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Indonesia: Australian Ambassador denies any evidence of official or unofficial bans on Australian companies dealing with Indonesian agencies, in particular, the BPPT

JOHN HIGHFIELD: Despite the seriousness of those allegations raised by the Solarex Director, Les Poole with Sharon O'Neill, Australia's Ambassador to Indonesia, Allan Taylor, is denying that any problem exists. He simply says there's no evidence of any unofficial bans on Australian companies and there's no official attempt to see if there's a black list of Australian companies.

Ambassador Taylor has been speaking to ABC's South-East Asia correspondent, Catherine McGrath.

ALLAN TAYLOR: Well, of course we are aware of the articles that Australia has been black-listed by an agency of the Indonesian Government, the BPPT. I have to say, though, that the Embassy has looked into these claims and that, as far as we know, the facts are that we've got no evidence that the BPPT has black-listed contact with Australia or has been unwilling to talk to Australians.

For example, we had ... a senior officer from the Embassy had a useful meeting with the BPPT senior people last week to discuss forthcoming visits to Australia by BPPT staff and senior representatives of the BPPT also met last week with members of a delegation of businessmen and government people from Australia.

CATHERINE McGRATH: Well, can I ask you specifically: Has that government department been asked about the allegations of a ban? Have they been asked that direct question?

ALLAN TAYLOR: Well, the question is that we have no evidence that there is a ban.

CATHERINE McGRATH: But, I mean, has the question been put to them from that department, you know, the question being: Is there a ban, an unofficial ban, on Australia?

ALLAN TAYLOR: You're talking about an unofficial ban. What I am saying is that the Embassy has no evidence that such a ban exists.

CATHERINE McGRATH: Have you spoken to Australian business people here about it, have you followed up in any way getting response from Australian business people just to see whether there is any truth to that claim?

ALLAN TAYLOR: Well, we're aware of the stories, as I mentioned to you earlier, from the private companies that this ban exists. Companies that we've spoken to have not supported that.

CATHERINE McGRATH: Well, can I put to you the claims raised by the Solar-Ex company? They have said that their people here have had trouble getting access to officials in Indonesia, that they've been told that there's no point doing business with Australians. Can you respond to that?

ALLAN TAYLOR: Well, I can say quite strongly that the BPPT has shown, in the last week, that it is prepared to do business with Australia. It has been working with a senior official from our Embassy, for example. It has met with Australian Government and business people regarding visits to Australia, so that's the situation as we see it.

CATHERINE McGRATH: Well, can I ask you: Given that the allegation has been raised -you're saying that it is a false allegation - if it does prove to be true, what protection is there for Australian companies if it did prove to be true? I mean, can you guarantee Australian companies that their access now is as good as it ever was?

ALLAN TAYLOR: That's a hypothetical question. What I am saying to you is that we've got no evidence that such a ban exists. The relationship between Australia and Indonesia is moving along very well. The Minister is now here for multi-lateral meetings, the ASEAN meetings. The Prime Minister will be coming in a few weeks. Our programs in areas of cultural activities, in defence and in trade and investment are moving ahead.

CATHERINE McGRATH: Well, just to clarify one point. Can Australian business people feel confident doing business here that there is no problem - you said there's no evidence of any problem - but can they go further and say to themselves: Well, we know it's as good now as it was prior to the cancellation of the DIFF program?

ALLAN TAYLOR: Yes, I would say that is the case.

JOHN HIGHFIELD: Australia's Ambassador to Indonesia, Allan Taylor, speaking to ABC correspondent, Catherine McGrath, in Jakarta this afternoon.