Australia–Indonesia relations

Australia–Indonesia relations

Australian-Indonesian relations are characterised by their geographically close locations, and a wide ranging political, security, commercial, cultural and people-to-people links. Since Indonesian independence, the two countries have maintained mutual diplomatic relations, formalised co-operation (especially in the fields of fisheries conservation, law enforcement, and justice cooperation), a measure of security co-operation, broadening treaty relationships, co-membership of regional forums, and co-participation in several multilateral Treaties of significance. Both countries are Member States of the United Nations.

The two nations differ in terms of religion and language: Indonesia is a largely Muslim country, whereas Australia possesses an Anglo-Saxon culture with a Judeo-Christian heritage. Both countries have good relations with the US Government, although Indonesia does not maintain a free trade agreement with the US or an ANZUS style security treaty. Recent years have seen a deepening of Australia's aid commitment to Indonesia, and Australia has become a popular venue for Indonesian students. [ see reference to '12000 students' from Indonesia]

Australia underwent a military confrontation with Indonesian during the "Konfrontasi" campaign (1965 - 1966) in Malaya. Pro-independence sentiment in Papua and East Timor has for decades been a source of diplomatic tensions between the two countries, as was East Timor's subsequent vote in favour of independence from Indonesia in 1999).

Since 2002 a number of Islamist-inspired terrorist attacks in Indonesia have been directed at Western interests including the Australian embassy in Jakarta and the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, which killed a total of 92 Australian nationals. Indonesian diplomatic and consular premises in Australia received a number of hoax and threat messages in 2005. Both the United States and Australian governments have issued warnings against travel to Indonesia, advising their citizens of a continued risk of attacks. [ Australian Consular Travel Advice (Indonesia), 15 February 2007]

Public opinion

The proportion of those voters mentioning Indonesia as a threat reached one in five after the Dili massacre of 1991 and increased to three in ten after the atrocities in East Timor following its 1999 independence referendum. In 2004, a Australian Strategic Policy Institute survey showed 29% of those polled identified Indonesia as 'most likely' to pose a threat to Australia in the future, a slight decline from the figure of 31% recorded in 2001. In all surveyed periods, Indonesia was unambiguously recognised as the country representing the most likely threat to Australia. ['Representative views: Mass and elite opinion on Australian security' McAllister, Ian (2005). Australian Strategic Policy Institute Report, Canberra, 15 June.]

In April 2004, Imran Cotan, the Indonesian ambassador to Australia expressed that while helping his country's Foreign Affairs Ministry assess applicants for diplomatic positions 'it emerged that 95% of the 6000 aspirants held anti-Australian views'. ['Breach of Trust', interview of Imron Cotan by Paul Daley, "The Bulletin", 14 April 2004]


Indonesian National Revolution

On 17 August 1945, Indonesian nationalist leaders Sukarno and Mohammed Hatta proclaimed the independence of the Republic of Indonesia. Australia cautiously withheld de facto regonition of the Republic until 9 July 1947, and then only over the regions of Java, Sumatra, and Madura] [ [ Australian Perceptions and Indonesian Reality ] ] Following frustrations over negotiations with Indonesian republicans, the Netherlands launched a major military offensive in Java and Sumatra on 20 July 1947. From that point and until Netherlands recognition of Indonesian independence in December 1949, Australian waterside workers banned Dutch vessels and vessels taking munitions and equipment to the Netherlands East Indies. [ [ Workers Online : History : 2001 - Issue 106 : Indonesia Calling ] ] On 30 July 1947 Australia referred the conflict to the United Nations Security Council naming the Netherlands as the violators of the peace. Later, Australia raised the matter of Indonesia's decolonisation in United Nations. On 1 August 1947 the UN Security Council ordered a cease-fire and established a committee to broker a truce and a renewal of negotiations. The Indonesian Republic nominated Australia to sit on that committee. The committee produced the Renville Truce Agreement of January 1948. The Dutch launched a second major military offensive, occupying Republican territory in Java. Following a Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference from August to November 1949, Republic of Indonesia sovereignty over Indonesia was officially recognised in December 1949.

The Sukarno era

The Menzies Government in Australia held strong reservations about Sukarno's flirtation with the Indonesian Communist Party continuing through to 1965.

In 1962, Sukarno and his communist allies began a propaganda campaign to seize Irian Barat. The Australian Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs took the view that it was important that such a campaign should fail. However, the territory was transferred to Indonesia in 1963 and voted for its incorporation as such in 1969.

Australia victoriously conducted warfare in aid of Malaysia against Indonesia at the time of the Konfrontasi from January 1963 until August 1966. Australian forces in Sarawak were deployed across the border into Indonesia to ambush patrols moving towards Malaysian. Operation CLARET repeatedly annihilated the units conducting those patrols and prevented others from crossing such that Indonesia was humiliated into accepting the sovereignty of Malaysia in those areas it had coveted. [Peter Dennis and Jeffrey Grey, Emergency and Confrontation, Australian Military Operations in Malaya and Borneo 1950–1966, Allen & Unwin in association with the Australian War Memorial, Sydney, 1996, p. 173] Even during the course of the Indonesian defeat a number of Indonesian army officers were still receiving their military education in Australia.

