Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms

E&OE

12 November 2008

Joint Press Conference with Dr Hassan Wirajuda - Foreign Minister of Indonesia

MINISTER SMITH: Well firstly, thank you very much for attending.

Can I start by again warmly welcoming Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirajuda, to Australia; together with his delegation of Ministers and officials. And can I say how pleased we have been to host the ninth Australia-Indonesia Ministerial Forum.

For Minister Wirajuda and I, this is I think our fourth formal meeting. We've had a formal bilateral meeting in Bali at the margins of the Bali Climate Change Conference; a formal bilateral meeting in Perth, where we brought into force the Lombok-Perth Treaty; a formal bilateral meeting in Jakarta when I visited Jakarta earlier this year; and now today with the Ministerial Forum.

The Forum that we've had today has been very productive and very successful. A communiqué has been issued together with a separate Joint Ministerial Statement on people smuggling and people trafficking.

The Australian Government very strongly believes that the relationship between Australia and Indonesia is at an all time high. We believe that relations between Australia and Indonesia have never been better, and with the holding of the Ministerial Forum in Canberra this week, brings to a tally of 29 ministerial visits between our two countries since the Government came to office - some 17 ministerial visits to Indonesia, and some 12 Indonesian ministerial visits to Australia, including two visits to Indonesia by our Prime Minister.

Critical to the relationship, the modern day relationship between Australia and Indonesia is the Lombok Treaty, which Minister Wirajuda and I brought into force in Perth earlier this year. That sets the framework for the relationship. And under the Lombok Treaty we have a plan of action which traverses the array of aspects of the relationship, bilateral, regional, global, and strategic, and without limiting our conversation, without limiting the breadth of what we spoke about in the course of effectively three hours today.

I think it's true to say that we focused on the very good security and counter-terrorism and police enforcement cooperation between Australia and Indonesia. We focused on the very good work done so far as people smuggling or people trafficking is concerned. We spoke about the very close cooperation between Australia and Indonesia on climate change matters; the partnership development that we have between Australia and Indonesia. Indonesia of course is Australia's largest partnership development partner.

We also spent a considerable period of time discussing the global financial crisis, the adverse consequences of that for Australia and Indonesia and our region, but also the opportunities that we have between our two nations; negotiations ongoing for an Australia-Indonesia Free Trade Agreement, the ASEAN Australia New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, the prospect of further trade opportunities arising and emerging in our region.

Importantly, we also spoke about the very strong commitment that we have to people to eople contacts between our two countries.

We're very proud that one of the things we do in our Development Assistance Partnership is have a program, a basic education in program we're in the course of building 2000 schools in Indonesia. And on my last visit to Indonesia we marked the building of the one thousandth school in that basic education program. Through education the people to people contacts between our two nations are consolidated and enhanced.

We also reflected on the very fine work that the Indonesia-Australia Institute does which is celebrating its 20th anniversary recently. And also the work that we do, the Interfaith Dialogue that we do and support, both between our two countries and regionally.

We also spoke of the importance of the Bali Democracy Forum, which the Prime Minister is hoping to attend in the course of December. And I underlined the point that historically of course Australia has been very supportive of Indonesia when it comes to Indonesia's democracy and its elections.

The next round of Indonesian elections is in April and July of next year, both Parliamentary and Presidential. And I indicated to the Foreign Minister that Australia will provide assistance through our Australian Electoral Commission of some $6 million to help with the running and the execution of that election, of those election campaigns. Importantly, the contribution that Australia has made to previous election campaigns, or previous elections in Indonesia has been a greater amount, and this reflects the growing capacity of the state institutions and the national institutions and the electoral institutions in Indonesia to deal with elections.

In Australia, we of course have over the years become very used to running elections for 21 million people. It's a much more difficult exercise to run elections over 17,000 islands for 230 million people. So we're very pleased to announce that $6 million contribution to assist in the running of the parliamentary and presidential elections next year.

So Hassan, I say the meeting has been very productive and very fruitful. We've enjoyed again the company of you and your Ministers. There's been up to a dozen Ministers sitting around the Ministerial Forum table that reflects the productive nature of the relationship between our two countries, and again, I reflect upon the fact that this, the relationship is at a all time high, and has never been better. And I think that's reflected by the substantive work that our officials and Ministers have done in the course of the last two days.

I'd like to ask Foreign Minister Wirajuda to make some opening remarks, and then we'll answer your questions as best we can. If I can just indicate, both Mr Wirajuda and I have to be at Question Time, so, at some stage just before Question Time we'll draw to a close.Thank you very much.

MINISTER WIRAJUDA: Thank you very much Stephen. Honourable Stephen Smith, excellencies, and dear members of the press, and my colleagues. Minister Smith has covered much off the grounds, and I agreed with the many points that you have mentioned.

