Thursday, January 30, 2014

It's Time for a Major rethink of our Foreign Policy

We need a new White Paper says the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's Peter Jennings, as a formerly 'benign' geography grumbles... and rumbles.

The indications are that Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop will pursue a pragmatic foreign policy at times sharpened with pointed statements setting out national interest objectives. This carries some risk because every high -profile effort to define Australia's position potentially puts us at odds with competing powers in Asia. The challenge for the government is to be clear about its big picture aspirations.
In her interview with AFR Weekend on Saturday, Bishop highlights an accurate but largely ignored fact that the United States' trade, combined with its investment in Australia, makes this our most important economic relationship. Inevitably this has been read by some as implying a downgrading of the relationship with China. That will not have been Bishop's intention. In a speech she delivered in Washington last week, Bishop stressed that Australia "has a stake in China's growing prosperity" and identifies a `vital national interest in this part of the world".

Bishop's Washington speech points to the difficulties Australia faces in setting out its interests in a region that is becoming more competitive. She says that China's constructive involvement in the region is essential for peace and security, but repeats her criticism of Beijing's unilateral declaration of an Air Defence Identification Zone in the East China Sea.

On Japan - "Australia's best friend in Asia," according to Abbott – Bishop criticises Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine as "bringing to the fore unresolved tensions".

Bishop subtly rebukes the US over its management of the Edward Snowden intelligence leaks. Noting President Barack Obama's review of signals intelligence, she points to the "well-established oversight regime in Australia" and reminds the Obama administration that "we must be prepared to make the public case" for intelligence collection.

Welcome to the complexities of Australia's region, where close friends can make tactical blunders and important economic partners threaten the underlying order of security.

Closer to home, the government's approach to Indonesia over boats and on the Snowden leaks has also been driven by a mix of pragmatism and principle. Tony Abbott's refusal to apologise over reported intelligence gathering was criticised by some, but reflected a truthful appreciation of how governments with the capacities to do so will gather intelligence. On the other hand, the government's quick apology over a navy incursion into Indonesian waters showed a pragmatic appreciation that it was best to own up to the error and move on.

The big challenge for the government is how to navigate a course through an increasingly complicated strategic outlook. Three important policy steps must be taken. First, the

government needs to recognise that our region, broadly defined, is becoming less stable, more competitive and the level of risk is rising.

This is in complete contrast to the strategic assessment of Julia Gillard's January 2013 National Security Strategy which identified a "relatively benign global landscape". The passage of twelve months and more overt tensions in north Asia show how fast the strategic landscape is changing.

The second policy step, already well under way, is for the government to distance itself from the unrealistic focus of the Asian Century White Paper. That document narrowed the focus of our foreign policy interests too much. Australia cannot pursue a meaningful foreign policy only by stressing ties with China, Japan, South Korea, India and Indonesia, as critically important as they are. Instead we need to diversify our ties and our economic interests to a much greater extent and to accept that we have a stake in the performance of the US and Europe as well as emerging markets in Africa and Latin America.

Third, to give coherence to a broader, more diversified foreign policy, the government should develop a new Foreign Policy White Paper setting out a practical strategy to promote our interests globally. Such an approach helps to structure the reactive business of diplomacy and forces governments to think their way through the agenda they want to promote. In the absence of their preferred strategy, the government's foreign policy efforts will be judged through the lens of the Asian Century White Paper. It's time to change the lens.

Peter Jennings is the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. This article was originally published on the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's website 29 January. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New Posts: prodding a komodo is dangerous, Bali rejects Big Tobacco, and, aid funding better spent close to home.

Here are this weeks blogs, please read at your leisure:

"Dangerous Brinkmanship with Indonesia could have Disastrous Consequences," By Bruce Haigh, January 2014. After reports last week that Indonesia is reinforcing its maritime border security due to alleged Australian encroachments to 'push back' boats, the case of the kangaroo prodding the Komodo will end in claws and... poisonous drool?

"Bali says No to Tobacco Trade Fair," By Lauren Gumbs, January 2014. The governor of Bali has made a brave decision to reject Big Tobacco, setting the island apart in its capacity to recognise the public health big picture.

"Aid Funding Focus Needs to be in our Region," By Ross B. Taylor, January 2014. Arbitrary aid projects in far off nations do not have the same impact as targeted aid to our close neighbours.

Also, please follow these links to relevant pieces:

Kirrily McKenzie is pretty sure Jokowi is a better choice than Prabowo.

TNI have traditionally been more concerned with internal threats than external, but there are now preparations to obtain more weaponry and military vehicles as Indonesia becomes aware of changing dynamics in the region, not least of which Australia is accused of maritime incursions.

Australia's Immigration Minister Scott Morrison still adamant about boat policies.

And in Indonesian news (much of which is covering the ongoing floods at the peak of the rainy season, and now earthquakes and volcanic eruptions):

But some good news: Business wise Jakarta is considered one of the top dynamic cities in the world, rating 12th.

Corrupt Governor Ratu Atut put five luxury cars in her brother's name, including a Ferrari and a Lamborghini.

Young Smokers Enjoy a Public Durry

When I was 14 we hid behind sheds and went to elaborate attempts to conceal our smoking. There was no dignity in hurriedly stubbing out one of mum's stolen cigarettes, scrubbing our fingers with soap, and brushing teeth as dad pulled into the driveway. We wouldn't dare smoke in a cafe! Apart from someone telling our parents, the staff would have demanded ID.

