SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

SPEECH

8 September 2016

ADDRESS TO ATMA JAYA CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF INDONESIA

JAKARTA

TOPICS: FOREIGN AFFAIRS, FOREIGN INVESTMENT, GLOBAL ECONOMY

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Selamat pagi Bapak Rektor, jajaran fakultas, dan rekan-rekan mahasiswa yang hadir pada hari ini. 

Saya sangat senang senang berada di Indonesia, dan berada di Universitas Atmajaya, kampus yang sangat indah dengan mahasiswa yang kreatif dan sangat antusias.

Hari ini saya akan berbicara mengenai kebijakan asing. Tapi mohon maaf, saya akan berbicara dalam Bahasa Inggris.

It’s a great pleasure to be here.

I’ve visited Indonesia several times before, but this is my first visit in my new role as Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Indeed it is my first overseas visit in this new capacity.

I wanted to come to Jakarta first because Australia’s friendship with Indonesia is so important.

It is important for our countries and for our people; and it is important for our region.

My senior colleague, the shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, will also make his first overseas visit in this term of the Australian Parliament to Indonesia.

Our visits demonstrate the value the Australian Labor Party places on the relationship with Indonesia.

Indonesia is Australia’s closest Asian neighbour.

It is a country of paramount importance to Australia.

In fact we can trace our relationship as two independent nations back to the birth of the Indonesian Republic.

Australia forged an independent approach to foreign policy during the dark days of the Second World War.

Before then, Australian foreign policy had largely been British Imperial policy.

But after the War, Australia’s Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, broke with British policy by supporting Indonesian independence in the face of Dutch efforts to reassert control over their former colony.

It was not only the Australian Government which supported Indonesian independence.

So did many ordinary Australians, including waterside workers who refused to load Dutch ships and a group of Australian armed forces personnel deployed in Balikpapan who wrote to Chifley supporting an Indonesian Republic.

And when the Netherlands finally transferred sovereignty to the Republic of Indonesia in 1949, Australia was the first Government in the world to recognise the new state.

So our two countries’ emergence and development as independent nations on the world stage had their origins in the same period.

Today, with a population of more than 250 million people, Indonesia is the world’s third largest democracy.

It is South-East Asia’s biggest economy.

And it is on track to be the fourth biggest economy in the world by the middle of this century, after China, India and the United States.

Indonesia is a central player in the shift of the world’s economic and strategic centres of gravity to Asia.

Indonesia is already a key power in Asia and this trend will only gather force in coming years.

The former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating captured the centrality of Indonesia to Australia’s foreign relations back in 1994 when he said:

“No country is more important to Australia than Indonesia. If we fail to get this relationship right and nurture and develop it, the whole web of our foreign relations is incomplete.”

It’s remarkable to think of how far Indonesia has advanced since Prime Minister Keating made those remarks.

In just two decades, Indonesia’s population has grown by more than 50 million people, the size of its economy has more than doubled, and its people have built a vibrant and robust democratic political system.

Nurturing and developing the relationship between Australia and Indonesia remains as essential today as it has ever been.

Indonesia is of fundamental significance to Australia – something Labor has always understood.

We also recognise that multilateralism and regionalism are vital for stability and prosperity – yet today the multilateral system and regional institutions are both under pressure.

The rules-based international system generates global public goods such as international financial stability, an open trading system and cooperation on a wide range of cross-border challenges, from terrorism to people-smuggling, to health pandemics and climate change.

Yet many of this system’s rules and institutions were developed  with little involvement from today’s rising powers in Asia and elsewhere in the developing world.

It is in the interests of international stability for the new powers to be actively and productively engaged in the global system, today and into the future.

Indonesia has a key role to play here today, just as it did in Bandung in 1955 when it helped create the Non-Aligned Movement and in 1967 when ASEAN was formed.

It can help ensure the region negotiates the shifting balance of power successfully, resolving tensions and disagreements peacefully, through cooperation and diplomacy.

Indonesia can help achieve these outcomes in its own right and through its participation in regional and multilateral forums, including ASEAN and the G20.

ASEAN has made a critical contribution to strategic stability in South-East Asia over the five decades since its formation.

At this time of change, ASEAN is critical for the region – and Indonesia’s leadership is critical for ASEAN.

It is vital that Indonesia act as a major regional power, exercising leadership and influence both in the pursuit of its own national interests and in the interests of regional and global stability.

So I welcome President Jokowi’s ambitions for Indonesia’s advancement and his vision of Indonesia as a major maritime power contributing to peace and stability on the axis between the Indian and the Pacific Oceans.

Indonesians are justified in looking to a future as a negara besar – a major country in the region and in the world.