The Suharto era and East Timor

On 11 March 1966, Suharto was installed as Indonesia's Acting President and then made President in March 1968. Robust anti-communism characterised his administration through until his resignation in 1998, and that proved to be a point of common cause with successive Australian administrations.

East Timor has been a central issue in Australian-Indonesian relations since the time of the territory's decolonisation from Portugal and its subsequent invasion and annexation by Indonesia in the mid-1970s. On 16 October 1975 at Balibo, Portuguese Timor, members of the invading Indonesian military murdered five Australian journalists who had been reporting events in the build up to Operasi Seroja. The circumstances of their executions is a matter of current coronial investigation in New South Wales, Australia. [ [ Balibo five shot on army orders, court told. 22/02/2007. ABC News Online ] ]

Prime Minister Whitlam made assurances of Australian non-intervention, and even encouraged the Indonesia action to take over East Timor in 1975. Subsequent killings and famine eliminated one-third, or 200000, of the territory's population. [ [ Whitlam Ducks Queries on ET Views ] ] In subsequent years Australia became the only foreign government to afford complete recognition of the incorporation, even representing Indonesia's case in that regard to the UN. [ [ Secret Timor documents implicate former Whitlam government in Australia ] ]

Relations between the two countries reached one of their lowest points at the time of East Timor's secession from Indonesia in 1999. Following a United Nations agreement between Indonesia, Portugal and the United States, a UN-supervised popular referendum choosing between autonomy within Indonesia and full independence, was held on August 30 1999. The people of East Timor overwhelmingly voted for independence. An Australian-led and Indonesian-sanctioned peacekeeping force, INTERFET, was sent into the territory to restore order following a violent 'scorched-earth' policy carried out by pro-integration militia and supported by elements of the Indonesian military (see History of East Timor). International moral opinion forced Indonesia to withdraw tacit support, the militias dispersed. INTERFET was replaced by a UN force of International Police, the mission became known as UNTAET, and the UNTAET Crime Scene Detachment was formed to investigate alleged atrocities.

High-level visits and meetings

Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies visited Indonesia in 1959.

Australian foreign minister Paul Hasluck visited Indonesia to meet Suharto three times between August 1966 and January 1968, before Suharto's formal appointment as acting President. [ See 5th para]

Suharto visited Australia in 1972 and met Prime Minister William McMahon. [ No Australian military ties with Indonesia ] ]

Prime Minister Gough Whitlam has met Indonesian President Suharto at Central Java in 1974 on the occasion when he described East Timor as 'too small to be independent' and urged the Indonesian invasion of that country. [ [ Documents reveal that Australia urged Indonesia to invade East Timor in 1975 ] ] The leaders again met at Townsville in 1975. Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser met Suharto in October 1976. Fraser offered de facto recognition of the Indonesian annexation of East Timor, which was followed by de jure recognition in 1979

Visits between Prime Minister Paul Keating and Suharto were exchanged in the 1990s. In 1994, Keating went as far as to declare that:

"No country is more important to Australia than Indonesia. If we fail to get this relationship right, and nurture and develop it, the whole web of our foreign relations is incomplete [and] ... the emergence of the New Order government of President Suharto, and the stability and prosperity which [it] has brought to [Indonesia] was "the single most beneficial strategic development to have affected Australia and its region in the past thirty years".

President Yudhoyono visited Australia in April 2005.

The Eighth "Australia-Indonesia Ministerial Forum" (AIMF) was held in Bali on 29 June 2006 and was attended by five Australian and eleven Indonesian ministers. A key outcome was support for the conclusion of a security agreement, later realised as the Lombok Agreement, to provide a framework for the development of the security relationship by the end of 2006. The AIMF, established in 1992, provides an important platform for the expansion of bilateral ties. Representatives of the Australian and Indonesian business communities also held a dialogue with ministers.

The Sixth "Australia-Indonesia Trade Ministers’ Meeting" (TMM) was held in Canberra on 10 August 2006. The meeting focused on reviewing implementation of the "Trade and Investment Framework". An inaugural "Policy Dialogue" was held concurrently with the Meeting to provide an opportunity for officials to meet with the business community to exchange views on business climate issues in both countries.

Australia-Indonesia-East Timor Trilateral Ministerial Meetings have occurred three times to September 2006. [ [ Media Release from the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Australia-Indonesia-East Timor Trilateral Ministerial Meeting ] ]

Contemporary relations

There is no existing protocol for prisoner transfer. Authorities in both countries have expressed the desire to seal such an agreement as a matter of priority to facilitate the repatriation of prisoners of either nationality residing in the others' jails.

Further reading




External links

* [ List of Australia-Indonesia Diplomatic Agreements]
* [ Australia-Indonesia Institute, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade]
* [ AUSAID Australia-Indonesia Partnership]
* [ Indonesian Embassy, Canberra]
* [ Australian Embassy, Jakarta]
* [ Map of Australian maritime boundaries. Geoscience Australia, 2002]
* [ Report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, Australia-Indonesia Maritime Delimitation Treaty, November 1997 (Recommends ratification of the Treaty)]
* [ UNHCR Treaty]
* [ List of UNHCR members]

See also

* Australia-Indonesia Prisoner Exchange Agreement
* Foreign relations of Indonesia
* Foreign relations of Australia
* List of Indonesian Ambassadors to Australia
* AusAID

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