Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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  S.E.Mme / H.E. Penelope Wensley AO

The power of the antipodes


Re-elected to office in October 2004, Australian Prime Minister John Howard has made the continu-ation of high economic growth the policy priority of his fourth consecutive term. Australia’s Ambassador to France, H.E. Ms Penelope Wensley, AO, analyses the reasons behind Australia’s economic dynamism and considers the major challenges facing Australia in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Diplomatic Letter: On a visit to France in January 2005, the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Downer reaffirmed the good relations between the two countries. Clearly, there is a close relationship between France and Australia given we are neighbours in the Pacific. What is the nature of this cooperation and what are the practical ways in which the two countries work together?


H.E.Penelope Wensley: Our relations with France in the Pacific are an important element of our overall bilateral relationship. We value France’s constructive presence in the Pacific and our close cooperation on a range of issues.

Our countries work closely together to provide development assistance to Pacific countries. For example, in 2003, the governments of our two nations announced that they would each contribute up to 1.8 million Australian dollars over five years to develop and implement a regional Pacific strategy on HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections. While small by global standards, the incidence of HIV/AIDS in the Pacific has recently risen sharply in some countries. If unchecked, it could become the major development problem in the Pacific region.

Joint efforts between France, Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific are also focused on supporting regional humanitarian operations as part of disaster relief efforts, on maritime surveillance and support to regional defence and police forces. We are also working with France and New Zealand on practical measures to combat illegal fishing in the Pacific. In November 2003, Australia and France signed a Maritime Cooperation Treaty, which provides for cooperative surveillance and monitoring of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activity in the Southern Ocean. On the environment, we are cooperating closely on initiatives such as a Pacific whale conservation project under the auspices of the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium. Australian and French law enforcement agencies work closely together to combat transnational crime and terrorism in the Pacific region.

We are particularly pleased that our relationship with New Caledonia has broadened and strengthened over recent years. We are working with local and French authorities in a range of areas, such as promoting greater trade and investment; cooperating in providing regional natural disaster relief; defence cooperation including visits and joint exercises; combating security threats and crime; and promoting links through sport, tourism and culture.

Our relations with French Polynesia have improved significantly since France ended its nuclear testing program in the South Pacific in 1996, and President Temaru and I had a very constructive discussion in Paris last year about possibilities for increased contact and exchanges. Australia offers several annual development scholarships for disadvantaged young French Polynesians. I’m pleased to see our commercial and tourism links are now growing.


T.D.L.: Australia and France cooperate closely on disarmament issues, but sometimes this activity can get lost in the detail. In what ways do the two countries work together and what, in practical terms, are the implications of this cooperation?


H.E.P.W.: The proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) is a real and immediate threat. The possibility of terrorists and irresponsible states obtaining and using WMD is a very serious threat to all countries. Preventing the spread of WMD and, indeed, their ultimate elimination, are long-standing priorities for both Australia and France.

WMD proliferation must be tackled globally as part of a coordinated international response. Australia and France work together bilaterally, as well as in the UN framework and in non-proliferation regimes, to strengthen international norms and controls to prevent the further spread of and trade in WMD.

Three states – North Korea, Iraq (under Saddam Hussein) and, (before its welcome decision to renounce WMD) Libya – have violated the Treaty of the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons by seeking to develop nuclear weapons. A fourth state, Iran, has committed serious breaches of its international obligations which presents a significant challenge to the international community. Australia has been an active supporter of France, Germany and the UK (EU3) in their efforts to resolve this problem through negotiations.

Australia and France are working together on innovative and practical initiatives to counter the proliferation of WMD. Countering proliferation demands as broad a range of tools and measures as possible. These include not only ongoing efforts to strengthen compliance with the multilateral non-proliferation treaties, but also international cooperation to cut supply to weapons and missile programs of non-compliant states. France and Australia’s early and strong support for the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) – now involving over 70 countries – is a leading example of efforts to disrupt the flow of sensitive material and technology to illegal WMD programs. For example, Libya’s decision to renounce its chemical and nuclear weapons programs came following the PSI interdiction of a vessel, the BBC China, destined for Libya with an illegal cargo of centrifuge parts for uranium enrichment.

