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Transcript of press conference: 11 September 2009: relationship between Australia and Mozambique; AFP investigation into Balibo Five and effect on Australian-Indonesian relationship.

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11 September 2009

Press Conference with Stephen Smith, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Oldemiro Baloi, Mozambican Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation

Subjects: Relationship between Australia and Mozambique, AFP investigation into Balibo Five and effect on Australian-Indonesian relationship

STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you very much for attending. Can I officially welcome to Australia, Mozambique's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation? Minister Baloi, it's great to see you here.

It's not your first visit to Perth but it is your first visit as Foreign Minister.

Minister Baloi came to Perth in 1993 when he was Assistant Minister for Cooperation. And it's significant that it's his first visit to Perth and Australia as Foreign Minister, but also significant because it's the first visit by a Mozambique Foreign Minister to Australia for nearly 20 years. So we welcome you very much.

The Minister's visit includes Perth, Sydney, where Mozambique's Honorary Consul to Australia is resident, and Canberra on Monday, where I'll see him again. But also he'll see colleagues and, together with his officials, meet a range of our departments and agencies.

Australia and Mozambique have a good relationship but the Minister and I believe that we can take it to a higher level. I've made the point to the Minister that Australia wants to substantially enhance its engagement with Africa, both the countries and the continent of


This is not the first time we've met. We've met at the General Assembly last year, in 2008, at the African Union meeting of Foreign Ministers in Addis Ababa in January this year, and recently at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Egypt.

On each of those occasions, we've spoken about the things that Australia and Mozambique share. We have good trade investment and economic relations. Mozambique is Australia's second largest trading partner in Africa. That is primarily minerals resources but we believe the potential is there to enhance that even further.

We are building a good relationship so far as education is concerned. Currently Australia offers 16 scholarships to Mozambique students - that's the largest single number of scholarships out of Africa - and we're modestly increasing that to 18.

Earlier today we started by going to the Fire and Emergency Services headquarters in Perth and had a briefing from the Western Australian emergency services authority over responses

to floods and cyclones. This is one of the things that we share. Traditionally in terms of disaster response, Australia is perceived as bushfires, but more recently of course we've seen cyclones and heavy storms - cyclones in the north-west and storms in the south metropolitan area.

Mozambique has a history of having to combat cyclones and floods, and there's now some shared experience, and it was a very good exercise this morning, pooling the experiences that we have.

Australia has been supporting a World Bank initiative in Mozambique for water and water sanitation. One of the adverse consequences of flood is water sanitation and I've advised the Minister today that Australia will make a $5 million contribution over the '09-'10 financial

year to assist water and water sanitation through the World Bank project in Mozambique.

We'll also make $1 million contribution to Mozambique's Institute for Disaster Management to consolidate the links and to consolidate the shared experience.

Agriculture is also an area where we think there is a lot of potential for enhanced engagement and I've advised the Minister that we will contribute through ACIAR, our international agricultural research organisation, $1 million to help for adaptive maize production techniques in Mozambique.

So there's a number of shared interests that we have.

As well as talking about the bilateral relationship and bilateral matters, we have of course spoken about some of Africa's peace and security challenges.

Mozambique is of course a very important member of SADC [Southern Africa Development Community]. And SADC has been given the responsibility of oversight of the general political agreement between President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai in Zimbabwe. We spoke about the progress of the transitional government, the inclusive government, and the progress of Zimbabwe to democracy.

So, Minister, it's great to have you here. It's been a good day so far. We will have lunch later today at the University of Western Australia and then the Minister will go to Fremantle port to inspect the port. And then Sydney and Canberra.

Minister, I'd be very happy for you to make some opening remarks and we'd happily respond to your questions.

So, Minister, welcome. It's great to see you here.

OLDEMIRO BALOI: Thank you Minister. Well, we are visiting Australia due to an invitation from my dear colleague. And we do this with great pleasure. The relationship between Mozambique and Australia is excellent, politically speaking, but we want the economic and business cooperation to reach the very same level. And we are striving for that,

and so far the results have been good. We share a lot of concerns with regard to how the world is going and we try to build synergies in order to face those challenges for the benefits of the two countries. And in the

case of Mozambique we are fighting against absolute poverty. We're doing whatever we can for ourselves with support of cooperating partners, among which is Australia, of course.

Some of the areas we have discussed here are of utmost importance for Mozambique. We are fighting against natural disasters, in all its components: prevention, combat, recovery. It's fundamental for Mozambique.We have quite some experience but we cannot compare with Australia, particularly with Perth, which is highly exposed to a wide range of natural disasters and therefore has set up an impressive capacity to deal with that.

So we are doing our utmost best to catch up and the Government of Australia is providing us with very much appreciated support.

We have identified several areas of some priority. Some of them are exactly those that have been mentioned here and where we are getting. I was telling the Minister as well, for what he has announced this is a so-called fruitful visit because some talks take time to materialise in terms of outcome, but this one was quick.

And I hope that this feature will be always present in our cooperation, reciprocally.

I have invited the Minister of Foreign Affairs to visit Mozambique so that he can see what the progress is, can be acquainted with all segments of our society in order to allow him to have his own assessment on how Mozambique is doing.

We are proud of what we have been doing so far. We do recognise that there is still a long way to go, not only in Mozambique but also in the region. But no doubt we are on the right track.

So, friends who come and visit Mozambique and help us to improve the assessment and to give suggestions, recommendations on how to speed up the process, are obviously very welcome. And among the elite group is Australia.

Thank you.

