MARISE PAYNE: Ladies and gentlemen, I want to start by reinforcing the importance of the Australia-Indonesia military relationship, and the relationship more broadly. It's one which spans many decades. We first sent a Defence attaché to Jakarta in the 1950s, and it's one which has been of significant personal importance to me since I was appointed the Defence Minister. In fact, just in October the Foreign Minister and I, Julie Bishop, met with our counterparts in Bali for a two plus two ministerial meeting which canvassed some of the key issues of the relationship: regional maritime security, cyber-security, counter-terrorism, the Bali Process itself. All of these things underpin the depth and the strength of the military relationship.
We have had an issue in recent times in relation to some training materials, which is what we're here to talk about today. That is one which I hope we can deal with in a constructive and mature way, and move on from that to reinforce the importance of what we do together, and I'm very happy to take a couple of questions.
QUESTION: Senator, why did it take you so long to get to the bottom of this, given the fact it's a fairly simple issue? Why has it taken one month for the ADF to [indistinct] conclusion as to what actually occurred?
MARISE PAYNE: Well, I think if you understand that the concerns were raised through TNI and then back to the Australian military at the end of November and then the beginning of December. The chief of the Indonesian military wrote to the CDF on 9 December. The Chief of Army here in Australia, Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, instituted an inquiry; that inquiry is underway. It has had to receive information from the Australian side, from the Indonesian side. To be fair, I think you would also appreciate that we have had the Christmas and New Year period as well, but it is very close to finalisation. When that is finalised we will go back to the Indonesians with that and proceed from there.
QUESTION: The Indonesian media has reported that an Indonesian soldier has seen a laminated piece of paper with the words Pancagila instead of Pancasila. Is this report wrong, and if so how?
MARISE PAYNE: There are a number of reports floating around, as is often the case. I'm not going to canvas those particular aspects, they are obviously part of the inquiry. Once that is finalised then we will take that to the Indonesians and take things from there.
QUESTION: [Inaudible question].
MARISE PAYNE: The issue of West Papua was raised by the Indonesian Defence Minister, yes. I think he indicated that in his post-meeting comments. We of course, in accord with the Lombok Treaty, which is the treaty between Australia and Indonesia, recognise Indonesia's sovereignty and territorial integrity and that is our firm and stated position.
QUESTION: [Talks over] Minister, [indistinct] training material contain a reference to West Papua [indistinct]. Was it an official document, or something that [indistinct]?
MARISE PAYNE: So as I've said, those are matters which are part of the inquiry instituted by the Chief of Army. It would not be appropriate for me to canvas those before the conclusion of the inquiry, and I don't intend to do that.
QUESTION: [Indistinct] that Australia [indistinct] Indonesia [indistinct]?
MARISE PAYNE: I've heard that that has been reported. That is clearly not the case, and not a matter which I think merits significant canvassing.
QUESTION: Do you think the Indonesians are overreacting, especially in relation to [indistinct]?
MARISE PAYNE: Well it is a matter clearly of significant concern. A representative of the TNI, an officer of the TNI, raised his concerns with senior officers when he returned to Indonesia in late November, so I take that seriously. Of course I take that seriously, as much as I take the relationship seriously, and to do otherwise would be not appropriate. So that is a matter for the Indonesians; they have raised these concerns, they've taken the steps that they've indicated they think are appropriate. I'd have to say at this point that although some activities have not occurred, others have. So the chief of the Indonesian Air Force visited Australia in December, the Australian co-chair of the Australia-Indonesia chairmanship of the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus Working Group on Peacekeeping visited Indonesia in very late December. So there are still two-way activities occurring. Some have been suspended and others are occurring.
QUESTION: [Inaudible question].
MARISE PAYNE: Well the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Marshal Mark Binskin, has a very constructive relationship with General Nurmantyo. He has been working with him for some time now. I have a great deal of respect for the General and the way in which he works with his military. We have significant military to military contacts and I am confident that the CDF will continue that constructive relationship.
QUESTION: Do you want to see the head of army apologise to any Indonesian figures, to military or the [indistinct]?
MARISE PAYNE: Certainly we have indicated our regret that this occurred and that offence was taken. I think that's appropriate when a significant counterpart raises their concerns with you, no matter who it is. We obviously work very broadly regionally and internationally, and we should endeavour to ensure that the material we use is culturally appropriate, is to the point, not gratuitous, and I'm sure that those are matters which will be taken into account in the preparation of training material into the future, and in fact I will ensure that that is the case.
QUESTION: Has the material been removed?
MARISE PAYNE: The material has most certainly been removed. As I said, the training is not currently occurring and I expect that it will be replaced with appropriate material in due course.
QUESTION: [Indistinct] someone on the level of TNI commander who could actually suspend operations to this degree?
MARISE PAYNE: Well I think perhaps, in terms of saying a TNI commander, we're actually talking about General Nurmantyo who is the chief of the Indonesian Defence Force. This is a military to military concern which he has raised. We are dealing with it in both that context, in the diplomatic context, and in the minister to minister context. I think that's an appropriate way to deal with it.
QUESTION: [Inaudible question].
MARISE PAYNE: As I said, the inquiry is still underway and once that is finalised, which is imminent, then the Chief of Army will deal with those matters. It's not for me to intervene in that.
QUESTION: How many Indonesians have been withdrawn from Australia?
MARISE PAYNE: A relatively small number.
QUESTION: Just the one barracks in question, or others [indistinct]?
MARISE PAYNE: The participants in that training course, as I understand it.
QUESTION: Minister, is General Nurmantyo still [indistinct]?
MARISE PAYNE: Yes.
QUESTION: When did the Government first find out about this [indistinct]?
MARISE PAYNE: The concerns were raised in late November and early December and there was an indication that some activities would be suspended in those discussions.
QUESTION: Can you explain the contradiction between the comments from [indistinct] comments and the head of the army in Indonesia? Why do you think that they're saying separate things, or is this a unilateral action from the Indonesian military?
MARISE PAYNE: I don't think it's for me to speculate on that, but the president of Indonesia and the Defence Minister have made their views clear in media commentary today, and I will continue to work with my counterpart, the Prime Minister will continue to work with his, our senior military leaders will continue to work with theirs. The most important thing is to complete the inquiry, to respond to Indonesia with those outcomes, and then to proceed to restore the relationship and the interaction as best as we can.
QUESTION: Minister, [indistinct] the inquiry and when will it be finished?
MARISE PAYNE: I'm advised by the Chief of Army that that is imminent. I believe it to be an administrative inquiry, but I'm sure further details will be made available once that's complete. Ladies and gentlemen, one more question.
QUESTION: How is it, Minister, that the asylum seekers [indistinct] by the Indonesian military [indistinct]?
MARISE PAYNE: Well I think that that is an indication of some of the very important aspects of our relationship. The Minister for Immigration overwhelmingly deals with that issue of course, but the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and I are in regular communication with our counterparts on that. We have no indication of any change in that regard, and I don't expect there to be. As I've said, we have an issue in this context, in the military context; we are working very hard to overcome that and to restore the relationship.
Thanks very much ladies and gentlemen, don't get too wet.