It’s great that Albanese was in Indonesia, but Australia needs to do more to reset the relationship.Here are five ways to get started:


The new Australian Prime Minister flying to Indonesia to “reset” the relationship is now very routine and would hackle in Jakarta if that didn’t happen.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s determination He goes there as soon as possible Therefore, if he wants to do better than the diplomatic government in dealing with Indonesia, it is commendable-and necessary-.

However, most previous “reset” did not last long, so the visit is very important. Government relations between Australia and Indonesia are fragile and easily broken when tensions arise. There are many differences, from history, religion, ethnicity and language to legal, political, global alliances and strategic interests.

In fact, few Australian governments have completed their terms in recent years without some sort of bankruptcy with Indonesia. This is not all Australia’s fault. Most Australian leaders have been very important to our foreign policy since Paul Keating embraced a strong relationship with Indonesia, like Albanese.

However, Indonesia is far less concerned about its neighbors, and its relations with Singapore and Malaysia are similarly bumpy, which is unlikely to change soon.

Indonesia does not need Australia

Indonesia is a huge country with a population of over 270 million and has the largest Muslim population in the world. It dominates ASEAN and is the G20 chair this year. When the annual economic growth rate returns to the pre-COVID level of 5%, it returns to normal. Top 5 economies by 2050.. It is located across major air and sea routes and is strategically essential in the event of a conflict in the South China Sea.

Whether right or wrong, this means that Indonesians see their country as an emerging global player who can go alone. Many would say that Australia doesn’t know why it’s worth noting. They see us as low-ranking trade and investment partners with a focus on the United States and the United Kingdom rather than Southeast Asia.

And why don’t they do that? Australia is not ranked in the top 10 trading partners of Indonesia.Also recently AUKUS contract Australia has only helped strengthen Indonesia’s view that relations with English-speaking countries are always prioritized over their closest neighbors.

That is why the ritual reset visit by Foreign Ministers Albanese and Penny Wong will not be enough to attract Indonesia’s attention and build deep involvement between the two countries.

Albanese is right to say he wants the relationship to be about More than symbolism And his publication He was a wise move to attend the G20 Summit in Bali in November. But rhetoric is not enough. Everyone has heard it before and it goes hollow without action, which means spending.

Of the prime minister New AUD 200 million The “Climate and Infrastructure Partnership” with Indonesia is a good start. Improving Indonesia’s spotted infrastructure is a project close to Jokowi’s heart.

Climate change is also an urgent concern for Indonesia. However, its record of efforts to reduce deforestation and emissions means that there are challenges.For example, Indonesia ended in 2021 US $ 1 billion (A $ 1.4 billion) transaction with Norway The purpose is to conserve the forest.

What Albanese should do now

However, there are other ways Australia can make a meaningful investment in bilateral relations. There are many proposals that have been launched over the years and are well known to Canberra policy makers. They need to act now. There are only five here:

1. Increase aid to Indonesia

Indonesia is, of course, hostile to attempts to use aid as leverage, but the once generous program carried out in Indonesia provided us with extraordinary access and respect in Jakarta. ..

Albanese and Widdo have a drink after cycling around Bogor Palace. Alex Ellinghausen / SMH pool via AAP

This was reduced by Barbaric cut The last 10 years. And there is a real need. Indonesia may be an emerging middle-class country, but tens of millions are still living in poverty, inadequate social safety nets, and struggling health care systems. Australia can always provide less aid than Indonesia’s budget, but our aid can help Indonesia test new approaches and ensure that its most marginal communities are not left behind. I can do it.

New Labor government promised to add $ 470 Million Aid More than 4 years in Southeast Asia. A significant portion of this needs to be committed to Indonesia.

2. Focus on soft diplomacy

While government-government relations are sometimes problematic, the arts, education, academia, and community sectors have strong person-to-person connections that create a cohesive relationship. To actually impact, you need to increase it by a factor of 10 or more. This means that you will need to return the funds you have removed from soft diplomacy over the last decade, triple them, and then increase them somewhat.

3. Open Australia Center

The Australian Embassy in Jakarta is a fortress that is not open to the public. Australia needs accessible locations to showcase art and culture, such as theaters, cafes and libraries. Indonesians can also get information about Australia’s education and business in a casual and cozy environment. European countries on the other side of the globe, such as Germany and the Netherlands, have installed these in Jakarta – what we do not have is crazy.

4. Make it easier for Indonesians to visit

Australians can get a visa upon arrival in Indonesia, but even Indonesians who want to visit Australia on a tourist visa face a costly, complex and sneaky application process. This means that few people will succeed here. Indonesians need cheap visas that are easily accessible, including vacations.

And when we try to pull the education sector away from China, we need to make it much easier for Indonesians to study here. We have already offered scholarships to study at our university, and the good news is that Albanese has made 10 more announcements, but that is the decline of the ocean.

5. Resume funding for Indonesian research

Much is written about Collapse of Indonesian research At Australian schools and universities. Despite the need for a pool of Indonesian expertise to engage effectively, the number of Australians with language skills and deep knowledge of the country is now small.

The lessons of Keating and Rudd’s program on Asian languages ​​at school are clear. Only financial support can revive Indonesian research.Keating did it for about $ 100 million a year, but Rudd’s $ 20 million a year not enough..

Albanese Australian Consortium for “Domestic” Indonesian Studies – A program that gives Australian college students the opportunity to study and complete short-term courses in Indonesia. But that’s not enough to fix the lack of language expertise. Albanese needs to dig deeper.

Free trade agreement

The long-term challenge is the long-awaited implementation Free trade agreement with IndonesiaThe Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which Albanese focused on the visit, has brought a large delegation of Australian business leaders and trade minister Don Farrell.

Anthony Albanese will have a breakfast party with Australian business leaders in Jakarta on Monday.
Anthony Albanese will have a breakfast party with Australian business leaders in Jakarta on Monday. Lukas Coch / AAP

There is no simple fix here. Australian companies are very nervous about investing in Indonesia. While great profits are possible, establishing in Indonesia is complex and costly and does not trust Indonesia’s legal system to protect them, especially from Indonesia’s powerful oligarchs.

Australian companies may be too cautious, but Indonesia is also to reform the system before it can be expected to help Australian companies achieve their ambitious and elusive foreign investment goals. I have a lot of work. Free trade agreements need to be a priority for both countries.

Therefore, the Albanese-Wong conference in Jakarta is important, but they are just the beginning of the work needed for deeper involvement with Indonesia. And without a real budget commitment to back it up, things can be expected to quickly return to normal stalemate, at least until the next new Prime Minister again flies to Jakarta.


Tim Lindsey

Professor Malcolm Smith of Asian Law, Director of Indonesian Law, Islam and Social Center, University of Melbourne

Tim Mann

Deputy Director, Center for Law, Islam and Society, University of Melbourne Indonesia It’s great that Albanese was in Indonesia, but Australia needs to do more to reset the relationship.Here are five ways to get started:

Back to top button