Export controls are another important tool for cutting supply to proliferators. Australia and France have been at the forefront in developing the international system to prevent the export of dangerous products and technology – the first line of defence against the misuse of sensitive materials and technology. Australia, as Chairman of the Australia Group, has played an especially active role in international cooperation on controls on chemical and biological materials and technologies suitable for weapons development. France and Australia work very cooperatively with other members to harmonise national export controls in this regime to restrict opportunities for would-be proliferators to source the ingredients required for making chemical and biological weapons through normal trade channels. France and Australia also work closely on nuclear issues and in other organisations such as the Missile Technology Control Regime.

In 2006 Australia will substantially step up its efforts in a range of international fora to secure existing stocks of shoulder-fired missiles (MANPADS) and to eliminate the illicit proliferation of these weapons to non-State Actors, including terrorists.


T.D.L.: While the European Union is Australia’s largest trading partner, what are the other dimensions to Australia’s relationship with the EU? What are the issues of interest to Australia in the EU’s development and expansion?


H.E.P.W.: It surprises many people to know that the European Union (EU) is Australia’s largest trading partner, given the distance between us. Over the last five years, Australian exports of goods and services to the EU have risen by an average 5% per annum and 7% for imports from the EU.

An important dimension to Australia’s relations with EU is the Agenda for Cooperation agreed by Ministers in 2003. This Agenda formalised our commitment to a wide-ranging bilateral cooperation agenda, covering security and strategic issues, trade, education and science and technology, transport, environment, development cooperation and migration and asylum.

Australia has close historical, political, economic and cultural ties with the EU and we share common positions on a broad range of international issues. Our cooperation on international matters is increasing, in response to the challenges of globalisation. We have welcomed strengthened cooperation with the EU in the Asia-Pacific region, including through the Aceh Monitoring Mission, in post-tsunami reconstruction in affected areas of South East Asia, and in building the capacity of regional countries to counter the threat of terrorism. The EU is an important partner for Australia in efforts to control the spread of weapons of mass destruction as well as in counter-terrorism activities. We have also welcomed close cooperation with the EU and its member states in seeking to address the challenges faced by weak and failing states.

There are some areas where we would like our interests to converge more closely and the EU to take more account of Australia’s concerns. For example, related to our desire to expand trading opportunities, we are keen to see the EU develop its proposed chemicals legislation (REACH) in a manner that does not disadvantage third countries such as Australia and add to costs of importing minerals and metals for European consumers. Although differences remain on agriculture and on aspects of EU regulatory policy, we work closely with the EU on liberalizing trade in services and Non-Agriculture Market Access (NAMA).

Another priority area for change is civil aviation; Australia’s aviation agreements with Europe are out-dated and in need of modernisation, to reflect contemporary realities and changing connections. While aviation traffic between Australia and Europe has grown in recent years, the market share for European and Australian airlines has fallen because access for carriers from both Australian and Europe remains limited. To promote closer people-to-people ties, tourism, trade, scientific and cultural exchanges, Australia wants to negotiate a modern “open skies” agreement with the EU.

Australia has welcomed EU enlargement to date and the extraordinary achievement of political and economic transformation that it represents. Australia is working hard to develop deeper relations with an enlarged and increasingly cohesive Europe, to maintain the effectiveness of our engagement. The promise of political stability and economic prosperity provided by EU membership means that further expansion of the EU’s borders will bring benefits to Bulgaria and Romania in the near future, with the welcome prospect of Croatia and Turkey joining the EU family at some stage further down the track.

T.D.L.: Ambassador, with average annual growth of 3.6% over the last 10 years, healthy macro-economic conditions and a low unemployment rate, the Australian economy is one of the best performing of Western countries. What are the Australian Government’s priorities for ensuring sustainable growth? What policy directions does it pursue to deal with the consequences of an aging population – a problem common to all developed countries?


H.E.P.W.: Australia has become one of the best performing countries in the Western world – a result which has been attributed largely to strong economic management, and ongoing structural reform efforts. In creating the robust economy we see today, there has been no single policy which has delivered these results. Rather, it has been sustained through a large number of agendas which have been mutually-reinforcing.

Taxation reform has been a major priority, with the introduction of a comprehensively revised tax system in July 2000. At the same time, the Government reduced spending and achieved a significant reduction in government debt (0.7% of GDP). Another important aspect has been the successful lowering of inflation – this is currently running at 2.8% – which has created a stable environment for business and investment. Removing unnecessary regulatory red-tape, the implementation of competition policy – which promotes market competition and fairness – and workplace reforms to create a flexible labour market have all been important. In an OECD study in mid-2005, Australia was nominated for world best practice for removing controls on state enterprises, limiting regulations on business, and low levels of protection for its agricultural industries.

