Peter Dutton: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for being here today. I want to say it’s great to be here in the presence of Andrew Robb our Trade Minister and modern day explorer – he’s off around the world on a regular basis exploring new markets and the Indonesia Australia Business Week here has been an incredible success and it’s a great credit to Minister Robb – and also to Minister Colbeck, to Richard Colbeck, it’s great to be here with Richard as well.
I have an announcement to make in relation to the visa issuance, which I think is a significant announcement today, and it sends a very clear message to tourists coming from Indonesia to Australia that there is a new game in town and it’s easier than ever to get a visa to come to Australia.
Today, I announce that the Australian Government will introduce an option of a three year multiple entry visa for Indonesian visitors to Australia, starting in December of this year, so next month. That is an extension from the current one year period and it will allow people to come in for multiple visits for a maximum of three months at any one point in time.
Secondly, I also announce today that the Government will expand the online visa lodgement to all Indonesian citizens by the 1st of January 2017, making the process for applying for an Australian visitor visa simpler for Indonesian tourists and business people.
So I think they reflect the Australian Government’s desire to do all that we can to assist the tourism sector and I’d ask Minister Colbeck to make some remarks and then Minister Robb and then we’re happy to take questions.
Richard Colbeck: Thanks Peter and obviously this is a very welcome announcement for us to be making here today as part of Indonesia Australia Business Week. We welcome into Australia about 150,000 Indonesian travellers every year and that makes a contribution of about $600 million dollars to the Australian economy.
We’ve had the opportunity for some roundtables with industry here over the last couple of days. Visas is one of the issues that has been raised with us and obviously the opportunity for us to make it easier for visitors from Indonesia to come to Australia to continue the growth of what is a very, very important sector for the Australian economy, is very, very welcome and it’s been great to be able to work with Minister Dutton to be able to bring this reform about. Thank you.
Andrew Robb: Thanks Richard and Peter. This whole week, Indonesia-Australia Business Week, has been about taking our relationship to another level all together, and fostering the great opportunities that exist when we combine forces; the things that Australia is good at and the things Indonesia is good at. Together we can be a very powerful force in the further development of all of the countries in the region around us. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to play a part in the growth in the regions around us, so it will help both our countries, but also together we can help other countries in the region.
This initiative from Minister Dutton is symbolic of all the different policy issues we will seek to address in the months and years ahead, to keep building that relationship.
I met on Monday in Manila with Minister Tom Lembong, the new Trade Minister here, and we’ve agreed, starting first thing in the new year, to re-engage on the comprehensive economic partnership negotiations, which ran into the sand three or four years ago.
At every level, we’re looking to do what we can to foster the relationship, and we’ve seen again in the last day and a half, the opportunities for us to come together in hundreds of different areas are outstanding, and these sorts of initiatives that could make it easier to move between our two countries, is fundamental to that.
Journalist: Minister Dutton, recently, I think it was earlier this year or late last year, the Indonesians offered a reciprocal visa on arrival arrangement with Australia which I think your predecessor shot down straight away. Is that possibly back on the table or not?
Peter Dutton: I think what’s on the table is the ability for us to work more closely with Indonesia than we ever have in the past. This is an indication of the Government’s future intent. It demonstrates that we are very serious about increasing economic activity between our two peoples and it indicates the fact that we’re willing to deal with some of the bureaucracy around the processes and try and streamline the arrangements.
For example, it was raised with me in the last 24 hours or so the difficulty around some of the tourist leaders who will head groups when they come to Australia about difficulties for a single entry visit for their visa. Now, we haven’t been able to resolve that issue as yet but it’s one of the issues that we’re working on.
Like Indonesia, Australia will always take very seriously the need to balance – in terms of issuing visas – the need to facilitate travel and 96 per cent of people who apply for a visa from Indonesia are granted a visa and it takes a much shorter period of time than people might understand to be the case in the past.
So there are lots of things that we can work on but we need to get the balance right between facilitating free flows of people who want to visit as tourists or business men and women to Australia or Australians coming to Indonesia. At the same time we need to balance the security issues as well and that’s the balance that we’ll strike.
But for us this has been a very important first step and we now continue the discussion with our Indonesian counterparts to see what might be possible next.
Journalist: I’m not sure if this is one for Mr Robb or Mr Dutton. Luhut Panjaitan has said today that there will be no new executions in Indonesia while the economy is weak. What’s your reaction to that? Are you comforted by that news?
Peter Dutton: Well obviously the Government, the Australian Government’s position is well known in relation to that matter so we welcome the announcement, but I wouldn’t have anything further to add on that.
Journalist: Mr Dutton, while you’ve been in Jakarta this week there’s been an ongoing court case on Roti Island in which people smugglers have given evidence of Australian officials paid them money to return to Indonesia. Are you concerned that paying people smugglers provides a financial incentive?
Peter Dutton: Well I dealt with this issue which was many months ago in Australia and I haven’t got anything further to add to that today.
Journalist: Could you tell us anything about the group of New Zealanders who have been deported from Australia?
Peter Dutton: Well, there was a group of 12 New Zealanders who had their visas cancelled under Section 501 of the Act – that is that they failed the character test and they’ve been sent back to New Zealand overnight and we’ve been working very closely with the New Zealand Government.
I’ve had a number of conversations with Minister Adams and obviously it follows the visit by Prime Minister Turnbull to New Zealand where he met with his counterpart Mr Key.
The Australian Government is keen to work with New Zealand to facilitate returns, particularly where people who have had their visas cancelled, where they voluntarily return to New Zealand. So we’ll facilitate further movements at the appropriate time.
