JOURNALIST Can you please tell us a bit about your meeting with Retno Marsudi, obviously the Indonesians have said that they want Australia to take more refugees, is that something that Australia is willing to consider? And how many does Indonesia want Australia to take?
JULIE BISHOP In fact my meeting with Retno Marsudi the Foreign Minister of Indonesia was very productive. This is my seventh visit to Indonesia as Foreign Minister and the Foreign Minister of Indonesia and I have met on many occasions. It was a very positive meeting; we discussed our trade and investment opportunities, our economic ties, the education engagement as well as defence and security issues and our joint fight against terrorism.
In relation to the Bali Process meeting that will occur on Wednesday, it is my understanding that Indonesia will be asking all countries to do more to resolve what is a regional problem and not isolating Australia or just pointing to Australia. In fact that is a general call to all countries who are a part of the Bali Process to do more. In Australia’s case, we already take 13,750 people each year under humanitarian and refugee visas. We have added an additional 12,000 people from the Syrian conflict. We provide around $90 million over two years to Indonesia to help support those who are here, asylum seekers here in Indonesia and we have also taken since 2010, 2000 people deemed to be refugees in Indonesia, their claims have been processed in Indonesia. So Australia is sharing the burden, and we’ll be looking to other countries in our region to do similarly.
JOURNALIST Minister, that said, if the Bali Process is going to hear this plea from the Indonesians for others to take more, are we prepared to do more, if others step in?
JULIE BISHOP We are already taken those that have been deemed to be refugees and are in Indonesia, as I said, since 2010 we have taken 2,000 and in addition there are 12,000 Syrian refugees as well as the 13,750 that we’re taking each year. Plus the funding that we do provide to Indonesia to help with asylum seekers here in Indonesia. If other countries are prepared to do what Australia is doing, then it might begin to make a difference.
JOURNALIST So at this point you don’t think Australia needs to do more?
JULIE BISHOP Australia is already sharing the burden and the call from Indonesia as I understand is for all countries to do more.
JOURNALISR Do we want Indonesia themselves to start allowing people full rights as refugees in Indonesia rather than having them in this limbo?
JULIE BISHOP Well these are matters that will be discussed in the course of the Bali Process. I’m looking forward to co-chairing the Bali process with Retno Marsudi and we have a very full agenda and I’m hoping there will be some positive outcomes with all countries in the region, the source, transition and destination countries playing their part.
JOURNALIST Can I ask about counter-terrorism, did you discuss that, and do you still have the same concerns you had before about the prisoners being released in Indonesia and the threat they could pose to Indonesia and Australia?
JULIE BISHOP We discussed this in general terms but I will be having these discussions in more detail with Minister for Political and Security Issues, Minister Luhut, and I am also meeting with Vice President Kalla this afternoon so these are matters that I will discuss in more detail with the Vice President and the Minister.
JOURNALIST Do you think that the Indonesia has been doing enough since the terrorist attack in January to counter the threat? I mean is there anything more Australia can do to help Indonesia on this front?
JULIE BISHOP We are continuing to work with Indonesia, they have responded to the recent attacks in January. We are working very closely with Indonesia on counter-terrorism, on intelligence sharing and with our law enforcement agencies. So there is a very close level of cooperation and we will continue to discuss ways we can counter terrorism and counter violent extremism and work with those who have been serving sentences for terrorism related offences and are likely to be released. So it’s an issue that not only Australia and Indonesia are dealing with but also Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.
JOURNALIST Could you give us any insight in what sort of intelligence and assistance we are giving to Indonesia?
JULIE BISHOP Our agencies are working very closely together, there are exchanges at the highest level, we exchange information, we have officials visiting here and their officials visiting Australia. There was a meeting of the Attorney-General and Justice Minister last December here in Indonesia where these issues were discussed on how we can better cooperate and ensure we are doing all we can to keep people safe, both here in Indonesia and in Australia
JOURNALIST Just in terms of the Bali Process, is there anything Australia would like to see come out of the meeting?
JULIE BISHOP Australia will be launching a strategy relating to human trafficking and slavery and working with governments and the private sector to counter this terrible trade in human beings, human trafficking and slavery. So that’s an outcome we’ll certainly be looking for.
JOURNALIST When you say you’re launching a strategy, can you give us a bit more information on what that might include?
JULIE BISHOP Yes, we’ll do that on Wednesday when the strategy is being launched. Obviously other countries are being consulted with so it would be respectful of me to ensure they were aware of the details of the strategy.
JOURNALIST Domestically, does Malcolm Turnbull have a better chance of winning an early election is that why he wants to go sooner?
JULIE BISHOP What we’re focussing is on is ensuring the Senate does the job that it was elected to do, and that is to support the Government in passing the economic reforms that are so essential for this country. We are transitioning from an economy built on the back of the boost in construction the mining and resources sector to a broader based much more diverse economy. The construction industry is absolutely essential to that and with the senate blocking the essential economic reforms to both the construction industry and the union sector more generally, then we must bring the senate back to give them the opportunity to pass this legislation. It is fundamental to our economic reforms.
JOURNALIST Isn’t the gamble here, actually that the crossbench doesn’t support this and that Malcolm Turnbull can go to a July 2nd election because if it does become a game of blink and they do blink, you don’t have your double D triggers.
JULIE BISHOP Well if they blink as you put it, if the Senate does its job and passes the legislation then that will be a significant win for Australia. We will then have in place some very important legislation that will underpin the proper operation of the construction industry, it will stamp out the lawlessness that is going on in an important section of our economy and it will be good for jobs, good for growth, good for our international competitiveness.
JOURNALIST Why give the Prime Minister what he really wants? Get rid of the cross-benchers?
JULIE BISHOP What we are seeking to do is have the Senate do its job. We saw last week the games that the Senate gets up to, how about they focus on passing the legislation that is so essential to underpinning our economic growth.
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