Foreign Minister Bob Carr - Question Without Notice - West Papua

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

20 March 2012

Senator DI NATALE (Victoria) (14:52): Mr President, my question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr. Minister, last week you met with your counterpart from Indonesia.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order!

Senator Bob Brown: I rise on a point of order. As you know, it is impossible to hear Senator Di Natale up this end of the chamber. I am sure that the minister cannot hear the question, so he will not be able to answer.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Brown, that is a valid point of order. I had called for order. I had called, in particular, two members of the Senate to order so that Senator Di Natale can be heard.

Senator DI NATALE: I might begin again. My question is for the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr. Minister, last week you met with your counterpart from Indonesia, Marty Natalegawa, and the defence ministers of both nations. Can you inform the Senate as to whether the issue of West Papua was raised as part of those discussions? If not, when do you plan to raise the issue of West Papua with the Indonesian government?

Senator BOB CARR (New South Wales—Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:53): Mr President, it was raised. First of all it was raised by me, when I assured the Indonesian foreign minister that Australia—both sides of Australian politics—fully recognised Indonesian sovereignty over the Papuan provinces. I reminded him that that was recognised in the Lombok Treaty, signed by the Howard government with Indonesia in 2006. I underlined that I understood that all the governments of the world recognise Indonesian sovereignty. It would be a reckless Australian indeed who wanted to associate himself with a small separatist group which threatens the territorial integrity of Indonesia and that would produce a reaction among Indonesians towards this country. It would be reckless indeed.

I can say this: the Indonesian foreign minister nominated to me the responsiveness of the Indonesian government to oft-expressed Australian concerns about human rights in Papua. Before I could raise the subject, as I was fully intending to, the Indonesian foreign minister nominated that they have a clear responsibility to see that their sovereignty is upheld in respect of human rights standards. I was impressed by that. It reflects the fact that the previous Australian governments—I know it is the case with this Labor government and I assume it is the case with a coalition government—have raised these concerns with Indonesians, and it reflects the fact that Indonesians have listened.

I again would warn any member of the Senate against foolishly talking up references to separatism in respect of the Papuan provinces. That is reckless and it is not in Australia's interests.

Senator DI NATALE (Victoria) (14:55): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. It does relate to the Lombok Treaty and I need to remind the foreign minister—I understand he is new in his role—that the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties report of 6 December made a bipartisan recommendation:

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government encourage the Indonesian Government to allow greater access for the media and human rights monitors in Papua.

If this is still the government's position, what has Senator Carr done to further this aim?

Senator BOB CARR (New South Wales—Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:56): I can assure the Senate that the Australian embassy in Jakarta will continue to raise matters of human rights in respect of the Papuan provinces, and will do so in respect of the recent sentencing of five men in Papua province to three years imprisonment for subversion. Australia has a strong and consistent record of upholding the right of persons peacefully to express their political views freely. Australian officials in Jakarta will raise our concerns over these sentences. But we will do so as a friend of Indonesia, we are absolutely explicit and unabashed about asserting Indonesian sovereignty over the Papuan provinces. The Lombok Treaty—I refer again to the fact that the Lombok Treaty was signed in November 2006, coming into force in 2008—is based on such a recognition: support for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, national unity and political independence of each other. Similar language is used in the preamble.

Senator DI NATALE (Victoria) (14:57): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question, which also relates to the JSCOT report, which I remind the foreign minister is about what the Australian government, not the Indonesian government, has agreed to do. Recommendation 2 says:

… increase transparency in defence cooperation agreements to provide assurance that Australian resources do not directly or indirectly support human rights abuses in Indonesia.

Again I ask the foreign minister: what steps will you take in your role as foreign minister to ensure this recommendation is applied and that transparency of Australia's role— (Time expired)

Senator BOB CARR (New South Wales—Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:58): In those full and frank exchanges last Thursday with our Indonesian counterparts, the defence minister and I canvassed Papua and the Indonesian foreign minister referred again to the progress being made by Indonesia in shifting responsibility for law and order in the Papuan provinces from the military to the police. President Yudhoyono—a great friend of Australia's, by the way—has committed his government to raising the living standards of the people of Papua and reinvigorating special autonomy. Australia believes that this is the best path—the best means—to achieving a safe and prosperous future for the Papuan people. We will give support through our aid programs. We are the biggest aid donor to Indonesia, and a recognition of that is reflected in the Lowy Institute poll, which I recommend members of the Senate read, which says that Australia is held in high standing by the people of Indonesia. We will continue to work on these great tasks.

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