Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of Joint Australia Indonesia press conference: 18 March 2005

Download PDFDownload PDF


18 March 2005


Minister for Foreign Affairs

Joint Australia Indonesia Press Conference

MINISTER ALEXANDER DOWNER: Okay. Ladies and Gentlemen I think we might just get the press conference underway. So, if the - right, well let me just begin by saying how pleased I have been today to co-chair with Minister Bakrie, the Indonesian Co-ordinating Minister for Economic Affairs - this 7th Australia-Indonesia Ministerial Forum.

This is a very important component of our engagement with Indonesia, and is evidenced by these significant number of Ministers who have been involved. It's been given a very high profile as an event by both governments.

Today's meeting and last night's dinner with the Prime Minister at the Lodge, and the meeting yesterday afternoon of the Joint Commission of the Australia and Indonesia Program for Reconstruction and Development, are very important steps forward in our relationship.

And in two weeks time we have President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visiting Australia, and I know from our discussions over the last 24 hours there'll be significant further progress made during his visit here.

Obviously we attach great importance to our relationship with Indonesia, and that's demonstrated in addition to what I've already said by the fact that we're announcing $2 million in additional funding for anti-money laundering and combating terrorist financing as part of our recently expanded counter-terrorism assistance package, and a commitment to provide further assistance for Indonesia's anti-corruption court, and for the partnership of governance reform, which is going to complement our recently announced five-year $22 million program of legal assistance.

So, I just want to end up by saying that during the course of the discussions we've looked at almost all aspects of our bilateral relationship. We've talked about respective economies; we've talked about the bilateral economic relationship; we've talked about our security and political relations; the counter-terrorism cooperation; cooperation in combating people smuggling; we've talked about broader issues, and

we've talked about the legal relationship of course, which is a significant component of it when our two countries are neighbours.

And we have appreciated very much the warmth of the meetings and the friendship shown to us by our Indonesian counterparts.


ABURIZAL BAKRIE: Thank you Mr Downer. I also would like to tell all the press that the Indonesian delegations were happy and share Mr Downer's view that Indonesia and Australia are moving very closer and closer, and in that, in this meeting - the Ministerial forum - we have already discussed a lot of areas.

Wide range of cooperation has been discussed and collaborations, and we also thank Australia for what the Australian Government Air Force has been doing in Aceh for the relief of the tsunami problems in Aceh, and then also the offer of $1 billion for the reconstruction and development of Indonesia.

We have been discussing economic issues, in which we discuss giving information, exchange about each of our positions, and review what our positions are in each country.

And also, we discuss also the future relationship, economic relationship between those countries - with two countries.

So, we were happy to say that there is a lot of room to move forward under the economic relationship. We discuss also in the political issue, political and security issues; we discuss on the illegal immigrants; we discuss people smuggling; we discuss money laundering, and discuss of anti-terrorism cooperations, and discover [inaudible] national crime.

So, and we discuss also that how to forge relationship further in each of the sectors that we would like to cooperate with.

The Indonesian delegation also mention the importance of Australia to Indonesia. I would like to just end up on this, and say that to the, we are, the [inaudible] is preparing very closely on the visit of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to Australia in the next two weeks. Thank you.

DOWNER: Thank very much. Are there any questions?

QUESTION: Mr Downer, last week you floated the idea of closer security ties, perhaps even a security treaty with Indonesia. Has that fallen off the agenda or is that something that came up today?

DOWNER: No, that hasn't fallen off the agenda. We had some discussions about that, both Hassan Wirajuda and I yesterday evening, and we had some this afternoon, and we had some further discussions about it this morning, and we are now engaging in discussions between our two foreign ministries on what we could incorporate in some kind of framework security agreement.

I mean what we have both said to each other from the outset is we don't want a kind of security or a defence pact like the ANZUS Alliance and, because remember that Indonesia is a founder, well you could the founder member of the non-aligned movement, and doesn't, in the main, enter into those kinds of pacts.

But what we're looking at is some kind of a framework agreement that would bring together different aspects of our, what in English we would call our security relationship, so looking at bringing together areas of cooperation such as counter terrorism, dealing with people smuggling, cooperation between the two, between our respective police forces, cooperation between our defence forces, and taking into account some of those issues of some sensitivity - for example, making it clear to each other we both respect each other's territorial integrity.

And Indonesians will be reinforced in their confidence in Australia, knowing that Australia supports Indonesia's territorial integrity, and by that I mean we do not support secessionist movements in Indonesia.

This is a sort of basis of the discussions we're having at the moment, and we'll have some further discussions over the next couple of weeks, in the lead up to President Yudhoyono's visit, and no doubt some discussions beyond that.

