to add again another stable element to the structure of our official relationships. And we have agreed to establish a ministerial forum to meet at

least once every two years involving the foreign


ministers who would chair the forum, and we have not decided whether it is going to be called a forum, committee, or a council. But the forum would be chaired by the foreign ministers and there would be at

least two economic ministers from each side. So in other words, as the relationship has deepened and broadened, the discussions necessarily now need to go beyond foreign policy to economic and commercial and

industry matters and we expect that with a frequency of two years we can plan to have a strong attendance by economic ministers at such a discussion. And, in a way, this arrangement would parallel the arrangement we

have with the Government of Japan, where Australian economic ministers and the foreign minister meet biannually to discuss matters of mutual interest between the two countries. We think this relationship has broadened and deepened to the point where conversation can usefully be extended beyond simply the

gamut of the foreign policy and foreign affairs discussion, to these other matters which are commensurate with the level of trade which is now being undertaken between the two countries and the quite

substantial level of investment by Australia in Indonesia and vice versa. That I think, is very significant. I also had a very useful discussion with foreign minister Alatas, and I'm looking forward to

meeting senior economic ministers over lunch, and a separate meeting with defence minister Moerdani this afternoon. I will be making a speech in Jakarta this afternoon which will address bilateral issues, Australia's view of itself, relations with the region and then tomorrow evening in Surabaya basically a

speech which is devoted to economic issues. I might say as, as you probably know, I also opened the OTC Australia Office in Jakarta yesterday and will be opening a West Australia representative office in Surabaya tomorrow. This I think again is a significant

step because one area where Australia does have is at the cutting edge of technologies in telecommunications, long distance communications, and given the rest of Indonesia, the diversity of the countryside spread

across an archipelago, seeing OTC establish itself here not just for the representative office but in a very fulsome way is very encouraging indeed. So I would just leave my initial remarks at that and invite questions.

Thank you your Excellency. Now may I invite the questions from journalists. Just mention your agency.

Q: Foreign Correspondent for Compass Indonesian Daily based in Sydney. Was East Timor discussed in your talks and if so were you satisfied with the answers given to you especially for your colleagues on the left wing side of your party, thank you?

PM: Well the answer w as, of course, it was discussed. Discussed with the Foreign Minister and it was


discussed with the President. I said that I regarded the events there as tragic ones but regarded the Government's follow-up as credible as I have made a similar expression in Australia. I said that I thought that the long term future between our two countries would certainly be enhanced if a basis of longer term

reconciliation could be established between the Government of Indonesia, Indonesia generally and the people of East Timor. The Foreign Minister told me that there had been attempts in the past on the part of the Government to establish a dialogue which had failed but took on board our view that a basis of reconciliation and an enhanced economic development of

the province would certainly help in terms of the unrest which has been a feature of the province since the annexation in the 1970s. I also expressed some concern by Australia about the right of political

demonstration - non-violent political demonstration. I said in our country there is no way a non-violent political demonstration would be met with sanctions under the criminal law and that the fact that this was

in prospect here was something that disturbed us and I put the view that no-one should be detained or otherwise penalised for non-violent political activity.

I can only say that the Indonesian counterparts took that view on board. The general view would be, I ' think, that I put that the problem of East Timor is not going to be solved other than by a basis of longer term

reconciliation and that though the military may try to govern the place adequately and effectively, basically ... being too strong and at times too uncompromising and that therefore a broader approach was necessary.

Q: Tempo News Magazine Indonesia, at first the Australians in general, the press, the society and also the Government gave a very strong reaction about the Dili event but later on it became softer, ray question is because a lot of analysts here think that because there

is a change of leadership but on the other hand Australians always stress that it's because of the ... I would like to ask your explanation why the reaction became softer?

PM* I can give you the answer to that now - because the

response by the Government was more credible than we might have expected immediately in the aftermath of those events. And your second question?

Q: The second question is about APEC, we understand that you were going to discuss about or suggest something we would like to know what was the reaction from our President?