Job creation has been another priority. Since 1996, some 1.7 million new jobs have been created, and our unemployment rate of just over 5 per cent is near a 28-year low for Australia. To sustain economic growth and job creation, Australia’s links with the rest of the world are critical, which explains our activist trade policy approach. Apart from our work towards securing an ambitious outcome to the WTO Doha Round, we have negotiated free trade agreements with a number of important economies, including the US, Thailand, Singapore and New Zealand. We are also negotiating FTAs with Malaysia, China, the UAE, Japan, and, together with New Zealand, with ASEAN.

Like other developed countries, Australia is very mindful of the challenges of an aging population, and is taking decisive steps now to prepare for the future. The key goal will be to maintain the high quality and cost effective services currently delivered by the Government for our older population. The most important initiative to achieve this has been the creation of the ‘Future Fund’. With government debt practically nil, the proceeds of future government privatisations will be accumulated and used to offset the Government’s future superannuation liabilities (estimated at 91 billion Australian dollars). These funds will be used to relieve future pressures on government spending as the population ages.


T.D.L.: As a country of immigrants, Australia has an immigration policy responsive to the economic and social needs of the country. What are the characteristics of the Australian model of integration? What place, on the economic, political and cultural landscape, do Indigenous people occupy in current Australian society?


H.E.P.W.: Immigration is at the heart of the story of Australia’s development as a nation. After the continent was first settled by Europeans in the late 18th century, successive waves of migrants have arrived in Australia. Some of the earliest settlers included people from northern Europe but also China, with hundreds of Chinese arriving in Australia in the mid 19th Century to participate in the gold rush -Australia’s first resources boom. Following the Second World War, migrants from Central, Southern and Eastern Europe were welcomed to Australia, and played a critical role in building some of Australia’s most important national infrastructure. (One important testament to the role of immigration in Australia is the Snowy River hydroelectric scheme, consisting of 16 dams with a total water storage capacity of 7,000 mega litres – a feat recognised as one of the seven great civil engineering wonders of the modern world).

Today, Australia’s immigration policy is global and non-discriminatory, composed of two distinct programs: the migration program and the humanitarian program. Under our migration program, we select migrants, on the basis of their skills and qualifications, who can fill projected shortfalls in Australia’s labour force. An applicant’s nationality, ethnicity, gender, race or religion play no part in the determining eligibility. Last year, around 100,000 people migrated to Australia under this program. Under the humanitarian program, Australia welcomes refugees and others in need of humanitarian assistance, who have suffered gross violation of their human rights, have been recognized as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and have some link to Australia. Australia’s humanitarian program is the third largest in the world, with over 635 000 refugees settled in Australia.

In Australia, we describe our approach to integration as ‘multiculturalism’. Multiculturalism is a term which, in effect, involves three principles. First, cultural respect, which means that all Australians have a right to express their own culture and beliefs, but are obliged to accept the right of others to do the same. Social equality is the second important theme, entitling all Australians to equality of treatment and opportunity, free from discrimination. Thirdly, Australia’s approach also tries to harness the many benefits and advantages of having a multicultural society for the cultural, social and economic good of the nation. This means, for example, promoting the fact that over 200 languages are spoken in Australia to encourage foreign, including French, companies to consider using Australia as their headquarters for the Asia-Pacific region.

Indigenous peoples have a vital part in Australia’s heritage and identity. The Indigenous population – comprising two distinct groups, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, who are ethnically and culturally different from one another – is expected to pass 500,000 in 2006. Contemporary Indigenous society reflects the diversity of cultural practices and lifestyles that exist in Australia today. It is a myth that only those that live in remote communities are the “real Aboriginals”. While 27% of Indigenous people live in remote areas, 30% live in major cities and 43% live in regional areas. The Australian Government is committed to removing barriers to Indigenous Australians and also delivers programs to help the Indigenous community overcome the inequalities that persist in some areas. These initiatives include efforts to improve health, housing, education and employment opportunities.  