But as far as I'm concerned, I think it's a very positive idea, if we can get the formulation right for some sort of framework agreement on security cooperation, and we obviously have to deal with the political sensitivities involved, so it's not something that can be done simply and quickly.

QUESTION: Can I ask Dr Wirajuda to give his views on the best way to progress closer security ties with Australia, is it via this sort of an arrangement or should we be looking at broader ties with the region or both at the same time?

DR HASSAN WIRAJUDA: Well, as Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has just said, that some of the areas we are contemplating are actually areas that we have been successfully develop our collaborative efforts. Mentioned example on counter terrorism, on money laundering, on [inaudible] dialogues, but not simply [inaudible].

But, as part of the larger problems of how we deal with the [inaudible] of terrorism, we have, in the past years, had [inaudible] dialogues of [inaudible], armed forces officers, but also very excellent cooperation between our police forces.

That's more or less the areas we have been actively promoting, and of course we are open to develop these areas of cooperation further.

The significance of these bilateral security cooperations would not only, to Indonesia and to Australia, in fact gain on a number of projects that we have been co-sponsoring. These cooperations works also better for other countries in the regions.

So I would say that the kind of arrangement would work well with the collective efforts in our regions to have peace and stability, in particular in Asia Pacific regions.

QUESTION: [Inaudible] at this stage, how long do you think it will take to finalise, when would you be ready to sign something? Obviously from that Minister Downer says, it won't be when President Yudhoyono's here. How far away would you think an, a final settlement of this matter might be?

DOWNER: Well I don't know that we'd want to set ourselves a deadline. That's the trouble with a question like, except you're entirely right, we won't finish this work in the next two weeks.

But, I think if we, you know, keep working at it we can, we can probably put something together in months - not years - put it to you that way. I don't think we should be - what do you think Hassan - we shouldn't be more specific than that.

WIRAJUDA: I think the two leaders - President Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Howard could endorse the idea and then perhaps the two foreign ministers on the draft agreements. That would be good enough. I mean, a good achievement, next two weeks.

QUESTION: Mr Wirajuda, could I ask you what [inaudible] Indonesia is taking, from the previous security agreement between Indonesia and Australia, which Indonesia advocated in 1999? And you also referred, I think when this issue first came up, to the

Bali Treaty, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. Is that still relevant in this discussion?

WIRAJUDA: Well the 1995 security treaty between Indonesia and Australia was, I would say, very limited in its contents, you know.

What we are contemplating with this new agreement is much broader areas of cooperation. It would cover traditional and non-traditional security issues. As I said that some of them have been areas that have been working very closely in the past years.

Of course as Foreign Minister Downer said, and I would agree with it, that in these kind of agreements we also may put questions of principles, matters of principles on respect to the territorial integrity and political unity of either party, but also a question of principle on how to solve our problems, differences between our two countries - there must be peaceful solutions of any differences.

But those are not at all new. Those principles are there in the United Nations charter. Those principles are also there in the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation. So, it's more or less universally recognised principles and, but it's good too for Indonesia and Australia to put this principle on our bilateral agreement. So, it would strengthen confidence building, as my colleague Minister Alexander Downer just said.

So, of course, since we haven't yet entered into negotiations or drafting, it would be open wide for us to enrich whatever draft we'll have in the future.

DOWNER: Those principles sound fine.

QUESTION: Have you [inaudible] if the Indonesian Government is correct, to take out travel warning? How do you expand the trade and investment to Indonesia if you [indistinct]

DOWNER: We obviously, you know, we have a greater partnership with Indonesia. We don't want to do anything that would harm Indonesia, but with our travel warnings, as we've always explained, they're not designed to do any harm to anybody.

On the contrary, the objective of the travel advisories is just to draw the attention of Australian travellers wherever they may be, and we have travel advisories for - I'm looking for somebody who will correct me here - but about 120 or 130 - 150 is it, 150 different countries, Indonesia being one of those. So there aren't many countries for which we don't have travel advisories.

But the travel advisories are designed to warn people of possible risks and problems that may arise. When we change our travel advisories, we always endeavour to consult the Indonesian authorities so they know what we're doing, and we - I don't know - we need to make sure anyway that we operate on, if you like, as best we can - a "no surprises" basis, could I put it that way, so that the foreign ministry and the security forces know we're about to change our travel advisories.

Sometimes we change them during a very, in a very short period of time, and by that I'm talking of a couple of hours.

So, you know, the best we might be able to do is get in touch with somebody in DEPLU or somebody in the police, and we may not have got in touch with anyone else, and then some people say, well they haven't been contacted, but we contacted somebody else, and so on.

So we, I mention all of that because we need to make sure we cover off on those issues a bit more neatly. And, but in the end, as you can well imagine, if we do, we're one of a number of countries, but not many countries that has a travel advisory system.

