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Janet asking questions about PNG's human rights situation

Estimates & Committees
Janet Rice 31 May 2018

Senator RICE: In my little time left, I want to quickly move to West Papua and the concerns about the human rights situation and what the Australian government's current concerns are about human rights in West Papua.

Ms Heckscher: Of course, the Australian government takes human rights matters in Indonesia very seriously. Our embassy in Jakarta closely monitors developments in the Papua provinces, including through regular visits. The embassy has very good access to a large network of contacts spanning police, government officials and activist students et cetera. It visits regularly. For example, Australian officials visit regularly. In 2018, so far, Australian officials from our embassy have conducted eight visits. In 2017, we had 26 visits. So it has been a consistent pattern. I can go all the way back to 2013.

Senator RICE: No.

Ms Heckscher: We go very regularly. We use those opportunities to engage very closely in the human rights situation in Papua. For example, Attorney-General Brandis made an official visit to Papua in 2016 and met with local human rights activists as well.

Senator RICE: In the department's view, which Indonesian agencies are the worst perpetrators of human rights abuses? Is it the Indonesian police or the military?

Ms Heckscher: I'm not in a position to answer that.

Senator RICE: Are you detecting any shift in the types of human rights abuses being committed?

Ms Heckscher: We've seen some improvements. We've certainly seen a commitment by the Indonesian government to the situation in Papua. For example, President Widodo has visited Papua on a number of occasions since becoming president. Most recently, actually, we very much welcomed Indonesia's hosting of an official visit to Indonesia by Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Jakarta, which was in February 2018. He called on President Widodo and met with cabinet ministers. In his press conference, he also mentioned that the Indonesian government had invited him to visit Papua. So there is an ongoing commitment by the Indonesian government to addressing concerns in Papua.

Senator RICE: But you acknowledge there is ongoing oppression and ongoing human rights abuses. It is still ongoing despite that.

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