PMt I think one has to see APEC in a broader context and that is that we are now seeing very much the United States and Europe we are seeing the emergence of a European Central Bank. Whether that will lead to a common European currency time alone will tell, but one


thing is certain, we are certainly going to see a European market, it may not be a closed market, it may not be a restrictive market but there will be a clearly

defined European market. We are also seeing the development of a free trade area in North America with NAFTA between Canada, the United States and Mexico and in the whole context we are seeing now in different

process in the GATT round, that is we are not seeing a determination on the part of the Europeans to make the GATT round succeed and a clear commitment on the part of most nations to a free and open multi-lateral

trading system. It would not be in Indonesia's or Australia's interest to see the world form itself into blocs with a third area emerging in the Pacific and

hence I think it is important, therefore, that the United States plays a role beyond its continental boundaries in trade in Asia and the policy of the United States and the Pacific to be broader, deeper, wider than simply the strategic policy of the United

States Defence Department or the United States Navy. And hence I see APEC as a device, as a mechanism where not just regional trade issues and political issues can be discussed but where the two largest economies can

resolve some of their own differences within a framework, that is Japan and the United States. And for Australia's part Japan is Australia's largest trading partner, the United States is a strategic ally of Australia. We don't want our loyalties tested between these two friendly countries and we would like

to see mechanisms established where there differences can be resolved.

Now beyond that APEC offers a promise of being a construction of countries, a collection of countries, reflecting the largest and fastest growing part of the world, the United States, Japan, China, South Korea,

Indonesia, the other member States of the ASEAN, Australia etc. And hence has real possibilities for trade liberalisation and for doing what it can to ammeliorate or thwart the development of blocs in trade worldwide and it is in that context that I think APEC

needs support, it needs institutionalised support, it needs support in institutions and one of the past ways of giving it support in institutions is for the heads of the governments of the member states to meet

occasionally, whether it is bilaterally or trilaterally is hardly important but to give it the status and political weight that can make it a more effective institution. The President indicated to me, and I don't think he would mind me quoting him, he said "I agree eventually Heads of Government: should meet but

it's important that we prepare for such an eventually” and he thought that "Australia and Indonesia should work together promoting a process for regional economic co-operation."

I think he would take the view that there's an inevitability about a Heads of Government meeting or a


Heads of Government process and strengthening of the APEC as an institution. But again can I just make it clear from my point of view, we're not setting any deadlines, nor are we beating a drum about this issue,

we are just simply saying that we'd rather see this sort of institution develop in the Asia-Pacific than simply be relying upon essentially for us, European institutions with European origins. So I must say I was very pleased by the President's response.

Q: Paul Bongiorno, Network Ten, Australia, President Soeharto spoke very plainly in terms of Indonesia not tolerating other people meddling in their internal affairs, was this in any way pursued in your discussion today and did you clarify at all, or discuss the concept of aid being tied to human rights and is Australia's aid in any way tied to the human rights of

Indonesia or indeed any other country?

PM: The answer is it was not specifically discussed today but it was referred to the general position which Indonesia takes and that is, it will take advice, friendly advice, advice intended to advance its

interests, but it won't be cajoled as indeed some countries sought to cajole it by tying, expressly tying, aid to performance by their standards to donor countries in relation to human rights. Australia takes

the view in respect of Indonesia that there should be no tie between Australian aid to Indonesia and the consequences of events in Dili for the obvious reason that the consequences of the events in Dili were not

the express action or direction of State policy, whereas we have in the past taken decisions about aid in response to what we've seen is State policy-induced violations of human rights. This is not the case here,

so therefore the link was not made and therefore the expression in the President's speech last night is a general expression and as you know they have told some European countries, thankyou, they don't want their aid

if they are the conditions attached and they've let them go. This is not the case with Australia which of course the Indonesian Government very clearly understands.

Q: Glenn Milne from The Australian, I just wondered whether you could clarify as a result of today's talks what your expectations now are in terms of possible timing of meeting inter-government meeting based on

APEC and is it not the case that Japan also has reservations about this proposal and what's the response so far from the United States?

PM: Could I say to you that this is not "a prime

ministerial initiative·’ it's a sensible expression of what I think is an inevitable development of an institution if anything trying to focus up the fact that the institution would be stronger if it was

accorded that political weight. So, I don't want to be


and will not be speaking in terms of this about some timetable or deadline because I just don't think it's sensible to do so. It's not a matter of consumate urgency and I'm not yet certain, we've not had a

response in the official way from the Government of Japan or the Government of the United States but the exploratory conversations have been encouraging, that's all I'd say to you, but I'd leave it at that.