You mentioned about the plethora of meetings, [inaudible] to the highest level, at the Ministerial as well as Parliamentary levels, in addition to of course business and between peoples in general.

Last night I had the honour, together with my Indonesian colleagues, to attend dinner that the Prime Minister generously hosted for us. I mentioned at the dinner that to me, personally, the last seven days has been an Australia-Indonesia week.

In Indonesia, I hosted the visit of the Speaker of the Australian House of Representatives and a number of senior parliamentary members. I participated at the celebrations of the twentieth anniversary of the Australia-Indonesia Institute, which I recognise has been playing an important role in promoting people to people contact.

We have just concluded the ninth meeting of the Australia-Indonesia Ministerial Forum successfully. And I believe the cordial atmosphere and the spirit of mutual accommodations have contributed much to the success of our meetings. We have covered quite a wide range of issues, namely on the political security cooperation. Minister Smith mentions that since early February this year, the Lombok Treaty, and I'm to also name it the Lombok-Perth Treaty in response to the suggestions of my colleague.

This Treaty has entered into force since February. It covers 10 areas of cooperation on security matters and this certainly strengthened the very foundations of our bilateral relations following the agreements on comprehensive partnerships that President Yudhoyono and then Prime Minister Howard signed during an official visit of President Yudhoyono to Australia in April 2005.

In addition to political security issues, we also, of course, covered the areas of cooperation in the economy, trade, investments and also in the areas of socio-cultural issues including people to people contact. In addition to purely bilateral issues of cooperation, we also discussed the developments in our regions, the ASEAN Regional Forum in Asia.

But, likewise, many globally important issues, such as the multiple crises that the world is now facing - Namely on energy crisis, food crisis, global climate change problems, as well as a current global financial crisis. I underlined at the meeting how resilient Australia and Indonesia in facing these global crises and we both have been playing an important role. You name it. On climate change, the Australian new Government's decision to adopt and ratify in particular the Kyoto Protocol has contributed a lot to the success of the Bali Conference on Climate Change.

But more than that, we have taken new initiative, joint initiative, on carbon forest initiatives that our leaders, President Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, jointly submitted at the Hokkaido G8 Plus 8 Summit last July. But also our cooperation in particular, on food crisis. I should share with you that Indonesia and Australia could play a very important role in addressing the issue of food crisis, since we are both an important producer of food.

Indonesia in the past 16 years, for the first time produced enough rice for ourselves and, in fact, we enjoyed a little surplus. And with the expected rise of about five per-cent this year, we would export rice next year. Likewise, of course, Australia has been an important producer of food products and we are both part of the solutions of the global food crisis.

On climate change, I've mentioned the various initiatives and leadership that we have shown on local and global financial crisis. We had a productive discussion on how Indonesia and Australia, as we are both - would be participating at the next G-20 Summit this week in Washington DC, and how we appreciate that here, to deal with global problems or financial crisis, at both developed and emerging economies within the Group of 20 can work together and be part of the solutions.

I will not go into details on the many areas that we have agreed in our bilateral consultations. But I should mention, as well, that on Lombok Treaty we have adopted a plan of actions which would guide us. Guide Australia and Indonesia in the process of implementations of the Lombok Treaty. We also discuss and agreed on many points concerning illegal fishing and trans-national organised crimes. We agreed on the need to renew the Bali process in dealing with the questions of illegal immigrants and trafficking in persons.

I should, in particular, mention how pleased we are that Australia joined us and strongly supported Indonesia in launching the Bali Democracy Forum, which will be held on the 9th and 10th of December. And I know President Yudhoyono is very much looking forward to welcoming the participations of the Prime Minister of Australia, and for the Prime Minister also to co-chair with President Yudhoyono. This is an important and, in fact, strategic initiative, because for the first time it will put the questions of democracy, promotion of democracy, on the agenda of our regional discourse in Asia.

For Indonesia, certainly in the past 10 years during the era of reform, or ‘reformasi’ as we call it, we have been quite successful in transforming ourselves from a totalitarian rule to a full-fledged democracy. Some others label us as the third largest democracy. But to us, to ourselves, having successful elections is one, but we realise the need to consolidate our gains and to make the rules of democracy [inaudible]. And it is in this regard we underline the important support of Australia.

And within this Bali Democracy Forums process, in fact, we wish that countries like Australia and many of our democracy partners to work with us to promote democracy, human rights, and good governance in the Asian region. So this is the strategic and valuable assistance that Australia has offered to work with us in that context.

Again, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to you Minister Smith and to the Australian Government and people of Australia for the generous hospitality that you have accorded to my delegation and myself. We will bring home a good memory of our successful bilateral consultations, namely the Ninth Australia-Indonesia Ministerial Forum which I'm sure would continue to strengthen the excellent relations I've been enjoying. Thank you very much.

