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Thursday, 26 September 2002
Page: 5001

Senator ROBERT RAY (2:35 PM) —I direct my question to Senator Ellison, the Minister for Justice and Customs. Why was the protocol between the Australian Federal Police and the Indonesian National Police dealing with the disruption of people-smuggling set aside by the Indonesians in September last year? What reasons did the Indonesian government give for pulling out of this agreement and what was it about the disruption activity which so concerned the ministry of foreign affairs, the DEPLU, that the entire MOU was put on ice for many months? What changes did the Indonesians require to the disruption program before they finally agreed to reinstate the cooperation framework in June this year?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —The Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Mr Keelty, answered this question at Senate estimates and it was discussed at great length. He was asked questions in relation to foreign affairs. You are talking about the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police. All he can speak for is law enforcement.

I can tell you that an MOU was signed between the chief of the Indonesian police and the AFP in Western Australia earlier this year, and I attended that. From a law enforcement point of view, I was not aware of any problems between Indonesian law enforcement and Australian law enforcement. If Senator Ray is talking about foreign affairs and some difficulties with foreign affairs he should ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I would remind Senator Ray that the period he is talking about partly involved the caretaker government mode. I specifically was at arms-length from any dealings with the Indonesian government at that stage because of the caretaker mode.

I can tell you that once the government was re-elected, we continued close cooperation with Indonesia, so much so that a few months later we had a people-smuggling and transnational crime conference jointly hosted by the Indonesian government and the Australians. After that we had an MOU signed in Australia between the Indonesian police and the Australian Federal Police. We have always enjoyed close cooperation with the Indonesian police and this has been evidenced by the success that we have had in relation to a number of operations. In relation to law enforcement, we have enjoyed close cooperation with the Indonesians. If there is some foreign affairs aspect to the question, Senator Ray should address that to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Senator ROBERT RAY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. What I am asking about is relations between the Indonesian police and the Australian Federal Police, which I would have thought came within the minister's portfolio. Notwithstanding that you were in caretaker mode in September, did it ever occur to you from then until June that there must be a problem if the MOU had been suspended? I am not asking about the police commissioner. I am asking you, as minister, what you did to find out what the problem was and how to rectify it.

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —Over the last 12 months or more, we have not had a boat land on the mainland of Australia. That has been because of our strategies, which have largely involved cooperation with the Indonesian police. I have to tell you right now that I do not have any trouble with that. It has advanced the interests of this country. The Indonesian police have cooperated with this country, and as minister I have ensured that. I do not know what else Senator Ray thinks I should do, but everything we have done is in the interests of this country and it has succeeded.