MINISTER BISHOP: I flew into Jakarta this morning, overnight from Brisbane, and had a very full day of meetings. I was honoured to meet with President Widodo this morning with my counterpart Foreign Minister Retno Masudi. We had a very broad ranging discussion and built on the very strong foundation that Prime Minister Turnbull and the President established when they met here twelve months ago, and of course they have met subsequently, including in Vientiane recently.
We discussed a whole range of issues, focussing on our counter-terrorism cooperation, our security, law enforcement and intelligence cooperation. We also discussed our willingness to conclude a comprehensive economic partnership agreement as soon as possible, because there is more we can do on the economic front, deeper engagement in investment, and two-way trade. We also spoke of the success of the New Colombo Plan, the Australian Government’s initiative to send Australian students to live, study and undertake work experience in our region. And by the middle of next year, 3,000 Australian students would have lived, studied and undertaken work experience in Indonesia under the New Colombo Plan, making it one of the most popular destinations for Australian undergraduates.
I have also met with Ministers Luhut, Wiranto and Susi, and discussed their particular portfolio issues and concerns in some detail. We had very positive and productive discussions. I am looking forward to the 2+2 meeting with the Foreign and Defence Minister counterparts on Friday. In the meantime I will be going to Bali this evening, to represent Australia at the Indian Ocean Rim Association meeting, which is being hosted by Indonesia. We will focus on maritime issues, particularly the blue economy, security and other matters of interest to the nations of the Indian Ocean. Any questions?
JOURNALIST: You talked a lot about having detailed discussions about both of the countries concerns about foreign fighters coming back from Iraq and Syria. Are you hoping by the end of these three days you might have a tangible initiative, some sort of joint monitoring between Australia and Indonesia, or some actual tangible way that the two countries can work together to meet this challenge?
MINISTER BISHOP: We already have tangible ways of engaging. Our defence, our security, our intelligence, and our law enforcement agencies are constantly meeting, reviewing the current situation. Our representatives come to Jakarta, Indonesian representatives come to Australia. So there is already very deep engagement but we are looking at the scenario as it unfolds in terms of the Mosul offensive and the likelihood of foreign terrorist fighters returning home in far greater numbers, on the assumption that the offensive to take Mosul is successful. It’s in its ninth day and we expect to see more foreign terrorist fighters seeking to leave Iraq and return home. Therefore these are very timely discussions about how we will work together to monitor their movements, but this is of course part of an international, global effort.
JOURNALIST: And what sort of timeline are we prepared for? You raised in Canberra last week that it’s because of Mosul that there is now a new reason to talk with Indonesia about this but are we prepared if they started coming home from next week or what sort of timeline do you see these people returning?
MINISTER BISHOP: We have been deeply engaged with Indonesia on counter‑terrorism matters since the Bali bombings, a decade or more ago. We have been working very closely with Indonesia since some terrorist attacks occurred here earlier this year. So these are ongoing discussions, reviews, a deep engagement, because we face this common threat of returning foreign terrorist fighters, so of course we have been working closely together. I am not going to comment on operational matters but we have been working closely together over years now but the Mosul offensive will see the risk of returning foreign terrorist fighters heightened.
JOURNALIST: What do you think of Indonesia’s “soft” approach to the returnees that the Security Minister mentioned, and also in addition to that, the fact that Indonesia still doesn’t have stronger counter-terrorism laws that have passed its parliament. Does it need to get a move on with those laws.
MINISTER BISHOP: The Minister was talking about their approach of seeking to rehabilitate those who have become disenchanted with the poisonous, violent ideology of terrorist organisations like ISIL and we are working on rehabilitation, particularly with convicted terrorists who are serving sentences in prison. These are matters that various ministers from Australia have been working closely with various ministers from Indonesia for some time. We are also talking with Indonesia about the laws and regulations which we have passed in Australia to counter terrorism and sharing our experience with Indonesia.
JOURNALIST: Minister, could I ask about the South China Sea? In any of the meetings today, was there any concern raised by the Indonesians about incursions that have occurred inside Indonesia’s waters over the last six to nine months, and if I could get your thoughts on some of the militarisation efforts by the Indonesians, strengthening their resources in those areas and commitments to move weaponry to those regions. Do you think that sort of behaviour is threatening to further tensions in the region?
