BOB CARR: If there were no Schapelle Corby in a Balinese prison we'd still be releasing minors, kids on fishing boats who've been collected through people-smuggling. We'd still be releasing them.
We'd be releasing them because it is plainly indecent to have in Australian adult jails kids from Indonesia who've been picked up on fishing boats being misused for people-smuggling. That's a process that would be going on here and at no stage has the Government sat down with our Indonesian counterparts and said we'll release minors from our jails if you consider a clemency application by Ms Corby.
But if doing what we're doing for the right reasons on these minors has created a level of comfort in the Government in Indonesia then that's fine by me. That's a good thing.
But when it comes to the minors it's plainly wrong that you've got these kids collected in people-smuggling operations on boats at the wrong time, stuck in adult prisons.
And the Human Rights Commission has said that it's wrong and we think it's wrong and the Indonesians have raised it with us. But if there were no Schapelle Corby there, if there was no Schapelle Corby in a Balinese prison, we'd still be doing this, we'd be obligated to do it.
Let me say about the case in general. There's a long history of Australians making representations. I've got a list of all the times it's been raised by Australian Prime Ministers and Australian Foreign Ministers with their Indonesian counterparts.
In the week I was sworn in as Foreign Minister I raised it at what are known as the 2+2 talks with the Indonesia Foreign Minister and the Indonesian Defence Minister.
I welcome the decision by the Indonesian President. He's a great man. He's a great friend of Australia's. He's made the right decision and we welcome it.
But I just want to say this and some people will criticise it. This is a timely message to Australians, especially young Australians, that when you go overseas you're under the law of other countries. You're not operating under Australian law. And we can make representations on humanitarian grounds and we give you consular assistance, as we always do.
I just want to lodge this warning in the minds of Australians especially young Australians, that when you travel you're under the law of other countries, not your own, and bear that in mind.
If there's one young Australian who gets the message from this warning and doesn't take risks, then I'll think the warning has been worthwhile. I think that's the guts of it.
Her prison sentence was until 2022. It's now been reduced by five years to expire in 2017. When precisely in 2017 is up to officials to resolve.
The prospect of Ms Corby's legal team making representations for parole is another matter. If they choose to do that then we're likely to support it.
JOURNALIST: So that means that she could be released but would be forced to live in Bali?
BOB CARR: I'm not sure about how parole would work. That may well be the case.
JOURNALIST: Minister Carr, there were suggestions in the media and in the Indonesian media that this signals battles for the Bali Nine. What's your view on that?
BOB CARR: I've got no advice on that so I'll step back from saying anything about other cases and that's probably wise to do, all things considered.
JOURNALIST: So you're not saying there's any deal. Obviously there seems to be some goodwill?
BOB CARR: Yes, that's probably a good way of putting it. We're doing this with the minors because it's the right thing to do. It's plainly indecent to have kids who've been collected when there's been people-smuggling on fishing boats stuck in Australian adult prisons.
The Indonesians have asked us to consider their cases. We've done that. The Human Rights Commission has recommended it. We've done it and if that's created a level of goodwill in Indonesia, that has helped make this decision possible, then that's fine.
JOURNALIST: There is potential if it's helped Schapelle Corby, obviously there is potential for any other Australian who might be locked away…
BOB CARR: Yes, I'm not sure I'm helping anyone's case by speculating further.
JOURNALIST: Minister at least three Indonesian Ministers have confirmed to us that Ms Corby's clemency is linked to Indonesian minors being released from Australian prisons. Surely at least you must accept from their perspective they are linked.
BOB CARR: It could well be the case, as they see it. But as we see it we're releasing these youngsters because it's the right thing to do, the Human Rights Commission has recommended it. It's just plain indecent to have kids from fishing boats used for people-smuggling stuck in Australian adult jails.
But I was present at those talks in March. I remember them vividly. It was my first assignment as Foreign Minister and on the agenda I raised her case.
The Indonesian Minister, somewhere on the agenda, raised the case of these minors and we said yes, we're looking at how you make it work, how you get proof of age. That is the test. We want to make it work, if we can get evidence of the age of the youngsters and that's how we give effect to it.
But, look, if what we've done for altogether separate reasons, strong enough on their own, has created a level of comfort with the Indonesian Government then that is fine.
JOURNALIST: So just to be clear, Schapelle Corby's and the case of the fishermen were discussed at the meeting in March?
BOB CARR: Yes, but on a long agenda. There would have been dozen items on the agenda. But that would have been - at every meeting of this type for years going back I'm sure with the Howard Government, Australian Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers have been raising the Schapelle Corby case.
And in recent meetings, along with the other concerns they raise like one of the staples with these meetings, is the threat warning we issue about Indonesia. Indonesians expressed their concern about that. But at recent meetings they've been raising this question of the treatment of minors. Not unreasonable that they do but part of an agenda that would have typically - I'm guessing - a dozen items on it.
JOURNALIST: Are you uncomfortable with the idea that they are very publicly saying that there is [inaudible]?