But the Australian Government’s position remains as it has always been, and that is, that we welcome people to our country as Indonesia and New Zealand, and every other country does, but if people commit offences or they break the laws in Australia then, as has been the case for these New Zealanders, then they can expect to have their visas cancelled and returned back to New Zealand.
Journalist: So we want more Indonesians and less New Zealanders?
Peter Dutton: Well we want more people altogether. We want more good people travelling and we see regular numbers coming from New Zealand and from Indonesia and from other countries because Australia is a desirable destination.
We want to also have a safe society and it doesn’t matter whether you’re an Australian citizen or you’re a New Zealander staying temporarily in Australia. We want to provide a safe community. The Government’s been very clear about the fact that if you breach Australian law, if you seek to do harm to Australians, or to people who are temporarily visiting Australia, then you can expect to have your visa cancelled.
Journalist: Minister, Tony Abbott’s boat pushback policy is one of the things that has contributed to the difficult relationship between Australia and Indonesia. Have you raised this during the visit and now that we have a new Prime Minister is this something you will revisit?
Peter Dutton: Well the Government’s got a very broad working arrangement with Indonesia.
The focus of my discussions in the bilaterals was around how we can grow the economic relationship. So, I again pay tribute to Minister Robb, and Minister Colbeck, to Ambassador Grigson, to all of the staff here who have facilitated an amazing week of business people, who are having discussions, renewing old acquaintances, commencing new opportunities, because that will be great for employment in Indonesia. It will be great for economic development in Indonesia and it will be great for that same outcome in Australia and if we can facilitate that then I think that’s a great outcome.
Now, that’s been the focus of my discussions in the bilateral meetings that I’ve had yesterday and today and there is a lot more that we can do on maritime security as well, in particular around illegal fishing, around people trafficking – especially where that might involve young girls or women.
So there is a lot to our relationship and I think our discussions over the last couple of days have concentrated on those issues, will bear fruit, because there is a lot of experience both in Indonesia and Australia where we will be able to exchange ideas and make sure we can have an orderly and managed migration, both inbound and outbound, and that’s the desire of both Indonesia and Australia.
Journalist: Have you discussed boat turnbacks at all while you’ve been here?
Peter Dutton: I’ve had discussions with my ministerial counterparts and as I say, really, the main focus has been on the most important issues and that his how we can further strengthen the relationship, not just economically but in a security sense as well.
As people have seen in Paris, tragically over the last few days, we need to know who is coming into our country and we need to make sure that we have the proper responses, the proper use of technology; biometrics, fingerprints, all of that.
We share a lot of information with Indonesia on movements and, as I said before, the vast majority of people who seek to come to Australia through this new visa arrangement, will have their visas announced, approved and they’ll be able to travel in record time and that’s been the focus of our discussions.
Andrew Robb: Can I add, not on that issue, but there’s been mention that there’s a lot of people coming to Australia – which is prompting some of the questions – because we’re an attractive destination. In fact our international tourism is growing at 8 per cent a year. It’s expected that tourism will be our biggest growth sector over the next decade and I suspect it will be a big growth sector in Indonesia as well.
One hundred million people left China last year for a holiday; one million came to Australia. I’m not sure how many came to Indonesia, but I suspect you got a significant number. The Chinese government expects 220 million people will leave China for a holiday in 2020 – in five years’ time.
It’s not only the Chinese, we’ve seen a 19 per cent increase in tourists from India, we’ve seen nearly a 12 per cent increase in tourists from the United States, so from so many different parts of the world.
And the thing I want to mention is that as a consequence, we have billions of dollars being invested into all of our traditional and very popular tourist venues in the cities, and also places like the Gold Coast, and Cairns. So all over Australia we’ll see a lot of five and six star quality hotels and other tourist attractions.
We now specialising in eco-tourism and we’re finding a lot of people in the region are starting to look for these eco-tourism opportunities. In fact we’ve got world-class eco-tourism lodges all around Australia – in wilderness areas, in the semi-desert areas, in many of our environmental assets around many points in Australia – these are six star lodges, and there’s great opportunities for people of high-net worth in particular, to capture those opportunities. There’s quite a significant cohort coming out of Indonesia and we need to shine a light on some of those opportunities.
Journalist: Was the visa liberalisation something that President Jokowi took up with Prime Minister Turnbull last week or is it something that has been in the pipeline?
Peter Dutton: The work obviously around the visa changes has been in the pipeline for some time. I’m not aware of whether it was specifically raised, but the general issue obviously of economic activity in making it easier for people to come to Indonesia from Australia, or go to Australia from Indonesia, was no doubt the subject of discussion between the President and the Prime Minister.
So I’m pleased that we have been able to deliver on it because it will make it easier for, in particular families who might have children studying in Australia or people with business to do in Australia, it will make it much easier for them to travel to our country.
As I said before, the important thing to remember out of all this is that it is much easier, it takes much less time than it ever has for a visa to be issued and people can have multiple entries over a three year period. So at the same time the cost of it doesn’t go up. There is a great advantage in that for people who want easy travel to Australia, and that’s our message to Indonesian tourists: that this does get much easier with the electronic lodgement as well, due to come in in 2017 – that’s already been trialled with some trusted partners already.
That will make it easier for people, particularly those living outside of Jakarta, to make an application online to come to Australia, to come to one of the states and territories, or multiple places that they might want to visit in Australia, so there’s a lot of up sides to this visa announcement.