The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP



to the Australian Chamber of Commerce
Shanghai, 11 November 2002

Terrorism and Stability in the Region: The Australian Government's Perspective


Thank you Kate [Dunmore McLean, Chair China Australian Chamber of Commerce], Ambassador David Irvine, Governor of NSW, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC, Senator Tchen, Consul General, Sam Gerovich, Ladies and Gentlemen ,

It is a pleasure to be back in Shanghai.

As you know, I am here to participate in the Celebrate Australia 2002, the week long presentation of Australian culture at the prestigious International Shanghai Arts Festival.

It is the first time a foreign country has been asked to participate at the festival, and it is a fitting tribute in this 30th anniversary year of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and China.

It is also - I believe - an acknowledgement of the extent to which Australia, and Australians, have cemented a place in China and more widely in the region.

Your presence here today - as representatives of the Australian business community in Shanghai - testifies to the remarkable growth in trade and investment between our two countries, as well as to the people-to-people links that have flourished.


Ladies and gentlemen

I could focus my talk today on China and the ever increasing strength of our bilateral relationship, not just in the economic and political spheres, but also, as evidenced by Celebrate Australia 2002, in our cultural and people-to-people links.

Rather - and given the Australian character of our gathering here this morning - I thought it might be timely to give you an Australian government perspective on the recent bombings in Bali, and the threat of terrorism for Australia and the region.

I also want to talk briefly about a second threat to the strategic environment - that of the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and the problems posed by North Korea, in particular.

Finally, I want to share a couple of thoughts with you about the importance of a continued Australian presence and engagement in the region - including the Australian business community.

The Australian outlook - terrorism

Australia's security outlook and perspective has been sharpened by the bombing in Bali on the 12th of October.

At least 180 people were killed - almost half of them Australian.

We also know of more than 100 Australians injured, some very seriously, as a result of the bombing.

And, of course, we know of scores of Indonesian casualties, not to mention the enormous damage done to Bali and Indonesia more widely.

We don't know for sure yet who was responsible for the attacks in Bali.

But they bear all the hallmarks of international terrorism - with a disturbing twist in that the attacks took aim at 'soft' targets - innocent tourists - with deadly effect.

For Australia, first, the Bali bombings underscore that terrorism is in Australia's region - it is on our doorstep.

The bombings remind us, brutally, that no one is immune, and everybody is threatened.

Second, the bombings also raise fundamental questions about security in the region.

With few exceptions, such as New Zealand and Singapore, the countries of our region face real challenges in developing the capacity to confront, and defeat, terrorism.

In addition, if left unchecked, terrorism has the potential to obstruct the welcome trend towards a mature democracy in Indonesia, and to destabilise other countries in our region.

The bombings have tested the maturity and resolve of the institutions of state - the central administration, local authorities, police, intelligence services and the armed forces - in Indonesia.

I must emphasise that the Bali bombings do not represent a clash between Islamic and Western norms, cultures and civilisations.

The war against terrorism is a clash, instead, between tolerance and moderation, on the one hand, and, on the other, zealotry and extremism.

The attacks in Bali - aimed at Westerners in a predominantly Hindu enclave of a country with the world's largest Muslim population - demonstrate that only too clearly.

They were as much an attack on democratic, moderate forces in Indonesia as they are on the West.

And they remain part of an extremist campaign to establish Taliban-style regimes throughout South East Asia. - a campaign we know is heavily influenced and funded from the Middle East.


None of what has happened in recent weeks has tempered our resolve to fight terrorism.

We cannot purchase immunity by silence, or inaction, on acts of indiscriminate, yet very deliberate, violence.

We cannot simply curl up in a ball and pretend it is not there, or that it won't happen to us.

To do so would be to play into the hands of the perpetrators of these crimes.

The events of the past few weeks do not give us any reason to review our longstanding policy of engagement in our region.

Indeed, if anything, our economic, political, defence and security ties with East Asia and the South West Pacific have provided a strong base to cooperate with other countries to overcome the scourge of terrorism.

We have been working hard in our region - particularly in South East Asia - to strengthen intelligence, law enforcement, and counter-terrorism capabilities.

Australia has concluded agreements designed to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation with Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

And we are negotiating further such agreements with other key regional countries, including the Philippines.

Australia also has taken the lead in having the ASEAN Regional Forum focus on ways of promoting regional counter-terrorism cooperation.

We have co-hosted a Pacific Islands regional counter-terrorism workshop, to help small island countries develop counter-terrorism legislation.

That way they can meet the reporting requirements of the UN Counter Terrorism Committee.

We shall jointly host with Indonesia a conference to combat terrorist financing and money laundering.

And we will continue working with Indonesia to ensure that the will and resolve to identify, capture and bring to justice the perpetrators of the horrendous crime in Bali remains steadfast.


There are some who have suggested that the Bali bombings, so close to home, should be cause for re-thinking our commitments further afield.

I don't believe we can draw a convenient distinction between our actions close to home, and our contribution globally.

Our effort must remain resolute, sustained and mature in nature, and global, regional and domestic in place.

Australia has troops on the ground in Afghanistan, as part of our contribution to the international coalition forces there.

