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Opening Address for the Joint Working Group on the Environment

Jakarta, Indonesia
17 November 1997

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald
Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister for the Environment

Senator Macdonald: Mr Sudarsono, Secretary Minister for the Environment and Mrs Nieke Ismardani Kuryana, from the Indonesian House of Representatives, delegates from Indonesia and Australia, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure for me to be here with you today and to see so many Government Officials from both countries and so many business people from our countries getting together to look at ways that we can all improve our environment in the region in which we live.

The Australian Government is very keen to continue this relationship and to continue working together with the Indonesian Officials. I come here today on behalf of the Australian Government to show that the Australian Government is very keen for this relationship to grow in the years ahead. I visit here as well as on my own behalf, on behalf of Senator Robert Hill, the Minister for the Environment and the entire Australian Government.

We are very pleased to assist with the environmental co-operation between our two nations. There is great scope for Australia and Indonesia to exchange information and technologies and to collaborate on ways we can jointly address environmental issues. This Joint Working Group on the Environment is very tangible evidence of our close relationship as very near neighbours in this dynamic region of the world.

My colleague the Hon. John Moore, Minister for Industry, Science and Tourism in the Australian Government, was here last week for discussions with Indonesian Ministers and like he I am confident that any economic problems that may be being experienced in Indonesia now, will be problems that can be sorted through and will be rectified in the not too distant future.

I am very pleased that our Prime Minister was able to be in Indonesia recently and again that shows that, as far Australia is concerned, we believe Indonesia is very important economically, strategically and environmentally. Over the years we have built together this relationship on common interests and mutual respect.

Governments and industries across the world are under increasing pressure to protect the environment. Environmental concerns are a big issue in both Indonesia and Australia. For many years now the Australian Department of the Environment has cooperated extensively with Indonesian Agencies to promote environmental protection. We do this because we are international citizens and also because we are very close neighbours. If we help each other protect our environments it makes good sense for both countries.

In recognising this special relationship and in wishing to build on it, Minister Hill and Minister Sarwono established the Joint Working Group on the Environment at the Indonesian/Australian Ministerial Forum last year. This initiative builds on the very successful relationship already established under the Ministerial Statement of Intent which both countries signed in 1990.

Both countries are very keen to progress the Joint Working Group initiative. The Indonesian Government has created an investment friendly environment particularly in the eastern Indonesian region. The Australian Government and Australian business, as you can see from the size of the representation from Australian business here, are very keen to take advantage of those opportunities.

However, while we want to extend trade and business we also want to ensure that it is done in a very environmentally safe and friendly way. Many of the Australian companies here today are companies that are determined to ensure that the world has the best technology, the best pieces of equipment, and the best knowledge to be able to save our very precious environment.

I see the Joint Working Group on the Environment promoting and encouraging action by key sectors in Indonesia and Australia to protect the environment of both countries. Our two Governments know how important private sector involvement is in this initiative. If it is to work properly then it will need private sector involvement from both Australia and Indonesia. The Joint Working group provides an opportunity for the Australian Environment Management Industry to increase exports to Indonesia. The Joint Working Group will benefit Indonesia very much as well. It will create opportunities for Indonesian Government and business people to make contacts and to establish relationships in order to achieve successful outcomes.

By developing business partnerships, the Australian Environment Management Industry and its Indonesian colleagues will grow and in so doing will provide better solutions to domestic environmental challenges.

We think, and I hope we are right, that Australia's Environment Management Industry is recognised world wide for its expertise in managing natural environments and cleaning up degraded urban and industrial environments. It is very pleasing to see that Australian companies are doing business in Indonesia and we commend the work being done by the Indonesian Government and industry to protect the environment in the industry sector.

There will be many opportunities for future cooperation between Indonesia and Australia to maximise the potential of the Environment Management Industry, both domestically and in the region. I am very hopeful that this meeting today between Australian business people, Indonesian business people and between our two Governments will open doors and allow us to work very closely together to make sure that we have the environmentally part of the world.

Perhaps it is a long term view, but I think that as the years go on, Indonesia and Australia will have to work together to promote this as the very best part of the world from an environmental point of view.

I look forward to hearing of the outcomes of today's meeting. By the end of the day I know that we all want to see progress. I am very keen to learn of how we can proceed on a few practical, achievable commercial outcomes.

Can I finish by thanking you and the Environment Ministry, Mr Sudarsono and Mr Harry Harsono Amir (Deputy Assistant Minister for International Affairs) for organising and contributing to the success of this meeting. We very much appreciate you putting this together in your country this year and we certainly hope that we can reciprocate in our country at some time in the future.

I thank you very much and hand it back to you.

Mrs Nieke Ismardani Kuryana: Honourable Senator Ian Macdonald, Mr Sudarsono, Secretary Minister for the Environment, visiting Australian business delegates, visiting Indonesian delegates, distinguished guests.

It is a great privilege for me to welcome all delegates especially those who have travelled from afar to participate in this meeting.

It behoves me on behalf of the Indonesian House of Representatives to thank you and to express our great happiness for organising this Joint Working Group on the Environment between Australia and Indonesia.

The moment is very appropriate since the problems relating to the environment do not only have a regional effect but also a global effect. The disaster that has just befallen Indonesia, the smoke disaster, that was caused by the prolonged dryness in most parts of Indonesia, together with forest fires has filled all of us with great anxiety. This smoke has not only affected Indonesia but it has also crossed the border polluting neighbouring countries.

It has caused a great deal of material loss as well as damage to the forests. It also disturbed river transportation as well as being (inaudible) for the community living around the disaster area.

It has become a serious matter for the Indonesian people and needs to be handled immediately. Therefore, this meeting is very important to us and we hope it can contribute to overcoming this disaster.

As you are experiencing presently, ladies and gentlemen, there are many environmental issues at hand in the world like global warming, damage to the ozone layer, (inaudible), destruction of tropical forests, et cetera. When these issues come up it should not only be the Department concerned who are held responsible.

We should not consider environmental matters from the point of view of individual countries but as an inter-related global interest. Environmental disturbances in one country may also affect other countries. What is important is that the world community cares - cares about saving the environment. We hope that in the future we can see these matters more objectively with the vision of togetherness for the benefit of all of us.

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Indonesian House of Representatives and the people of Indonesia to thank the Government of Australia for their contribution and assistance in extinguishing the forest fires that we have recently experienced. We hope that this co-operation will continue and strengthen in the future.

Commonwealth of Australia