Australia and Indonesia – delivering for our people and for the Indo-Pacific region

  • Speech
Jakarta, Indonesia
09 September 2021

Well Dino, I'm not sure I want to give the floor up, I want to hear more pantun from you. I think that for those of us with some Irish heritage, perhaps the pantun is the equivalent of a limerick, but I think the pantun sounds much better than most limericks that I've heard in my time.

Can I begin by saying how delighted I am to join everyone this afternoon, from the Australian Embassy here in Jakarta, for a discussion on the strong partnership between our two countries and our work together in the Indo-Pacific.

Dino, I know you said there were some Ambassadors, diplomats and journalists and others online. I can already see some familiar faces, some familiar faces who have served Indonesia in Canberra over time and it's an absolute pleasure to be here with you all this afternoon. And, of course, some faces of Australian diplomats that also appear to be online, so let me acknowledge them as well.

I really want to thank the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia for hosting this virtual forum, so to you Dino and your team, thank you very much for this opportunity. And can I particularly congratulate you on the work of FPCI, it is renowned, it is highly regarded, and I am honoured to have an opportunity to contribute.

I am also really grateful, if I may say, to the Indonesian Government for such a warm welcome during our visit here today. As Dino said, Minister to Defence, Peter Dutton, and I have held our 2+2 with Ministers Retno Marsudi and Prabowo Subianto today. Australia and Indonesia have held seven 2+2's, since I think 2012. Retno Marsudi and I have been at five of those, in my two incarnations and in her role as Foreign Minister.

So, it is an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to participate again, and today to also address Indonesia's foreign policy and security community - as I have previously done here in my former role as Defence Minister, when I spoke at the National Resilience Institute, Lemhannas, just a few years ago now.

There's more to talk about now than there was then, it's a very dynamic environment in which we find ourselves. And having had the opportunity to meet today with my very good friends and colleagues, as I said, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi also this afternoon with Minister Bintang [Darmawati], the Minister of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection.  A couple of things we have noted include, in fact, that it is so good to be able to meet face-to-face again.

The virtual format has a lot to be said for it, but I know those of you in the virtual room who are diplomats, those of you in the virtual room who understand the power and the strength of people-to-people relationships, absolutely know that the opportunity to be here in person means a great deal, so thank you very much for that.

Ladies and gentlemen, Australia and Indonesia are natural partners.

We are partners by virtue of our geography – sharing the world's longest maritime border.

We are partners on account of our shared histories – woven through generations, reaching back to the earliest days of trade between Makassar and Australia's Indigenous peoples, through to the dawn of Indonesian independence.

Our partnership has flourished as our countries achieved greater prosperity – propelled by our growing economies, trade, and engagement. And in August of 2018, our President and Prime Minister respectively agreed to elevate the relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.

Importantly, we have also found strength and solace, each of us, in our partnership in times of great adversity – through financial crises, through terrorist attacks, through devastating natural disasters including Australia's bushfires last year, when Indonesia sent two TNI platoons of around 60 engineers to help Operation Bushfire Assist.

And our partnership has grown, particularly through our deep community and personal ties – including through the bustling exchange of tourism, of students, business, diaspora, and culture.   

Australia and Indonesia have forged a close and enduring partnership that will hold us in good stead as we look ahead to the many challenges and opportunities our countries face.

Importantly, this partnership also affords us the strongest possible base from which we can continue to grow and support the health, prosperity, security, and stability of our Indo-Pacific region.

Today, I will talk about these two points – I'll take stock of how our partnership is developing and evolving; and talk about our work towards realising a strong future for our region.

Firstly, I think it is important to recognise both the magnitude of the change and the lasting impacts brought about by COVID-19 on both of our countries, and on our region.

The health, humanitarian and economic impacts on Indonesian communities have been devastating.

The virus has profoundly affected our communities and our ways of life.

Across the Indo-Pacific, health systems have been put under extraordinary strain. Lives have been lost. Livelihoods have been disrupted. Communities and families have been separated. And economies have been damaged. 