Indigenous people contribute significantly across many fields, including politics, the arts, media, academia, and business. Indigenous athletes have won, gold medals at the Olympic Games, and represented Australia internationally in nearly every sporting code. Indigenous artists are developing a growing stature and importance on the international stage, producing contemporary art which reflects ancient traditions. We are delighted to be able to see in Paris a feature on Australian indigenous art with the opening of the Musee Quai Branly this June.


T.D.L. : Australia, with other international partners, recently provided support to a stabilising mission in the Solomon Islands, and upgraded its development assistance role in Papua New Guinea. What is your analysis of the implications for the degradation of the political and economic situation in these countries? Do these interventions mark a turning point in Australia’s neighbourhood policy?


H.E.P.W.: Australia has a very strong interest in the stability and economic viability of the South Pacific. We are the largest provider of development assistance in the region. We have significantly increased our assistance to the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea (PNG) over the last few years. This was not a major change of direction or approach, but rather an intensification of our engagement, building on a long-standing basis of active engagement and close cooperation with our neighbours.

Both the Solomon Islands and PNG continue to face pressing challenges. Australians are realists, and do not believe there are any simple, short-term solutions to these; rather, good governance is the key development issue for the Pacific. Poverty is ultimately linked to poor governance, especially weak leadership and corruption. There is an urgent need to address key governance issues including the building of law and order, peace and stability; tackling corruption; and improving fiscal management.  

In PNG, the goal for Australia’s development cooperation is to help build a secure nation and reduce poverty. Australia’s aid program supports broad-based sustainable economic growth in PNG by working with government agencies and systems to ensure better use of PNG’s own resources to strengthen economic management, deliver essential services, and improve law and order.

Australia and PNG agreed in 2003 to an Enhanced Cooperation Program (ECP) to help address PNG’s development challenges in the areas of law and order, justice, economic management, public sector reform, border control and transport security and safety. Under this arrangement, Australian civilians are deployed in a wide range of PNG Government agencies, some police assistance involving deploying personnel as advisers and some police training.

Since the coup in Solomon Islands in 2000, Australia has been working to address the country’s most critical problems – restoring law and order and improving economic management, as well as providing for the basic needs of the community and continuing to foster peace and community empowerment and development.

Following a request from Prime Minister Kemakeza of the Solomon Islands and consultation with the Solomon Islands Government and other Pacific governments, Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Islands police, military and civilian personnel arrived in Solomon Islands in July 2003, as part of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). RAMSI is a comprehensive package of assistance, whose top priority is to restore law and order, and to create the conditions necessary for a return to stability, peace and to enable the economy to grow.

RAMSI has achieved significant results since its deployment. Law and order in Solomon Islands has been restored and government finances have been stabilised. Work is now underway on a second phase of activities, which involves wide-ranging economic reforms, rebuilding the machinery of government and the Royal Solomon Islands Police, and improving accountability mechanisms and institutions. RAMSI retains strong public support in the Solomon Islands. Support by the EU, notably from France, for this initiative has been very welcome.


T.D.L.: The State visit of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to Australia in April 2005 concluded with the signature of a Partnership Agreement. What are the principal elements of this agreement? Did the tsunami catastrophe at the beginning of 2005 permit an expansion of cooperation links between your country and Indonesia, beyond the immediate consequences that it provoked?


H.E.P.W.: President Yudhoyono’s visit to Australia was a landmark in strengthening our wide-ranging bilateral ties with Indonesia. It was during this visit that Prime Minister Howard and President Yudhoyono signed the Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership (DCP), to which you referred. The DCP provided a framework for strengthening bilateral relations covering a range of areas. First, both countries agreed to intensify cooperation to promote trade and economic relations, to expand scope for strengthening business relationships, to explore growth areas such as education and health, and to retain our commitment to maintaining open markets, and to creating certainty for investors and business.

The second area covered by the agreement is security cooperation. The fight against transnational crime is a priority for both countries, but foremost is the challenge of combating terrorism. Both our countries have suffered as a result of terrorist attacks. The Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation, established in 2004 as a bilateral initiative of Australia and Indonesia, is an example of our joint commitment to fighting terrorism. We also want to increase our cooperation in combating other forms of transnational crime and non-traditional security threats, especially in areas such as people-smuggling, narcotics, outbreaks of disease and money laundering. We will build closer partnerships between out police forces, immigration and customs officials and security agencies.

The third major area is our people-to-people links, which are the very foundation of the bilateral relationship. We want to encourage and strengthen our education links, increase exchanges between our ministers and officials, and encourage stronger parliamentary links.