Contrast this tobacco restrictive culture with that of Indonesia's where nearly every male adult is a smoking role model, kids freely access cigarettes, and smoking indoors is tolerated. This photo, taken in South Sumatera in 2009 depicts a breach of the law, but not what you might think. The tobacco consumption minimum age of 18 years old didn't come into effect until 2012. However a 2005 Perda (peraturan daerah- regional law) prohibits smoking in indoor public places, so both the children and adult are breaking the law. This law was originally decreed in 2004 but was adopted in discord, with regions today still failing to establish it. Even in quick off the mark South Sumatera, it took several years to be properly enforced and until 2012 was not taken seriously. Palembang South Sumatera is now leading the pack with its commitment to establishing smoke-free zones, making Jco staff much more confident to politely ask smokers to refrain.

Aid Funding Focus needs to be in Our Region

By Ross B. Taylor

It probably would not interest many Australians, to learn that on the small Caribbean island state of Granada, they will soon start construction of a brand new Parliament House.

But it might however, interest many Australians if we learned that it will be our taxes that is paying for much of this construction; from our aid budget, thanks to the previous Labor Government.

This is just one example of where Australian aid money has been arguably, misplaced to say the least. It is also one reason why Australia's foreign minister, Julie Bishop has recently announced not only a slight funding cut to our aid spending, but a review of how we spend it. This is a well overdue and smart decision by Ms Bishop.

Already the minister has moved to place AusAid under the control of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). Another good move.
AusAid is a department that has previously operated how it wished and without the levels of accountability that an organisation, which spends over $5 billion of our money each year, should be subject to. Too many aid contracts have been going out to their past-employees whilst in the meantime many smaller Australian companies who wished to obtain contracts for the delivery of aid projects, have found the  bureaucratic process simply too complicated and stacked against them.

Ms Bishop has sensibly announced that more of her government’s future aid funding will be
directed within our immediate region, including The Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, and the South Pacific islands to our east. Again, this is sensible, as it is in our national interests to ensure Australia’s neighbours not only receive assistance in areas such as health and education but also in addressing important social issues for women's and girls’ issues that will hopefully empower females in this region to become better educated and able to contribute more effectively to their own country's development.
It is in the area of infrastructure that will also receive much needed attention by these reforms. In many of our neighbouring countries, for example, farmers are extremely poor, yet what is the point of building capacity in farming with aid money when the produce can’t reach the market due to poor roads and handling systems? So the move to include the previously excluded area of infrastructure for selected aid funding should be welcomed.

No better example of how we misunderstand the notion of aid is within Indonesia; a country where relations are currently at a low level, and very strained. Unfortunately, for too many Australians, every time we see a problem with our northern neighbour, the same calls 'scream-out' on talk-back radio and letters to major newspapers: Withdraw aid funding.

Yet we forget that Indonesia, as do a number of other countries in our region, still struggles to help over 100 million of its people who live on less than $2.00 per day. But also an important oversight we make when criticising aid funding is that the funding often assists Australia in terms of our own interests and regional security.

Australia is, as a case-in-point, currently providing aid money to Indonesia to build
small and well run schools in very poor villages whose children - including young
girls - are now offered a decent education that is also "balanced" in its teaching. Without this funding some of these kids would end-up in very basic schools run by Muslim extremist groups created by people such as Abu Bakar Bashir and his colleagues who wish to see
Indonesia become an Islamic state; right on our doorstep.

To argue that we should 'penalise' a rich and corrupt Iraqi people smuggler who sits in an expensive hotel in Jakarta, by cutting funding to our schools program throughout Indonesia beggars belief and reflects – hopefully - our simple lack of understanding as to how
effective our aid funding can be if managed correctly. This is what Ms Bishop now seeks to do.

Australians are amongst the most generous donors of aid money in the world, and as a rich, prosperous and well educated country we should be. But the money must be used wisely.

In the meantime, when you are next in Granada, pop into their new Parliament House building and admire the large and gracious facility.

You paid for it.

Ross B. Taylor is the President and Founder of the Indonesia Institute. This article first appeared as an opinion piece in the print edition of The West Australian 21 January 2014.

Bali says No to Tobacco Trade Fair

By Lauren Gumbs

One of the biggest annual tobacco trade fairs will not be going ahead as planned because Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika resolved that the island would not host the event.

The Inter-Tabac Asia, scheduled for Feb 27-28 2014, was rejected by a more health conscious Balinese governance, with organisers now looking to find tobacco friendly hosts in Jakarta or Surabaya instead.

The South East Asian Tobacco Control Alliance praised the Balinese Governor’s decision, SEATCA Director Bungon Ritthiphakdee said the governor’s stance is a genuine service to humanity.

“The Bali governor put his people first, ahead of all other interests. It stands as an example that all world leaders should emulate,” he said.

“Bali, true to its fame and image, gives the whole world a breath of fresh air.”

Big Tobacco in South East Asia is increasingly being squeezed by legislation that prioritises public health over profits, however the Inter-Tabac Asia, previously held in Manila, is one of a few other giant expos that aim to drive growth and maintain a presence among fast growing Asian populations with fewer restrictions on tobacco control.

Indonesian families on the lowest wages spend about 10 percent of their household income on cigarettes, and the proportion of young smokers has increased to more than 40 percent for boys aged 13-15.

Women and youths have become the targets of massive tobacco advertising campaigns with key themes in Indonesia revolving around modernity, freedom, and peer group bonding rather than tradition, wealth, and masculinity, typically aimed at mature males.
Lauren is a writer and Human Rights Student who holds a Master of Communications.

