Australia and Indonesia have agreed to work together to do more to stop people smuggling and terrorism in the region.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made the pledge today after an extensive meeting on a range of topics.
Mr Yudhoyono is on a three-day visit to Australia and will address a joint sitting of Parliament this afternoon.
The agreement comes after Indonesia’s foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, and his Australian counterpart, Stephen Smith, met yesterday to discuss its details.
Mr Rudd has announced they have agreed to have annual meetings between senior ministers of the two countries and closer co-operation on issues including education and climate change.
But the centrepiece of today’s announcement was a new agreement to try to stop the flow of asylum seekers reaching Australia.
“Our officials yesterday signed an implementation framework on people smuggling and trafficking,” Mr Rudd said.
“This will enhance and intensify our co-operation on dealing with this complex regional and global challenge.”
The two leaders have also agreed to work together to combat terrorist groups in the region.
Mr Rudd said he and Mr Yudhoyono had had a “long and intimate discussion” on the two countries’ relationship.
“For us in Australia, Indonesia is a major partner for our future in the region and the world at large,” Mr Rudd said.
Earlier, Dr Natalegawa said he did not support any policy to turn boats back from Australian waters.
“We have been working with successive Australian governments recently of different political inclinations in a very good way on people smuggling,” he said.
“I think going to this kind of approach of simply pushing back boats to where they have come from would be a backward step.
“It would not be a useful step because it would be inconsistent with that approach of having the three elements [of] origin, transit and destination countries working hand in hand.”
Dr Natalegawa says Indonesia will also enact laws to fight people-smuggling.
“The Indonesian government is determined to formally and legally criminalise people-smuggling as an activity, notwithstanding our tremendous co-operation and work on the issue in the past,” he said.
“And so it is part and parcel of that architecture in addressing the problem.”
Meanwhile, Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has described his talks with the Indonesian president this morning as cordial, constructive and candid.
Mr Abbott said he discussed several issues with Mr Yudhoyono.
“We talked about the potential for deepening economic cooperation between Australia and Indonesia,” Mr Abbott said.
“We talked about the need to have strong policies against people smuggling. We also talked about the circumstances of people in Indonesian jails.”
Mr Abbott has signalled that a Coalition government would turn back asylum seeker boats making their way to Australian waters.