ABC Newsradio with Marius Benson












SUBJECT / S: Indonesia, Victorian Government crisis.

MARIUS BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, before I ask you about the Prime Minister’s trip to Indonesia, can I go to Victoria where there is a crisis in politics, a constitutional crisis in the minds of most people with a deadlock between the Government and the Opposition. How should that deadlock, how should that crisis be resolved in Victoria?

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Well, of course that’s a matter for Victorians but I do know that the Opposition Leader, Daniel Andrews, is seeking a meeting with the Premier today. I would expect we’ll see some outcome from that meeting but it may be an early election, but that’s a matter for Victorians.

BENSON: An early election – there is no election due until November in Victoria. Would you, Labor, federally welcome an early state election against the current background of the battle over the Budget federally?

PLIBERSEK: Look, it’s not about what we would welcome politically. It’s about what’s in the best interest of Victorians. If the Government believes it can continue to govern, then it should show that. If it can’t continue to govern, if indeed Mr Shaw does support a motion of no confidence, then I think the position of the Government becomes untenable.

BENSON: Okay, can I go from Victoria to the Indonesian island of Batam where the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is going to be meeting the Indonesian President later today and Tony Abbott has been pointing to that as an indication of the increasing warmth of bilateral relations with Jakarta. Do you accept that view?

PLIBERSEK: Well, I think ‘increasing warmth’ is an overstatement of what’s happening. I hope that relations are moving closer to normal. I was delighted when the Indonesian Ambassador returned to Australia recently but cooperation is still suspended in many areas where we are usually cooperating with the Indonesian government. It’s very important that we get the relationship back on track. It is one of our most important economic and strategic relationships. And what’s very disappointing is that it’s been six months now since our Government said that it would be signing a code of conduct with the Indonesians and yet nothing is signed and there’s no intention of signing on this visit either.

BENSON: There’s no intention of signing on this trip but Tony Abbott told Parliament yesterday the signing of that code of conduct, which the Indonesians want, is only weeks away.

PLIBERSEK: Well, in response to a question I asked about why the code of conduct’s not yet signed and whether it would be signed on this trip, he did say that it was likely to be signed shortly. I certainly hope that’s the case. I think that it’s quite right that President Yudhoyono has been a very good friend to Australia and that it is much more likely that we’ll be able to restore normal relations under this President than under any new president because any new president will be more focused on their domestic responsibilities than on the relationship with Australia. So, there is some urgency to restoring normal relationships now.

BENSON: How abnormal are relationships now? What is not normal about the way the two nations are dealing with each other at the moment?

PLIBERSEK: Well, we know that cooperation is still suspended in a number of areas. Indonesia is a very important strategic partner for Australia, we need to have full cooperation in all strategic areas. We also know that it’s affecting our economic relationship with Indonesia. Australian businesses are reporting that they’re finding it harder to get commitments or answers from their Indonesian partners, from the Indonesian Government. That’s a real problem for Australian businesses that are very much looking to a growing Indonesia as an important source of Australian investment.

BENSON: More broadly, the trip, the twelve day trip ahead for the Prime Minister, he says is going to the principal message to Europe and the United States, and North America, is that Australia is back in business. And the Government points to new deals signed on the last international journey of the Prime Minister with Korea and Japan as evidence that business is improving under the Coalition internationally for Australia.

PLIBERSEK: Well of course both of those free trade agreements had their genesis under Labor and the Trade Minister, Andrew Robb, was generous enough to acknowledge that and acknowledge that Craig Emerson in particular had done an enormous amount of work in the early stages of those agreements.

BENSON: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much.

PLIBERSEK: Thank you, Marius.


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