Dangerous Brinkmanship with Indonesia could have Disastrous Consequences

By Bruce Haigh

Australia has a problem. Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison have taken Australia down a path from which there are only two outcomes: further aggression and confrontation with Indonesia or retreat.
Retreat would amount to a domestic political defeat for Abbott and Morrison but lead to an improvement in relations with Indonesia. Further aggression would continue to undermine the relationship with Indonesia and might spread into the region.
Abbott has displayed and deployed characteristics at odds with his image as a conservative intellectual, and he appears not to care about nurturing the delicate relationship with Indonesia. The diplomatic subtleties and nuances required to maintain and build that relationship have been sacrificed to his flawed domestic agenda of turning back the boats.
Morrison has proven a willing attack dog. His anger and downright nastiness were on public display on Wednesday, in his defence of Australian navy personnel alleged to have burnt the hands of asylum seekers.
His failure to address the media on issues of national concern is an affront to Australian democracy. Operational requirements are said to be the basis for this, but that requirement has been allowed to slide when faced with allegations that test his veracity.

Morrison and the head of the taskforce overseeing so-called boarder security, Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell, took us for fools when they sold the line that Australian navy vessels had inadvertently crossed into Indonesia waters, and the Indonesians are right to question the honesty of that claim. It was also a slur against the navy and naval personnel, backed by Campbell.

The navy is in possession of some very sophisticated equipment to make sure vessels know exactly where they are at any moment in time, and the training of sea-going personnel, particularly navigators, is rigorous. Australian sailors are unlikely to be impressed with Morrison’s clumsy defence.

Morrison appears to be running the show,with Campbell put in the position to give Defence Force legitimacy to a crass political undertaking. It is Morrison's head that pops up in the media to defend the less salubrious aspects of the illegal operation being run against asylum seekers when they become public knowledge in Australia from Indonesian sources.

In defending the navy from charges of torture, Morrison sought, in the crudest of terms, to demonise asylum seekers. It reminded me of when I listened to white South African politicians demonise black South Africans in order to deflect criticism from what apartheid was imposing.

Yesterday, Julie Bishop said the Australian government would co-operate with the Indonesian investigation into allegations that Australian navy personnel had engaged in acts of torture against asylum seekers under their protection. Until then Australia was in danger of tacitly accusing the Indonesian government of lying in terms of the information and allegations that have come out thus far. And in light of the public statements made so far in defence of naval personnel by Abbott, Morrison, Bishop and navy chief Ray Griggs prior to any findings of fact, how will they react to adverse findings? 

Abbott recently said in Sri Lanka that under certain circumstances torture was justified. He has also said that he would accept the word of an Australian sailor over that of a person who sought to enter Australia illegally (he was referring to asylum seekers).
But sailors and soldiers under pressure can behave badly, particularly if leadership is weak or lacking. Griggs will not have forgotten the unedifying farce of the inquiries into the sinking of HMAS Voyager by HMAS Melbourne. He will be aware of issues of sexual harassment in the navy dating back 50 years and covered up until recent times, and he will be aware of conduct unbecoming on HMAS Ballarat last year.
Griggs hasn’t long to go in the job, so surely he should consider retiring with pride. He needs to find some moral courage. A starting point might be to assert himself over the operational use of his vessels before the Indonesians start firing at them. 

The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, needs to place distance between himself and Abbott. Together with opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs Tanya Plibersek, he should visit Indonesia and seek to repair the damage being wrought by Morrison and Abbott. They might begin by addressing the issue of the joint processing of refugees.
Indonesia would genuinely welcome good relations with Australia, but despite their inane statements that all is well with the relationship, Abbott and Morison are doing everything to wreck it.
Bruce is a political commentator and retired diplomat. This article originally appeared in Crikey 24 January 2014.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Posts: Dark Horses may Foul Ongoing Democratisation; Tough Boat Policies Beneficial to Indonesia?; Risks of Perpetuating Offence

Jakarta Floods have been a major fixture in Indonesian news this week, as are the fires and heatwaves in Australia, so a big heads up to all those saturated and suffering, in particular in Jakarta, Manado, and Sulawesi. Worse floods are predicted for Jakarta next week.

Please enjoy these informative new posts:

"Anti-Reform Actors Hover over Indonesia's coming Elections," By Damien Kingsbury, January 2014. This years' election includes wildcards such as Prabowo, and with an as yet unconfirmed Jokowi in the line-up, retrograde forces buoyed by radical nationalist sentiment may stall Indonesia's democratisation.

"Abbott's Tough 'Boats' Policy May Also Help Indonesia; but at what cost?," By Ross B. Taylor, January 2014. Australia is still on the backfoot, floundering diplomatically in the face of complex humanitarian issues that divide electorates and vex neighbours.

"Face it, We cannot Afford to keep Offending Indonesia," By Tim Lindsey, January 2014. Jakarta's political response to threats to maritime sovereignty betray its sensitivity over a geography it cannot practically defend.

Follow these links:

Nobody can really substantiate just what is happening on the high seas between Indonesia and Australia; even Marty Natelegawa has his suspicions.

Indonesians were horrified by yet another case of maid abuse from Hong Kong; the reality of the migrant labour trade means justice must be lobbied for and many exploited women slip through the cracks.

They reckon Megawati will name Joko Widodo presidential candidate when the time is strategically right.