Finally, Australia and Indonesia are determined to provide jointly a lead in tackling the major issues of our region. The work we have already done together both bilaterally and in multilateral regional forums (such as APEC and the ASEAN Regional Forum) on people smuggling, encouraging a regional response to terrorism and bringing the major religions of the region together in the first inter-faith regional dialogue, co-hosted by Australia and Indonesia in 2004, are some examples of this.

In January last year, in response to the devastating effects of the tsunami of December 2004, Prime Minister Howard and President Yudhoyono agreed to form an Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development. It is a program of long-term, sustained cooperation and capacity building for Indonesia, focused on economic reconstruction. Australia will contribute AUD 1 billion over five years to the partnership, which will be in addition to our existing development cooperation program and will bring Australia’s financial commitment to Indonesia to a total of AUD 1.8 billion over five years. The aid is directed at areas of priority need, and will encompass small-scale reconstruction to re-establish social and economic infrastructure in affected areas, human resource development and rehabilitation. It also includes a scholarship program for support and training in key areas.


T.D.L.: The recent visits to Australia of the Chinese President, the Indonesian President, and the Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, were described as historic by numerous observers. Do these visits, in your opinion, inaugurate a new era in Australia’s relationship with these countries? What does Australia hope to gain from its participation in the East Asian Summit?


H.E.P.W.: First, let me underline that the countries of Asia have always been important to Australia. Close engagement with them is an abiding priority in Australian foreign policy. Our relationship with our Asian neighbours is based on mutual respect – focusing on our common interests while acknowledging our differences.

The visits of these three leaders to Australia underline the significance of the growing close cooperation we have with some of our key partners in the region. For example, it’s no secret that political relations between Australia and Malaysia had some strains in the past. The visit by Mr Badawi to Australia last year was the first by a Malaysian Prime Minister in 21 years. However, today our relationship is strong and growing. We have entered negotiations for a free trade agreement with Malaysia, and have an active and cooperative relationship across a broad range of spheres, including trade and investment, education, defence, counter-terrorism, law-enforcement, people-smuggling, tourism and aviation.

We have built a very solid and diverse relationship with China, despite our very different political systems. We don’t hide from the difficult issues. We have an annual Human Rights Dialogue with China. We have an excellent economic relationship, with our exports increasing by 31 per cent in 2004-05 alone. President Hu’s visit in October 2003 resulted in the signing of several key agreements, including a Trade and Economic Framework and a liquefied natural gas export agreement potentially worth AUD 20-30 billion over a 25 year period. The first shipment is due to arrive in Guangdong in April.

As I indicated in response to your earlier question about Indonesia our political relationship with Indonesia is in excellent shape. The election of President Yudhoyono has underlined Indonesia’s successful transition to democracy – one of Asia’s great success stories of the last decade. His visit to Australia last year was another milestone. And while Indonesia experienced some devastating events in 2005 – notably the aftermath of the tsunami and the second Bali bombings – these tragedies have brought our two countries and peoples closer together.

In December, 2005, Prime Minister Howard represented Australia at the East Asia Summit held in Malaysia. Australia’s involvement in the Summit is a relatively new development, but represents an expansion of our involvement in regional architecture – alongside existing regional groupings like APEC and the ASEAN Regional Forum – and an opportunity for us to have even more of a voice in events directly affecting our region. The Summit represents a key development in regional architecture at a particularly dynamic time for our region, and we are excited about the opportunity to make a constructive contribution to its development.


T.D.L.: Formed during the Second World War, the strategic alliance between Australia and the United States remains an important aspect of Australia’s foreign, defence and trade policy position. Does Australia face a choice between the US, or its relations with Asia, especially China?


H.E.P.W.: One of the hallmarks of Australia’s policy in the past decade has been our capacity, simultaneously, to deepen relations with the United States, whilst expanding our relations with many Asian nations. Close links with the United States are a plus – not a minus – in forging closer Australian involvement in the region.

Australia’s longstanding partnership with the United States is of fundamental importance. Since the battle of Hamel in France in 1918 on the fourth of July, the military forces of the United States and Australia have fought together in every significant conflict.