MINISTER SMITH: Thanks very much Hassan. And we're now happy for a brief period of time to respond to your questions. We have representatives of both the Australian and Indonesian media so I'll try and go one for one.

QUESTION: Minister, a question for both gentlemen. What representations, Minister Smith, will the Australian Government be making or is it making with respect to seeking clemency for those members of the Bali nine who have been sentenced to death?

And Minister Wirajuda, Australia is supporting a moratorium on the death penalty. What action if any is Indonesia considering in relation to that?

MINISTER SMITH: I'll go first. On a number of occasions both the Prime Minister and I have indicated respectively to the President and to the Foreign Minister, that if and when all legal and appeal processes have been concluded so far as the remaining members of the Bali-Nine are concerned, and if one or more of those continue to be subject to a death penalty, then once all legal procedures and appeal procedures have exhausted themselves then the Australian Government will make a plea of clemency on their behalf. I've indicated this in the past to the Foreign Minister on a number of occasions at previous meetings, and that remains the Australian Government's position.

So far as Australia's attitude to capital punishment is concerned, as you know in the last couple of years, 2006, 2007 and again this year, Australia will support resolutions before the United Nations for a moratorium on capital punishment. In 2006 Australia supported a resolution put forward by Finland, and 2007 and again this year Australia will co-sponsor such as resolution. And that continues to be our position.

MINISTER WIRAJUDA: It's not only that Australia and Indonesia are divided on the issue of capital punishment. The fact is that the whole world is divided into a group of countries who have abolished death penalty and those who still retain death penalty. So on that matter my advice would be that let's continue our discussions at bilateral and global level on how we deal with it and don't bilateral the problem as only the problems between Indonesia and Australia.

The fact is that in Indonesia, capital punishment is part of our [inaudible] legal system, like in many other countries who support the death penalty. On the moratorium I would say that in the course of 63 years of Indonesian statehood, I think in total of those who were executed would be much less than the number of people that the United States executed in one year. I would like to say also that the question of death penalty has been widely discussed, even now as we are an open and democratic society. I will share with you that, for example, Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights has been favouring or championing in fact the abolition of death penalty.

So on the moratorium as well as on the principal questions of capital punishment, this has been discussed almost every year since early '90s and Indonesia would actively participate at the UN forums, both at the UN General Assembly as well as the UN Human Rights Council. So this is the nature of the problems we are both facing.

On the question of clemency, of course we haven't gotten there yet since the cases of Bali-Nine has not been fully addressed through our legal system, and as all legal remedies have not been fully exhausted.

MINISTER SMITH: One over here?

QUESTION: [Inaudible]

MINISTER SMITH: I might go first. Firstly, I think the Prime Minister has indicated to the President that there is a standing invitation for him to visit Australia whenever he is able to, and we of course would welcome very much a visit by the President to Australia.

Secondly, I of course never talk about the relationship between one country and another in party political terms. The relationship between the Australian Government and the Indonesian Government is first class, and the relationship nation to nation is first class. And I've said before and I'm happy to say it again that the relationship that the current Government inherited from the previous Government was a relationship in very good order. We think that it is at a higher level now, but the relationship that we inherited from the previous Government was a very good relationship between Australia and Indonesia which we think has gone to a higher level, I think for two reasons. Firstly, the signing of the Lombok-Perth Treaty and, secondly, because we've both over the years come to understand that from time to time there might be issues about which we don't necessarily agree but we take these in our stride. We take these in our stride and they don't disturb the fundamental underlining basis of the relationship.

Hassan?

MINISTER WIRAJUDA: I simply would add that as we do share fundamental values of democracy, human rights and [inaudible] society, we have more reasons to have or to develop stronger bilateral relations and partnerships. I fully share the views expressed by my colleague, Minister Smith, that to my reading as well that the interest to promote and strengthen bilateral relationships has moved beyond political parties [inaudible] in Australia. It has become a bipartisan issue, and that's what we appreciate and for that matter we are encouraged to do more.

QUESTION: [inaudible] got two quite different questions. Firstly, for perhaps Hassan. The executions, recently, had very - were quite open, compared to what we've seen before in Indonesia. Are you at all concerned that perhaps it was too open? That some of those - that some of that publicity may have, you know - some of those images of them being lionised in the streets, were perhaps something that Indonesia would prefer to have been perhaps a little more contained?

And to the two of you. Have you discussed any joint approach perhaps, that you will be taking for the G20 meeting, a joint message at all that perhaps Indonesia and Australia will be taking into that?

