Prime Minister John Howard and Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono have held a joint press conference in Canberra.
- Listen to the press conference (10m)
Transcript of Prime Minister John Howard’s joint press conference with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I would like to welcome to this news conference His Excellency the President of Indonesia. We have just completed a bilateral discussion between the President and myself and then a broader discussion between the senior Ministers of the Indonesian Government and the senior Ministers of the Australian Government.
Can I say at the outset that there is a very strong personal commitment on behalf of President Yudhoyono and myself to the strengthening of the bilateral relationship between our two countries. Tragedy has brought our two countries together in recent months, but before the terrible tsunami tragedy overwhelmed the island of the province of Aceh there had already been many positive developments in the relationship between our two countries. I want to say at the outset that all Australians admire the democratic transformation that has occurred within Indonesia over recent years. I do not believe that Indonesia has received enough credit for the remarkable embrace of democracy in recent years. Indonesia is now the third largest democracy in the world and as partners in the region we respect very much the democratisation of Indonesia. We also admire the attempts that are being made to tackle very challenging economic impediments in Indonesia; particularly in relation to such things as fuel subsidies. Both the President and I agree that the foundation of Indonesia’s future prosperity of course lies in her economic strengthening.
We discussed all of the most important bilateral issues; the emphasis on fighting terrorism, the effective implementation of the joint commission on assistance and reconstruction arising out of the tsunami, the importance of cooperating together in the region. We signed a joint declaration which will provide a framework for our association in the years ahead and we made reference of course to the financing of some 600 scholarships that will increase manifold the support that Australia is providing to Indonesia.
President Yudhoyono comes to this country as the respected leader of the largest Islamic country in the world and as the President of our nearest neighbour and also as a person for whom I have developed an immense personal regard. We are both committed to the strength of the partnership and the friendship between our two countries. We openly acknowledge that our cultures and our structures are different; that we will from time to time have differences of opinion. But we are forever together in this part of the world and we are therefore committed to ensuring that this relationship goes from strength to strength.
I welcome you Mr President. I do hope that you have an enjoyable time in our country and that you and your wife will depart with some very happy memories at the hospitality of the Australian people.
PRESIDENT YUDHOYONO: Thank you. Mr Prime Minister, ladies and gentlemen, members of the press. First let me take this opportunity to state on record our people’s condolences and profound sadness for the tragic helicopter crash on the island of Nias last Saturday which claimed the lives of nine Australians and miraculously produced two survivors. Our hearts go out to their families and I want them to know that the people and government of Indonesia are grateful for their noble contributions in helping those who are suffering in Nias. For the ultimate sacrifice my government intends to give the 11 Australians medals of honour.
I am pleased to be here in Australia and to meet my good friend Prime Minister John Howard for whom I have enormous respect and with whom I enjoy close relations. I am pleased to be the third Indonesian President to visit Australia and I certainly hope to visit Australia again. I look forward to many more meetings with Prime Minister Howard in various fora.
I have just concluded a very productive meeting with Prime Minister John Howard. We discussed a whole range of bilateral issues, as well as regional and international issues. We discussed our excellent cooperation in dealing with the impact of the tsunami, as well as the prospect for reconstruction and rehabilitation of Aceh and north Sumatra. Prime Minister Howard and I will closely work together to manage the Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development, which is a bilateral scheme to help the reconstruction in Aceh and Sumatra and other areas.
We also discussed the issue of terrorism and how we can strengthen our cooperation in many areas relating to counter-terrorism. I stressed the need to address the roots and causes of terrorism. Prime Minister Howard and I agree that we should continue with our joint initiative to promote interfaith dialogue.
We also discussed a number of economic issues; particularly trade and investment. We also discussed a separate subject of mine which is education, and of course I welcome the education cooperation that has become an even stronger component of our relations. We also discussed our defence relations, where I expressed my enthusiasm at the improved cooperation between our militaries. We also discussed development around the region. I stressed the importance of Australia’s close engagement with the region and I reiterated Indonesia’s support for Australia to join the East Asia summit this year. I am particularly glad that today Prime Minister John Howard and I are announcing the comprehensive partnership between Indonesia and Australia. I think it marks a significant landmark in our bilateral relations and captures how far our relations have evolved. I also welcome the signing of four important documents of cooperation between the two governments in the field of transportation, aviation security, capacity building, social protections, (inaudible) and technological development.
Today I will depart for Sydney where I will have more time to get with Prime Minister Howard and to meet the Australian people. I certainly hope that my visit here will affirm the importance of Australia to Indonesia and we’ll usher in a new era of bilateral relations between Indonesia and Australia and all the great promise that comes with it.
HOWARD: We might have a few questions, a couple from each side.
YUDHOYONO: [Answer in Indonesian.]
JOURNALIST: Mr Howard to what extent did the two of you discuss (inaudible) what role will it play in the agreement of the fact of secession movements in Indonesia and Australia’s attitude towards those secession movements?
HOWARD: I made it very clear to the President that Australia fully respects the territorial integrity of the Indonesian Republic. That is a given in our relationship; clearly we wish to see the differences in provinces such as Aceh resolved in an amicable fashion and I know that is the desire of the President. But it has long been the position of the Australian Government that in relation to such issues as the Papua Secession Movement and also in Aceh, that we respect Indonesia’s integrity and that is something that is mentioned in the overarching agreement.
JOURNALIST: President Yudhoyono I understand the partnership agreement encompasses security in both the traditional and non-traditional sense. Do you envisage it would include a non-aggression pact and agreed by both countries not to use force against each other but to resolve disputes by peaceful means?
YUDHOYONO: In general we agree to have possible and constructive cooperation in the fields of defence and security. What we are doing now, cooperation in combat and terrorism and dealing with trans-national organised crimes and the education and training between our two armed forces is one example and a model that bi-laterally we could cooperate better. Of course with great understanding, of course we have to find a framework to solve the problem peacefully. If there is a problem arise before us and I believe very strongly with (inaudible) with that understanding and commitment we will be able to solve any problem faced by both Indonesia and Australia.
HOWARD: An Indonesian….
YUDOYONO: [Answer in Indonesian]
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister did you and the President discuss the Maritime boundaries between the two countries? There were some suggestions last year that you might be interested to extend the boundary.
HOWARD: No. One more question.