KIM LANDERS: Australia's Defence Minister is Marise Payne and she joins me on the line. Minister, good morning.
MARISE PAYNE: Good morning, Kim.
KIM LANDERS: Can you clarify exactly why these military ties have been suspended?
MARISE PAYNE: Well I think in a statement that I issued yesterday, I indicated that there had been concerns raised by a member of the Indonesian TNI who was participating in a language training activity in Western Australia at the end of last year. When those concerns were raised, both the Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Mark Binskin and the Chief of the Australian Army Lieutenant General Angus Campbell communicated with their counterparts to indicate that we did take those concerns seriously and we would institute an inquiry which the Chief of Army did, and that inquiry is now close to finalisation. I think it is important to indicate that we did take and we do take the concerns that were raised by the TNI member seriously. We have been communicating with our counterparts at the appropriate level to manage this process and that is ongoing.
KIM LANDERS: [Talks over] Well let me ask you a couple of specific things then. We've just heard that the TNI Chief expressed concerns that Indonesian personnel being sent to Australia would be recruited by Australia as source or agents of influence, has that actually happened?
MARISE PAYNE: Well, Kim, this is a relationship which has been ongoing over many decades in its training activities and its cooperation…
KIM LANDERS: [Interrupts] But specifically, has that happened?
MARISE PAYNE: No, that is not the case and it is something which we would not countenance of course.
KIM LANDERS: When did you find out that these military ties were being suspended?
MARISE PAYNE: I found out about the concerns being raised in November.
KIM LANDERS: And you said that there was an investigation underway, what's taking so long?
MARISE PAYNE: Well, the investigation required an examination of materials, required interviews with the Australians involved and also an opportunity for the Indonesian officer to comment. These things need to be done appropriately and fairly and that takes time ...
KIM LANDERS: [Speaks over] But that's been several months now.
MARISE PAYNE: ... and it's close to finalisation.
KIM LANDERS: Well the Indonesian Defence Minister has also said that – as we heard in Adam Harvey' s report – that the person responsible, a Lieutenant, has been punished by Australia. Is that true?
MARISE PAYNE: So the inquiry is not quite finalised, that is a matter which is coming close to fruition and once that is concluded, the next actions will be taken.
KIM LANDERS: So has an Australian Defence member been punished in some way, reprimanded?
MARISE PAYNE: I'm not going to comment on the ongoing activities of the inquiry at this stage, not until after it's finalised.
KIM LANDERS: I'm still not quite clear about why it's taken so long though.
MARISE PAYNE: Well, because this happened at the end of November. As you'd be aware, the concerns were raised I think in mid to late November, the inquiry began immediately thereafter so around the last week of November the first week of December. Obviously there's been some break over the Christmas - New Year period, that is inevitable at this time of year, and it is close to being finalised.
KIM LANDERS: So specifically, what Defence cooperation has been suspended?
MARISE PAYNE: There's been a couple of events which Indonesia has not participated in and others in which they have, so ...
KIM LANDERS: What events are you referencing?
MARISE PAYNE: There was due to be a visit by a group of staff college students from TNI to Australia which did not occur. And for example, the Chief of the Indonesian Air Force did visit Australia in December for a counterpart visit. We also had the Australian co-chair at the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus Expert Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations visit Indonesia in late December for meetings with TNI regarding our cooperation as co-chairs of the working group.
So there are some aspects which Indonesia has decided to put on pause there and others which have not been put on pause. We are working closely with our counterparts, both at the military and the political level, to rectify any concerns, to address any concerns, and to resume the relationship in its entirety as soon as possible.
KIM LANDERS: How long do you think this military cooperation is going to be on ice for?
MARISE PAYNE: Well I would hope that at the conclusion of the inquiry, when we're able to indicate to Indonesia that steps have been taken in Australia to address any of these concerns, we'll be able to discuss resuming the relationship across the board then.
KIM LANDERS: Have you spoken directly to your counterpart, Indonesia's Defence Minister, about this matter?
MARISE PAYNE: I've written to him again this week to indicate that the inquiry is underway and he has indicated that he's received that ...
KIM LANDERS: [Interrupts] Is that the first time you've corresponded with him or tried to talk to him about it?
MARISE PAYNE: On this issue, yes.
KIM LANDERS: And why did it take you so long to do that?
MARISE PAYNE: Well I don't think it's a question of the time it took to do that. I think the issue was being handled between the CDF and the Chief of Army which is entirely appropriate and I indicated to General Ryamizard earlier this week that we would of course cooperate in any way with information that they needed, that has been the case all along through the CDF and Chief of Army, and as I said in the media I'm looking forward to seeing him again quite soon.
KIM LANDERS: [Speaks over] Given this relationship is so crucial though, do you think it was wise to leave it so long before you stepped in as Minister?
MARISE PAYNE: Well I also communicated with him in December on a range of other matters and this issue was not raised on that occasion. So I think the Chief of Army and the Chief of the Defence Force have been dealing with their counterparts, with General Nurmantyo and with the Indonesian Chief of Army and we have made progress in the inquiry. That is a matter of some importance to Indonesia and I hope to be able to provide them with the outcome to that relatively soon.
KIM LANDERS: Does this threaten Indonesia's cooperation with Australia's turning back asylum seeker boats?
MARISE PAYNE: No, not in any way. And, in fact, the breadth of our relationship is very important. It's important to know that we continue our extremely strong work in relation to the prospect of returning foreign fighters from the Middle East who have been associated with the extremist activities of Daesh and their counterparts. We cooperate very seriously on that, on matters of immigration as you've just referred to, the Bali process. All of those things remain on foot and very sound.
KIM LANDERS: And finally, will the joint exercise between the Australian and Indonesian navies go ahead next month?
MARISE PAYNE: I understand that's a multilateral exercise and preparatory meetings for that have occurred and I think the CDF, the Chief of the Defence Force, is working with his counterparts to determine the future of that.
KIM LANDERS: So will the Indonesian Navy be there?
MARISE PAYNE: That is still in the planning, Kim, and as I said the Chief of the Defence Force will communicate with his counterpart to see what level of participation there will be.
KIM LANDERS: Minister, thank you very much for speaking with AM.
MARISE PAYNE: Thanks very much, Kim.
KIM LANDERS: And that is Australia's Defence Minister, Marise Payne.