Australia’s future is tied to the region

  • Opinion

Just two weeks ago, Australia elected a new government.

It is a new government that reflects the face of modern Australia – a nation of different ethnicities and religions. A nation where nearly half of our people were born overseas or have a parent born overseas, but with a unified purpose to shape a better future for ourselves and the region.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and I are in the middle of our first official visit to Indonesia – along with our minister for trade, Don Farrell, and our minister for industry, Ed Husic, the first Muslim Cabinet minister in Australia’s history.

We are here because we know Australia’s future is tied to the future of the region we all share.

It’s a region I know. It’s the region I am from. I grew up in Kota Kinabalu, before moving to Australia.

I am one of so many Australians who have deep connections to the region. It’s more than geography that ties us together.

We have genuine links – family, business, education and tourism.

But whether we have heritage in the region or not, Australians understand we all depend on our region remaining peaceful, stable and prosperous.

This is why we seek a region where sovereignty and a country’s right to make its own decisions are respected. With ASEAN centrality at its core.

Indeed, these are among the many abiding interests that Australia and Indonesia have in common.

We also share critical challenges of building back stronger from the pandemic and addressing the devasting impacts of climate change.

That’s why we are boosting Australia’s development assistance to the region by A$470 million (US$338.75 million) over the next four years.

This support will assist not only the region’s health sectors, but also in building sustainable economic growth that enables the active participation of women.

But there is so much more we can do to realize our economic potential – starting with delivering on the promises of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

We want to identify more ways that we can seize the opportunities of deeper cooperation – from renewable energy and trade and investment, to education and culture.

We will deliver an ASEAN economic strategy that maps out current and future trade and investment opportunities for Australia and for the economies of the region.

Our new Australian government is ready and eager to work with Indonesia to realize these opportunities together. We understand the importance of strengthening our partnerships in Southeast Asia and with ASEAN as entity.

We want to listen to what Indonesia and the countries of Southeast Asia have to say.

And so, this is the first of many visits to Indonesia.

We also look forward to welcoming our Indonesian counterparts to Australia in future, as we chart a course for our shared recoveries and work together to deliver our shared interests. Australia understands that when our neighbor succeeds, our region succeeds.

This article was first published in The Jakarta Post on 7 June 2022

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