BOB CARR: No, not at all. Not at all. We're making this decision, we've made the decision about three minors because it is simply the right thing to do and plainly indecent to have kids from fishing boats that have been used for people-smuggling stuck in our prisons, our adult prisons. And if that creates a level of warmth in Jakarta, a level of comfort that enables them to make this decision, that's fine. But at no stage was there a notion with the Australian Government that we will trade that for this.
JOURNALIST: So what was said about the Schapelle case and what was said about the fishermen's case at the meeting in March didn't have any connection between those two…
BOB CARR: No, no. I was at the meetings and there's no notion that we will trade this for that.
JOURNALIST: So can you explain how the Indonesians are under that impression?
BOB CARR: I think the treatment of the minors is important to them. They've made representations about it. They've seen an Australian Government that has made representations over the years now about Schapelle Corby, I think probably going back to Howard Government days. But I've got a record here of the number of occasions it was raised by Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister and then as Foreign Minister.
And they see the issues as linked and the decision giving them a level of comfort, but I've just got to say to you again, and it's the full answer here, we would be making the decision on minors with or without a Schapelle Corby in prison in Bali. It's just unsustainable for an Australian Government, advised by its Human Rights Commission, its own Human Rights Commission to release these people, being asked by a friendly Government, the Government of Indonesia to release these minors. And looking at it with our values in mind we couldn't keep minors in Australian adult prisons, we just couldn't do it.
JOURNALIST: Will you be releasing all the future minors?
BOB CARR: The Attorney-General has spelt out the position here and that is as strong evidence of their age is presented, yes, as the evidence comes in of their age.
JOURNALIST: Whether a deal had been done or not, so you say, but common sense has prevailed. Cooperation between the two countries seems to be probably at a pretty strong level at the moment.
BOB CARR: That is actually the case - the relationship with Indonesia has never been better. In President Yudhoyono we've got a strong friend of Australia who listens to our concerns. He's seen us respond to their representations about minors in Australian jails. We've done it because it's the decent thing by our values. And if that's created a level of comfort that has enabled them to look at the Schapelle Corby case afresh then that's fine by me.
JOURNALIST: And you've obviously made it and you've previously said before that we don't believe in the death penalty so it may - we don't know, we can speculate the possibility that it might assist the two chaps on death row.
BOB CARR: I'll leave that for the families of those prisoners to reflect on and their legal teams to reflect on, but there is a level of goodwill here and it's not a bad thing.
JOURNALIST: And besides the talks in March, how recently have you spoken to your Indonesian counterpart about…
BOB CARR: That was the last time, when the Indonesian Foreign Minister was here. It was on our agenda. The agenda, as I said, would have had something like a dozen items, defence and foreign policy cooperation.
Mr Rudd had raised it with President Yudhoyono in March 2011, December 2010. It's been raised Foreign Minister to Foreign Minister. It's been raised on, as I said, March 15 in Canberra. It's humanitarian - it's a humanitarian case.
BOB CARR: Well, the Indonesians were familiar with the case and we touched on it. They recall the details. We said it's being pressed on humanitarian grounds.
JOURNALIST: With the children, when was that lodged, was that March 15?
BOB CARR: It definitely came up then and our response was as evidence of age is presented we will respond. We agreed with them, with the principle that it was just untenable to have minors who've been on fishing boats used for people-smuggling held in adult prisons in Australia.
It was a reasonable request from the Indonesians. It was recommended by the Human Rights Commission. It was plainly contrary to our values to have kids in jails.
JOURNALIST: And when was the release signed off by the Attorney-General?
BOB CARR: We'll get it for you.
JOURNALIST: Being the Foreign Minister, is it possible for you to speak to your Indonesian counterpart and ask them about where does Schapelle sit now? Are you in a position to try and clear the air in terms of her position?
BOB CARR: I think the next step is for her legal team - I'm advised that the next step is for her legal team to work out what can be done about a bid for parole and if that goes in, we'd be likely to support it on humanitarian grounds, given her health problems.
JOURNALIST: Would Australia push for her to have parole in Australia?
BOB CARR: I won't go into those details. Let's see what her legal team ask for and we can look at coming in behind it.
JOURNALIST: Was this air of goodwill you refer to aided by Australia's decision to downgrade the threat level of Indonesia?
BOB CARR: We downgrade or upgrade the threat level based on hard objective evidence coming in. We don't do it as a result of diplomatic representations.
JOURNALIST: Did it help in that case?
BOB CARR: The Indonesians welcomed it. That's all I'd say. But let me rid from your mind any notion that we would up or down that threat level, something on which Australian lives could depend, to seek an outcome on something else.
I, as Minister, have no input on that threat level. It's determined by Australian security and by Australian diplomats based on objective data.
So when Indonesians have asked us in the past to moderate that threat level we've said it's an objective process based on what we hear about terrorist trends. We follow it closely. We would see the threat level as being more pronounced in some parts of Indonesia than it is in others.
JOURNALIST: Isn't there a risk that the release of minors could encourage people-smugglers operating out of Indonesia?
BOB CARR: Not remotely. Not remotely. I think they'd be just about irrelevant to the whole process. I mean, someone running a people-smuggling operation to make obscene sums of money is not going to be deterred by what happens with a kid who happens to be collected on the fishing boat deployed for these purposes.
Thanks. Thanks, everyone.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555