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Transcript of interview with Kieran Gilbert: Sky News, 10.00 News Now: Balibo 5 investigation; Afghan elections; G20

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10 September 2009

Interview on Sky News - 10.00 News Now

Subjects: Balibo 5 Investigation, Afghan Elections, G20

KIERAN GILBERT: Foreign Minister, thanks for you time. Are you worried the opening of the investigation into the Balibo Five has the potential to cause tensions with the Indonesian Government and in the bilateral relationship?

STEPHEN SMITH: It's a matter that we need to handle carefully and sensitively. Our officials have explained to the Indonesian officials that the investigation is a matter determined by the Australia Federal Police, it's their independent decision. And it follows on from the New South Wales coronial report of November 2007.

We have a very good relationship with Indonesia but we do need to manage it carefully and sensibly, and sensitively and that's what we're doing.

KIERAN GILBERT: Has your Indonesian counterpart, or any senior officials, made direct contact with you about this case?

STEPHEN SMITH: I haven't spoken to my counterpart. I have in the last week or so, on a range of things and I speak to him regularly. I've spoken to the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia. I did that yesterday and made the points that I've made publicly.

So far as Indonesia is concerned of course, their reference point is 1975. They're surprised that it has occurred now. But I've made the point that the coronial inquiry in November of 2007, effectively asked for an investigation and the AFP have now determined they will commence that.

KIERAN GILBERT: So they're surprised. Does that mean that that would - they'd be less likely to cooperate for example if the Australia investigation does deem it necessary to extradite any Indonesians?

STEPHEN SMITH: I think we've got to take this also step by step. The Federal Police have determined to commence an investigation in the course of this week, they've advised the families. I've advised and the officials have advised the Indonesian authorities. But we do need to take it step by step.

It will be a matter for the AFP to determine where their investigation goes and what, if anything, follows from the investigation. So questions of extradition; questions of prosecution; I think we just need to take very carefully, step by step.

Why I say in a sense it's been a surprise to the Indonesians is because they regard the matter essentially as closed because we're dealing with events 35 years ago.

What has triggered this is essentially two exercises of independent judgement in Australia, firstly by the New South Wales Coroner in the Peters matter in November 2007 and now the Federal Police.

KIERAN GILBERT: On another issue, are you surprised that Afghans elections - Afghanistan's Election Commission say they've got clear evidence of fraud in that poll? And how does the Government feel about those suggestions given many of our troops were there to protect the Afghanis' right to have a say in their democracy?

STEPHEN SMITH: It's the Afghan Election Commission and the Afghan Election Complaints Commission doing its job. We are essentially following the request of the United Nation's special representative which is the process and the time table for the determination of the Afghan election is effectively 17 September. That's when we expect the Electoral

Commission and the Electoral Complaints Commission to issue its determination about the election and the results.

I'm not proposing to be drawn on our concluded view about the election until that has occurred. But of course in the meantime we are concerned about allegations of fraud but we look to the Afghan Complains Commission and the Electoral Commission to deal with these matters.

When they have finally reported we can then make a judgement about what is our conclusive or concluded view. But just as the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, have obviously expressed concern about allegations of fraud well then we, likewise, are concerned about that.

We want the relevant institutions in Afghanistan to do their jobs and that's what they're doing.

KIERAN GILBERT: Look, one last issue. The Opposition says the G20 is predominantly left wing, it is dominated by the likes of President Obama, Gordon Brown, isn't that just a statement - a fact from Joe Hockey?

STEPHEN SMITH: I see a lot of conspiracy theories but this is one of the better ones. The real importance of the G20 is the G20 reflects the modern day economy.

Australia's very strongly made the point that not just in the midst of an economic crisis, a global economic crisis, but in an enduring way, we have to have an international institution that can deal with and manage and lead the global response to economic issues. That's what

the G20's doing.

The beauty of the G20 is it's a mix of developed and developing countries, north and south, east and west.

KIERAN GILBERT: Aren't most of the governments' left? That's left-centre.

STEPHEN SMITH: As you know from Australian experience, governments come and go. The central point here, which the Liberal Party doesn’t understand is the G20 is the best and most important institution to drive the global response to difficult economic and financial

issues. That's Australia's very strong view.

Nation states, their governments will change from time to time. This is a terrific conspiracy theory by the Liberal Party but it just shows how out of touch they are with the modern world economy and how, as part of the international community, Australia needs to be playing its role as the world responds to these difficult issues.

The G20 is a much better vehicle than the G8 which was the historical institution dealing with these matters because the G8 no longer reflects the modern world, the modern day.

KIERAN GILBERT: Minister, appreciate your time.

STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you. Thanks very much.


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