The ANZUS alliance, between Australia and the United States, is also fundamental to our national security and is a practical manifestation of our shared values of a common heritage and democratic traditions. US engagement in Asia is one of the key underpinnings of stability in our region. The Alliance between Australia and the United States, ANZUS, is the centrepiece of a much broader relationship. The Australia-US Free-Trade Agreement, which has now been in force for one year, will further integrate our economy with the largest and most dynamic economy in the world, and deliver lasting benefits for generations of Australians.

We believe that strong global leadership by the United States is crucial to Asia’s future stability and prosperity. The United States is of enormous importance because of the diplomatic, military, law enforcement, intelligence and other resources that it can bring to bear against threats to stability and prosperity.

China’s rising economic potential and strategic weight is the most important factor shaping Asia’s future. Building a stronger partnership with a growing and more influential China is an important objective in Australian Policy. China is Australia’s second-largest merchandise trading partner, and service exports to China are growing rapidly. The Trade and Economic Framework (TEF) signed in October 2003 provides a basis for the further development of the trade and economic relationship over the next decade. On a bilateral, regional and multilateral level, we consult closely on a range of security matters, and are partners in working for agricultural trade liberalisation in the Cairns Group of agricultural fair-trading nations, which Australia chairs. Our close relationship with China is reinforced by regular Ministerial and Head of Government exchanges in both directions and regular bilateral dialogues which we have established on aid, trade and economic cooperation, resources, defence, regional security and disarmament, human rights and consular matters.


T.D.L.: In taking command of the United Nations peace forces in East Timor in 1999, Australia affirmed itself as a front-line player in South-East Asia. In light of the words of Prime Minister John Howard on the preventative interventions in “failing” States of the West Pacific and of South-East Asia, and faced with the proliferation of terrorism in the region, what is your vision for establishing a global security architecture in the region?


H.E.P.W.: Australia’s proximity to South-East Asia means we have a strong stake in the region’s stability. In 1999, Australia led a multinational force in East Timor (INTERFET) and played a key role in East Timor’s progress towards independence in 2002. East Timor’s hard-won independence was a significant milestone for its people and the region. Australia will continue to contribute to regional security and stability through its strong and recognised defence capability, its extensive network of defence relationships with most Asian countries, and its counter-terrorism cooperation and capacity building in the region. Our strategic defence relationships in South-East Asia are longstanding, dating back to the negotiation of the Five-Power Defence Arrangement with Malaysia, Singapore, United Kingdom and New Zealand in 1968.

Australia is strongly committed to the existing formal diplomatic exchanges in the region. Australia was a founding member and continues to play a leading role in key regional organisations of the Asia-Pacific, notably the forum for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) – the primary forum for regional security dialogue and cooperation. As noted earlier, Australia is pleased to be involved in the East Asian Summit process which is part of an evolving, larger East Asian regional architecture.

While the formal architecture of regional cooperation remains a priority for the Government, the development of other, practical forums in the region is dynamic. Australia is contributing to the emerging regional architecture in many key areas, including through the Bali Ministerial-level meetings on people smuggling, the Australia-Indonesia-East Timor trilateral ministerial meetings, and the South-West Pacific Dialogue, involving Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Perhaps the best example of this was the landmark Bali Regional Ministerial Meeting on Counter-Terrorism – attended by 25 countries – which has forged the way for practical CT cooperation in legal issues and law enforcement, and highlighted Australia’s strong commitment to working together with Asia-Pacific partners to tackle terrorism. Both bilaterally and through the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), we continue to help Pacific island countries strengthen their counter-terrorism legal and administrative regimes.

For near Pacific-rim countries, Australia has entered a new phase of activism. We are prepared to commit significant resources and to work cooperatively on practical problems where a positive impact can be achieved. For many fragile, tiny states, particularly the Pacific Islands, poor governance, crime and corruption pose a real threat to both economic development and to regional security. Transnational crime in and through the region – terrorism, drug trafficking, people smuggling, illegal immigration and money laundering – is a growing threat to Australia and the South-Pacific countries.

Many South Pacific countries face a difficult future. Patchy economic progress in recent years means some islands face challenges to cope with ethnic and social tensions and rapid population growth. Most of the island countries have limited resources, and therefore limited capacity to deal with these pressures. As I have mentioned, the expansion of our aid program to Papua New Guinea and the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands shows that Australia stands ready to help those South-Pacific countries willing to help themselves by tackling the problems of poor governance and economic underperformance. Australia’s aid program in this region is an integral part of the Government’s broader efforts to promote regional development and stability.

