TRANSCRIPT: PRESS CONFERENCE – SECOND ANNUAL AUSTRALIA- INDONESIA DEFENCE MINISTERS’ MEETING
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 26 JULY 2013
TOPICS: Second Annual Australia-Indonesia Defence Ministers’ Meeting; Asylum seekers.
STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks very much for turning up. Can I officially welcome Indonesia's Defence Minister Purnomo to Australia and to Perth. Purnomo leads a very high-level delegation from Indonesia, including Admiral Lubis who has just signed, together with General Hurley, the agreement for the sale of five C-130 Hs to Indonesia, and I will come back to that. Also, the Chief of the Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Dunia, and so we welcome the Indonesian delegation.
Purnomo arrived with the delegation on Wednesday, so I greeted him at the airport on Wednesday and on Thursday we had an extensive day in Perth and Western Australia, starting off in Henderson where the delegation saw the work being done at BAE's shipyard on our Frigates, enhancing the radar and combat capability of our ANZAC Frigates. Also at Henderson, saw some of the maintenance work on our Collins-Class Submarines, and then to HMAS Stirling for a briefing and tour of HMAS Stirling, and tour of one of our ANZAC Frigates which has just returned from the Middle East doing its counter-piracy and counter-terrorism work. Then to the SAS in Swanbourne for a briefing from our Special Forces, a wreath laying yesterday at the State War Memorial at Kings Park and last night an official dinner.
Today we have a formal Indonesia-Australia Defence Ministers' dialogue. This is the second of what is now an Annual Defence Ministers' dialogue and adds to the architecture that we now see in the defence-to-defence, military-to-military and the national security architecture between Australia and Indonesia. Two-plus-two meeting between Australian and Indonesian Foreign and Defence Ministers, the annual meeting now between our Prime Minister and Indonesia's President, the first of which we saw in Darwin last year, and the second in Jakarta in the last month or so. And earlier this year in Jakarta we conducted the second so-called two-plus-two meeting.
The bilateral relationship between Australia and Indonesia is, of course, very important, but it's also at a very strong and high level, both generally, but also in the military-to-military and defence-to-defence area. The modern relationship is laid out by the Lombok Treaty which came into force in this room in February 2008 when I signed the Lombok treaty with then-Indonesian Foreign Minister Wirajuda, and pursuant to the Lombok Treaty in 2008, we entered into a Memorandum of Understanding so far as defence and national security cooperation was concerned and since then we have enhanced our practical cooperation between Australia and Indonesia on the military-to-military and defence-to-defence front.
As a result of the discussions we've had in the course of yesterday and Wednesday, there are a range of areas where we will formally agree today to enhance our practical cooperation. Firstly, in the area of peacekeeping: this is very significant. Indonesia makes a substantial contribution to United Nations peacekeeping. Some 1900 Indonesian peacekeepers take part under the UN flag, and Australia is in the top 12 contributors to United Nations peacekeeping.
Historically, Australia prides itself as having the first boots on the ground under a United Nations mandate when, courtesy of the United Nations Committee, we intervened in Indonesia and separated the fledgling Indonesian Forces from the then-Dutch Forces, assisted in the repatriation of the Dutch, which helped see the establishment of Indonesia as a Republic. We've agreed to enhance our practical cooperation on United Nations peacekeeping, including with a view, in due course, to the potential for embedding peacekeepers in our respective contributions to the United Nations.
Secondly, one of the modern challenges - cyber security. We both acknowledge that cyber security is a challenge for us and we've agreed to commence and subsequently enhance our cooperation and exchange of information on cyber security.
Thirdly, we've agreed to enhance our strategic analysis and strategic communications and strategic exchanges. This will first be reflected by Indonesia's briefing of Australia on the preparation of Indonesia's White Paper. When our White Paper was published in May of this year, we had previously agreed with Purnomo that he and his officials would be briefed as the preparation of the White Paper commenced and would be briefed fully before its publication, and that was a very good process. Purnomo and Indonesia have agreed to extend the same courtesy and approach to Australia in the course of the preparation of Indonesia's White Paper, but we will expand that to other areas of strategic analysis and strategic cooperation.
