Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Recent research commissioned by the Australia-Indonesia Centre highlights that Australian attitudes towards Indonesia are at best complacent and all too often ignorant. Few Australians grasp the importance of Indonesia to our nation, or the scale of economic opportunity. We do more trade with New Zealand, a country of a mere four million people, than we do with our northern neighbour Indonesia, a nation of more than 250 million.
Indonesia's economy is projected to more than double by 2030, yet the number of Australian businesses with a presence in Indonesia has shrunk from 450 to a paltry 250 over the previous decade. Outdated stereotypes about Indonesia and its people abound in our nation. I quote former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, when addressing this place in 2010:
… the most persistent problem in our relations is the persistence of age-old stereotypes—misleading, simplistic mental caricature that depicts the other side in a bad light. Even in the age of cable television and internet, there are Australians who still see Indonesia as an authoritarian country, as a military dictatorship, as a hotbed of Islamic extremism or even as an expansionist power. On the other hand, in Indonesia there are people who remain afflicted with Australiaphobia—those who believe that the notion of White Australia still persists, that Australia harbours ill intention toward Indonesia …
Countering these perceptions is too important to be left to diplomats alone. Track 1.5 or track 2 diplomacy initiatives that bring non-official academics, religious activists, NGO leaders and civil society experts together are crucially important.
Last week, along with 29 other delegates, I attended the Conference of Australian and Indonesian Youth in Bali. CAUSINDY, as it has become known, is a track 2 diplomacy initiative that brings together young leaders from all sectors in Australian and Indonesia. CAUSINDY was founded in 2010 by Bede Moore, Karina Akib and Chris Urbanski with the objectives of creating a platform for discussion and shaping new ideas about the Australia-Indonesia relationship.
This year's program focused on building a more sustainable and resilient bilateral relationship between our two countries, and I am pleased to report that it was supported by the Northern Territory government. I know that the member for Solomon has a strong interest in this matter. As conference delegates heard, the relative lack of person-to-person connections is a major obstacle to expanding trade and investment between our nations.
I take the opportunity to acknowledge the work of CAUSINDY and their executive team of Tim Graham, Edgar Myer, Alyssia Sastrosatomo and Natasha Burrows. I also acknowledge the conference team for developing such a strong conference program and for their wonderful hospitality. To Feliciana Natali Wienathan, Jarrah Sastrawan, Samantha Yap, Tim Cooke, Sekar Langit, Yohendro Kliwandono, Andrew Akib, David Scholefield, Gabriel Mukuan: thank you all for your hard work.
Australia needs to learn that it needs Indonesia more than Indonesia needs us. Other countries are realising its potential, and Indonesia has no shortage of suitors for greater defence, diplomatic and trade collaboration. Australia needs to wake up and grab the opportunity in its own backyard. CAUSINDY is a great starting point for us to connect young leaders and exchange ideas and perspectives, as well as to creatively think about how we can strengthen Australia-Indonesia relations.