Senate debates

Thursday, 20 September 2018


Parliamentary Delegation to Indonesia

6:03 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Earlier in the week, the parliamentary delegation to the Republic of Indonesia provided its report to the parliament, and I'm delighted this evening just to make some comments with regard to that delegation that I participated in in late July this year. The delegation visited Jakarta from 29 July to 1 August and the province of South Sulawesi from 1 to 4 August.

The delegation's primary objectives were opportunities to strengthen trade, economic cooperation and build cultural relationships through people-to-people links as well as Australia-Indonesia development partnerships for health, education, democratic governance and social inclusion.

The delegation was of particular interest to me as a senator for Western Australia and someone who is an enthusiast for the Australia-Indonesia relationship but also because of our close geographical position to Indonesia.

The visit to Indonesia also reinforced some important observations recently remarked upon by Prime Minister Morrison. He said on his recent visit:

… Indonesia's success is our success. But it is bigger than that—it is important to our regional and global economy.

As the world's third largest democracy. Fourth most populous nation. The home to the largest Muslim population in the world. The prosperity, harmony and success of Indonesia is a 'must' for our shared global future.

This delegation visit was not only able to combine my deep interest in advocacy for stronger trade between Western Australia and Indonesia but also provided a deeper appreciation for some of the human rights challenges faced in Indonesia.

On the issue of trade, the delegation had an opportunity to explore agricultural issues important to Western Australia's cattle and wheat exports to Indonesia. It's worth reminding the Senate that Indonesia is Australia's largest market for live cattle, accounting for between 50 per cent to 60 per cent of all cattle exported. The delegation also discussed key issues that would ensure the future sustainability of live agricultural trade with both live cattle importers and Indonesian government officials. And it's worth emphasising that live trade is important to both Indonesia and Australia. Building on this key understanding, our discussions turned to the efforts and difficulties experienced by Indonesia in achieving self-sufficiency in meat production, how price sensitive the Indonesian fresh produce market is, the knock-on effects on imports and other important factors such as pricing in Australia, which can be caused by adverse events such as the drought we're experiencing. We discussed the importance of Australia's wheat exports to Indonesia and visited the third largest wheat mill in Indonesia, the PT Eastern Pearl Flour Mill in Makassar, which is part owned by WA grain cooperative, CBH Group. The operation employs over 600 people and has a combined output of 2,650 tonnes of processed grain per day.

The visit came at a significant time in the history of Australia's relationship with Indonesia, taking place just one month before our new Prime Minister, the Hon. Scott Morrison, made his own visit and, in doing so, made the Joint Declaration of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Australia and the Republic of Indonesia. It is a strategic partnership built on five pillars: first, enhancing the economic and development partnership between our nations; second, connecting people between our nations; third, securing our national and regional shared interests; fourth, developing deeper marine cooperation; and finally, jointly contributing to the Indo-Pacific's stability and prosperity.

This agreement brings significant economic benefits to all Australians. This agreement will allow over 90 per cent of Australian export goods to enter Indonesia either duty free or under significantly improved preferential arrangements by 2020. Indonesia will guarantee the automatic issue of import permits for live cattle, frozen beef, mutton, feed grains, rolled steel coil, citrus products, and potatoes. These highlights are critical as 575,000 live cattle will be duty free in one year. Dairy tariffs will be reduced or removed. Around 455 semi loads of oranges will be duty free in year 1. There will be duty free access every year for enough steel to make 176,000 Colorbond roofs or five Sydney Harbour Bridges and greater opportunities for our tertiary institutions, not only vocational education institutions but—increasingly importantly—our universities.

For Western Australia the upside is tremendous. Western Australian grain growers will be some of the biggest beneficiaries of this agreement. Despite exporting 25 per cent of our total annual wheat exports to Indonesia, Australia doesn't supply any feed wheat to Indonesia. This agreement will allow up to $150 million worth of agricultural feed grains to be supplied to Indonesia duty free, potentially adding up to 25 per cent of the value of wheat exports to Indonesia. This deepening of our trade relationship has been particularly well received by WA farmers and their farming associations in my home state of Western Australia.

I'd like to extend my thanks to the officials in the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, particularly for the special efforts they took to introduce into the delegation visit a series of issues much more sensitive to Australia's relationship with Indonesia but very critical in Australia's global efforts to improve the human rights and conditions of people living across our region. As co-chair of the Australian group of Parliamentarians Against the Death Penalty and chair of the Parliamentary Liaison Group for HIV Blood-Borne Viruses and STIs, the opportunity to meet with various civil society groups about these issues was important and enlightening. The meetings gave the delegation an opportunity to highlight Australia's recent and long-standing work in pursuing the global abolition of the death penalty, Australia's strategy for abolition of the death penalty and our commitment to make this issue a focus of our work as a member on the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. In Australia, we recognise that, for some countries, the move towards abolition of the death penalty will be gradual and that a staged, sequenced approach may be the most effective, depending on a particular country's circumstances. This is an important and ongoing dialogue with all of our neighbours across the region.

We know that Indonesia appeared before the Human Rights Council for its Universal Periodic Review in May 2017. During that review, Australia made a number of recommendations to Indonesia, including that it enhance safeguards on the use of the death penalty, including adequate and early legal representation for cases which could attract the death penalty, nonapplication of the death penalty to those with mental illness, revising the criminal code to accord with relevant international human rights law and obligations, and reinstating a moratorium on the use of the death penalty; finalise the investigation of all human rights cases in Papua; prevent discrimination on any grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity; and continue efforts to reduce violence against women and girls.

We also know that Indonesia is facing a serious challenge regarding efforts to prevent HIV transmission. Immediately prior to our visit, Human Rights Watch highlighted that the marginalisation of Indonesia's LGBTI community was fuelling a HIV epidemic and that HIV rates had increased fivefold since 2007. The prevalence of HIV among gay men in Indonesia surged from five per cent in 2007 to 25 per cent in 2015, despite the government making inroads against the disease in the broader population. From 2008 to 2016, Australia provided $126.5 million to HIV prevention testing and treatment in 14 provinces across Indonesia, including Papua and West Papua. Australia currently provides further funding to HIV in Indonesia through support to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria both bilaterally to support Indonesia's Country Coordinating Mechanism and multilaterally through the health strategies branch; and, most recently, to UNAIDS through a $320,000 grant from the health strategies branch in June of this year. These are issues that require careful and considered approaches which Australia may be able to bring the full extent of its own experiences, understanding and success to assist Indonesia in managing this critically important public health issue.

Finally, may I commend Australia's diplomats in Jakarta and Makassar for their professionalism and remark on the exemplary work they do for our nation. In Jakarta, a special thanks to Ms Kirsten Bishop, the acting minister counsellor for governance and human development; Ms Carly Main, who accompanied us across Indonesia; and the deputy head of mission, Mr Allaster Cox, who kept a watchful eye over the delegation in Jakarta. In Makassar, a special thanks to our consul general, Mr Richard Matthews; our consul, Mr Sean Turner; Mr Aaron Corbett; and Ms Paula Waring from the parliament, who acted as the delegation secretary.

There can be a no more important relationship for Australia than its relationship with Indonesia. It's one that brings significant opportunities. It's also one that brings significant challenges, but, as demonstrated by the new Prime Minister's most recent visit to Indonesia, the future is one of brightness, strength and cooperation, and great shared interest in the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.