COVID-19 is a powerful reminder that our countries, and the wellbeing of our peoples, are deeply interwoven.

Our region relies on, and benefits from, a healthy, prosperous, and resilient Indonesia.

That's why Australia has been proud to work in partnership with Indonesia – our close friend and neighbour – to address this pandemic.

Through our partnership, Australia has already shared 1 million AstraZeneca doses with Indonesia, as part of our commitment to share 2-and-a-half million vaccine doses in 2021, as Minister Marsudi and I announced on the 7th of July.

These doses, together with Australian support of $107 million for vaccine procurement will see approximately 13 million vaccine doses delivered to Indonesia.

And in addition, through our partnership, we will work with a range of NGOs, UN agencies, community organisations and provincial governments in Indonesia to support their response to COVID-19, with a focus on the needs of local communities and health systems.

This expanded cooperation builds on other commitments I announced, also in July, of oxygen related and other medical equipment, over 40,000 rapid antigen test kits, of which 1,000 ventilators, 700 concentrators and 20,000 test kits have already been delivered.

During a crisis, in which timeliness of support is crucial, we have been able to partner with you to deliver the health support that was announced on the 7th of July, as I said, following my discussion with Foreign Minister Marsudi.

Our partnership also enabled the rapid pivot of our development program in the early days of the pandemic, so that it was responding to Indonesia's immediate health, humanitarian, and economic priorities.

And we've accelerated and scaled new partnerships in health security and in crisis management, both announced during President Widodo's visit to Australia in February of 2020.

For example, our Partnership in Disaster Risk Management program is helping contain the spread of the virus, implement public health awareness campaigns, supply essential goods, help businesses to identify new opportunities, and to improve food security. 

It has also focused on the most vulnerable groups in the community, including women and girls, people with disabilities, and the poor. 

For its part, Indonesia is also playing a key role in the region's recovery and I would like to particularly recognise Foreign Minister Marsudi as co-chair of the COVAX Advanced Market Commitment, or AMC, Engagement Group. AMC has raised nearly US$10 billion to vaccinate almost 30% of the adult population in AMC countries by mid-2022, including over 171 million people in our own region. Since the start of this year, it has distributed over 49 million vaccine doses to Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Australia's partnership with Indonesia is emblematic of the strength of our friendship.

But it also speaks to a broader recognition that Indonesia occupies a special place in our region – a place of leadership, economic opportunity, and strategic importance. And Australia, like so many countries, has a very real interest in seeing Indonesia succeed.

I want to emphasise just how strongly Indonesia figures in Australia's thinking as an emerging economic giant, who is also a friend, a neighbour, with whom we have many aligned interests, many shared values, and an enormous potential for further expanding ties.

The pandemic has also served as a timely reminder of the value of cooperation and openness in our region, and reinforced the importance of working together to achieve the kind of region in which we want to live. 

Just as viruses and variants in any one country can impact the health security of our whole region – so too can instability, insecurity, or economic recession cross borders.

Australia and Indonesia are so fortunate to call the Indo-Pacific home. We live in the most dynamic, innovative, and prosperous region in the world.

Our region is also in a period of strategic competition, and the active participation of countries like Australia and Indonesia is important. Not only to advocate and defend the interests of our own countries, but also, to protect and advance the interests of our region as a whole.

Australia wants to see an Indo-Pacific region that embraces engagement and cooperation over coercion, that upholds the rights and sovereignty of countries, regardless of their size or power.

We want to live in a region that empowers all countries – big and small – to engage and prosper in an open, inclusive, and rules-based environment. 

A region that supports a level playing field, based on international laws and norms, to guide healthy competition and ensure that competition does not lead to conflict or instability.

And a region that works together to bolster resilience, so we can together, foster new opportunities and deal with challenges, like COVID-19, as they emerge.  

Australia's vision for the future of our region has ASEAN at its centre.

It's principally a shared vision, underpinned by shared principles.

ASEAN's Outlook on the Indo-Pacific – of which Indonesia has been a leading proponent – resonates strongly with our own Indo-Pacific vision including principles of ASEAN centrality, openness, transparency, inclusivity, and a rules-based region.

