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Tuesday, 3 June 2003
Page: 15751

Mr NEVILLE (2:56 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Would the minister advise the House how Australia and Indonesia are continuing their antiterrorism cooperation? Are there any new developments in this area?

The SPEAKER —I warn the member for Watson!

Mr DOWNER (Minister for Foreign Affairs) —First of all, I thank the honourable member for his question. I know he has a lot of interest in the efforts we are making with our regional neighbours to address the problem of terrorism. It is a profoundly important and serious issue for all of us, and no doubt Australians will forever remember the Bali bombings and the consequences of that for so many people.

A great deal of progress has been made in working with our regional partners to address the issue of terrorism, certainly with Indonesia but also with a range of other countries. I know the House will be interested to hear that under the auspices of the ASEAN Regional Forum, which is the Asia-Pacific's regional security forum, Australia and Singapore are co-hosting a workshop on managing the consequences of a major terrorist attack. This workshop is to take place in Darwin and is under way this week. The workshop will be chaired by Nick Warner who, as many honourable members will know, was formerly the High Commissioner in Papua New Guinea and is now Australia's very able Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism.

The workshop is looking for really practical ways to build regional capability in managing the consequences of a terrorist attack. I do not think we should overestimate for a minute the capacity throughout the region to be able to deal with the consequences of a terrorist attack. What this workshop is doing is looking at realistic situations and problems, including urban search and rescue, dealing with structural collapse and forensic aspects of the criminal investigation following a major terrorist attack—drawing in particular here, of course, on the joint experience of Australia and Indonesia in investigating the Bali atrocity.

This is the first time that the countries of the Asia-Pacific collectively have met to discuss a capability to respond to a chemical, biological or radiological attack. I am particularly pleased that this should happen in Australia, that the meeting should be chaired by the Australian Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism, and that we should share the running of this meeting with our friends in Singapore. It is a very interesting and very typical illustration of the enormous cooperation that there is now between Australia and our regional partners on counter-terrorism. By the way, I am delighted that the Vice Governor of Bali is attending the workshop. He is going to speak about how that tourist destination, so loved by many Australians and so marred by the tragedy of 12 October last year, is starting to recover following that terrible attack.