I think it is good to have a travel advisory system. It helps to provide additional protection for our travellers - for our citizens as they're travelling. But if you're going to have a travel advisory system, it can't be in the slightest misleading. Which means that if you have information about, for example, a possible terrorist attack at a particular place at a particular time, and you keep that a secret, and your citizens are in that place, and they're killed as a result of a terrorist attack, that would be the - an ultimate act of irresponsibility, not to have told or to have warned people when you had information that there might be an attack in that place. So I spent a bit of time on this, but it's not an easy thing. Travel advisories. And we get - well, Indonesia is far from alone. Countries quite often complain to me about our travel advisories.

But at the end of the day we either have a travel advisory system which is honest and upfront, or we don't have one at all. And we make the judgement that it's really best to have - have one that's honest and up front.

QUESTION: Mr Downer...

ATTORNEY-GENERAL PHILIP RUDDOCK: Could I just reinforce that by saying that Mr Downer's Department gets robust, independent advice from competent agencies, and it would be quite inappropriate for that advice not to be acted upon. And the warning that he has given as to what would be the consequences of failure is very real.

QUESTION: Mr Downer, Indonesia [inaudible]. What would be your message to Australians who are sort of thinking of going to Bali, or [inaudible] but also to help the local economy?

DOWNER: Well, I would just say to them read the travel advisories. They are advisories. The Government - I mean, you know this as well as I do - we run a liberal, democratic state here. The public can make up their own minds what they want to do, and of course they do.

And people often travel against the advice of the travel advisories. But my - people often ask me that question, and I can only say to - including, you know, my friends. Ring me up and say should I go to Bali, or should I go to Phuket, or, you know, Bikina Fasa or wherever it may be they want to go.

And I say look, I can give you no better advice than read the travel advisory and make up your own mind on the basis of the information that's in that travel advisory.

QUESTION: Mr Downer, could I ask does Indonesia plan to accept the Paris Club offer of a debt freeze?

DOWNER: Could you just repeat that question?

QUESTION: Does Indonesia plan to accept...

ABIRIZAL BAKRIE: Yes, Indonesia will accept that. We expect that no other condition will be put there, such as the inclusion of the IMF programme again.

QUESTION: Mr Downer, is there any [inaudible] for Indonesians, work visas for some form of [inaudible].

DOWNER: Well, I think [inaudible] freeing up the visa system [inaudible].

ABIRIZAL BAKRIE: Yeah, we - we - the ministers have regularly discussed about this. There are - we agreed that we would like to see it further.

DOWNER: We just made the point that - I think I'm right in saying - 95% of all visa applications - visitor visa applications - are accepted. Ninety-seven per cent of business and student visa applications are accepted, and we are as rapid as possible in processing the visas. Most visas are processed during - in a very short period of time.

And so as Senator Vanstone explained to the meeting so keen is the Department of Immigration on processing visas that the day after the bombing of the Australian embassy in September last year DIMIA's office having been shattered, they set up

across the road in a Starbucks café - I should have just said in a coffee shop, I'm sorry about the advertising there. It was inadvertent.

In a Starbucks café, and processed the visas in the café. So we - we do our - but as you know, we apply the visa system universally to visitors from all countries.

ABURIZAL BAKRIE: Yeah, and that - at the coffee shop, I also mention that if you have a visa on the [inaudible] you do not have to go to the coffee shop.

RUDDOCK: I mean, Amanda was very - very forthcoming and very genuine in relation to these matters. She made it clear that we're seeing very significant movements between Indonesia and Australia, and that's a good thing. It's increasingly more compliant. And that she would keep under review arrangements to facilitate travel where it would occur within the principles of compliant movement.

The difficulty about - and I just say this in the context of the issues that I'm responsible for, one of the particular advantages that Australia has through not using one of the European and American models of visa waiver - that is visaing people at airports - is that our aspirations in order to deal with lawful movement of people, and to know who they are, and before they come, is that the process is initiated before people get on an aeroplane.

And people don't come with the prospect of being turned around because they are of concern. And the changes that we would be seeking would be within a model whereby we at least know before people get on an aeroplane who they are and what they're seeking when they're going to come here.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Any further questions?

QUESTION: [inaudible] Just something connected with the appointment of Robert Portman. Are you happy with that appointment by the Bush Administration? What do you think it might mean for world trade talks?

MARK VAILE: We were made aware overnight, Shane, of the appointment - or the nomination - of Congressman Portman to the position of United States trade representative.

Firstly we welcome that, because it has been some weeks now since former USTR Zoellick moved over to the State Department. It fills a very important void that had been there during those weeks, at a critical stage, particularly with regard to the negotiations in the Doha round.