T.D.L.: The terrorist attacks in October 2002 in Bali and the attack in 2004 against the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, in addition to the recent threats thwarted on the Australian territory, make your country a target of terrorist networks in the region. What is the impact of this threat to Australia’s foreign affairs and security policy? In light of the numerous arrests of fundamental activists, how do you evaluate the dimension of this threat on the region? How is cooperation dealt with on this issue with other South-East Asian countries, and more particularly, Indonesia?


H.E.P.W.: South-East Asia has become a front-line in the global fight against terrorism largely as a result of the attacks conducted by the terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). JI was responsible for the Bali nightclub bombings in October 2002 that resulted in the deaths of 202 people, many of them Australians, as well as the attacks on the Australian Embassy and the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta. It is suspected also of involvement in the October 2005 Bali bombings. These were heinous, cowardly attacks, in which the victims were primarily Indonesian nationals, many of whom were Muslim.

Australia and Australians are a target of terrorists in the region. We are a target because of the tolerant, democratic, pluralist views that are the hallmarks of our national identity. But we are not alone. Terrorism is a long term challenge requiring a highly coordinated international response. Just as elsewhere, the regional security environment in Asia has changed markedly in recent years with the emergency of new forms of transnational terrorism. Australia has responded by pursing a multidimensional strategy to protect Australia and Australian interests.

First, we understand that efforts to deal with terrorism require strong cooperation and coordination with our neighbours in the region. A transnational threat demands effective cross-border collaboration. Over the next four years, Australia will commit over 25 million euros to develop a comprehensive package to boost regional counter-terrorism cooperation. This package, which builds on other regional CT assistance measures totalling 184 million euros, will focus on law enforcement, border and transport security, intelligence and legal cooperation.

On the ground, the Australian Federal Police (AFP), our principal lead international law enforcement agency, has established a solid working relationship with regional police services, in particular with its Indonesian counterparts. The AFP’s practical, hands-on approach, based on close collaboration with the host authorities, paid dividends in the highly successful joint investigation with the Indonesian police into the Bali bombing. The emphasis is on building local capacity so that local police are better equipped to anticipate and respond to terrorist threats and situations. Our intelligence, border management, transport security and anti-terrorist financing agencies have adopted a similar approach with their counterparts, with some promising results.

Over 300 JI and other suspected terrorists have been arrested in the region and more than 40 terrorists have been prosecuted successfully for their involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings. Moreover, governments in South-East Asia have taken a number of important steps to combat terrorism and to reduce the vulnerability of the region to terrorism. In Indonesia, for example, the government has enacted new anti-terrorism laws and has established a financial intelligence unit to restrict the flow of funds to terrorists.

Another important element has been the establishment of a network of bilateral counter-terrorism arrangements, which we have concluded with Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Fiji, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, India, East Timor, Brunei, Pakistan and Afghanistan. These MOUs support practical, operational-level cooperation.  

Australia and Indonesia co-hosted a regional ministerial meeting on counter-terrorism in Bali in February 2005, which endorsed an initiative from Indonesia and Australia to establish a new counter-terrorism centre in Indonesia, the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC). France, working through the EU, has made an important and welcome financial contribution to the establishment, and the centre’s operation continues to be a priority for Australian support.


T.D.L.: Australia remains one of the countries which refuse to ratify for the moment the Kyoto Protocol. As a former Australian Ambassador for the Environment, what is your analysis of the challenge posed by global warming? Ranked 3rd amongst OECD countries for the intensity of its carbon emissions per capita, what efforts is your country making in this domain?


H.E.P.W.: Climate change is a serious problem that demands a long-term and sustained commitment to substantive action. We are particularly sensitive to this in Australia. As the driest inhabited continent with a highly variable climate and susceptibility to drought, we are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The key question is “how do we address it”.

Australia decided not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol as it believes that the Kyoto protocol does not provide the global community with a practical or effective means to address the serious environmental concerns raised by greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, it is widely acknowledged – by both Kyoto and non-Kyoto Parties – that the Kyoto Protocol will not in itself meet the complex challenges of climate change. That said, as a result of our considerable and practical domestic efforts to manage emissions, Australia is currently on track to meet the emissions target we would have faced under Kyoto. The Government has committed some 1.8 billion Australian Dollars    to domestic climate change measures. This includes considerable funding to promote the development and commercialization of low-emission technologies, and promoting energy efficiency.