And we will continue to play our role in diplomatic, intelligence, development assistance and other activities to ensure that the war against terrorism, wherever it needs to be, can be sustained.

The civilised world has to be prepared to consider military action against terrorism where a State is protecting or sponsoring terrorism, such as in Afghanistan, or where a State requests assistance, such as in the Philippines.

At home, we have strengthened legislation to proscribe terrorist organisations and give relevant agencies the powers they need to hunt down terrorists and sever their sources of finance.

Some of you will have seen the publicity attached to ASIO and police investigations of individuals in Australia with possible links to Jemah Islamiyah, now listed by the UN as a terrorist organisation.

We make no apologies for the fact of the investigations, nor the manner in which they are being carried out - the authorities are entitled to every reasonable protection in the event of danger.

In the end our primary obligation must be a preparedness to defend our sovereignty - and the political and economic systems that express our values and freedoms.


Ladies and gentlemen

Some of you will have noted the issue of our travel advice to Australian citizens has arisen in the aftermath of the Bali bombings.

The simple fact is that we cannot predict events - deliberate or accidental - which result in the death or injury of Australians overseas.

What we can do - and we do it diligently - is to warn the Australian public on the basis of the information available to us about the risks to Australians in particular places.

Those warnings are conveyed, in unambiguous terms, in the Government's travel advices.

Sometimes that advice may result in fewer Australians travelling, or may annoy or offend the authorities of the host country.

But as the elected government of Australia, our first responsibility is to the interests of Australians, and not to the interests of others.

North Korea & Weapons of mass destruction

Ladies and gentlemen

Terrorism is an immediate threat to our security.

So too, however, is the spread of nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological weapons - and the means of delivering them.

The prospect of links between terrorists, weapons of mass destruction, and certain states we know are responsible for their proliferation, also has to be confronted.

That is why we support a tough new Security Council regime for immediate, unimpeded, unconditional and unrestricted access to suspected weapons of mass destruction sites in Iraq.

In our own region - East Asia - we are faced with the possibility of a nuclear armed North Korea.

Pyongyang's admission that it has a uranium enrichment program is renewed cause for grave concern about North Korea's intentions.

Like Iraq, North Korea has international obligations to which it has not lived up: in this case the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the 1994 US-DPRK Agreed Framework, its 1992 joint declaration with South Korea on the de-nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, and North Korea's IAEA Safeguards Agreement.

Australia has been a strong supporter of the Agreed Framework - under which the DPRK undertook to freeze its nuclear program and comply with its nuclear non-proliferation obligations.

Our support has included financial contributions to KEDO, the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation, established under the Agreed Framework to build two light water reactors in return for the freeze on the DPRK's proliferation sensitive graphite moderated reactors and related facilities.

We cannot turn a blind eye to North Korea's transgressions.

They threaten peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and the region more broadly, making more difficult the process of reconciliation so painstakingly pursued under South Korean President Kim Dae Jung's "sunshine" policy of engagement with the North.

Australia is consulting regional partners - the United States, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia - on ways North Korea can be turned away from developing nuclear weapons.

This was an important item of discussion at the annual Australia-US Ministerial Meeting in Washington on 26 October.

APEC Leader's meeting in Los Cabos, Mexico issued a strong statement calling on the DPRK to honor its commitment to give up nuclear weapons programs.

North Korea must not be rewarded for bad behaviour. Abandoning its nuclear weapons program once and for all is very much in the DPRK's interests, including its prospects for economic development and improving relations with its neighbours.

The importance of business

Ladies and gentlemen

The conditions for growth and stability - including in Australia's region - are the same the world over.

Good governance - freedom of expression and association, transparency and accountability, democracy and the rule of law - is fundamental.

Economic openness - to exchanges in trade, technology, investment and intellectual property - is essential.

And access to basic services such as healthcare and education - and through it the opportunity to work and earn a living for oneself and one's family - is requisite.

Part of the terrorist agenda is to force economies to turn borders into barriers, to erect walls behind which people live in fear, behind which businesses avoid risk and behind which economies - including those most in need of development - stagnate.

We cannot - indeed, must not - shirk our shared responsibility to openness, transparency and accountability in the Asia Pacific region - in government, in business, and in the wider community.

Because an integrated and prosperous region, trading and investing with the rest of the world, is the basis for stability and peace.

You - the Australian business community in China - have an important role to play in restoring growth and confidence in the region.


Ladies and gentlemen

For Australia, the best means of accommodating and influencing changing dynamics in the region is to play to our strengths.

We are a robust, industrialised economy, politically stable, with mature institutions and the rule of law well entrenched.

We are a tolerant, diverse, and well educated society, with much to contribute to the region in terms of our skills and interactions.

And we are thoroughly engaged - through our economic, political, military and people-to-people links - in the region.

Once again, you - the Australian business community in China - are an important part of that projection.

I believe - most strongly - that the Australian business presence overseas expresses cogently the Australian prerogative to remain engaged, and to demonstrate our strengths.

I trust that your continued presence here in Shanghai will remain testament to Australia's strength of character and resolve, in these difficult times.

Thank you.

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