Wednesday, 12 September 2018
Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the Republic of Indonesia
I present the report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to the Republic of Indonesia, 29 July to 4 August 2018, and seek leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with this report.
I now wish to table the parliamentary delegation report on the Indonesian visit of 29 July to 4 August. The members of the delegation were Ms Sharon Claydon MP, member for Newcastle; Senator Patrick Dodson, senator for Western Australia; Senator Dean Smith, senator for Western Australia; Ms Paula Waring, delegation secretary; and myself, Ken O'Dowd, member for Flynn and leader of the delegation.
Indonesia has a current population of 262 million and it's growing at five million a year. It's a nation made up of 17,000 islands. Unfortunately, there are still many people living below the poverty line and surviving on less than $5 a day.
It was very interesting to learn that people from the South Sulawesi islands had been sailing in their boats—seven sails—on the monsoon winds to northern Australia and Arnhem Land. This practice continued over many centuries, and their relationship with the Australian Aboriginals was great, as they exchanged culture and traded their wares.
I would like to thank all members of the delegation for their time, contributions and participation in the very busy week—first in the west in Jakarta and then in the east at Makassar in South Sulawesi. I would also like to thank the ambassador, His Excellency Gary Quinlan; the deputy ambassador, Allaster Cox; Consul-General Richard Matthews; and their staff. They gave us a very warm welcome and extended their hospitality to the people of Indonesia, cultivating of goodwill, ensuring the visit was very well organised and making the delegation to Indonesia informative and a learning and sharing experience for us all.
by leave—Thank you to the leader of our delegation, the member for Flynn, for those comments just now. I too would like to acknowledge a number of people who really made our delegation trip across to Jakarta and to South Sulawesi the very best it could be.
I would like to, in these few moments, focus on a couple of matters that the member for Flynn wasn't able to cover. My focus is really on the efforts that Indonesians are making to reduce poverty within its peoples, indeed with a very strong focus on the elderly, women and children. There were some terrific programs that we got to visit. We got to see firsthand and talk to people about the significant impact being made. I don't think anyone should underestimate the task of trying to reduce poverty in Indonesia, although there have been, really, a lot of very substantial gains made. There are still 26 million people living below the national poverty line and another 62 million Indonesians considered to be economically vulnerable, so there is an enormous task ahead, but the government and communities within Indonesia are making every effort to address this.
We got to see terrific efforts being made around urban sanitation programs. That was a very important partnership with Australia. There was some $200,000 of development money from the Australian government to provide 400 households living in a very densely populated urban slum area outside Jakarta with septic and sewerage systems. Of course, that's important to not only the health and wellbeing of all the people living in that urban area but also the health and wellbeing of the river system, which is where all of that raw sewerage had been going.
I also want to flag some terrific conversations that we had around Indonesian efforts to look after older people in poverty in their communities and some very early discussions we had around whether Indonesia might be able to examine something on par with an age pension system. These are very early discussions—people are very interested; it's obviously a very big financial cost for the Indonesian government—but it was terrific being able to have those discussions with the Australian delegation, because we've had an age pension system in Australia pretty much since Federation. We were almost one of the earliest governments to do so. I hope that those discussions continue. There was terrific presence from all of the Australian embassy's DFAT staff there in helping to coordinate those discussions with many of the not-for-profit and community organisations in Jakarta that are interested in reducing poverty amongst the elderly.
I'd also like to make a very quick reference to the issue of asbestos related health issues in Indonesia. We had an opportunity to meet with a local group called LION, which is an acronym that stands for Local Initiative for OHS—occupational safety and health—Network. They are pushing up against it at the moment. There is such a lack of information within Indonesia with regard to the dangers of asbestos. There is often a misdiagnosis of asbestos related lung conditions within the medical profession there. There has only ever been one asbestos disease inquiry compensation case that has been successful in Indonesia. This is a product that we have rightly banned in this country, but there is continued importation of raw asbestos from both Russia and China into Indonesia. It is prolific in the manufacturing of all roofing materials in Indonesia, so people are working on these asbestos-riddled projects. These roofs are being used in schools, hospitals and all sorts of residential housing. It is potentially an enormous issue going into the future for Indonesia. I thank LION, who are a very small group of profoundly dedicated people trying to organise within the workforces there and their communities to get information out about the dangers of asbestos.
I'd like to thank APHEDA, the Australian People for Health, Education and Development Abroad, who put me in touch with LION, and the delegation for accompanying me. We had some terrific news that Australian government funded projects in Indonesia have asked for the prohibition of asbestos in any projects that we are funding, which is a good leadership role for the Australian government to be taking. The delegation strongly endorses Australia continuing to stipulate that we will not allow asbestos to be used on Australian government funded projects within Indonesia.
I would like to end with terrific thanks to the women of Indonesia, who showed me such determination for themselves to get better representation in parliaments throughout Indonesia. The representation of women in parliaments is a topical issue even here in Australia. We had some very good, robust discussions about how they might best do that. I thank those women, who are trailblazers in Indonesia, for achieving gender equality and women's empowerment in Indonesia. There were some terrific and indeed formidable women parliamentarians who we did get to meet. I extend my best wishes to them, and hopefully we'll be seeing many, many more of them elected in the not-too-distant future.
Finally, we went to Makassar, and I thank the member for Flynn for reminding the House of the incredibly important historical links between Makassan traders and the First Nation peoples of Australia in North Australia. It was a real honour to be there with Senator Pat Dodson, who was able to trace Makassan links through to the Kimberley region and, indeed, to some parts of his family. It was a real privilege to see those ancient people-to-people links continuing into our contemporary worlds.
As a former anthropologist, I was really delighted to be able to attend a very important rock art site just out of Makassar, at the time under the leadership of Associate Professor Adam Brumm, from Griffith University. There is a team of pretty amazing Australian archaeologists and a very strong team of young Indonesian students working on this site. There is rock art in this cave area that they've dated back to 35,400 years ago, and that is amongst the oldest rock art in the world. There are some very interesting links between Australia and those sites. I wish Professor Brumm's team all the very best in the excavation that they have underway. It was, for me, a real delight to be able to see that work firsthand. I wish the team every success, and I look forward to reading that research very soon.
I will end on the note of thanking Paula Waring for her terrific company and for her organisational capacity of keeping us on time and getting us to the right places. Also a big shout out to the DFAT staff in Indonesia. It's very significant, as our largest post in the world. There is a very significant body of DFAT staff in Indonesia. I look forward to seeing Mr Gary Quinlan, our ambassador, in Newcastle. He is an alumnus of the University of Newcastle, and I believe he will be in my hometown next week. I look forward to catching up with him again there. We were really well looked after also by Richard Matthews in Makassar. Thank you to the DFAT teams both here and in Indonesia. Thank you to my colleagues for being such great company on a terrific delegation.