Congressman Portman's record of votes on trade issues in - in the Congress is very positive. He was a keen supporter of the Australia-United States free trade agreement. He supported every trade bill, I think, that has been through the Congress.

And he also was - took a - shall we say a very sensible view to the last farm bill that went through the Congress, in terms of trying to achieve some reform as far as the farm bill was concerned, and so we view this nomination as being very positive.

I certainly look forward to catching up with Congressman Portman after his confirmation by the Senate. Indications are that that confirmation by the Senate should be a fairly rapid and smooth process, and so - but all in all in terms of the year we're confronted with, particularly with the Doha round of negotiations, we're very pleased about this announcement.

QUESTION: [inaudible] the specifics of what the Aceh plan - reconstruction plan - is likely to contain?


QUESTION: When the plan for the rebuilding of Aceh is released in the next week or so, what are the specifics in it, and what - what are the main areas of it?

DR SRI MULYANI INDRAWATI: Well, the plan is actually a [inaudible] first the principle of rebuilding and reconstruct Aceh. It will focus not only on a physical reconstruction, but also to restore the livelihood and the society of Aceh.

It will cover the principle of restructuring in which it will be people-based. It will preserve the national identity. Religious especially, because Aceh is specifically adopting Islamic law, and their national identity and their need to be integrated with the global system.

The detail of the plan will cover the needs assessment and also identify projects and programmes, up to the [inaudible] which is the district level.

It will be very heavy on three major areas - on the physical plan that is infrastructure development - health and education. But it also includes the process of putting the people - consultation as the core process of decision making in deciding especially related to the housing and residential - rebuilding the residential area.

QUESTION: There's been - I notice some reports in the Australian press this week of apparent concerns being expressed by Indonesia about a hospital that Australia's offered to build there - that it might have problems unless there was some ongoing training for local people. Was that discussed in these talks, and was any resolution reached about that?

DR SRI MULYANI INDRAWATI: Well, in any policy initiative, or co-operation initiative by both countries, we in Indonesia are in the position of co-ordinating a [inaudible] interest. We notice that on health - or especially on a hospital rebuilding, it is not only the building itself, but the staffing is also very important. So the programme will cover not only rebuilding the hospital itself, but also training for the paramedic and the medical doctors.

It also includes the services to the poor people, because the health services for the poor people is the most important for Aceh. Bearing in mind 40% of the people is still poor there. So we want to also include the rebuilding the [inaudible] is the [inaudible] health service.

DOWNER: This was discussed yesterday and part of our programme to help with the rehabilitation of the hospital in Banda Aceh is also to train people. Because some of the staff were killed.


DOWNER: And - so new people have to be trained.

QUESTION: Mr Downer, just one other issue. Ross Lightfoot said...

DOWNER: Alright.

QUESTION: Left - left the message...

DOWNER: I was wondering how long it would be before someone asked a question about Ross Lightfoot.

QUESTION: … left a message on your mobile phone...

DOWNER: Indeed.

QUESTION: From Iraq. Did he mention Woodside or his gun-toting adventures to you?

DOWNER: Actually I didn't access the message until I got back to Australia, which says something about these systems - that when you travel overseas and people leave a voice message on your mobile, you can't access it.

So I didn't get the message until I got back to Australia. But the message was a very brief message. I can remember it, though.

It was about him being in the Kurdish areas of Iraq as - observing the elections, and just to talk - he rang just to say he wanted to tell me how well the elections were going.

He must have rung on the actual polling day, I think. But since he couldn't get to me he rang my office and just gave one of the DLOs in my office a run-down on how well the election was going wherever he was in the northern part of Iraq, but there was no discussion about ...

QUESTION: So he didn't mention [inaudible]

DOWNER: ...Woodside or - no. No, I missed out on all that.

QUESTION: Mr Downer, any update on the Australian Rafiq in Iraq?

DOWNER: No, I don't have any more information on him. He's still being detained. He's apparently - according to the reports that I've had - been well treated. We have no reports of him being maltreated, and he's been retained consistent with Security Council resolution, I think it's 1546.

Can I just finish up then by once more thanking our friends from Indonesia, and it's been wonderful to have all of you with us for 24 hours. We're going to have a business session now.

I just want to say on one - one other issue - a non-Indonesian issue - that we have been delighted to learn today that Harold Keke and two others have been found guilty of murder by the High Court in The Solomon Islands, and sentenced to life imprisonment.

This just shows that the RAMSI intervention is helping to re-establish law and order in its full and meaningful way. That people who are criminals are being brought to justice, that the court system is working, and the court system is working effectively. And no one in the Solomon Islands any longer is above the law.

Thanks very much.

Inquiries: (02) 6277 7500