"The Act of Killing," better known to Indonesians as "Jagal" (butcher), could swipe an Oscar for its brutal portrayal of the 'banality of evil', but its subject matter is still hugely taboo.

Anyone for an Iped?

In a world where everyone is the proud owner of a plastic Guchy or Prado bag, the simulacra machine is in full swing, pumping out copies of perfumes, food and gadgets. And why wouldn't they? For the price of one song in the Australian iTunes shop ($2.19), an Indonesian who earns that much per day can buy a pack of cigarettes and two copy CDs. Hollywood just doesn't get the economic divide. Indonesians still buy into its manufactured desire, but consumption is simply scaled down to proportion- we're calling it the deflation of luxury goods.

Anti-Reform Actors Hover over Indonesia's coming Elections

By Damien Kingsbury

Indonesia’s democracy is being increasingly tested by the triple challenges of anti-reform actors, a high-level political malaise and popular disenchantment with the electoral process.

One indicator of this has been an increasing tendency by the Indonesian military (TNI) to reassert itself into the political debate. Indonesia is heading into legislative elections in April and presidential elections in July on the back of poor performance by the country’s politicians, turning off voters in droves. Against this backdrop, one of Indonesia’s most senior army generals has raised the spectre of the army’s return to involvement in politics.

Indonesia’s army strategic command head, Lieutenant General Gatot Nurmantyo, has criticised Indonesia’s democracy as ‘empty’ and said that popular will expressed through elections is not always right. As a panacea, Nurmantyo has called for a reassertion of the nationalist ideology of Pancasila (five principles), which underpinned Suharto’s three decades as military-backed president.

Nurmantyo’s comments, made to a Pancasila Youth (PP) rally in October, reflect an increasing confidence by TNI hard-liners in challenging restrictions on military contact with politics. It was this hard-line faction of the TNI that helped end Indonesia’s military reform process around the time that President Yudhoyono began his second term as president.

Yudhoyono’s second term has been widely viewed as, at best, lack-lustre, and his Democratic Party-led government has been plagued by a series of corruption scandals. With other political parties fairing little better and ‘money politics’ dominating local electoral contests, popular support for Indonesia’s democratic process is in decline.

A series of surveys have shown that Indonesia’s forthcoming electoral participation rate may slump to below half. There is even an appetite among many voters for a return to ‘strong’ leadership, with a preference for candidates with a military background.

In a political environment in which one of the two front-runners for the presidency is former military hard-liner Lieutenant General (ret.) Prabowo Subianto, Nurmantyo’s breaking of over a decade of military silence on domestic politics signals a potential alternative to Indonesia’s democratic path.
Prabowo’s popularity is behind Jakarta governor Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo in the presidential polls. But Jokowi, himself a populist, does not yet have the backing of a major political party that is required for presidential nomination. Political support — if it comes — will be from former President Megawati Sukarnoputri’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which has also demonstrated pro-military leanings at times.

Democracy in developing states tends to be vulnerable to reversal, particularly where the military remains primarily focused on internal rather than external threats. While Indonesia’s electoral system will very likely be retained, the potential for it to be restricted in ways that render voting more or less meaningless, as under Suharto, cannot be ruled out.

Nurmantyo’s controversial address to the PP was explained away, unconvincingly, by a senior politician as not contravening a ban on military personnel being involved in politics as it focused on the state ideology of Pancasila. The PP itself was founded by the TNI in 1959, soon after the military became directly involved in domestic politics.

Initially a civilian front for the military, the PP quickly degenerated into an organisation of thugs and criminals who often undertook dirty work on behalf of the Suharto regime. It has more recently been involved in violent turf wars with other gangs and remains associated with particular factions within the TNI.

Nurmantyo’s comments are not just the ravings of a military extremist, as he has been viewed as a rising star in the Indonesian army. His hard-line views saw him recently passed over for the position of army commander, but with a more conservative president in office following the July elections it is possible that Nurmantyo’s military career could again rise.

Indonesia’s neighbours are already concerned over the outcome of July’s presidential elections and a possible lurch towards a more assertively nationalist orientation. Set against growing voter apathy, generals such as Nurmantyo are well positioned to push Indonesia even further away from its recent path of reform.

Jokowi is a populist and has not enunciated a clear policy position. He may not be as pro-military as Prabowo, but his views on the military and the nature of democracy are largely unknown. If he was put forward by PDI-P — which is not looking hopeful at this stage — he would be required to follow PDI-P policy, such as it is, which is ‘preservation of national unity’ above all, which in turn is code for a greater role for the TNI.

The likelihood of Indonesia further entrenching its democratic credentials will require a win by a convincingly reform-oriented presidential candidate. Scanning of Indonesia’s political field just months away from the elections, however, holds out limited hope.

Professor Damien Kingsbury is Director of the Centre for Citizenship, Development and Human Rights at Deakin University. He has published a number of books and articles on Indonesian politics and the TNI. This article originally appeared in the East Asia Forum 16 January 2014.

Abbott's Tough 'Boats' Policy May Also Help Indonesia; but at what cost?

By Ross B. Taylor

If Abbott’s tough stance on boat people works, and asylum seekers do stop coming to Australia, not only will Australia benefit...but the policy will also help Indonesia.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s pre-election promise to ‘turn-back-the boats’ appears to be working. In the past month the number of arrivals at Christmas Island has virtually stopped. During this time, it has now been revealed, some five boats carrying asylum seekers have been either turned around or towed back into Indonesian waters.