Q: inaudible.

PM: Could I answer the question in this way, I'll come back to the specifics of the question. You must I think, as the media, as journalists, see this point. It is for the Government of Australia and for the Government of

Indonesia to determine the issues between us. It is not for the media. And the issues are these: that we are neighbours bound in a destiny forever because we are by our geography neighbours. That we do not have territorial designs on one another, that we are living

cooperatively together and, as I said, Australia regards President Soeharto's New Order Government as one of the most significant and beneficial events in its strategic history. This Government has provided

regional stablity and held an archipelago together as a nation for a quarter of a century, the area has been entirely stable in the period. These are the key issues. These are the key points. why I'm here.

I'm not here because of APEC or Timor, I'm here because of these points and I'm here to deepen the relationship and to provide a greater basis of strength to it and the deepening has to come from cultural and commercial

as well as political links so that if the structure does have more structural members, if one is put under pressure the others keep the building of the structure

together and that's why the treaties have been signed, that's why the Ministerial Forum will go ahead, that's why we're clearing the way for greater investment by Australians in Indonesia and we've now got extensive

investments in gold, coal, beef, in a whole lot of areas, telecommunications and vice versa, we're seeing Indonesian investment for the first time in Australia. We're starting to thicken up the relationship, a

relationship between neighbours, neighbours who have found for themselves a stable political relationship. That's the key point, that needs to be acknowledged. It is not as broadly acknowledged in Australia, the value of the stability of Indonesia, as that value in fact

is. It has not been as well understood and acknowledged. It was very quickly understood and acknowledged immediately after 1965 but not as clearly acknowledged in the years since. The stability and the growth and the holding together of this archipelago over that quarter century has been quite profound and

it is because of that, and because I believe Australia has to makes its way in Asia, find its identity, going out there unambiguously as Australians, trading and making its links with Asia at a time when our whole


economic orientation is an external one, the very same time as Indonesia has adopted exactly the same sorts of policies - removing border protection, cutting tariff barriers, fiscal consolidation, there's a complete

blend, melding of the policies, both looking out, both looking for investment, both open, both inviting investment, both looking for trade opportunities. This is the strengthening. And beyond that the things w e #ve done together bi-laterally and multi-laterally, like Cambodia, for which Foreign Minister Alatas and Foreign Minister Gareth Evans have played key roles, chemical weapons, the development of APEC - these are important

changes in the face of the region which have been promoted by our two countries. It is into that broader context that the other bi-lateral issues, or problems, have got to be addressed. It is not to diminish their

importance, it's not to diminish the significance of the Dili events, or the response to them or their future, but they have to be put in the context.

J: Mr Keating, Geoff Kitney from the Australian Financial Review, members of the your own political party have been among the most strident critics on the issues that you've just mentioned, does that mean that your own

party has been at fault in not encouraging the development of that broader relationship you talk about being required now?

PM: No, I don't think so. I think the Australian Labor Party has been entirely indignant, and appropriately indignant, about the rights of others whenever they have been transgressed, as we were indignant about the Dutch view that this country should remain a colonial

country and the support for the independence of Indonesia, which the President very kindly remarked upon last night, our support in 1945. Just as without seeking one square inch of territory for Australia we

fought in Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East, Europe on two occasions and the Pacific, to not just defend ourselves, but to defend the liberty of others. So I think that well-placed indignation that the Australian

Labor Party, indeed the Australian nation has had, about the transgression about the rights of others is an entirely reasonable one, as has been its very wise

view of the value of the New Order Government of Indonesia to regional peace and stability and Australia's security which has been a clear tenant of the policy of this Government, a very clear line of

recognition by the Foreign Minister and predecessor and the importance we attach to Indonesia by the frequency of visits, I think we've had about 16 Australian Ministers here in the past couple of years so I think

that the Government has the balance right, but it's entitled and will remain always with a keen eye to peoples' rights and transgressions.