We're also proposing to enhance the work that we do together on capability. This is particularly in the area of lessons learned for acquisition, maintenance, sustainment, and we will have exchanges of officers in our respective defence organisations, particularly Defence Materiel Organisation and the Indonesian equivalent.
Finally as a result of our visit to HMAS Stirling and Henderson, we've agreed there is collaboration we can do on lessons learnt for maintenance and sustainment of submarines. Indonesia is currently in the process of acquiring up to five submarines in conjunction with Korea. We of course have the Collins-Class Submarine and we have taken a range of steps in recent years to enhance the maintenance and sustainment of the Collins-Class Submarine to get greater availability and greater time in the water itself. So we've agreed that there are lessons that we can share on submarine maintenance and sustainment and, importantly, we've also agreed to facilitate Indonesia's access to our submarine rescue facilities at HMAS Stirling. So cooperation on submarine maintenance and sustainment, experiences and lessons learnt, but also collaboration on submarine rescue.
So they are five areas which we've agreed in the course of our conversations over the last 24 hours or so to add to the already extensive cooperation that we see with Indonesia, and we will formally do that at the formal bilateral meeting later this morning.
Purnomo, to you and your delegation, can I thank you for visiting Perth. I thank you for visiting Perth. It is not the first time Purnomo has come to Perth prior to becoming Defence Minister. Purnomo was Indonesia's Energy and Mining Minister, so in that context he has previously visited Perth, but it is his first visit as Defence Minister. It's our third or fourth meeting this year and ninth or tenth meeting overall, so it reflects the strength of relationship and the importance of the defence-to-defence collaboration so far as Indonesia and Australia is concerned, and indeed it is a good example of what the White Paper, Australia's Defence White Paper 2013 describes as the importance of the relationship between Australia and Indonesia, indeed Indonesia being Australia's most important relationship in our immediate region.
So, again welcome. Thank you for coming with your delegation and I would like you to make some remarks.
PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: Thank you, Minister Smith.
STEPHEN SMITH: Sorry, we've just got all the microphones on this one.
PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: But you know that I am shorter than him so you will not see me fully. Well, first I would like to thank Minister Smith for the very good hospitality here in Perth. I would also like to thank the Government of Australia. We have just been signing the sale of the five C-130H. That is the full contingent with the four C-130Hs that was granted to Indonesia, so the total of nine C-130H will be very, very benefit to us, to Indonesia, since we have a lot of natural disasters in our country.
As you know that, we do have natural disasters such as tsunami, earthquakes, flooding, volcanic eruption that are then need the transportation from point-to-point to bring the logistics, to bring the people, for the rescue operations. That's the reason in this trip I am accompanied by the Chief of our Air Force, Mr Putu Dunia, in the back row there, because I know that the Air Force is very important in your country. Whenever a natural disaster happens in our country, then usually the military come in first to the rescue, and so with that I would like to appreciate Minister Smith, the Government of Australia and all of you, the Australian people that really pay attention to our country.
Secondly that I would like to stress is on bilateral cooperation, defence-to-defence. It has been very strong and at top peak of relation between Australia and Indonesia. I've been talking to Minister Smith, not only in meetings, by also by phone. If it's something, then I just grab up the phone and talk to him and he calls me so really the people-to-people contact here is very important, and we put that in our reality, not only for us, but our staff, it's very strong. So I believe in the futures, the cooperation, the relationship between Indonesia and Australia is enhancing, and becoming stronger, especially in defence-to-defence.
We have one philosophy, that if the cooperation relationship between Australia and Indonesia is strong, the economy and security, mainly in defence, then both countries can get mutual benefits from this cooperation. So a lot of achievement we have been making so far between Australia and Indonesia. For instance, the openness between the two countries, Australia sharing the White Paper. The White Paper is the strategy policy of defence, that before was discussed with us before finally published officially by the Australian Government, and also Indonesia in return also doing that way.
So we are planning now to have a consultation with Australian Government, especially with the Minister of Defence. I think then we have greater openness together, the assets we have, what proposal our modernisation, even if our country is in the middle of modernisation of our armed forces. For 15 years, the armed forces have not been able to be modernised because of the economic problem that resulted from the economic crisis back in 1998.
