Media Doorstop - Nusa Dua, Bali

Subjects: Bali Democracy Forum, bilateral cooperation, espionage allegations, people smuggling, Schapelle Corby, Papua provinces.

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

8 November 2013

JULIE BISHOP: Good morning. As you are aware, I have just met with his Excellency, Dr Marty Natalegawa to discuss a range of issues involving the deep cooperation and engagement between Indonesia and Australia.

I believe that this is the seventh time that I have held a one-on-one meeting with Minister Natalegawa since I became Foreign Minister eight weeks ago- we have met in New York on the sidelines of the UN Security Council Meeting and we have met in Jakarta, in Bali, in Seoul, in Perth and again here at the Bali Democracy Forum - and we discussed a range of issues, part of the forward agenda on matters where we cooperate closely in trade, investment and business matters more generally, on education and science, the environment, and in particular we discussed an update of Australia’s New Colombo Plan. And I am delighted that Indonesia has agreed to be one of the first four locations where Australia will trial the program to send Australian undergraduates to study at universities in the region. And I look forward to Australian students being in Indonesia next year as part of the New Colombo Plan. We also discussed issues such as student visas, and work visas. We spoke about the Australia-Indonesia Dialogue and how we can enhance its work and also specifically, we discussed a number of trilateral arrangements we have, most notably with Timor Leste, Australia and India, and India, Australia and Indonesia.

I have been honoured to have taken part in the Bali Democracy Forum and shortly I will be taking part in an interactive panel discussion. I believe this has been a most fruitful and productive visit to Indonesia once again and I look forward to returning in the near future.

Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Minister, Indonesia has demanded a response on espionage and a guarantee that there won’t be any more into the future. Did you give that to Pak Marty at all? So, was there any discussion around that today? And if so, what were the details of that discussion?

JULIE BISHOP: I am not going to go into the details of the discussion I had with Minister Natalegawa. The issue was raised. I took on board the concerns that have been raised and I took them very seriously, but I am not going to go into the details of the discussion because Australian governments do not discuss intelligence matters and that’s been a long standing practice of successive governments.

I did assure Minister Natalegawa that the Abbott Government would not want to do anything to harm what is a strong and vibrant relationship. We believe that the Australia-Indonesia relationship is one of our highest foreign policy priorities and we will continue to work hard in cooperation and consultation with Indonesia to ensure that both our countries benefit from our mutual engagement. It’s a relationship based on mutual respect and the Abbott Government will continue to work very hard to ensure that remains the case.

JOURNALIST: He also suggested reviewing cooperation with Australia, was that raised at all?

JULIE BISHOP: Not in the context in which you put it. We discussed cooperation generally. As I said earlier there are about 20 agencies and departments on the Australian side, and I am sure a similar number on the Indonesian side, that are working closely together on programs, on exchanges and policy forums in about 50 or 60 different areas. And so we discussed the range and the diversity of the engagement between Australia and Indonesia. It is a very positive story. We have a very very positive relationship and the Abbott Government will work very hard to continue to ensure that that remains the case.

JOURNALIST: So if you’ve given him an assurance that you’re don’t want to harm the relationship does that mean that there’ll be no spying by Australia in Indonesia going forward?

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government does not, as a matter of principle does not, comment on intelligence matters.

JOURNALIST: Foreign Minister, there was an incident involving an asylum seeker vessel which began in the early hours of yesterday morning. Up until a short time ago it remained unresolved with Indonesia suggesting they may reject those asylum seekers and insist on them going to Australia. Can you update us on that, and what’s your reaction to the Indonesians saying they may reject these asylum seekers?

JULIE BISHOP: I understand that Minister Scott Morrison has given a press conference today with an update on this matter. I am aware of it, but it is an operational matter. It’s currently under discussion and it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment at all while discussions with Indonesia are underway and while operations are underway.

JOURNALIST: Did you discuss that issue with Minister Natalegawa?

JULIE BISHOP: We discussed people smuggling generally. We discussed the Bali Process, the level of cooperation between Indonesia and Australia and the progress that’s being made.

JOURNALIST: Did you discuss that boat issue though, that’s happening as we speak?

JULIE BISHOP: This is an operational matter and I’m not going into the details of operational matters. There are people involved here and we don’t want to interrupt the process and the operation that’s underway, so I’m not going to comment about that…

JOURNALIST: I wasn’t asking for details, I was asking for a yes or no. Did you discuss the issue with Dr Natalegawa?

JULIE BISHOP: We discussed people smuggling.

JOURNALIST: So in the context of that did the Minister raise or give you any insight into the general principles Indonesia is now applying in the case of rescues at sea by Australian vessels in their contiguous waters?

JULIE BISHOP: The Minister and I didn’t go into that detail. This is a matter that’s being discussed between Mr Morrison and his Indonesian counterpart. We talked generally about the level of cooperation, building on the discussions that President Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Abbott had in Jakarta on the Prime Minister’s first visit and the conversations that I’ve had with Minister Natalegawa over the past eight weeks, so we spoke more generally about it. But on operational matters, we both leave to our respective Ministers.

JOURNALIST: And do you think the incident that’s occurring right now off Java will damage or could damage the relationship between the two countries?

JULIE BISHOP: This currently underway? There are discussions underway and I’ve just had discussions with Minister Natalegawa about the whole range of issues involving the Australian and Indonesian governments. It’s a very positive and productive relationship and we’ll continue to work hard to ensure that it remains that way. We spoke of the many matters where Australia and Indonesia are relying upon each other for positive outcomes and that will continue to be the case.

JOURNALIST: Ms Bishop, on a different matter, Schapelle Corby’s parole is up for review at the moment- did you discuss that at all with Dr Natalegawa or is there any further movement on that?

JULIE BISHOP: These are matters that I believe are best handled outside the media. I don’t think it’s in the interests of any of the people affected to have a running commentary through the media, but these are matters where Australia and Indonesia are working very closely and cooperatively to get positive outcomes.

JOURNALIST: How is your Australian foreign policy in relation to the Free West Papua movement?

JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government respects Indonesia’s territorial sovereignty in all matters and as Prime Minister Abbott said when he visited Jakarta and met with President Yudhoyono, we respect Indonesian territorial sovereignty when it comes to the Papuan territories.

Thank you.

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