Indonesians increasingly distrust Australia, but their new leader wants to change that

Indonesians increasingly distrust Australia, but their new leader wants to change that
Indonesians increasingly distrust Australia, but their new leader wants to change that

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese returns from laying a wreath at the Indonesian National Heroes Cemetery June 6, 2022 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Albanese made his first trip to Indonesia promising to strengthen ties during two days of diplomatic and business meetings.

Ed Wray | fake images

Long before Australia’s new Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, made his first bilateral visit to Jakarta, Indonesia’s confidence in Australia was already waning.

According to the first Lowy Institute survey of Indonesia in a decade, Indonesians’ trust in Australia had fallen 20 points in 10 years, from 75% in 2011 to 55% last year.

Indonesians have also been wary of most major powers, including the US and China, according to the Australian think tank’s survey of 3,000 Indonesians late last year.

“Most Indonesians trust the United States and Australia to act responsibly, but this number has fallen dramatically since 2011,” the survey showed.

Indonesia’s mistrust of Australia deepened after Canberra signed the trilateral AUKUS nuclear submarine and security deal with the US and UK last year, former Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told CNBC. last week.

Australia’s new leaders now have a lot of diplomatic work ahead of them, he added.

“It would be important for Indonesia to figure out the intent: what are the goals of the new Australian government in the [Asia-Pacific] region,” the minister said during an exclusive interview on “Street Signs Asia.”

The AUKUS deal ruffled some feathers in the Asia-Pacific, with both Indonesia and Malaysia raising concerns after it was announced. Indonesia said it did not want to see a “continued arms race and power projection in the region” and urged Australia to abide by its nuclear non-proliferation obligations.

Questions remain as to whether Australia and Indonesia can take their relationship to a deeper level under Albanese’s leadership.

Indonesia sees AUKUS as a threat, said Made Supriatma, Visiting Professor at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

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Jakarta has long seen Canberra as ambivalent and untrustworthy, and the AUKUS pact, as well as the Quad’s union, have made things worse ever since. it could provoke China and destabilize the region, Supriatma said.

The story didn’t help.

“Indonesian military elites have not forgotten Australia’s ‘intervention’ in East Timor in 1999,” he said, referring to Indonesian attacks on East Timor after its election for independence.

“The Indonesian military was unable to dispel the perception that the Australian military had intervened on Indonesian territory” and forced the Indonesian military to withdraw, it added.

For the Indonesians, it did not matter that Australia had acted at the behest of the US.

Following the announcement of AUKUS, Political observers, including former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, raised concerns that the Australia-Indonesia relationship had fallen by the wayside as the security pact became more focused on managing Canberra’s frayed relations with Beijing.

Australia chose to make Indonesia the first one-on-one ministerial stop after the election, but many in Indonesia would not think Australia deserved the same attention, Tim Lindsey and Tim Mann of the Indonesian Center for Law, Islam and Society at the University of Melbourne said in an op-ed in the conversation.

“They see [Australia] as a low-ranking trade and investment partner more focused on the United States and the United Kingdom than on Southeast Asia,” they said.

Australia’s new government has done everything possible to restore relations.

That includes bolstering his pledge to establish a $140 million ($200 million Australian dollar) climate and infrastructure partnership with Indonesia, pledging an additional $327 million in overseas development for Southeast Asia, and appointing a senior regional roving envoy. dedicated.

“We want to strengthen the relationship with Indonesia, but also with Southeast Asia. We see that as ASEAN is critical to the region,” Albanese said during his visit last week.

To keep relations between the two countries warm, Lindsey and Mann advocated more aid to Indonesia, making it easier for Indonesians to enter Australia, as well as more funding for Indonesian studies in Australia.

“Australians can obtain a visa upon arrival in Indonesia, but even Indonesians who wish to visit Australia on a tourist visa face a costly, complicated and demeaning application process,” they noted.

This is where the CEPA agreement between Indonesia and Australia may come into play, said Krisna Gupta and Donny Pasaribu, analysts at the Australian National University’s Crawford School of Public Policy.

the The Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) was signed three years ago.

Its goal was to liberalize trade between the two countries “beyond a reduction in tariffs to non-tariff measures, trade in services and investment,” Gupta and Pasaribu said. But there were many caveats and exceptions with non-tariff measures.

“The economic importance of IA-CEPA remains to be seen, at least from the Indonesian side. Not only are there many caveats, but implementing IA-CEPA would also require many changes to Indonesian regulations at the ministerial and local levels, which has been a major challenge in the past,” the two analysts said.

But there are other benefits, such as people-to-people exchanges, that can open up the Australia-Indonesia trade relationship.

Unfortunately, it seems that Indonesia cannot improve its manufacturing advantage, at least compared to Vietnam and Thailand, let alone China.

Krishna Gupta and Donny Pasaribu

Crawford School of Public Policy

But don’t expect Indonesia’s trade with Australia to come close to China’s trade with Australia, they said.

Two-way trade between China and Australia was worth A$250 billion ($176 billion) in 2020.

By comparison, trade between Indonesia and Australia alone was worth A$17 billion over the same period, mostly in cattle and beef sales and charcoal.

But it was easier to trade with China as the so-called factory and supply chain hub of the world, the ANU economists noted.

In fact, Indonesia and Australia are not complementary trading partners but rather rivals, they noted.

Both countries are exporters of raw materials, while China is a major buyer of raw materials in the region.

“Unfortunately, it appears that Indonesia cannot improve its manufacturing advantage, at least compared to Vietnam and Thailand, let alone China,” the ANU analysts said.

Tim Harcourt, chief economist at the Institute for Public Policy and Governance at the University of Technology Sydney, agreed that “Indonesia still lags behind as an economic partner” to Australia.

But he sees progress.

Aside from services and people trading, Harcourt said the Australian government is turning to more non-traditional business collaborations with Indonesia in science, games and software.

Things are different this time, Harcourt added.

“The fact that Albanese took on a heavyweight delegation of ministers and business leaders shows that it was more than just hot air,” the economist said.

“I thought the fact that he brought in the minister for science and industry as well as the minister for trade shows that the Labor government wants to develop research and development with Indonesian institutions.”