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Doorstop interview: National Convention Centre, Canberra: Thursday, 9 October 2003: laser guided weapons, regional security, Indonesian minister's visit.



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Senator the Hon. Robert Hill, Minister for Defence Leader of the Government in the Senate

Transcript

09 Oct 2003 MIN910/03

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW

National Convention Centre, Canberra

10:00am, Thursday, 9 October 2003

E&oe_____laser guided weapons, regional security, Indonesian minister’s visit

Journalist

(Inaudible) supplying JDAMs. What role will they play in Australia’s defence?

Senator Robert Hill

Well we - as you know we have a project to further develop our precision guided munitions and JDAMs would obviously be an option but that’s not a decision that’s yet been taken by government. If we got them they would compliment the laser guided weapons and they are effective in the circumstances where you’re unable to target through a laser.

Journalist

When you were speaking inside in your speech about the coalition that the US put together, the anti-terrorism, coalition which demonstrated the resolve to end terrorism, you mentioned Afghanistan but you didn’t mention Iraq. Is Iraq part of that mission?

Senator Hill

Well I talked about the US coalition that was put together to fight the war against terror after the attacks on the United States by al-Qaeda. It wasn’t Iraq that attacked the United States.

Journalist

When do you expect training with Kopassus to begin and what guarantees will be put in place to ensure that the skills that they learn may not in some way be turned on their own people in the future?

Senator Hill

Well you can’t provide guarantees. What we’ve said is that we have a responsibility to protect Australians and Kopassus is the principal counter-terrorism capability of Indonesia and therefore in terms of the security of Australians we should work with it. That presents certain difficulties in light of the history of Kopassus and we have - we’ve put restraints on ourselves in terms of individuals that we’re able to deal with. We’re still working through those issues so exercises haven’t yet started.

Journalist

Will those difficulties become even more complex in an undemocratic country such as Vietnam?

Senator Hill

Working with - it’s a different set of issues. Whether it’s Vietnam, whether it’s China, we both have interests in protecting our people from terrorism. Practically it’s important that we therefore work together on this issue.

Journalist

Can you tell us a bit more about how far you’ve gone in the prospect of counter terrorism cooperation with Vietnam?

Senator Robert Hill

We haven’t gone beyond the point of dialogue at the moment. There’s been discussions between the forces and we’re still exploring how this might work in practice.

Journalist

What parameters are you exploring? Training, combined operations?

Senator Hill

We have in mind, we have in mind training. It’s - we think that would be a start and if it can be achieved I think it is a good thing in terms of the security of Australians but we haven’t got to that point yet.

Journalist

With the retirement of Dr Mahatir coming up soon, do you expect greater cooperation with Malaysia on these issues?

Senator Hill

We’ve had good cooperation with Malaysia on these issues and I expect that cooperation to continue. So whatever differences we may have had with Mr Mahatir and he with us, it hasn’t affected the relationship between our defence forces.

Journalist

What’s significance of Bambang Yudhoyono’s presence here and will he be doing anything government to government while he’s here?

Senator Hill

We’re obviously meeting with him during the course of the day to discuss issues of mutual interest and particularly our joint response to the terrorism threat. It’s good that he’s been able to come down. He’s under a great deal of time pressure and yet he flew down last night to participate in this conference. I think it’s a good sign and a credit to him that he’s prepared to do that in the current circumstances.

Journalist

Can you tell us a bit more about specifically what sorts of issues you’re looking to move ahead in this conversation with him?

Senator Hill

Well we are reviewing the effectiveness of our joint efforts in combating terrorism. I think, as I said inside, Indonesia’s response to the Bali bombing has been impressive. We appreciate the way they’ve tackled the problem and their willingness to cooperate with our police force. Their willingness to accept that we can add value to their capabilities. We think that that contributes to a safer Australia. And we want to build on that basis through our discussions today.

ENDS

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