MINISTER BISHOP: The issue of the South China Sea has been raised in every meeting that I have held today with the President, with the three ministers and we have discussed it at length because it is a regional challenge and it has been discussed in the ASEAN forums, in the East Asia Summit and most certainly during many meetings with the United Nations for the General Assembly Leaders Week. So we discussed the South China Sea, the developments with the Philippines. Australia and Indonesia are very aligned in terms of our approach to the disputes over land and islands and other structures in the South China Sea. We are not claimant states over the South China Sea, we do not take sides. We urge all claimants to resolve their differences peacefully and call for a de-escalation of tensions and call for all negotiations to be conducted peacefully in accordance with international law, and we call for the rules-based order to be supported so that there can be peace and stability in the South China Sea. That’s a view that Australia expresses, that’s a view that Indonesia expresses. Indonesia and China have had differences over the Natuna Islands, and the EEZ of Indonesia but they resolved those differences with China, and that’s in accordance with the approach that Australia takes. Differences should be negotiated peacefully.
JOURNALIST: Ms Bishop, earlier today you made the comparison with people returning home from Afghanistan and you said that they had been involved in committing crimes once they got home. Do you think we are better prepared now than we were then and what sort of things have we done to be more prepared for the foreign fighters returning.
MINISTER BISHOP:Clearly we learn from experience and we have had the experience with those returning from Afghanistan who sought to carry out terrorist attacks and activities. A number were apprehended and convicted and some are still serving in jail. So we had that experience. But since those days the Australian Government has invested significantly, particularly over the last two years, in more resources, more legislative powers for our security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Since ISIL declared the so-called caliphate in Iraq over two years ago, the Australian Government has invested significant resources in our security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to deal with issues, including the return of foreign terrorist fighters and we have changed our laws quite extensively to enable us to do so.
JOURNALIST: Minister, do you have concerns about the Australia-Indonesia cattle business, now that Indonesia opened India as a source of their meat.
MINISTER BISHOP: Australia is the largest supplier of live cattle to Indonesia and I discussed the issue of our trade with the President as it’s extremely important to both countries and we will continue to export cattle to Indonesia. It’s a great source of export opportunity for us. Our industry delegation has been in Indonesia discussing with a counterpart delegation about the new laws and regulations that Indonesia has introduced but I am confident that the trade between our two countries will continue.
JOURNALIST: Minister, when Michael Keenan visited in August, Indonesia Minister Yasonna Laoly said to him that since Australia made the decision not to allow asylum seekers to be registered with UNHCR in Indonesia after July 2014 to enter Australia, that there had been a build-up of asylum seekers in Indonesia and he requested assistance from Australia to help buy more detention centres in Indonesia. Is this something that Minister Keenan thought back to and something that additional assistance that Australia is considering giving?
MINISTER BISHOP: This is not a matter that has been raised with me today or at any previous time by Indonesia.
JOURNALIST: Minister Bishop, can you clarify a bit more on how many Australian officials are involved in sharing information or capacity building with Indonesia specifically in relation to the returning fighters from Syria or could you provide any information on how much money Australia is spending in its efforts to support this program?
MINISTER BISHOP: Australia has been engaged with Indonesia for many years on counter-terrorism programs countering violent extremism. We are engaged through our various agencies, including intelligence agencies, security, law enforcement, defence and of course foreign affairs and our embassy here. So it’s a very broad approach on the side of Indonesia and on the side of Australia. So many agencies are engaged. The Australian Federal Police, dealing with the Indonesian Police, our intelligence agencies dealing with counterpart agencies, and our respective defence forces are deeply engaged. It’s a very broad approach.
JOURNALIST: Thousands? Hundreds?
MINISTER BISHOP: Well you can work out how many people there are involved in our intelligence agencies, and defence and security.
JOURNALIST: I wouldn’t know where to start.
MINISTER BISHOP: Well I’m not going to go into the detail but it’s a deep level of engagement because we see this as an issue of national security, as does Indonesia. The return of foreign terrorist fighters and dealing with them and managing them is a matter of national security, so we will invest whatever is necessary to keep Australians safe.
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