J: Asiaweek Magazine, Prime Minister, talking about Australia finding its identity, your visit here has


received considerable attention within the local press but I'm aware that there was a think tank in Australia which said that there is more that Australia needs to do than to say we want to be Asian, particularly in the

business sense, that perhaps there needs to be some restructuring. Now, we've got APEC, we've got this sort of talks today, but is the Australian economy capable of joining this group?

PM: We've worn a lot of the pain of restructuring in the 1980s when we had to accomodate a 25 per cent fall in the Australian dollar and the attendant inflation and wage reductions that came with it. It's been wearing

the consequences of the reductions in border protection. It's been wearing the fiscal burden of a change in the tax system. All of the issues of competitiveness and openness, radically changing its

foreign investment policy, making the place more open, all those issues and including the domestic criticisms of them, are criticisms worn by the Government in the broader interests of making Australia a more externally

oriented society. It's one think to have the economic mechanics, the mechanisms of external orientation, it is another to have the attitudes. And I think the attitudinal change, the Rubicon Australia has crossed

and Australians have crossed, is not simply to look at the external markets as markets of great promise beyond the domestic market but in so doing looking at the Asia Pacific as the area of primary interest. In other

words, not looking at Europe or North America and paying lip service to investment or trade with Asia but actually getting psychologically stripped down to trade with Asia, to grow with Asia and to invest in Asia, and

that's what I mean about finding our way. Doing the mechanical things to open the place up and then following that through with the attitudinal change to

make the best of it. I think that's what is important.

J: Peter Hartcher, Sydney Morning Herald, you spoke about the crediblity of the Indonesian Government's response to the killings in East Timor. The Indonesian media reports that the inquiry into the five Indonesian Army

officers in East Timor has been concluded and that report will not be made public and that the military will not disclose the names of the officers involved and according to the Indonesian media the harshest measure taken against the officers will be early

retirement, is this part, in your view of a credible response to the killings, did you discuss it with President Soeharto or others and can you share with us your views about what you think ... East Timor reconcilation with Indonesia?

PM: I'm not here to speculate about responses by the Government to reports that will be presented to it but only to look at' what has been done rather than what has been said and what has been done is I think credible. That is, that probably for the first time in our memory


we have seen not just implied but express criticisms of what happened by the military in East Timor, by the President, changes in the top personnel of the Armed Forces, and examination with the expectation of disciplinary action against other people involved. I

think that's credible, because again I repeat, that the events there did not happen at the insistence of State policy. As to the future, I think the Government is conscious of the fact that there is not enough commercial opportunities, employment opportunities in

the province, that a lot of tertiary graduates from Indonesian tertiary institutions are returning to Timor to find themselves with employment and obviously some find themselves attracted by political activity and

that therefore the expectations of the community about economic growth, the distribution of wealth and employment opportunities is a reasonable one and one which the Government of Indonesia recognises and is now

seeking to do something about. They have recently had a group of business people from Jakarta and other parts of the country visit East Timor with a view to investments there and I think it is certainly in the

mind of the Government to improve relations in the management of the province. Now, time will tell. From Australia's point of view the greater the basis of reconciliation the better, the less likely any such

occurences in the future and therefore the less likelihood of disturbing that fundamental and huge basis to the relationship which obtains in other areas. And so if this is the last question I'll finish on this

note. Again, I ask you to focus on that point - that what matters here is that these two countries are neighbors, bound together by geography but with very

clear policies about their regional view, about their not having territorial ambitions upon any other member States or their territories, seeking to live in peace and from Australia's point of view, a Government - a quarter of a century old - which has brought unparalleled stability to the region, which has held together an archipelago into a nation and which is now growing, strongly, and promising an increase in living

standards and employment and generally an improvement in the outlook of its citizens as a result of five, five-year economic policies, now 25 years in the making. So, it's with that focus that Australia wants to see the relationship grow and we want to see it grow

not just in a bi-lateral context but in a regional context as well. That's why I've regarded the visit to date as a very warm o n e , a very co-operative one. Can I say with some background as eight years as Treasurer of

the Commonwealth of Australia, going to international events, if the last day has been any measure of things, in terms of reception, it doesn't get much better than

this. I'm very obliged to the Government of Indonesia for their hospitality. Thankyou.