We discussed these principles last month when we held the ASEAN-Australia post-Ministerial Conference, the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers Meeting, and the ASEAN Regional Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting.

Australia strongly believes that the principles enshrined in the ASEAN Outlook should guide the post-pandemic order in the region.

And in support of the Outlook, Australia is committed to concrete cooperation under the four key areas that it outlines – maritime, connectivity, the SDG's (sustainable development goals) and economic development.

Australia's vision seeks to provide positive and practical choices for countries in our neighbourhood Australia and Indonesia are working together, and with our international and ASEAN partners, to achieve this.

Southeast Asia is central to this regional vision, and Southeast Asia and ASEAN are the fulcrum of Australia's Indo-Pacific approach.  Which is why Australia is finding new opportunities to engage in Southeast Asia including through ASEAN.

We're working with partners to implement major new initiatives across Southeast Asia, which the Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, and I announced last year.

Together, we will deliver on tangible, targeted, sustainable, and effective programs that are tailored to meet the needs of local communities and implemented in partnership with local governments and organisations, including, for example:

  • Support for sustainable and high-quality infrastructure
  • Scholarships and training to build the capacity of the people in the Mekong sub-region
  • Sharing technical knowledge to strengthen trade and investment across the region
  • Working to bolster environmental sustainability, respond to climate change, improve water security, and to combat marine pollution.

We've also enhanced support to ASEAN initiatives in response to the pandemic, including ASEAN's recovery framework – its own roadmap out of the pandemic – and to the establishment of an ASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases.

Together and individually, these initiatives will make a real difference to our region's response to, and recovery from, the pandemic.

We believe that engaging with ASEAN and supporting our partners in Southeast Asia is one of the best investments Australia can make in a stronger, more prosperous, and more secure future for our region.

The same is true, ladies and gentlemen, of our partnership with Indonesia which Prime Minister Morrison and I, along with our entire cabinet, and government colleagues are committed to expanding.

In an increasingly interconnected and fast paced world – in which trends and developments both positive and negative, have been accelerated and exacerbated by COVID-19 – our partnership positions us well to both seize opportunities and tackle future global challenges together.

We are increasing our cooperation in both minilateral and regional groupings, including the Indian Ocean Rim Association, or IORA.

As two Indo-Pacific nations whose territories face both oceans, it's only natural for Australia and Indonesia to be leading voices in this space.

We continue to expand our cooperation to address constantly evolving regional threats including:

  • Maritime and marine resource security;
  • Countering the threat of terrorism;
  • Emerging cyber and critical technology challenges; and
  • Dealing with emerging threats to our security, including from disinformation.

One of our most important areas of cooperation over the coming years will be in addressing climate change.

We are expanding our green energy cooperation to meet the challenge of our changing climate.

And we are working together, along with international partners, on the global effort toward green economies, decarbonisation, and green hydrogen.

Australia is a good partner for the supercharging of Indonesia's digital economy, the rise of Indonesian unicorns, and the rapid emergence of digital proficiency.

We can also do more, together, to secure essential supply chains, including for critical minerals needed to expand Indonesia's high-tech manufacturing. 

Research and development is central to our ability to innovate, to enable change, and seize these opportunities. We can therefore build on the work being done by Australian and Indonesian leading universities and institutions, such as between the CSIRO and Indonesia's Eijkman Institute on vaccine platform development. 

And of course, a cornerstone of our relationship is our strong economic ties.

Indonesia is becoming economically more important both to Australia and the region.

You are a trillion US-dollar economy and one of the world's fastest growing consumer markets.

And within a generation, Indonesia will be the fourth or fifth largest economy.

So, Indonesia presents huge economic opportunities, and we are committed to help realise these.

One year on from entry into force, the IA-CEPA – our bilateral comprehensive economic partnership agreement – provides the foundation for enhanced economic cooperation and enabling the growth of alternative market options.

