Thursday, 3 December 2015
Parliamentary Delegation to the Republic of Indonesia
I present the report of the Australian parliamentary delegation to the Republic of Indonesia from 27 September to 1 October 2015, and I ask leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.
Indonesia is just to the north of Australia. It is a nation of some 250 million people. It is a nation with which we share much. It is also a nation with which we should be sharing so much more.
I am very proud to have been part of our delegation to Indonesia. Led by Senator Chris Back, and with the member for Throsby and Tasmanian Senator Anne Urquhart, we ventured into Jakarta and Balikpapan. It was a visit where we saw what Indonesia had been, what Indonesia is today and what Indonesia wants to be tomorrow. We met with young entrepreneurs and leaders of the digital economy, with the mining industry, with the cattle industry and with the food and textile value-adding sectors.
We should all be very proud of our foreign office staff. As parliamentarians, we are able to visit other countries and see, firsthand, the expertise and commitment of our DFAT people who make up our embassies and missions. We can be justifiably proud of our Ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson, his Deputy Head of Mission, Dr Justin Lee, and their entire team at our embassy, who went out of their way to ensure we received an holistic Indonesian experience.
To the chairman and directors of the Sunda Kelapa mosque, the management and staff of the Bogasari flour mill, to the school children at the local madrasah, we say thank you for your hospitality, your openness, your willingness to include us in your discussions and plans for the future.
We also travelled to Balikpapan, where we toured the sites of Thiess and Coates and witnessed the training and expertise of expat Australians and the hardworking Indonesian locals. We also visited the World War II memorials and paid our respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice during World War II. To me, Balikpapan was the highlight of the tour, as it helped me crystallise my thoughts on the challenges of infrastructure deficits in Australia.
While in Jakarta, the terribly urgent need for massive infrastructure spending was obvious. In Balikpapan, we saw a city of some 700,000 people put up with power continually tripping out because of the emergency infrastructure spending in Jakarta. The more they spend in the capital, the more they need to spend. Balikpapan, like Northern Queensland and regional Australia, has very real infrastructure needs, but is continually put on the backburner while emergency infrastructure spending is carried out in the major metropolitan centres. The end result is that more people move to the major centres and more emergency infrastructure is needed. I found our discussions with Balikpapan mayor, Mr Rizal Effendi, illuminating, as he calmly goes about his business of fighting for his region.
Our Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, tells us that our country's greatest assets are its people. That is just as true in Indonesia as it is here. The ability that we have to travel to other countries and meet, discuss, and recognise more and more just how much alike we actually are and that the challenges that we face are so similar is a gift that this parliament should never ever let go. Trade and business break down barriers between our people. We must do everything that we can to ensure that we do exchange more and more on business, trade, educational, and cultural bases. Only then will the walls between our two nations come down.
I give a special mention to Sophie Dunstan, our liaison officer and factual tour leader. Her ability to keep us all in line while seeming to be in the background was noted by absolutely every one of us, especially the member for Throsby, who was a continual challenge!
I thank the parliament for allowing us to take this trip. I would encourage all parliamentarians to engage at this level. It is a lot of work for our DFAT people at both ends, but it is worth it. I thank the House.