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Transcript of doorstop: Brisbane: 4 March 2005. Abu Bakar Bashir; Schapelle Corby.

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4 MARCH 2005

SUBJECTS: Abu Bakar Bashir; Schapelle Corby

Rudd: The Australian Government has indicated that it approached the Indonesian Government to request the prosecutor appeal the sentence of Abu Bakar Bashir. Labor’s view is that this sentence is inadequate. Thirty months for a person who heads an organisation responsible for the mass murder of more than 200 people is simply not enough. We believe a much harsher sentence is necessary. It needs to be harsher so that a proper message is sent out people in South East Asia that if you’re going to hook up with a terrorist organisation, there are severe penalties attached.

I notice also what AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty has had to say about all of this. He’s warned Australians about the possibility of Australia being an increased terrorist target, Australians possibly being increased terrorist targets themselves in South East Asia. I’m concerned that Mick Keelty may well be right on this subject. It’s important for Australia in the period ahead to be very vigilant about the sorts of warnings which are now being put out by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Of course, on this question, Mr Keelty has indicated, not withstanding the life sentence which Abu Bakar Bashir has received, that the people who support JI in South East Asia and across Islamic South East Asia may well now take matters into their own hands. This is of concern to all of us but we must however proceed in our resolute attempt with our friends in Jakarta to try and stamp out this organisation.

Despite what’s happened with Abu Bakar Bashir as far as this trial is concerned, we in Australia continue to face a continuing threat of terrorism across South East Asia. Commissioner Keelty’s warnings to us bring into stark relief as of today that we still do not have a comprehensive terrorism strategy for dealing with organisations like JI across South East Asia. There are still large gaps in the intelligence and border control across South East Asia for dealing with terrorists. Mr Keelty is right today to warn all Australians about the possible terrorist impact of this judgement concerning Abu Bakar Bashir in Jakarta and that Australia and its government has a responsibility now to lift its effort to plug all the gaps which currently exist in the counter-terrorism effort across South East Asia. These gaps are very large indeed and they need to be filled as soon as

possible with practical action - in policing, border security and intelligence co-operation.

Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: We are deeply concerned about Islamic terrorism in the southern Philippines. We are particularly concerned about the flow of terrorists between the southern Philippines and other parts of South East Asia, including Indonesia. When I visited the region late last year and had talks with counter-terrorism

officials in Singapore, Indonesia and in Malaysia it was quite plain to me that there are massive capability gaps existing right across the region. At present, the Howard Government is increasingly focused on Iraq. The war against terrorism in South East Asia has not been won yet, JI is alive and well, and we have gaps in our counter terrorism strategy in our own region, in our own neighbourhood, our own backyard in dealing with the enemy here.

Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: What concerns me is that the Howard Government’s efforts are increasingly focused on the other side of the world, on Iraq, and not focused on the enemy here in our own region, our own neighbourhood, our own backyard. I believe the statement by Commissioner Keelty should be a warning bell again to the Howard Government to lift its game as far as counter-terrorism strategy in the region is concerned. Gaps in intelligence, gaps in policing, gaps in border security must be filled and Australia and other like-minded countries like Japan should be working with our friends in South East Asia to plug these gaps. It’s all very well to talk about Iraq all the time and the responsibilities in Iraq which need to be addressed. But here in our own region, in our own part of the world, the war against terrorism has not been won. JI is alive and well. Its other sister terrorist organisations linked with Al Qaeda are alive and well and are out there ready to do us harm. We must lift our efforts in the counter-terrorism war in our own neighbourhood.

Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: My challenge and my criticism of the Howard Government is simply about getting its priorities right. Here in our immediate neighbourhood we have a massive problem when it comes to filling these capability gaps in the counter-terrorism struggle in our own region. If you speak with law enforcement agencies across the region and the Ministers responsible for them,

they point to police service problems, they point to intelligence problems, and they point to border control problems. They point to very practical gaps, very practical problems which need to be dealt with now. I’ve been saying this for a

long time. As part of the last election, we released a detailed strategy recommending a comprehensive counter terrorism plan for South East Asia. I still do not see action from by the Howard Government on this yet. It’s time they stopped mouthing the rhetoric of it and doing practical things instead when it comes to protecting Australians in this part of the world, protecting other westerners in this part of the world as well as the local population by partnering effectively with friends and neighbours in the region.

Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: As far as Ms Corby’s case is concerned I’m in no position to make any judgement about her guilt or her innocence. That’s a matter to be determined by the court. Ms Corby’s lawyers came to see me at the end of last year. Based on those discussions I wrote to the Foreign Minister Mr Downer and to Deputy Prime Minister Mr Anderson to seek their assistance in providing whatever help was necessary to Ms Corby’s legal team to ensure that there would be a fair trial. On those matters I particularly requested the Howard Government to assist Ms Corby’s legal team on evidentiary matters which may be important to them. I emphasise and I stress that we are in no position to judge the innocence or guilt of this particular person.

Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: The Indonesian Courts represents a separate function to the Indonesian Government. This has been a decision of the Indonesian Court. For that reason it is entirely appropriate for Mr Downer to express his concern about was has happened through the courts in the judgement and sentencing which has occurred for Abu Bakar Bashir. Let’s not beat around the bush here. Abu Bakar Bashir heads an organisation filled with murderers, mass murderers. Now

the bottom line is that these mass murderers killed nearly a hundred Australians in cold blood. We therefore have every right to express our point of view about whether the Indonesian Courts have lived up to their responsibilities or not. I share Mr Downer’s views that they haven’t lived up to their responsibilities on the question of the sentence and I certainly call on Mr Downer to take a stand and make representations to the Indonesian Government on this matter. He has my full 100 per cent support if the end point is an appeal being lodged to the appropriate prosecution authorities to a higher court reviewing the sentence which has been handed down to Abu Bakar Bashir.

Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: Well I state as a matter of record that in the matter of Abu Bakar Bashir, when the court case began, the prosectors were seeking the death penalty.

I noticed after that they were seeking eight years. All I’m prepared to say is, 30 months is a bit like a walk in the sun when you are responsible for an organisation which has murdered more than 200 people.

Reporter: [Inaudible]

Rudd: That is a matter for a higher court of appeal. What I’m saying is, 30 months is a walk in the park for a person who heads an organisation full of murderers which has killed more than 200 people.

Ends. 4 March 2005