This is in Indonesia’s interests and the interests of the region.

What of the relationship between Indonesia and Australia?

There are many valuable links between our countries – especially in areas like education, tourism, security cooperation and development assistance.

Yet there are also areas where the relationship needs to be strengthened.

Indonesia needs to be at the centre of Australia’s foreign policy.

Indonesia and Australia need to be genuine strategic partners.

Our relationship needs to be deeper, broader and more strategic.

Deeper in the sense of stronger integration and engagement.

Our business links are relatively shallow and our trade is concentrated in a handful of commodities.

Trade and investment flows between Australia and Indonesia lag when compared to those between Australia and other countries of South-East Asia, despite our geographical proximity and the mutually-beneficial opportunities that are available.

Indonesia is the largest economy in ASEAN – yet it is only Australia’s fourth-largest trading partner in South-East Asia, after Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.

So there is significant scope to grow bilateral trade.

That is why Indonesia and Australia launched negotiations in 2010 for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

But while free trade agreements can create a framework for boosting trade and investment flows, governments need to help businesses realise the opportunities.

Capacity building is critical for Indonesia when it comes to implementing trade reforms.

If Australian policy-makers expect their Indonesian counterparts to make the difficult arguments for trade liberalisation, then we need to support Indonesia’s efforts to deliver sustainable growth, poverty reduction and economic reform.

Australia also needs to provide assistance to Indonesia on trade facilitation measures to simplify and harmonise customs, licensing and transit procedures which can act as hidden impediments to trade.

The Australia-Indonesia relationship can also be broader.

It should extend across the full spectrum of political, economic, social, cultural and people to people links.

At times our friends in Jakarta could be forgiven for thinking that all Australia is interested in when it comes to Indonesia is boats, beef and Bali.

But our relations are not that simple, and never have been.

The challenge for Australia is to continue to broaden the bilateral relationship.

This could be achieved by expanding links and two-way exchanges between our educational institutions, our business organisations and companies, and our cultural institutions and practitioners.

There is scope for greater interfaith dialogue – as the world’s largest Muslim country, and as a society which is known for its religious tolerance, Indonesia has much to teach Australia and the world.

And Australia needs to improve its efforts in Indonesian language skills amongst our people, which have, regrettably, gone backwards in recent years.

Finally the relationship would benefit from being more strategic.

By this I mean we should adopt a longer-term view of where we want to take this bilateral relationship.

In recent years, the relationship has often focussed on resolving immediate problems – and these have typically been Australia’s problems rather than Indonesia’s concerns or priorities.

We must work to ensure the relationship between our two nations is focused on much more than the day to day transactions.

Indonesia should be able to look to Australia as a partner and friend in addressing its challenges, whether in tackling economic reforms, delivering infrastructure investment, developing stronger regulatory institutions and improving governance standards.

President Jokowi’s priorities include infrastructure, education and health – all areas where Australia is well placed to provide assistance and cooperation.

Although Australia is a small country compared to Indonesia by population, and our own challenges have therefore not been on the same scale as yours, we do inhabit the same region and our economies are enmeshed with the same neighbours.

This means we are in a common position in some respects and can exchange ideas on shared challenges.

So, in conclusion, let me sum up by saying how fundamentally important Indonesia is to Australia, to the region and to the world.

This goes both ways.

In a region of growing uncertainty, Australia provides Indonesia with a strong, predictable and peaceful partner on the continent to your south.

As your former President Yudhoyono told the Australian Parliament in 2010:

“We are equal stakeholders in a common future with much to gain if we get this relationship right and much to lose if we get it wrong.”

We live in an era of global economic restructuring from West to East.

Indonesia’s economic growth is a big part of this story.

It is lifting millions of people out of poverty and creating a dynamic new South-East Asian economic powerhouse.

We also live in an era which is experiencing a rebalancing of geopolitical power within the Indo-Pacific region.

History shows that such shifts can create the risk of misunderstanding and conflict.

But it also shows that strong bilateral, regional and multilateral relationships and institutions provide the greatest opportunity to ensure that any uncertainties and tensions are resolved though cooperation and understanding.

It is in the interests of all of us that the regional issues are managed intelligently and deftly in coming years.

I believe Indonesia can be pivotal in these efforts.

Australia, the region, and the world all need Indonesia to play this leadership role.

Terimakasih sekali lagi untuk kesempatan dapat berbicara di Universitas Atmajaya pada siang ini.

Kalau ada sumur di ladang, boleh kita menumpang mandi, kalau ada umur panjang, boleh kita berjumpa lagi. Terimakasih.

Thank you.