This action has caused outrage from sections of our community and human rights activists. If ‘Letters-to-the editor’ in major newspapers are any indication however, the reaction to the Coalition’s tough stance is one of overwhelming support.

The Indonesian government’s position continues to be one of total opposition to Australia ‘going-it-alone’, arguing for a ‘regional solution’ with a consultative and co-operative dialog. Australia’s reluctance to embrace this position by Indonesia has-notwithstanding the spying issue-created the current tensions between our two countries that has seen Australia without a resident Indonesian Ambassador in Canberra for over eight weeks.

The paradox of this stand-off in the bi-lateral relationship is that if Abbott’s tough stance on boat people works in the medium-to-long term, and asylum seekers do stop coming to Australia by this dangerous route, not only will Australia benefit by then having a far more orderly and fair system of accepting people seeking a new life here, but the policy will also help Indonesia.

Indonesia probably has up-to 10,000 asylum seekers living illegally throughout the entire archipelago, creating problems and despair for these people and local residents. The asylum seekers are in Indonesia for only one reason: To get to Australia. They have no wish to remain in Indonesia where life as an illegal entrant can be very difficult.

Once people know there is no ‘onward’ route to Australia via Indonesia as the main transit point, it is almost certain asylum seekers will stop coming to Indonesia.

It is therefore possible for Indonesia and Australia to have strong common ground on the issue of turning back the boats. So why doesn’t Indonesia embrace the idea? It’s called politics.

In July 2012, I suggested in an Opinion piece, just the concept that Abbott has now undertaken, but with it being implemented with Indonesia’s support. In return for this support Australia could have contribute to the construction of processing centres in Indonesia so as to avoid asylum seekers ‘disappearing’ into the Indonesian community of 240 million people.

To achieve such an outcome would have taken an enormous amount of diplomacy at a time where relations between our two countries were ‘bumpy’ at best. The Indonesian government would have only considered this option if they could clearly demonstrate to their people that such an agreement wasn’t a case of the region’s ‘deputy sheriff’ - as President George Bush regretfully called us – simply pushing Indonesia around, and that such a program would not only benefit Australia and Indonesia, but would stop the evil people smuggler trade in people.

So we now ‘fast-forward’ to today where despite the rhetoric from the Abbott government about ‘close consultation’ and ‘good relations’ between his government and Indonesia, the reality is we are essentially ‘going it alone’ on the boat people issue by simply turning or towing back the boats. And it appears to be working, notwithstanding the revelation that Australia has actually breached Indonesia’s territorial waters in the process.

The question we need to ask however, is at what is the opportunity cost in terms of our relationship with Indonesia?

As our near neighbour enters the volatile and robust national election period - where political disillusionment seems to be sweeping the archipelago like a flood - we will need to manage the relationship with great care.

Both Indonesia and Australia need each other. Our joint efforts in counter-terrorism has been outstanding; our business-to-business relations, although very ‘underdone’ are strong; our joint co-operation on regional security issues in the region are critical to our own security as a small (by population) nation located in the middle of a very large and emerging Asia. And in the next ten to fifteen years Indonesia will add almost 80 million people to the ranks of ‘middle class’ and these people will want to travel and spend money on tourism, and on better food experiences (such as Australian beef for example) like the region has seen with the emergence of the Chinese middle-class phenomena.

So in taking such a tough line on turning back the boats our PM needs to ensure that he doesn’t ‘win the war’ on boat people at a cost of the broader relationship and opportunities with Indonesia.

The challenge therefore, is for our diplomats to demonstrate to the Indonesian leadership how such a tough stance on boat people will benefit not only Australia, but Indonesia, and then assist Indonesia in convincing their people to embrace such a policy without it being seen as being forced upon them by this new Australian government.

At the moment the sole focus of the PM and his government is to simply turn-back-the-boats at whatever the cost. And it appears that many of us within our community feel that achieving this outcome, at any cost to the bi-lateral relationship, is worthwhile.

Let’s hope that in five years when we look back, Mr Abbott was right.

Ross Taylor AM is the chairman of the WA-based Indonesia Institute (Inc).

This article first appeared in 'The Australian' Newspaper on Monday 20 January 2014

Face it, we cannot Afford to keep Offending Indonesia

By Tim Lindsey

It is not surprising that Australian naval vessels have crossed into Indonesian waters in the course of implementing the Abbott government's Operation Sovereign Borders.

After all, the maritime boundary between our two countries is just an imagined line on the water. Despite modern satellite location technology, it must be extraordinarily difficult for ships charged with dealing with asylum-seeker boats to avoid crossing it. The admission this week that our navy has done this was therefore almost inevitable.

It will also not be surprising if this greatly annoys Indonesia. Unauthorised border incursions are serious matter for any country and these ones happened in a context of serious diplomatic tension. Regardless of Canberra's spin to the contrary, Indonesia has repeatedly and consistently stated for the past 12 months that it was unhappy with Australia turning boats back into its waters.

Whatever its rights and wrongs, the Indonesian position has long been clear. It is unlikely to change now, given the suspension of cooperation on people smuggling, military and intelligence matters in the wake of the revelations that Australia tapped the mobile phones of President Yudhoyono, his wife and members of their inner circle. Indonesia will not accept the Australian navy crossing the border without its prior consent.
It needs to be understood that, as I have written before, this is not all about us, or even about people smuggling. Indonesia has always been extremely sensitive about its maritime sovereignty. It is a sprawling archipelago of more than 17,400 islands, with one of the longest coastlines in the world, and its sea borders have often been contested by its neighbours.

