Wednesday, 14 November 2018
Questions without Notice
Trade with Indonesia
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. Yesterday Senator Cormann denied that Mr Morrison's reckless decision to junk longstanding bipartisan foreign policy was the cause of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement being shelved. Yesterday the Indonesian trade minister said that the delay in signing the partnership agreement is 'because of Palestine', and he has also indicated that the agreement would be delayed while the embassy move remained on the table. Why did this minister mislead the Senate and Australians about the cause of the delay?
Firstly, I reject the assertion that I misled the Senate yesterday. I stand by the advice that I gave the Senate yesterday. I'm also pleased to confirm for the Senate that Indonesia and Australia remain committed to the agreement and are looking for an opportunity to sign. As I advised the senator yesterday, after the substantive agreement was reached on 31 August 2018, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and President Widodo present, there is now a process to be gone through to finalise the text in both languages. Indeed, the trade minister, our good friend and valued colleague Senator Birmingham, again confirmed today that the process we're going through now is to make sure that all the i's are dotted and all the t's are crossed, which is precisely what Senator Birmingham said today, and I stand by my advice to the Senate yesterday.
In response to Indonesia raising concerns about Mr Morrison's junking of longstanding bipartisan foreign policy, Senator Abetz—the government's chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee—this morning suggested that Australia should 'rethink the $360 million each year we give them in aid'. Does Senator Abetz's statement regarding assistance to Indonesia reflect the government's position?
I made very clear again yesterday what the position of the government is. I would also point Senator Wong to the fact that Minister Birmingham met with Minister Lukita yesterday, and both ministers expressed their commitment to get the agreement signed and to complete the process for signing. As I indicated to the Senate yesterday, Australia and Indonesia both share a commitment to secure a two-state solution in relation to matters in the Middle East.
In September Mr Morrison said that the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement would be signed within months, and media was briefed that it would be signed this week on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Singapore. Can the minister guarantee that Mr Morrison will sign the agreement before he returns to Australia?
I refer Senator Wong to my previous answers. The substantive agreement has been reached. There is work underway to finalise the text, as is usual process. Both countries are looking for an opportunity as to when the formal signing can occur, and obviously we want to see that happen as soon as possible.