We are looking to reinvigorate business and community links as we recover from COVID-19. Getting Indonesian students back to Australia, Australian tourists back to Indonesia, and business connecting and reaping the benefits of our trade agreements.

And, of course, we are partnering closely with Indonesia as the 2022 G20 president – that presidency that will come at an absolutely critical time in the world's economic recovery from this pandemic. It occupied some part of our discussion today for that very reason.

Finally, I want to touch on an area that, I think, lends particularly special credence to our relationship.  That is: the values that we share.

We are proud democratic countries, and therefore have much common ground in the way we engage and deal with challenges and opportunities.

We approach our respective foreign policies from the standpoint of inclusion, and cooperation.

That means that we are proud of our democratic systems, but do not seek to impose or export them.

We work with democracies and traditional partners, as well as those with different political systems who share our interests.

And we seek to exercise smart diplomacy – understanding the viewpoints and concerns of our counterparts and finding innovative ways to align interests.

That's part of what makes Indonesia and Australia effective and influential globally and regionally.

It is also an approach that my Prime Minister and I are committed to continuing.

That includes working together to stand up for the rights of women and girls in our region and indeed, further afield. It includes our engagement with major powers and our advocacy of a durable regional strategic balance.

It means working together to support a level playing field and protecting the rules and norms that guide engagement between all countries.

And it means our shared support for, and engagement with, the most important piece of our regional architecture – ASEAN.

We have seen ASEAN seek a resolution to the crisis in Myanmar, since the coup in February

I want to recognise Indonesia's leadership within ASEAN, including its important role at the Special ASEAN Leaders' Meeting on Myanmar in April, here in Jakarta.

Australia will continue to use our voice to strongly advocate for the ASEAN Special Envoy to be given appropriate access in Myanmar with all parties, to deliver a way forward.

We also look forward to working closely with Indonesia as ASEAN Chair in 2023 to advance the mutual interests that we share and of which I have spoken.

Friends it is my firm belief that this is a natural, long-term partnership to which Australia is deeply committed.

Our cooperation matters to each of our countries.

And our commitment to engagement and practical action is fundamental to building a more secure and prosperous region.   

Our visit to Jakarta this week does indeed come at a challenging time for both of our countries. But I think there is also cause for cautious optimism about the future.

COVID-19 has shown that even in our darkest hours, we can find strength through our partnerships.

The rapid development and deployment of vaccines globally has shown us the extraordinary power of human endeavour and innovation. We know there is more to be done.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Australia-Indonesian partnership is in strong shape.

We have a busy agenda ahead of us, and I am delighted to be in Jakarta once again to take this forward.

Thank you.

ENDS

In Australia's view, what would be the proper relationship between Quad and ASEAN? Would you favour the idea of a regular ASEAN Quad meeting?

Thank you, Dino, and I think that it is an important question, but also important to proceed it with your comments of the changes in the development of the Australia-Indonesia relationship.

You talked about texture, you talked about pace, you talked about how our way of interaction is changing, and I think they are all very appropriate words for a significant maturing of a relationship.

I'm happy to say this publicly: that I have been in the Australian parliament for over two decades, and the changes that I have seen as someone who came to the parliament with a strong passion and interest in foreign policy and international relations and security, defence, in my DNA really, I have watched those changes, and they really are so powerful. And I think a mature Australia-Indonesia relationship appreciates developments in both formal and informal architecture, security architecture and diplomatic architecture.

And I would describe the Quad as being a diplomatic network of likeminded democracies that are committed in our actions to support an open, resilient, and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

And it is certainly now a key pillar of Australia's international engagement. And I think also as the peaks and troughs and strategic competition buffet other participants in the region, these sorts of groupings have come to the fore, and I have also seen that during COVID-19.

At the last leaders Quad meeting, the three key issues of which we concentrated were: vaccines in the Indo-Pacific, climate issues in the Indo-Pacific and critical technology - one of the biggest challenges of our lifetime, and how we protect and develop critical technology.

And we regard that as a very positive and practical agenda to support regional partners in response to the challenges of the period. And you are also right that the Quad partners all champion ASEAN centrality and the ASEAN Outlook of the Indo-Pacific explicitly and openly.

