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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 73

Senator SCULLION (2:59 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Ellison. Will the minister update the Senate on the Australian government's efforts to foster regional cooperation in the fight against terrorism and transnational crime? How is this helping to keep Australians secure?

Senator ELLISON (Minister for Justice and Customs) —I thank Senator Scullion for that very important question. We have to remember that security in our region directly affects the security interests of Australia. Yesterday the foreign minister, Alexander Downer, announced that Australia would double counter-terrorism assistance to Indonesia to $20 million over five years. That is further evidence of this government's commitment to security in the region. That initiative will do a number of things. It will develop a range of counter-terrorism initiatives in three key areas: enhancing the capacity of the Indonesian national police to combat terrorism; enhancing travel security, targeting the airports in Indonesia; and combating terrorist financing, aimed at disrupting money-laundering which terrorists rely on to fund their activities. Part and parcel of that will be support from this initiative for the core functions of the new Transnational Crime Centre in Jakarta. We announced earlier funding to the tune of $4.7 million for that. This is a further commitment by Australia to security in the region to cut-off terrorism at its source and to assist our neighbour Indonesia in the fight against terrorism. It follows in a long line of initiatives.

Earlier this year I went to Indonesia and opened the new Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation with then President Megawati. We funded that centre to the tune of just over $36 million. This is a centre which will bring the region's law enforcement and counter-terrorist people together to fight terrorism in the region. This has a direct benefit to the region in which we live and also to the security interests of Australia. It is just not good enough to bolster our initiatives at home; we have to engage in the region, and this is precisely what we are doing. Of course there are other initiatives which we have put in place previously. For example, our people-smuggling conferences in Bali brought collective action in the region in relation to people-smuggling.

We announced during the election commitments to further engagement in the region, such as the establishment of two counter-terrorism regional engagement teams by the Australian Federal Police to be located in the region to have longstanding offshore deployment and the creation of two counter criminal intelligence teams with additional specialist personnel. We also announced additional funding of $11.8 million over four years to counter-terrorism capacity building projects in the region. As well as that, in my portfolio I announced the opening of Customs offices in Beijing and Jakarta. This is a suite of measures which we are employing in the region to not only engage with our neighbours in the fight against terrorism but also work with our neighbours in the region to fight transnational crime. This has a direct bearing on Australia's interests and of course relates to both security at home here and law enforcement. The announcement yesterday is a commendable one and will go a long way in the fight against terrorism in the region.

Senator Hill —Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.