14 November 2018


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On the Indonesian Free Trade Agreement, can I say the Prime Minister’s visit to Singapore has now exposed in full the utter debacle created by Mr Morrison’s desperate decision to trash decades of considered bipartisan foreign policy to try to win a few votes in Wentworth. And didn’t that go well?

We learnt in Senate Estimates the decision to consider moving the Australian Embassy in Israel wasn’t taken to Cabinet, wasn’t based on any proposal from DFAT, the Foreign Minister Senator Payne was given less than 48 hours’ notice, and the media was briefed before the head of the Australian Defence Force.

Mr Turnbull warned that it would prompt a very negative reaction from Indonesia and he was right.

This decision from Mr Morrison is harming our economy, costing jobs and damaging one of Australia’s most important relationships.

Here’s what Mr Morrison himself said in Jakarta in September. He said:

It will open the door to a new era of opportunities for Australian and Indonesian business.

Whether in agriculture and manufacturing, services or investment, this new agreement lays a foundation to realise the economic potential of our partnership.

It will create jobs and it will create wealth for both countries.

He said the agreement would be signed within months, and the media was briefed that it would be signed this week on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Singapore.

Now, it’s sidelined and why?

To quote the Indonesian Trade Minister the delay is “because of Palestine” and he’s made clear the agreement will be delayed until this is fixed.

Under this trade deal 99 per cent of Australian exports to Indonesia would be tariff free – exports like frozen beef, sheep meat, feed grains, steel coil, citrus products, carrots and potatoes.

But now because of Mr Morrison’s short-sighted, ill-considered decision Australian farmers, Australian manufacturers, Australian workers will suffer.

But this isn’t just about trade.

Indonesia is a critical relationship to Australia but it is fair to say our bilateral ties struggle to reach their full potential.

Indonesia is the world’s fourth largest country by population and by 2050 projected to be the world’s fourth largest economy.

It is the largest economy in South East Asia.

Indonesia is critical to Australia’s security and stability, something Labor has always understood from Curtin and Chifley, through Keating and Hawke to the Rudd and Gillard Governments.

And yet under this government our trade with Indonesia has actually decreased.

As Mr Morrison himself said in Singapore just moments ago, after meeting with Indonesia’s President:

Indonesia doing well, economically, Indonesia doing well, strategically, is good for Australia. And that’s why we do it. We do it because it’s good for our national interest to support Indonesia’s advancement.

He said “It is good for our national interest”. Well Prime Minister perhaps you should have put that on your lapel badge. Do what is good for Australia’s national interest. Because, instead what you did was you trashed the national interest to try to get votes in Wentworth.

But even worse, now we are seeing this terrible decision dragged through the prism of the Liberal Party’s bitter internal divisions.

And the same people who tore down Malcom Turnbull and elevated Mr Morrison are now weaponising the embassy decision to continue their hard right divisive agenda to undermine another Prime Minister.

We’ve already seen Eric Abetz gleefully leaping on to Sky News to undermine our relationship with Indonesia.

And so brilliant Mr Morrison, who is supposed to be such a strategic genius, has now firmly wedged himself – after losing votes on this issue in Wentworth – has now firmly wedged himself between the national interest, and the interests of the people who made him Prime Minister.

He‘s trapped between doing the right thing by the nation and returning to sensible bipartisan policy, but if he does, faces the political consequences from the hard right.

Of course Australia should consider foreign policy decisions based on our national interests. But what that means is you have to be responsible enough to act consistently in the national interest.

And overturning bipartisan position on the location of the embassy in Israel for short term political gain is not in our national interests

Well Labor says enough.

Under pressure from journalists in Singapore Mr Morrison has just committed to making a decision on the embassy by Christmas.

Why Christmas Prime Minister? Why not now?

It took you one day to wreck this trade deal why do you have to wait another month to fix it?

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.