I like to touch on what Minister Smith just mentioned, the cooperation by our Special Forces because yesterday I visited Campbell Barracks and I talked with them and I was so happy because of some of them speak Bahasa Indonesian, some of them very fluently talk Bahasa Indonesian. That really expressed how strong is the Special Forces cooperation with the two countries. Even the last time that our Special Forces came here and worked together and exercised together with Australian Special Forces.
What I would like to get in is under the umbrella of ASEAN Defence Ministers-Plus. When I say it's plus, it's plus 8 countries, so total of 18 countries. We will have the joint exercise together in late of September in Jakarta in [indistinct], that about one hour from Jakarta to the south. There will be 18 countries Special Forces together. So you can imagine that 18 countries' Special Forces, including Australia, will be there and to work together to how we tackle counter-terrorism. There will be the ten ASEAN countries, plus US, China, Russia, Japan, Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand, together there, and we hope to be success, so we would like to have your support in this case to see that this counter-terrorism exercise will be working very well.
The defence-to-defence cooperation mainly that yesterday also Minister Smith mentioned to you, that he visited several defence industrial complexes, and what I wish to do with Mr Smith is how then we can work together in defence industries. So if we can start the different industries, work together in our recruitment, that’s been very strong since, we are also cooperating with PE system and I just recognised yesterday that I visited the PE system, that is doing the repair and working with your defence ministry on the Frigate, so if we can work together, then for us that will save our time, save our costs because we don't have to go far away to the UK, we can just come to Australia, and in return that Australia will also give service to us, to the Armed Forces.
So this kind of cooperation I think hopefully can be moved forward in the future. And to follow-up bilateral consultations, Minister Smith mentioned five areas of cooperation. I will not repeat it one by one. What I like to share with you is one regarding cyber defence, the Indonesian developing cyber defence. We are developing information system and that covered by also one of the sections in the cyber defence, and also in the communication, satellite communication for us then make our cyber defence hopefully progressing very well.
And the peacekeeping operation in Indonesia now has about 1800 troops all over the world and we do discuss with Minister Smith on how we can work together, because our ambition in the future is to increase, to become one of the ten big [indistinct] in the UN flag for the peacekeeping operations. We are going to keep our peacekeeping operation troops for the peace of the world is 4,000 people. And then for the White Papers, we are now in the progress of finalising our White Paper and soon we will be consulting with Australia also in this case. And the capability, I think Minister Smith mentioned to you before, and in the submarines, you know, yesterday we were also visiting the Collins-Class Submarine, we also visited the camp and we are seeking now how we can cooperate together since Australia is ahead of us in submarine technology.
So with that then, I will stop here and listen from you. I will comment on this.
JOURNALIST: I'm wondering if I can ask you about asylum seekers, which is very topical at the moment. Are you happy that Indonesia was consulted about Australia's plan to send asylum seekers to PNG before it was announced by our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd?
PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: We know that Australia and PNG and also with Nauru have the bilateral cooperation to see how that you can solve asylum seekers, but really that is the bilateral cooperation between you and PNG and you and Nauru. We leave that to your bilateral cooperation with them. With Indonesia itself, the Prime Minster Kevin Rudd had the bilateral consultation with our President on July 5th in Bogor, and that was a really beautiful meeting by them, so we appreciate that.
JOURNALIST: Are you happy with that plan, sir?
PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: Which plan?
JOURNALIST: The plan for Australia to send asylum seekers coming via Indonesia to Papua New Guinea?
PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: That’s really between you and Papua New Guinea, between you and Nauru. That's your bilateral cooperation. Whatever you do, that's your bilateral cooperation. That's your policy, you know. What I like to see is the strong bilateral cooperation between Indonesia and Australia, mainly.
JOURNALIST: Sir, do you think that more could be done to try and stop people losing their lives at sea? Do you think there could be more cooperation or better cooperation between Australia and Indonesia to try to stop people dying at sea, or do you think enough is already happening?
PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: You know, I have to mention to you that this year itself from January to July 2013, 53 cooperations, joint operations together, between SAR Indonesia, Search and Rescue Indonesia, and AMSA, 52 times to do the joint operations together on the high seas to rescue the - I call it illegal movement of people. So I think this express how then we work together between Australia and Indonesia.
The second thing, you know, you did not realise that we have our liaison officials in Canberra in the RCC, in the Rescue Control, Rescue Coordination Centre, under the umbrella of AMSA, and also your people in our office in Bakorkamla, both of them are becoming very good liaisons, you know to communicate how that happens, you know regarding this illegal movement of peoples. And the third, you know, day-to-day information has also been communicating together between those two organisations. So I think the progress is very good in this case.
JOURNALIST: The Leader of the Opposition has suggested a policy called Operation Sovereign Borders and one of those key policy angles is to turn boats around when it is safe to do so. That's what Tony Abbott the Opposition Leader says. Do you support turning boats around and do you think it is a good idea, this new policy of Tony Abbott's?
PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: I would like to refer to the July 5th bilateral cooperation between both leaders, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and President SBY in Bogor at the time. One of the good results, I have to mention to you - two things were discussed in that meeting. One is beef. The first B is beef. The second B is boat people.
On boat people, both leaders agree that we are going to have a special conference and hopefully it will be done, to be held in Jakarta on 20th August. The special conference is on irregular movement of people. What we are going to do is invite, invitation already sent over to the one, as the origin countries. You know, among them is five origin countries - Iran, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and the other is Bangladesh - Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and also the transit countries - Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and also the country of final destination, quote and unquote, Australia and New Zealand, and also the international organisations like United Nations High Commission on Refugees.
We are going to have that meeting, planned to be held in Jakarta and we hope with this meeting then we will find very good solutions to how then we solve this thing together.
JOURNALIST: But, if, say, for instance the boats keep coming and the Opposition, Tony Abbott, he does take power in Australia, and then turning asylum seeker boats back into Indonesian waters, you are Defence Minister, how is the Indonesian Navy or Indonesian Government going to respond to having these boats sent back into Indonesian waters?
PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: I would like first to present to you how big is our country, and two-third of our country is water, and many peoples in our country, you know, moving from island to island by small boat, like what you see, you have problem with asylum seekers. We have 17,000 islands. Not many of them having a plane, not many of them having a big boat, a nice boat they can transfer. Some of them are also using small boats and some of them because of the big waves also have a problem, and some of them need rescue. Some of them need the Navy to rescue them. So one problem.
The second problem we also have illegal logging. You can easily bring logging out of the country and sold it to the international community. We also have illegal fishing. There are many fishermen from outside the country coming to Indonesia and stealing our fish. We have quote, unquote, South China Sea. We have to [indistinct] our petrol in our [indistinct] South China Sea because our South China Sea is very close with the South China Sea that you also recognise the problem.
So knowing that we have a big country, having two-third of our country with water, some people moving from island to island that sometimes they get a problem, and they need the search and rescue operation, too, they need the Navy. On the other side, our assets are limited. We are not really the rich country. Our Navy also is limited. Our power, our assets is limited. Some of them, yes, we deploy to the southern part of Java island to the western part of Sumatra where the asylum seekers are travelling, but you can imagine the coastline from Sumatra to Java to - long, up in front, it's long, it's long.
JOURNALIST: Are you saying it's not practical and it's not safe for Australia to turn boats back, that is should not be done? Is that what you are saying?
PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: I think being countries, being neighbour, Australia and Indonesia, having a very good relation today, I think we should talk, we should discuss, we should consult each other. Like, you know, it was happened in Bogor on July 5th
JOURNALIST: So don't turn the boats back?
PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: Well, we will talk. We don't want that - if you don't want to do it also to your neighbour, you know that what you put that will make your neighbour unhappy. I mean, you want to sit down with them, see some kind of solution.
JOURNALIST: So can I just confirm, you just said, we don't want that?
PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: I didn't say that we don't want it. I said let's talk and sit down, you know, but we don't want to see the unilateral action.
JOURNALIST: Do you, out of curiosity, as the Defence Minister for your country, do you have a preference in the different plans that have been put forward by the Labor Government or the Liberal Opposition? Do you think there is a better option in your opinion, sending asylum seekers to PNG, or turning the boats back to Indonesia? Which would be your preference?
PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: Well, really, we don't want to involve in the domestic policy issues in your country.
JOURNALIST: What if it involves your country, though?
PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: We do, but now the relationship is good. Now you have a Government of Australia, the official Government of Australia and we have also the President SBY, we have myself as Minister of Defence. And what we are keeping the policy is the policy that we have after the two [indistinct] meeting in Bogor. You know, that's the policy that having both countries going to work together, to have the special conference on illegal movement of people.
JOURNALIST: Is Indonesia concerned at all about the Opposition's plan though to use the military specifically to help protect borders against these boats?
PURNOMO YUSGIANTORO: I have to be frankly with you that I don't follow the domestic politics of Australia. I know that my counterpart is Minister Smith. I talk with him. We are keeping on track with government-to-government relations so far.
STEPHEN SMITH: You've done very well. I was almost about to remind them that they should be civilised and dignified with our overseas guests and not lean to the side of cross-examination.
Could I just make a couple of remarks. Firstly, just thanks. The first question, Foreign Minister Carr, I think, has already put on the record in the last few days that he briefed Indonesian Foreign Minister Natalegawa in general terms about the proposed arrangement between Australia and PNG. That's the first thing.
Secondly, on the question about can we do more on search and rescue, you might recall that in 2012 - from memory September 2012 - then-Transport Minister, now deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Albanese, Home Affairs Minister Clare and I went to Indonesia, met with Purnomo and his Ministerial colleagues and AMSA then agreed with BASARNAS, both of our respective search and rescue organisations, to enhance their day-to-day cooperation and collaboration. That saw Transport Minister Albanese announce before the end of 2012 a $35 million package to help enhance the capability of BASARNAS and, as Purnomo has said, we now see the exchange of embedded officers, AMSA officers in BASARNAS and vice versa. We've enhanced communication, email, phone and fax. We now have got in place a system where essentially BASARNAS has access to the live shipping tracking system that we have. And so there's been a substantial enhancement of that and that will be ongoing.
The final comment I will make is a question about Mr Abbott's announcement yesterday and I'm in front of international guests so I will be diplomatic and civilised and polite, but I will simply make this point: after six years of saying he will stop the boats, the leader of the Opposition's policy is to change a 2-star to a 3-star. That's all it is. It's a bureaucratic, organisational chart change. So having said for six years, I will stop the boats, the solution is to change a 2-star to a 3-star.
JOURNALIST: Do you think his plan, Minister, will adversely affect what is a good relationship between Australia and Indonesia?
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, it's the proposal in terms of a military 3-star being in charge of Border Command is a change from the current arrangements where a 2-star is in charge of Border Command and where into Border Command go all the expertise, intelligence and advice from all of the relevant national security, defence and intelligence agencies.
JOURNALIST: Do you think the Opposition was rattled by the PNG plan and have put this together to try and look stronger and tougher-
STEPHEN SMITH: As I understand Mr Abbott's remarks yesterday, he essentially said yesterday, he essentially said here after six years of thinking is my plan to stop the boats. I'm going to substitute a 2-star with a 3-star. He then went on to say, and so far as PNG is concerned, I agree with that. I think that's what he was trying to say yesterday.
JOURNALIST: [Indistinct] but what are you going to do as a Government if it doesn't stop the boats? It hasn't stopped them so far.
STEPHEN SMITH: We have entered into an arrangement with Papua New Guinea to process asylum seekers who come to Australia in Papua New Guinea, and then Papua New Guinea has agreed to resettle successful asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea. Our analysis is that that will break the people smugglers' model, that will break the cycle and that will stop the flow of boats coming, and as Immigration Minister Burke has made clear, we always expected that it would take a number of weeks to get all of those processes up and running, that has started in Manus Island. Defence is making its contribution to that, as it has historically on these issues, either the use of Naval or Air Force assets, or construction engineering.
Everyone happy? Thanks very much.
STEPHEN SMITH: Well, with respect to matters of surplus, my very strong advice is you should speak to the Treasurer.
Thank you. Thanks very much.