Subjects: Visit to Jakarta; drug importations; trade with US; Newspoll; Grattan Institute.
I'm very pleased to be here in Jakarta. I had a great meeting with Minister Wiranto in Brisbane in November of last year. We discussed a lot of issues of importance to both Australia and to Indonesia and I pledged at that meeting that my first international engagement would be to Indonesia, given the importance of the relationship.
It's only become more important since Home Affairs has stood up because obviously we have equities, not just within the counter-terrorism space, but also child exploitation, transnational crime and there's a lot of work that we continue to do, both behind the scenes and in the public eye, designed to keep Australians safe, designed to keep a very good and productive working relationship between our two countries.
I'm particularly pleased to be meeting with the President later this morning and then our series of meetings, including with Minister Wiranto during the course of the day.
This is an incredibly important relationship to us; my first trip overseas as Home Affairs Minister to Indonesia and I want it to be a very clear sign that this is an incredibly important relationship to us; that we'll continue to work very closely with our partnerships that remain very important to us and I'm really very pleased indeed that we've been given great access – it reflects the Indonesians perspective on our relationship as well.
Happy to take any questions.
Minister what will you be discussing with the President today?
Obviously a number of issues; the work that we are doing predominately within the Home Affairs portfolio, so particularly around the counter-terrorism efforts – and I want to pay tribute to the relationships between the Indonesian authorities and agencies and our own Australian agencies – it's resulted in the thwarting of a number of attempted terrorist attacks and it has resulted in Australians who visit Indonesia and Indonesian nationals being kept more safe because of the depth of that relationship.
I also want to talk about the work that we're doing within the Home Affairs portfolio, a concerted effort in relation to child exploitation, stopping Australians travelling overseas to exploit children within the region, including here in Indonesia as well, and that will be a very significant body of work within the new Home Affairs portfolio.
I also want to say to the President that Australia's very grateful for the assistance in the organised crime area – so the work that we are doing with the Indonesians around outlaw motorcycle gang members, around people that are involved in the distribution and ultimately importation of illicit substances into Australia – there's a raft of things for us to discuss, but they will be on the agenda.
What concrete outcomes do you hope to achieve from these meetings today? Discussions obviously being one thing, but are there any framework agreements for example being worked on at the moment?
It's a reinforcement James already of what we've got here. I've had some briefings this morning from the heads of our different elements of the Embassy here and they report to me that this is a very strong relationship in each of their areas. There is great engagement, there's great reciprocity and there's really good people-to-people links. So I want to reinforce all of that, but I want to put on the map the additional work that we're doing, particularly around child exploitation, but continue to reinforce the importance – given that we had 1.1 million Australians travelling to Indonesia last year – of the exchange of information around counter-terrorism, obviously the issue of foreign fighters returning.
All of those issues will be important for us and that doesn't require new agreements. It's just a recognition of the fact that we don't take it for granted and that we want to make sure that that engagement continues at the very successful pace it's at the moment.
And is there any additional significance to the Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin being here today? Should we read anything into that?
No, well obviously the Commissioner was keen to travel as part of our delegation and equally there's been some great success; drugs, including ice that were destined for Australians, going into communities across our country with the aid of their [inaudible] and the other agencies that have been involved in the disruption of that importation; you know I think again, Andrew wants to reinforce the value of the relationships and I think it's great to have him here.
On that issue of the ice bust, there's been two in the past few weeks and at least one of them appears to be syndicate that has moved drugs into Australia in the past. Are we getting any closer to you know finding a way to stop this?
Well once you've got human beings and greed and profit involved, people will always have a motivation – whether it's in human trafficking, whether it's in the distribution or manufacturing of drugs – and Australia is a market that's prepared to pay a high price for these drugs. When you get seizures of a tonne and quantities of that order, it's concerning that you don't see a shift necessarily in price or in supply, but it's backfilled from other sources.
So I think it just reinforces that we've got to continue to work very closely, not only with the Indonesians, but with friends otherwise across the region. There's a huge network of Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force officers, ASIO and ASIS officers obviously around the world and there's a lot of work that we do in keeping Australians safe, but also in stopping this product coming in.
So I think the investigations will continue. The disruption of networks will continue and I think Australians can be reassured by the very strong relationship that we have with Indonesia.
I really do genuinely pay credit to the Prime Minister and to the President for the personal connection obviously that they have been able to make, because I think that sets the tone of the rest of the relationship and it's the case that they personally get on with each other very well. I saw the dynamic between the two of them at Admiralty House last year and I think again that it really demonstrates that this relationship is very strong.
How much damage to the Australia-US relationship would a 25 per cent tariff on steel be?
I will let the Trade Minister obviously and the Prime Minister and others comment on that, but Australia is a market, we are an export country, there is a lot that we have gained, as the United States has gained, through the trade between our two countries and our trade to other countries. The United States remains a very close friend and ally of Australia – always will be – it's in our national interest for that to be the case, but obviously there's matters at the moment that the Trade Minister can discuss and I'll leave any further comment to him.
Minister, over the weekend Barnaby Joyce has been in the headlines, for days again, but at the same time the Government has taken a hit in the polls, particularly the PM has taken a big personal approval hit. Do you think it's time….does Barnaby Joyce need to stop talking to the media or do you think these results reflect Australians marking down the PM's handling of the so called bonk ban?
Well James these are deeply private matters obviously for Barnaby and for his partner and for his wife and children, so I don't have any comment to make in relation to those matters. I think most Australians recognise now that these are deeply private and complex matters and it's best for Barnaby and those close to him to resolve these matters, to deal with these matters in private and I am sure that they would ask for privacy and it's not something I'd comment on further.
And on the Newspoll Minister, are you concerned about the fall in the PMs personal approval rating?
Well I thought the Government would always take a hit in the polls given the last few weeks, there's no sense being coy about that, but the Government has a very good record to rely on. The work that we have done in relation to keeping Australians safe, the visa cancellations that have resulted in Australians being safer and more secure, the work that we have done in the area of trade and the 400,000 jobs that have been created in the last 12 months.
I think all of that puts the Government in a good position, but there's huge [inaudible] in relation to Bill Shorten and you haven't got to go too far out of Canberra to realise that there is a huge hesitation when it comes to Mr Shorten. People don't quite trust him, they think there's something lurking beneath the surface and I suspect they are right.
So that's going to come and go through the polls, but I believe the Government is doing a lot of good. There's a lot of great work that we're doing in the Home Affairs portfolio. We'll prosecute that message up until the next election where I believe we can be successful.
What do you make of the Grattan Institute and its suggestion that perhaps immigration may need to be cut?
Look, I've only seen the summary of the report, so I'll have a read of that over the next couple of days, but the point I would make; they are obviously critical of the fact that there has been a lack of supply in housing product, in land and units and whatnot over the course of the last few years and that's been written about many times before.
You've got governments who won't approve developments and then they wonder why they have got a shortage of housing and why housing stock, in terms of prices, you know continues to drive up, particularly in the Melbourne and Sydney markets. There's a situation at the moment in Brisbane where the unit market has come off quite dramatically. So I think there are a number of issues that you can look at within the Grattan Report and I'll consider those further.
Thanks very much.