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Australia and Indonesia to cooperate in monitoring boat people bound for Australia

ELLEN FANNING: Australia and Indonesia are to work more closely together to monitor boat people sailing to Australia. The agreement has been reached during talks in Jakarta between Immigration Minister Gerry Hand and senior Indonesian officials, including the Foreign Minister and the commander of the armed forces.

Earlier today, Gerry Hand spoke to the ABC's Ian McIntosh, in the Indonesian capital.

IAN McINTOSH: What specific agreements have you reached with the Indonesian Government?

GERRY HAND: Well, in terms of the Foreign Minister and other senior Ministers and officials, we will now put in place a mechanism between our people here, at the Embassy, and their government and military people to set up procedures for this exchange of information. We will then sit down and look at what we both think about what's likely to occur in the future, and make judgments there, and this has now enthusiastically been embraced here by the Foreign Minister, and following his discussions with other relevant people. Now, that will involve, you know, the military in terms of their responsibilities for the movement of people through the region, and from the administration point of view, other ministries, such as the Justice Ministry, et cetera. So, you know, I think it's been a very valuable exercise in both our interests to develop these closer links.

IAN McINTOSH: You've spoken to General Try and other senior military people. What commitments have they given you?

GERRY HAND: Well, one of absolute co- operation, and there was no hesitation. I met with them after the Foreign Minister, and the enthusiasm for this is shared right across government here. They will be liaising with our people in the Embassy and developing, as I said, a system of exchange of information - no hesitation; one of an expression of absolute co- operation, and, again, it's encouraging to build on the visit by the Prime Minister, which they all referred to, and saw as being very, very successful in terms of our relationships between the two countries. And this is just another expression of us working much more closely together with the Indonesian Government and the Indonesian people which, from our point of view and theirs, is tremendous for both our interests.

IAN McINTOSH: There have been problems in the past with monitoring these boats as they pass through Indonesian waters. What assurances, what commitments have you got from Jakarta, particularly from the military people, about the improvement in that monitoring?

GERRY HAND: Well, the first thing I think we ought to recognise is it's an extraordinarily difficult exercise and, I mean, there is a lot of islands, there is a lot of water and resources- wise a lot of these boats are very small, they're wooden, and as you pointed out to me pre the interview, that there are thousands and thousands of boats out on the water every day. But I think that putting that aside, the determination and depth and strength of the commitment that they are going to make an effort and liaise with us and, I think, shows that perhaps obstacles that appear to be there in the past, will be overcome.

IAN McINTOSH: Will the stepped up surveillance activities involve the use of Australian long- range orion aircraft - that kind of capability in monitoring movements through Indonesian waters?

GERRY HAND: Well, no, I'm not prepared at this point to go into that sort of detail. I mean, these are matters which people have to sit down and work out, and how it suits both of us is a matter for those discussions, but the point about it is to get the commitment, and that was not a problem. The commitment that we both have - common areas of interests - both in the short term and the long term, and that's very encouraging from both our point of view, given our closeness geographically. And as I said, it builds on Paul Keating's visit here; it further brings us together; and the benefits to both nations are considerable by that further strengthening of our ties.

ELLEN FANNING: Gerry Hand on tour in Indonesia.