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, Minister, thank you very much and thank you very much for the invitation which you made to me to visit Mozambique during our meeting. And I'll be very happy to try and take that up next year.

In the field of visits, of course, I should mention that the Governor-General visited Mozambique earlier this year and we're looking forward to the Mozambican President making a visit to Australia, either at the end of this year or in the course of next year.

So we look forward to President Guebuza also coming to Australia.

We're happy to respond to your questions.

QUESTION: I'm wondering what is your response to Mr Yudhoyono saying that the police investigation into the deaths of the Balibo Five will be harmful to our relationship with Indonesia?

STEPHEN SMITH: I simply repeat what I've said privately to Indonesian officials, including the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia, and what I've said publicly.

Of course this is an issue which is sensitive and therefore it's an issue that we need to manage carefully and sensibly. I've made the point to the Ambassador, to Indonesian officials, and I've made it publicly.

The investigation has arisen as a result of two decisions by two independent authorities within Australian society.

Firstly, the Deputy Coroner in New South Wales conducting an investigation into the death of Mr Peters, one of the Balibo Five. That report, coronial report, effectively requested that the Attorney-General give consideration to an investigation. That, of course, is a matter for the Australian Federal Police, and the Australian Federal Police in the course of this week indicated that it had decided to conduct an investigation. That's a matter for the independent exercise of judgement of the Australian Federal Police.

When they announced their decision after they had advised the families and after the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had had the opportunity to alert Indonesian officials, they made the point that this is dealing with events in 1975. There are difficult and complicated questions of fact and law. Access to evidence and witnesses is of course one of those matters.

My own advice is that we should take this very calmly and step by step. The next stage in this matter will be a decision of the Australian Federal Police as to whether there is evidence there to progress this matter or not. Again, that will be a matter for the Australian Federal Police.

I've made the point publicly that there's no doubt that this has come as something of a surprise to Indonesia. Indonesia views this as a matter that occurred in 1975 and I've indicated to Indonesian officials that these recent events are as a result of actions taken and decisions made by the New South Wales coroner in November 2007 and the Australian Federal Police this week.

We have a first class relationship with Indonesia and from time to time, issues arise where you have to be careful about how you manage them. This is one of those issues. But I'm absolutely confident that this issue can be managed in a way which doesn't do any damage to the first class relationship that we have with Indonesia.

QUESTION: Well, Mr Yudhoyono says that, you know, Indonesia and East Timor have settled their differences, why [indistinct]. Why can't Australia do [indistinct].

STEPHEN SMITH: Indonesia and East Timor determined between those two countries that they would establish a Truth and Friendship Commission. And when the Truth and Friendship Commission reported recently, both those governments, both those nations resolved to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Friendship Commission.

That is Indonesia's and East Timor's way of addressing these issues. And I've made the point to Timor Leste, East Timor, and to Indonesia, both publicly and privately, that that's of course a matter for those two nations. Anything Australia can do to assist either East Timor or

Indonesia in the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Friendship Commission, then we will happily assist if that is what either East Timor or Indonesia want.

In our own case, so far as Australia is concerned, we of course deal with these matters in our own way. And whilst these are terrible and tragic events now it's nearly 35 years on, part of Australian society, part of Australia's dealing with such matters is that we do have independent authorities, whether it's a coroner or whether it's a police force, which makes independent judgements. And that is what's been occurring in the last couple of years in respect of these matters.

And from a relationship point of view, the relationship between Australian and Indonesia, we do need to manage these matters carefully, sensibly and sensitively. And that's what we're doing.

QUESTION: Did you reassure the [indistinct], just getting those comments that have come out of East Timor, that any investigation wouldn't be a whitewash?

STEPHEN SMITH: Any decision to investigate and any investigation is entirely a matter for the Australian Federal Police. It's not something that I as a Minister would have a role in. It would be inappropriate for that to occur, for any Minister to have a role. That, indeed, would be improper.

So these are matters which the Australian Federal Police has made in the course of exercising its independent judgment. It's a matter for the Australian Federal Police, both determining whether an investigation should commence and the nature of that investigation, which is why I've said publicly, people should now take this step by step. They should wait until the Australian Federal Police makes its next judgement about these matters.

But these are not decisions that either the New South Wales Government, in the context of the New South Wales coronial report, or the Australian Government in the context of the decision by the Australian Federal Police, these are not decisions that either government makes. They are decisions independently made, objectively made, by independent authorities.

That is a strong part of Australian society, and that's how these decisions need to be viewed. And that is the way in which I have endeavoured to articulate and explain them to Indonesian officials. And that is precisely the way in which officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, both in Canberra and Jakarta, have also explained these matters.

QUESTION: Any investigation would need to be handled delicately [indistinct]?

STEPHEN SMITH: The investigation will be handled in the manner in which the AFP believes it should be handled. That's a matter for the AFP.

What I'm doing as Minister for Foreign Affairs for Australia is to explain the decision-making processes associated with the investigation and to manage that carefully within what is a first class relationship between Australia and Indonesia, but a relationship where,

necessarily from time to time, issues like this will come up.

I can remember, very clearly, the first meeting between Prime Minister Rudd and President Yudhoyono in Bali in December 2007, where part of the conversation was “we have a very

good relationship, we think we can consolidate and enhance and take that to an even stronger level, but from time to time issues like this will arise”.

It might be the question of capital punishment. It might be issues associated with the Bali Nine. It might be issues associated with the Balibo Five as a result of a coronial inquiry and report. This was one of those matters that the Prime Minister and the President spoke about as having to be sensibly and carefully and sensitively managed in the context of the relationship between our two countries.

Thanks very much.


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