Clearly, Indonesia needs large and well-equipped navy and air force to ensure the integrity of its borders but paradoxically it has neither. Its long-running neglect of these services dates back decades. It can be traced, in part, to the army's view that they were aligned with the Left in the 1960s, and thus ideologically suspect.

In any case, both the navy and airforce have been underfunded and poorly equipped since then – even by comparison to its army, which, on a per capita basis, is one of the smallest and most poorly funded in Asia. On its own assessment, the Indonesian navy probably only has around 25 working, seaworthy ships available for operations at any one time, and it has no coastguard.

Indonesia's very obvious strategic sea defence weakness is one reason why it has been so reluctant a partner with Australian in our efforts to stop people smuggling. It simply lacks the practical capacity to do much about it.

This all means that, for Jakarta, a political response to any perceived threat to the integrity of its sea borders is often its first and last line of defence. This makes the Indonesian government very sensitive about these issues and it often reacts quickly and strongly. It has, for example, even refused to allow US naval vessels to enter its waters in the Straits of Malacca to escort commercial cargo.

An angry response to our border incursions is even more likely now, with Indonesia – like Australia last year – in election mode. The generally rational policy making that marked the Yudhoyono administration is now largely on hold, probably till the end of the this year when a new president is sworn in.

Yudhoyono is already considered a lame duck in Indonesia, and his government's real power diminishes daily. His previous warmth towards Australia, which often helped resolve bilateral tensions in the past, is now of little account.

As in Australia, issues of national sovereignty and border integrity play well in election campaigns. Put this together with the fact that Indonesia won its independence in 1949 only after a bloody war against white colonisers (the Dutch), and you can see why many ordinary Indonesians will react badly to the border incursions.

Thankfully, Australia has already begun to do the right thing, apologising to Indonesia. Foreign Minister Bishop, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, and our ambassador in Jakarta are all said to have explained to their Indonesian counterparts that the incursions were accidents. Let's hope there are also high-level conversations taking place off the record too. The government needs to do all these things, and will probably have to do more of them in the days ahead.

Our bilateral relationship with Indonesia is fraying, and is at its lowest point since East Timor. An agreed "road map" is in place to normalise relations, but this will require many months. Until then, we are on probation, and incidents such as these are very damaging for that process.

Mark Latham is reported as saying recently that Indonesia is only a "bit player" and a country that "Australia should keep at arms length". He could not be more wrong.
For all its many problems, Indonesia is a rising power – economically and politically – and knows it. It can survive without us, but is the opposite true?

Indonesia is the key to our security, the gateway to our northern borders and largely determines whether we are heard at the summit tables in Asia that will be so important during the Asian Century – particularly the Association of South East Asian Nations. As a block the members of ASEAN are already one of our largest trading partners, and Indonesia dominates ASEAN.

We should be more worried about whether Indonesia decides it will keep us at arms length.

Professor Tim Lindsey is director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society at the University of Melbourne. This article originally appeared in WA Today on 17 January 2014.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Selamat Ulang Tahun Baru Semuanya! Nantikan perkembangan menarik pada tahun 2014!

Happy New Year everyone! We're looking forward to exciting developments in the coming year with the Indonesian elections fast upon us and the ongoing tug of war between democratising elements and oligarchic structures of power acting as progressive and retrograde forces in Indonesian politics. This election will be an interesting and controversial one as SBY bows out. We can expect to see domestic politics in play as leaders attempt to run on platforms of nationalism and unification as well as floating policies on resource management and how to improve the justice system such as the Constitutional Court and local elections, as well as improvements to the health care system with the initiation of universal health care which came into place on January 1st.

Please enjoy these first posts of the New Year:

"Reinforcing Resource Nationalism," By Colin Singer, January 2014.

"Recovering from a Rebuff," By Duncan Graham, January 2014.

"Australia and Indonesia: What now?" By David Connery and Natalie Sambhi, December 2013.

Here are some links to relevant articles:

An Indonesian point of view about improving relations with Australia.

Indonesian national health care has arrived!

Details about the Healthcare scheme from University of Melbourne's Amanda Simmons.

And please don't forget that all members of the Indonesia Institute are encouraged to submit articles and opinion pieces for the blog. I'm sure many of you will have some thoughts on current affairs that you might be willing to share with us. Don't be shy.

Sriwijaya Football Fans on the way to a Game. Yes mum and dad are fully aware their kids will be riding on top of a bus.

Reinforcing Resource Nationalism

By Colin Singer

The Jakarta Post recently published an article titled, ‘Cutting the legs of the Indonesian oil industry’, by Yvonne Chen. This article goes some way to explaining why resource nationalism has become such a ‘hot topic’, as such elitist outlooks stoke a backlash against the ongoing logic of resource exploitation and mismanagement. The writer, a policy advisor at the American Chamber of Commerce decries the new regulations for skilled expatriate workers which includes ruling out over fifty year olds and requiring Indonesian language competency. Members of the American Chamber have produced oil in Indonesia for several decades. But during this time they have been unable to train and source personnel to have the competence of expatriate 55 year olds?

