Australia-Indonesia Dialogue

Australia’s relationship with Indonesia needs to extend beyond beef, boats and Bali.

Alberto Gomes This is according to delegates at the two-day Australia-Indonesia Dialogue hosted by La Trobe University’s Centre for Dialogue

Professor Alberto Gomes, the new Director of the Centre for Dialogue, said that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s visit to Indonesia this week for a 'face to face’ dialogue with the Indonesian President was 'a welcome move in repairing the diplomatic damage arising from what has been deemed as "megaphone diplomacy on the part of Australian leaders.’

‘I hope that Prime Minister Rudd in his talks with his Indonesian counterpart are not simply focused on people smuggling but will explore possibilities for greater regional collaboration and partnership with our neighbour.’

It is a view shared by Emeritus Professor Joseph Camilleri, founding director of the Centre for Dialogue, who says that ‘Australia’s knowledge of Indonesia is abysmally low and the relationship is narrowly defined in terms of terrorism or people smuggling. We have a problem with the relationship and we need to do something.’

The second Australia-Indonesia dialogue brought together from Australia and Indonesia leading scholars, policy makers and business figures, to assess the current status of the relationship between the two neighbours.

A common view to emerge is that, as middle powers, Australia and Indonesia need to move beyond the narrow bilateral confinement to work together in the wider regional context.

The business sector, in particular, is keen to see the relationship move from the narrow juxtaposition of ‘beef, boats and Bali’ that dominates Australia’s perceptions of Indonesia towards a partnership and collaborative engagement in developing a joint (regional) approach that takes into account the circumstances and responsibilities of their homelands.

According to delegates, the relationship between the two nations is not as strong as it seems with a focus on a deeper cultural and educational understanding, exchange and appreciation.

‘It is not the quantity but the quality of engagement that needed to be increased,’ says Professor Gomes.

Ahead of the 40th anniversary of Australia-ASEAN relationship, Indonesian ASEAN Ambassador I Gede Ngurah Swajaya, affirmed that the time is ripe for Australia as a leading Pacific power and Indonesia as the leading Southeast Asian power to forge closer regional policies and approaches.

The two-day roundtable discussion included: DFAT’s First Assistant Secretary for South East Asia Mr Allaster Cox, Prof Alberto Gomes, Dr Michális S. Michael, Dr Sven Schottmann, and Ms Monika Winarnita from the Centre for Dialogue, Prof Damien Kingsbury (Centre for Citizenship, Development, and Human Rights, Deakin University), ANU and Asialink Prof Anthony Milner, Dr Max Richter (Monash University), Prof Tim Lindsey (Melbourne University), Dr Julian Droogan (Macquarie University), Ms Melissa Conley Tyler, (National Executive Director, Australian Institute of International Affairs), Emeritus Professor Joseph Camilleri and Mr Peter Craven from the Indonesia Australia Business Council.

Indonesia’s delegates included: Presidential Spokesperson for International Affairs Dr Teuku Faizasyah, Permanent Representative of Indonesia to ASEAN Ambassador I Gede Ngurah Swajaya, Prof Azyumardi Azra, Director of Graduate School of Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University, Prof Yunita Winarto (University of Indonesia), Prof Purwo Santoso (University of Gadjah Mada), Prof Ma'ruf Jamhari and Dr Dina Afrianty (Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University), Prof Ikrar Nusa Bhakti (Indonesian Institute of Sciences), and President of the Indonesia Australia Business Council Mr Kris Sulisto.

Media inquiries: Penny Underwood on (03) 9818 8540 or 0409 925 299.