I am not necessarily sure that formal meetings between the Quad and ASEAN are required, the important thing is for Quad countries to show ASEAN and all groups and all countries, including the Pacific for example, that the association – the diplomatic network – is a positive force for good in the region, focussed on those issues of health and economic recovery, working in partnership with others so that we're able to assist all nations to be safe and secure and prosperous, and frankly also sovereign.

To date, the Quad has not and does not hold meetings with other regional groupings, and all quad partners – as dialogue partners with ASEAN have pre-existing institutional engagement with ASEAN as well.

The vaccine partnership is a really excellent example of this practical action, working together to support vaccination programs across the Indo-Pacific and that includes Southeast Asia obviously. So, there is that sort of basis for cooperation.

So, I think your question is a really interesting one, but at this point in time I would say there are enough existing structures and relationships, that keep all of the Quad partners very close to ASEAN and to our closest friends in ASEAN, like Indonesia.

The Quad needs to be sensitive to avoid the impression that it is headed toward hard power geo-politics:

Thanks Dino, and can I also just very briefly add to my other response based on your additional comment about the perspectives that may be held of the Quad. You particularly mentioned the points of view of students, and I really appreciate you raising that and appreciate their perspective on this.

That's why I think it's important to look at the relationships that exist bilaterally between Quad partners, and the Quad itself quite separately. Discretely. They are very different things.

And so there will be the bilateral relationships, whether it's between Australia and Japan; United States and Japan; Australia and India; Japan and India. In all of those bilateral relationships there will always be the strongest aspects of the security issues that you raise.  Hard power as you put it.

Particularly in defence and international security arenas they will always be part of those relationships. That's as it should be and that's where those issues are overwhelmingly prosecuted. I do think the focus that you and the world have seen from Quad leaders and Quad Foreign Ministers, and I have been part of three Quad foreign ministers meetings over the past few years, two in person and one virtual, that focus on issues like vaccine access, and issues like climate change and addressing that in our region issues like critical technology - they are very much the focus of our diplomatic network, which as I said is committed to supporting on open and resilient and inclusive Indo-Pacific. So I appreciate very much that you raised that.

What are your worries about unfolding events in Afghanistan, and its impact on regional dynamics in the Indo-Pacific?

In relation to Afghanistan, I would like to say that it is hard to know where to start but there are so many issues, and this is such a deeply distressing time for the very many people in Afghanistan who had through the last 20 years, notwithstanding many of the challenges of that time, had seen a different life, had seen a life where the sorts of women and girls that I can see on this screen, participating in this open, quite heady debate in terms of foreign policy and security issues. Where women and girls who wanted to do that had the opportunity to do that, had the opportunity for education, to play sport, something which so many around the world take for granted.

So, what the changes in Afghanistan mean is deeply distressing, for those people, for their families, and for so many vulnerable people in Afghanistan as well. Indonesia and Australia both participated in the expatriation of citizens, visa holders, permanent residents in our case, over a very challenging two weeks, and I want to acknowledge Indonesia's effort in that regard.

So, our concerns are very significant about the situation in Afghanistan, we are acutely conscious of what happened the last time Afghanistan was under Taliban rule. And how they have administered the territories that have controlled since. We know there is a severe humanitarian crisis on the doorstep in Afghanistan, and in fact already in existence both from the ongoing drought and the security situation, it is literally impacting directly on millions of people in Afghanistan and on regional countries. And enormous potential for both the humanitarian and security situation to deteriorate even further as we look at events unfolding.

That will have significant implications for regional and international security including in terms of terrorism, people smuggling, narcotics issues and the question of human rights particularly for women and girls.

I want to again take this opportunity to acknowledge the leadership role that has been taken by Indonesia and particularly Foreign Minister Marsudi and her engagement with Afghan women and girls in particular, and her active engagement has been most warmly received.

Our counter terrorism cooperation between Australia and Indonesia, forged in the aftermath of some of the most critical events of our shared history is once again critical, and I cannot reinforce that enough. That cooperation, that commitment to regional partnership that has been sustained over so many years, we must continue to deepen that cooperation.

