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Asia-Pacific community initiative

Estimates & Committees
Scott Ludlam 26 Feb 2009

FOREIGN AFFAIRS DEFENCE AND TRADE COMMITTEE

Senator LUDLAM-Briefly, could I come back to the conference that Senator Coonan touched on, the conference on the future of the Australia-Indonesia bilateral relationship that was held in Sydney earlier this year. I should just check-Mr Woolcott, were you at that conference?

Mr Woolcott-Yes, I was.

Senator LUDLAM-Can you tell us, if you have the information at hand, how much public funds were spent organising and holding the conference in total?

Mr Woolcott-If you will excuse me for a moment, I have those figures. Our estimate is that the total cost of the conference to the Australian government was less than $300,000, although that does not include corporate sponsorship from ANZ, McRae Investments and Allens Arthur Robinson for individual conference events, and it does not include in-kind support from the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

Senator LUDLAM-The Commonwealth contribution was somewhere less than $300,000.

Mr Woolcott-It was less than $300,000. We are still paying the final bills for that.

Senator LUDLAM-It was just an order of magnitude that I wanted. Can you tell us a bit about the conference, including who chose the list of speakers and who chose the topics for discussion?Mr Woolcott-The list of speakers and the topics were decided on by Mr Smith, the foreign minister.

Senator LUDLAM-So he was quite closely and personally involved in setting the agenda for the conference?

Mr Woolcott-Yes. What we were trying to do with this conference was something different, something that had not been done before in Australia. In government there is a fairly good understanding now that the political relationship is very strong at every level. What is missing in the relationship are the people aspects- the media contacts, the contacts with NGOs and some of the educational linkages. So we were very interested in trying to focus on that and make this conference a bit different from previous conferences on the Australia- Indonesia relationship.

In that regard I believe the conference was a considerable success. We had three ministers from the Australian side-the Minister for Climate Change and Water, the Minister for Trade and the Minister for Foreign Affairs-and their counterpart ministers from the Indonesian side, and we had some 140 delegates pretty evenly split between Australia and Indonesia, representing a very impressive cross-section of their civil society and political leadership. In that sense I think it was a very useful event.

Senator LUDLAM-Can you tell us the role that the Lowy Institute played and when they were brought on board-or were they part of initiating the conference?

Mr Woolcott-Lowy was brought on board very early in the process. Before advice went to ministers on the conference we had had discussions with Allan Gyngell at the Lowy Institute about his preparedness to be heavily involved in the conference, and in the end he was the moderator for the overall conference.

Senator LUDLAM-Were there any other organisations, universities and so on approached to assist in the organisation of the conference?

Mr Woolcott-No. Obviously a number of Australian academics attended but there was no other assistance. DFAT did it itself, with Lowy.

Senator LUDLAM-Any other non-government organisations from the Australian side involved in the organisation?

Mr Woolcott-No. Again, I am very happy to provide you with the attendance list if that would be of interest to you.

Senator LUDLAM-Yes, that might be helpful.

Mr Woolcott-I do not have it with me now but I would be very happy to send that to you with the conference documents.

Senator LUDLAM-That would be helpful. That might pre-empt the next one or two questions. Were there any West Papuan people invited to the conference or did any attend the conference-either in the exile community here or brought down from West Papua?

Mr Woolcott-Not that I am aware of. Certainly on the Australian side there were no people from the lobby groups here for West Papua. On the Indonesian side I am not sure whether there was any Papuan representation. I would have to check that and I will let you know when I send you the other documents.

Senator LUDLAM-We can probably assume that that was not the case. Was there a decision made not to invite or to exclude the West Papuan community from the conference?

Mr Woolcott-Again, the conference was trying to get away from what you might call security type issues and look at the people issues.

Senator LUDLAM-You did not mention democracy before.

Mr Woolcott-Yes, I did mention democracy. Can I say that Papua was raised in the discussions.

Senator LUDLAM-In what sort of context?

Mr Woolcott-It was raised by a number of participants on the Australian side and on the Indonesian side in the context of making special autonomy and democracy work better in Papua.

Senator LUDLAM-Can you tell us what sort of outcomes of the conference were made public?

Mr Woolcott-The next step is to work with the Lowy Institute in producing a Lowy paper, which they produce themselves on a range of subjects, on the conference. We are working with Lowy on that now and we would hope to have that ready for publication in the next few weeks.

Senator LUDLAM-Okay, so there is some record. Lastly, did the conference discuss the Indonesian military's role in illegal logging of old-growth forests or resource extraction in West Papua?

Mr Woolcott-There was a session on environment which looked at a whole range of issues. Obviously, climate change and forestry came up. Illegal logging came up as well, but I do not recall it being particularly directed to allegations that the Indonesian military were involved in it. But illegal logging was discussed at some length. Another area which was seen as something which needed a lot more work between us was oceans policy.

Senator LUDLAM-I have no further questions. Thanks for your answers.

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