14 Nov 2006

Indonesia and Australia sign new security treaty

3:29 pm on 14 November 2006

Indonesia and Australia have signed a treaty forging greater security cooperation, and underlining support for Jakarta's sovereignty over restive provinces like Papua.

The wide-ranging pact was signed on the Indonesian island of Lombok.

It covers bilateral co-operation in defence, counter-terrorism, trans-boundary crime, intelligence gathering and Indonesia's nuclear energy programme.

The new treaty was almost scuppered earlier this year when Canberra granted protection visas to 43 Papuan asylum-seekers who claimed they were being persecuted at home.

Meanwhile opposition parties in Australia and Papuan advocacy groups have voiced concern that the treaty will stifle legitimate voices calling for basic human rights including self-determination.

The treaty has a reference to neither government intervening in the internal affairs of the other.

But Australia's foreign minister, Alexander Downer, denies that this would see a clamp-down on freedom of speech particularly relating to Australia-based organisations which support Papuan self-determination.

However Mr Downer says that the treaty affirms that Australia won't be aiding and abetting secessionist movements.