Perhaps it has nothing to do with the skill sets of the local indigenous workforce, who are in such demand from Saudi through to Malaysia, Qatar, and throughout Africa, that there is now a shortage of qualified oil field personnel within Indonesia. Or maybe another game is at play, wherein wage injustices are slowly being equalised. The 55 year old expatriate earns in one day’s basic salary or consultancy fees more than that which their American employers are willing to pay Indonesian staff for one to three months labour. This does not include their additional overheads such as housing, and subsequent housing departments to source/maintain foreign employees, transport and transport departments, children’s education and ensuing departments again.

These local and international ‘overheads’ are excessive, but the final black eye is that through ‘cost recovery’ the Indonesian taxpayer gets to pick up the majority of these costs. The disproportionate incentives for expatriates mean companies have little pressure to expend costs to train and hire locals. For the billions that foreign national companies have made and continue to make out of Indonesian resources, they have put only the slightest return into apposite local education and training facilities.

Resource nationalists believe that foreign owned oil companies and mineral extractors see Indonesia only through the prism of extractable resources, where local labour is something to live with but not a priority for development if it inhibits the current arrangement of expatriate gravy trains. They don’t buy into the constructions of corporate responsibility that subject Indonesians to representations of economically equal cooperation between locals and ‘nationals’ in the process of  sharing in Indonesia’s resource wealth. More and more resent it.

If Ms Chen wishes us to feel pity about the hardly stringent Indonesian visa requirements, perhaps she should be aware that Indonesians wanting to visit Australia, America, or the UK are subjected to a far stricter degree of assessment and burden of proof to substantiate character, medical status, and financial competence. There are endless requirements that have a prohibitive effect on Indonesians wishing to travel let alone work in those countries. Indonesians, like other nationals from developing countries, require medical tests, a specific amount of money in the bank, English language competency, and letters of recommendation as par course. Having successfully acquired a visa, they must tolerate a professionally hostile encounter with customs and immigrations who are looking out for a potential influx of plane people from Indonesia, or more alarmingly, one of Indonesia’s notorious smiling terrorists.

In the few years remaining before Indonesia’s natural resources become unprofitable and unproductive, is it not fair to ask that Indonesians themselves be given the opportunity to benefit?

Colin is the Social and Political Director at the Indonesia Institute and a former advisor to BPMIGAS.

Recovering From a Rebuff

By Duncan Graham

What does the Indonesian government have in common with bikie gangs?  Both reckon revenge is a dish best served cold.

How else to explain the restrained responses to revelations that Australia spied on a friend, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and his wife Kristiani Herawati? 

Dr Marty Natalegawa, the Australian-educated Foreign Minister and a man not known for intemperate outbursts said: “This was not a smart thing to do. It violates every single decent and legal instrument I can think of.

“It is nothing less than an unfriendly act, which is already having a very serious impact on bilateral relations.”

We braced for furious retaliation.  Would our embassy be besieged by militant mobs while the police took a smoko? Would outraged nationalists sweep hotels for Aussies ordering them out of the archipelago?  Trade bans, for sure. Maybe Boeing loads of Bali-bound tourists would be turned back. 

These things have happened before, though not this time.

Despite reports that defence and security cooperation have been diluted, and that the live cattle trade is being reviewed, the most serious response so far has been the recall of ambassador Nadjib Riphat Kesoema.

There could be another explanation for the limited action: We’re not going to be punished – just ignored. As every wannabe celebrity knows, that’s a fate too awful to contemplate.

What an insult! A rich, mature, modern nation-continent that always punches above its weight (according to Barack Obama), snubbed by a corruption-riddled infant democracy where half the citizens live in poverty.

Now hear this: We’re the US deputy sheriff in Southeast Asia, a generous neighbour giving half a billion aid dollars every year.  Why so rude, so ungrateful?  Don’t you know who we are, how important and influential?

Even though Tony Abbott has declared that Jakarta is our new Geneva, the Indonesians have left Canberra where it is, a southern branch office of the northern Anglosphere where the serious power is headquartered.

There are other distractions and all internal: Elections, inflation, poverty, corruption, inequality, intolerance ...  Foreign affairs hardly register.

The spying revelations are our collision with the rocks of reality.  We have four times more space but one tenth of the population. The Republic ranks fourth in world population statistics – we’re number 52.  Indonesians see us as we view New Zealand; a nice place to visit, but not to be taken too seriously. 

We claim to be big on human rights and equality, but treat asylum seekers as criminals.  Our responses to the health and education needs of indigenous Australians are an international disgrace.

When feeling nasty the more knowledgeable add that our nation was settled by British criminals, our culture has been imported, our lifestyle is godless and we’re closet colonialists.

The ruling Javanese are masters of refined behaviour and subtle response. Reading their emotions takes time and insights. They prefer consensus to confrontation but have long memories. Anger over our often-misrepresented role in the 1999 East Timor independence referendum still bubbles away, not far below the surface.

Eventually the toxin of spying will be diluted by time and crises new.  His Excellency will quietly book a Garuda seat south and fresh bottled water will be set out in meeting rooms. Pragmatism will rule, though wounded pride will not be rapidly healed.

This interregnum gives time to evaluate and renovate the relationship. 

First step is to appreciate that recovery is too important to be left to the lumbering politicians. They haven’t just smashed things up; they’ve compounded their clumsiness by unapologetically trashing decades of finely crafted goodwill. 

When two such different societies live so close, navigation errors can lead to a capsize if there’s no ballast in the relationship.

Instead of waiting for diplomats to start shuffling forward let’s seize the opportunity to repair.  Organisations like the Indonesia Institute could take the lead and bring together academics, journalists, businesspeople, NGOs and others on both shores of the Arafura Sea.