MINISTER WIRAJUDA: I had, myself, expected that the process leading to the executions of the Bali bombers would have not to wide open. But perhaps that's also the cost that we had to pay in open and democratic Indonesia. But anyway, we have shown that we are committed and for that matter consistent in term of what our public expected, what I believe was for some in the Australian publics, particularly the families of the victims.

The three Bali bombers has committed the unforgivable acts of killing of so many peoples and I think it's only - in our view, and in the view of the people of Indonesia - I think they deserve that kind of punishment. That's my - that's one on the very issue of Bali bombers executions.

MINISTER SMITH: So far as the executions are concerned, I make the same point that I've made repeatedly, which is I don't believe that the day-to-day commentary was of assistance to the families and I think was a terrible reminder to the families. And hopefully for some of the families, those constant and continual reminders will now pass. And for some, there may be some form of closure. Of course, it's always open for the Australian media and the Indonesian media, not to report these matters. But I'm not suggesting, or urging that upon you. As Minister Wirajuda says, this is part and parcel of an open democratic society, with diverse media.

On the G20, yes, we had a very good conversation on the G20. We both support the G20 as the financial institution to deal with these matters. Our Trade Ministers, Simon Crean and Mari Pangestu, led the conversations, where we covered a range of things. Firstly, the belief that whilst we know the consequences will be adverse, that both Australia and Indonesia are better placed than they have been in the past to deal with these matters both from an economic growth and financial and regulatory point of view.

Secondly, that this is not the time to retreat to protectionism, or to retreat to closed economies. That we continue to support making advances in multilateral and bilateral trade arrangements and regional trade arrangements; whether it's the Doha Round; whether it's a free trade agreement between Australia and Indonesia; or the strategically and economically very important Australia-New Zealand ASEAN free trade agreement.

Normally, of course, both of our economic coordinating Ministers, or in our case, the Treasurer would be talking about this, but they're either in Washington, or enroute to Washington, in preparation for the G20 meeting. I think there's very much a consistency of approach in general terms, so far as addressing the global financial crisis is concerned.

Hassan, do you want to respond on that?

MINISTER WIRAJUDA: No.

MINISTER SMITH: Okay, okay. Is it one here, and then going side-by-side.

QUESTION: Thank you very much Minister. I'm [inaudible] from [inaudible] With regards to efforts of the two countries to strengthen the people-to-people relationships, how does the Australian Government plan to promote the people-to-people relationships in their terms, with regards to the imbalance of number of Indonesian Australians who have been studying in respective countries.

MINISTER SMITH: I've just been instructed I have to attend upon Question Time shortly.

The importance of people-to-people links and exchanges between our two countries was a subject of a lengthy discussion between us, generally over lunch. And I have a very strong view that education is central to that, which is why we very strongly support the basic education program as part of our development assistance. 2000 schools being built by Australia in Indonesia, while we support a large number of scholarships for Indonesian students to Australia.

When Australia gives young Indonesian the chance of an educational opportunity, a couple of things happen that's good for that individual, but in the course of their life they become ambassadors for Australia, because they understand that Australia has helped provide for their education.

Australia very much believes that more Australians should study in Indonesia, that more Australians should become familiar with Indonesian language and culture. And we spoke about the fact that Indonesia itself has scholarships for foreign students, including Australians, to study in Indonesia and that when the Government came to office we had a substantial program to encourage young Australians to learn foreign languages in our region, including Indonesia.

So we see that very much at the heart of enhancing the people-to-people exchanges. We also spoke about the good work of the Australia Indonesia Institute which has recently had its twentieth anniversary. And can I commend to you all, as I did to my Ministerial colleagues, the speech which Foreign Minister Wirajuda gave in Jakarta on the 4 November, to coincide with the twentieth anniversary.

If you put Foreign Minister Wirajuda's speech together with the communiqué from this meeting and the Lombok Treaty you have, in my view, a reflection of the modern relationship between Australian and Indonesia.

Hassan.

MINISTER WIRAJUDA: In addition to exchange of students, their [inaudible] of faiths and culture, we also share the importance of the role that the media is playing. Media also plays important role, being a good messenger of peace and better understandings between people, in this case between the people of Australia and Indonesia.

I must recognise the presence, in our midst, six Indonesian journalists who are here as participants to the Australian sponsored journalist exchange program. I thank you very much Stephen. We also, in Indonesia, have our own annual journalist visit and I welcome the participations of Australian journalists. So we shall do more and understanding the important role of the media as messenger of peace and understanding. And that would certainly contribute a lot in our efforts to strengthen bilateral relations.

MINISTER SMITH: Thanks very much Hassan. I'm sorry, we really have to attend Question Time - both of us - in my case, potentially to answer questions. In Hassan's case, to watch the questions and the answers.

Thanks very much. Thanks Hassan.

MINISTER WIRAJUDA: No problem.

[ENDS]

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