Interview: Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr (Page 3 of 3)

Moving to transnational and regional security: could you apprise us of the current status of the Regional Cooperation Framework and the key developments which  came out of the Bali Process 5th Regional Ministerial Conference in April this year?

Bob Carr: The RCF is being implemented through the Bali Process Regional Support Office (RSO), established in Bangkok in 2012 and co-managed by Australia (DIAC) and Indonesia. The RSO is promoting greater information sharing and practical cooperation on refugee protection and international migration, human trafficking and smuggling and border management including through coordinated capacity building and exchange of best practices. At the Fifth Bali Process Ministerial Conference on 2 April 2013, Ministers agreed on a plan for continued implementation of the RCF and to further strengthen regional cooperation by establishing a partnership between the Bali Process and the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC). Bali Process Ministers also agreed to set up a working group to better coordinate and direct Bali Process efforts to address human trafficking. This new group will work with Governments, civil society organisations and the private sector in countering human trafficking and to support and protect its victims. Importantly, it will focus on labour exploitation aspects of trafficking which is a serious problem in the region. By connecting the Bali Process with the good work being done by a range of groups such as World Vision, the Walk Free initiative, STOP THE TRAFFIK, and union and industry groups, we will be better able to address labour exploitation aspects of human trafficking.

In the Asia Pacific region the activities of radical Islamist groups appear to be another matter of regional concern. How is the Australian Government responding to this ongoing and complex challenge?

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Bob Carr: Australia is a diverse society respectful of all faiths. Over half a million Australians are Muslims and Islam is our country’s third largest religion after Christianity and Buddhism. Australia has supported initiatives including youth exchanges between Australia and people of different backgrounds in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand as well as support to community-based projects in the conflict-affected southern Philippines. The Australian Government takes a hard line against groups and individuals that advocate violent extremism. Australia recognises that violent extremism is a transnational issue and that international cooperation is essential if the threat is to be countered effectively. Australia is cooperating with regional partners to address violent extremism in management of extremist detainees and promoting social cohesion. We co-sponsor the Regional Interfaith Dialogue to promote understanding and tolerance across cultures and between different faith groups in South-East Asia. With Indonesia, Australia co-chairs the South-East Asia Working Group of the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum.

Now that the Australian Federal election is around the corner tell us what your immediate foreign policy priorities are? 

Bob Carr: My priority as foreign minister is to maintain Australia’s good standing in the international community. We are an effective middle-power with a strong international network. Australia’s experience – our multiculturalism, economic strength and political stability – has much to offer the world. Australia shows the international community what a prosperous, stable and open-trading economy can achieve. A key challenge will be to look for ways we can continue to build on these strengths. Over the past year, I was particularly honoured to bring Australia’s campaign for a two year non-permanent position on the United Nations Security Council to a successful conclusion, Australia played a leadership role in finalization of the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations in April 2013, and we have strengthened our regional relationships. Looking ahead, Australia will take its place as Security Council President in September 2013, we will make a continuing contribution to the successful military and political transition in Afghanistan to the end of 2014, we will advocate for broad based signature and ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty in the coming period and will work as a member of the G20 troika ahead of chairing the G20 in 2014.

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe is a security analyst, defense writer, consultant and visiting fellow at the National Security Institute, University of Canberra.

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