Our task?  To reclaim mutual respect and understanding.

What to put on the agenda? The 2012 Asian Century paper, a document that seems to have been trampled in the current disarray. Despite originating in government, reception has been generally positive and bipartisan. A place to start.

Hang on, these things can wait, it’s the Christmas break.

Not in the world’s most populous Islamic nation. The next president might not be so friendly, and the hole we’ve dug to date even deeper.
Duncan is a freelance journalist and member of the Indonesia Institute. He runs the blog "Indonesia Now".

Australia and Indonesia- What Now?

By David Connery and Natalie Sambhi

Australians shouldn’t underestimate the depth of feeling that Indonesians feel about the recent spying matter. It has aggravated some old, deep wounds and surprised many there. This kind of surprise leads to deep cracks that need to be repaired carefully. But it’s clear that many people on both sides want this relationship to work. That’s a plus.

Recent statements and actions by President Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Abbott offer the hope that the Australia-Indonesia relationship can return to a positive trajectory: thinking observers will give both leaders credit for that. While the process requested by President Yudhoyono for creating the new security relations framework is likely to take some time to complete, it’s worth taking some early steps—including an ‘act of good faith’—and making preparations to resume the bilateral relationship now.

The mechanism requested by the Indonesian President to repair the cracks and confirm the positive trajectory is a new ‘Memorandum of Understanding’. The Memo—which would include a protocol and code of ethical conduct—would extend beyond intelligence operations and sharing to cover each parties’ conduct in the future relationship. This is logical given the cause of the freeze. But the Memo should principally aim to bring greater resilience to this bilateral relationship, not just fix mechanics.

Governments will work quietly with each other to rebuild dialogue through people in both countries and have some strong personal relationships to call upon. The Australian Government recognised the value of this approach by sending former Army Chief Peter Leahy to Indonesia as an envoy during the tension. Both governments would also do well to consider former police officers for similar missions: cooperation between both police forces hasbeen deep and mutually beneficial, and the Indonesian police commissioner reports directly to President Yudhoyono. It’s also relevant that both the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Indonesian National Police (INP) were instrumental in building bridges between Australia and Indonesia after the major rupture of 1999. The depth of police-police contacts make them ideal for the ‘practical diplomacy’ that’ll be needed in this situation.

This should be accompanied by invitations to officials from both countries to visit each other and discuss the future relationship, to ensure the new direction for the relationship is mutually understood. While that’s happening, unaffected work should be quietly continued and extant programs should be restarted as quickly as possible—under new auspices where needed. To do this, both governments will need to keep key people in place and maintain funding for all programs until full cooperation resumes. That’s extraordinarily important because relationships take time to develop, and trust based on positive mutual experience is the foundation of those relationships. Changing key personnel now would unnecessarily slow the restorative process.

Given the sensitivity in the Indonesia polity, the Australian government in particular would do well to work very quietly, behind the scenes and at a sensible rate. Unilateral announcements of progress by Australian ministers must be avoided; Indonesian announcements about progress are likely to carry greater weight in both countries.

It’s also important for Australians to start preparing now for the new conditions they’ll experience in the bilateral relationship. Additional training in Indonesian language, culture, politics and history is would be very worthwhile, especially for government officials already deployed in Indonesia and for those who will be posted in the future. This education will deliver operational benefits too.
Senior officials who regularly deal with Indonesians might also be given the chance to learn a few phrases. While only a small gesture, it would provide a visible sign of Australia’s goodwill and future intention, because it shows a willingness to invest time in learning about our neighbour.

Deeper and broader educational initiatives, such as the proposed ‘reverse Colombo Plan’ could also be instituted quickly and focus on Indonesia. It would also be worth complementing this with more scholarships and training opportunities for Indonesians in Australia too. There’s also room for an ‘act of good faith’ on both sides as negotiations for the Memorandum go on. This act could, as a priority, resume those aspects of the relationship that involve safety at sea and our law enforcement agencies. It would do well to view this as a humanitarian obligation, not a political point.

During the early days of this political crisis—when both sets of officials faced ambiguous conditions and were unsure of their political leaders’ intentions, there were numerous calls to end cooperation in different areas. Australian beef cattle exports, Australian diplomats, websites and Indonesian parole processes have all been mooted as possible targets for Indonesian retaliation. Some important meetings were postponed, but most of the focus fell on military, maritime and police cooperation.

In peacetime, military cooperation is often an easy target because it’s very visible and a symbol of statehood. But, perhaps because of the nature of our mutual security challenges, maritime safety and police-to-police cooperation were also early targets. This was perhaps the most regrettable feature of the freeze because the operational work involving the police and search and rescue agencies is vital to preventing crime and saving lives. Restoring this cooperation should be a priority because this work needs to be above politics.

More broadly though, discussions around the memo and the future of the relationship should aim to create a more resilient relationship. As Peter Jennings recently noted, there has been a major crisis in the relationship every decade. And in between there are many sources of friction, from Australian travel advisories that portray Indonesia negatively, to consular matters involving the citizens of both countries. There might also be further revelations from the Snowden theft, and future government decisions about matters like investment can be expected to be spun negatively in either or both countries.

Both sides have to create a sounder basis for the relationship. It’s important for both countries to avoid populist political concerns being the cause of damage to cooperative activities in the future.

David Connery and Natalie Sambhi are analysts at ASPI. This article originally appeared in The Strategist 18 December 2013.