Because of these extensive domestic measures, Australia’s emissions will be 17 percent lower in 2010 than otherwise. Unfortunately, these real outcomes are sometimes lost in the rhetoric over the Kyoto Protocol.

As only a small contributor to global emissions, Australia’s efforts alone will not make much difference to overall global concentrations of greenhouse gases. Australia has long advocated that an effective international response must encompass all major emitters, while meeting the adaptation needs of all countries. At the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP11 in Montreal in December, Australia was a strong advocate of commencing a dialogue towards an inclusive and effective global climate change regime. We were pleased that this was agreed. We will work actively in the UNFCCC to ensure the dialogue is substantive and moves us towards our goal of an environmentally effective and economically efficient global framework.

Australia is very proud to be a founding partner of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate. The Partnership brings together Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and the United States and will focus on the development, diffusion and uptake of low-carbon technologies and effective energy efficiency initiatives.   This is a significant grouping as the six Partner countries account for nearly half of global GDP, population, energy use and greenhouse emissions. The Partnership recognises that climate change actions should complement economic development and energy security goals if they are to be effective and sustainable.

Like Australia, one of the European Union’s stated priorities is to engage major emitters including the United States and key developing countries such as India and China in future action. The Partnership’s practical, action-oriented approach has achieved this. Australia and the European Union also agree that the private sector must play a major role if we are to be successful in meeting the climate change challenge. Another strength of the Partnership is that the private sector is at the table as an equal partner in developing practical solutions.

At the inaugural meeting of the Partnership in Australia on 12 January 2006, Ministers established eight private-public taskforces to drive the development of new technologies and share best practice in key sectors. The Australian Prime Minister announced Australia would contribute 100 million Australian Dollars over five years (with 25 per cent earmarked for renewables) to resource these taskforces by supporting clean development projects, capacity building activities and our ongoing role in the Partnership.


T.D.L.: Australia has a long record of taking a leading role in multilateral trade negotiations, including as Chairman of the Cairns Group. How important is the current WTO Doha Round? Why has Australia moved forward to sign a number of free trade agreements, given the emphasis it places on the WTO?


H.E.P.W.: Australia regards multilateral trade negotiations as a critically important part of the international trading system which was established after the Second World War. A rules-based multilateral trading system brings fairness and predictability to international trade, restricting the ability of the world’s largest countries and companies to act as they wish. Such a system engenders trust between the community of nations, and provides a forum for countries to negotiate, persuade and use other peaceful means to advance their economic interests. Just as France has many natural advantages in areas of industry and has played a critical leadership role in developing the European Union, Australia’s natural advantages lie in agriculture, and we have developed a coalition of other like-minded countries called the Cairns Group. The Cairns Group is composed of 19 nations who believe in fair trading rules for agriculture, and includes many developing countries such as South Africa, Brazil, Indonesia and Pakistan.  

For Australia and other members of the Cairns Group, the current WTO Doha Round is critical to achieving, (after 40 years of agriculture being neglected) a fair and reasonable deal for countries that have a natural advantage in agricultural production. These trading rounds occur once in a decade – sometimes two decades. The last accord, signed in 1994, made clear that the next Round would focus on agriculture. The implications of a successful and ambitious conclusion to the current Doha Round are enormous. Improving market access, through lower tariffs, would pull millions of people out of poverty (in the developing world), given the importance of agriculture in non-industrialised economies. The World Bank has suggested the figure of poverty reduction could be as high as 60 million people, so this is

a historic opportunity to improve global equality. Australia is firmly committed to staying the course in the Doha Round and working with partners around the world, including France, to ensure a good outcome.

On FTAs, as indicated earlier, Australia has negotiated a number of FTAs, in parallel with our continuing efforts to move the WTO negotiations forward. Several new ones are now in the pipeline. We make sure all such agreements are WTO-consistent and indeed, give impetus and inject further momentum into the broader WTO negotiations.


T.D.L.:Australia appears to have an active cultural agenda here in France. What are these activities and what impact are you hoping to have with them?


H.E.P.W.: I place a very high value on cultural exchanges between Australia and France. Our relations are long-standing and mature and cultural contact has always been a feature of our interaction, not least because of the richness of French culture and the importance France attaches to cultural diplomacy as an aspect of the projection of its national identity and internatio

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