We cannot allow Afghanistan to be a breeding ground or a training ground for terrorism ever again, not as an international community, not for individual nations, and not as a region which has seen more than our fair share of the outcomes of that sort of terrorist activity in the past. Here, in Indonesia, in Malaysia in the Philippines and of course the impact on Australia from some of these events are well known.

So, we have to make it very clear that a extremist narrative of success in Afghanistan is not one that we are willing to accept. And make it very clear to the Taliban regime that has just installed a range of leaders that it must prevent that return to violent extremism and that it has to be aware that the world is watching.

We are also alert to potential irregular people movement and again Indonesia has been on that front line before, Illegal people smugglers supporting the potential influx of refugees is something we are both very alert to and we are committed to working with Indonesia and other regional countries to address this.

In relation to the officials that have taken positions in the regime in Afghanistan, I would note that it is not representative of society, it is not representative of minorities., including Hazera and other ethnic minorities. It contains no women; it contains members of the Haqqani network. These are issues which we view very seriously. We will continue to work on with Indonesia and international partners to hold the Taliban to account, for their commitments and for their words that need to be met by actions.

They have asked for respect, well in my book respect is something that you have to earn.

Indonesia and ASEAN stress much on the "cooperation" aspect of the Indo Pacific. Does Australia see it the same way, especially given the rising geopolitical rivalries in the region?

Can I say to start with that Australia stands absolutely ready to cooperate on what I think are a set of pretty reasonable principles; of openness, of transparency; of respect for countries no matter their size, of not using coercion as a tool of engagement.

On all of those values and principles we stand absolutely ready to cooperate, and in fact I would go so far to say from our perspective, that our vision for the Indo-Pacific as I have said in my remarks is of an open, cohesive and resilient region that is underpinned by the rules and the norms that have given us the opportunities and the freedoms, the economic growth, the lifting of people out of poverty that we have seen over countless decades, and also respect for sovereignty.

And cooperation as I have said is central to that. And we would point out that in just a relatively short period of time, and also right though COVID, one of the things that Australia has tried to do across the region, is grow and develop relationships based on those principles.

We've signed a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Malaysia in January of this year, with India in June of last year, a Strategic Partnership with Thailand in November 2020, and a Comprehensive Strategic and Economic Partnership with Papua New Guinea of August 2020, and again I would say, working really hard with the development of those relationships right though covid, right through a pandemic. And we actually have warmly welcomed increasing global attention to the Indo-Pacific, including ASEAN's outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

As I said our recognition of the priorities that ASEAN identifies of connectivity, of the SDGs and other, we are very much in the same space on those issues. But also, the European Union, France, Germany, India, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. All very overtly engaged on these issues.

And because The Indo-Pacific is Australia's neighbourhood, and Indonesia's neighbourhood and the world's most consequential region - it's a place where Australia lives and works, operates, engages where we have the opportunity to engage to make the most meaningful impact.

You can't do that without cooperation, so that's the forefront of this, it's why we are able to work together on covid economic recovery, on covid health security and what the future looks like in a post pandemic environment. But we have to be clear that there are certain lines where it is not acceptable to cross.

Let's start with cyber interference and disinformation, both of which are dangerous and deadly in a pandemic. Let's just start there. Let's start with territorial claims that the countries of ASEAN are grappling with every single day, knowing that their rights and obligations are underpinned by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. A rule body that Australia accepts, and that every member of ASEAN accepts, and that every responsible nation in the Indo-Pacific accepts.

The challenge of strategic competition where the Indo-Pacific finds itself at the epicentre, is not one that we underestimate. And I don't think anyone engaging on this particular discussion with FPCI underestimates the challenge of strategic competition.

And in our view, it is vital that we compete to preserve the international order that has underpinned those decades of prosperity and economic stability that I spoke about in the Indo-Pacific. But it is not in our interests for competition to slip into confrontation or out-right conflict, and that is something which Australia is very clear about.

Thank you

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