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Speech - Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - Bina Nusantara University, Jakarta

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Speaker: Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Frances Adamson

Bina Nusantara University, Jakarta

Students, Academic leaders, distinguished guests – Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a great pleasure to be back in Jakarta.

Just over a week ago I was with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Da Nang where he met President Joko Widodo to discuss our many shared interests.

Two years ago, I accompanied Prime Minister Turnbull on his first visit as Prime Minister to Jakarta when he and President Widodo took their very famous blusukan together through the Tanah Abang Market, just a few kilometres from here.

I assure you; our leaders were doing much more than creating a photo opportunity and some traffic chaos.

In fact, Prime Minister Turnbull was following in the footsteps of generations of Australian Prime Ministers who have visited Jakarta soon after coming to office.

Our leaders recognise just how important the relationship between our countries has become – and just how much potential there is for us to do more.

As Prime Minister Turnbull said when he was here – 1
"Our two countries are brilliantly poised for a very exciting future".

A long history of cooperation

The long history of cooperation between Australia and Indonesia goes far beyond Presidents and Prime Ministers.

Until more recently, many Australians thought that prior to European settlement the Australian continent was entirely cut off from the rest of the world.

The view then was that while Indigenous Australians lived in Australia for at least 40,000 years, they likely lived in isolation until Captain Cook's discovery.

There is now, however, strong evidence that this view is not historically accurate.

In fact, evidence suggests that trade between the Indonesian archipelago and the Australian continent goes back more than three hundred years.

Since at least the 18th century2, and possibly far earlier, sailors from Sulawesi, Madura, Java, Borneo, Flores, Timor, Rote and even Papua – made the journey south in search of trepang [sea cucumber] and other materials to trade with the richer countries of Asia – including China.

In fact, I heard Chinese perspectives on these encounters while serving as Australian Ambassador to China.

Intricate works of rock art in the caves of the Wellington Range at Mallarak, in Arnhem Land, the tip of Australia's Northern Territory, tell the stories of these encounters.

People familiar with the badik – the small Macassan-style dagger, will recognise its distinctive curved handle and blade in the cave paintings at Mallarak, along with an image of a Macassan prau [sailing boat].

Evidence suggests that our people spent months together, as the traders waited for the winds to change and propel them back North to the market places of Asia.

The legacy of these exchanges lives on through language.

If you listen to the Yolngu language of East Arnhem Land very closely, you will come across a few words that will be familiar to Bahasa Indonesia speakers3, such as 'Rupiah' [dollar/money], 'Batu' [stone] and 'Gula' [sugar].

From these beginnings, the relationship between our people has grown remarkably.

Today, more than seventy-thousand people who were born in Indonesia call Australia home – and we are proud to have around nineteen-thousand students from Indonesia choosing to come to Australia every year.

In fact, more Indonesian students choose to study in Australia than any other country in the world, reflecting both the positive experiences that students from this country have in Australia, and the quality of our world-class educational institutions.

Our Aussie Banget4 corners – like the one opened here at BINUS in March5 this year – also play a big role, providing access to a selection of Australian books and resources as well as information on study and scholarships.

Australia is very proud to be supporting students with scholarships to come to Australia to build their professional skills, through our Australia Awards program.

The Australia Awards program is the largest and longest-running international scholarship program in Indonesia – starting way back in the 1950s.

Over 8,500 Indonesians have undertaken studies in Australia under this scholarship program since inception – a small fraction of the over 80,000 of Australian alumni here in Indonesia.

Alumni from Australian universities are making a difference in the social, economic and political life of Indonesia.

Connecting with these former students is a top priority for the Australian Government – particularly through our Australia Awards Global Alumni program.

The Australian Embassy here in Jakarta actively engages this growing network in Indonesia, inviting participants to continue to connect and engage with Australia and beyond.

Australians are also finding out a lot more about their northern neighbour.

Australian tourism to Indonesia is a large part of this picture – with over a million Australians holidaying in Indonesia every year.

However, I wonder how many of you know that more than four thousand Australian students have studied in Indonesian universities in the past few years. Many of those have come to Indonesia under Australia's New Colombo Plan.

Since it began in 2014, the New Colombo Plan has supported more than 3,000 scholars and mobility students to experience the Indonesian way of life, study in your universities and undertake practical work experience through internships and other work-based learning.

By the end of 2018, that number will have increased to more than 5,000 New Colombo Plan students, making Indonesia the most popular destination of all 40 New Colombo Plan host locations in the Indo-Pacific.

Australian students come to Indonesia to learn about your rich culture, to practice their Bahasa Indonesia and to build the friendships and business links that we will need to work closer together in the future.

We are grateful to BINUS for its support for this program.

By the end of 2018, BINUS will have hosted around 100 New Colombo Plan students, in fields of study including information technology, management and commerce and the creative arts.

Beyond students and tourism – we are building stronger links in business and Government than ever.

The Australian Government has also expanded our diplomatic presence in Indonesia, opening new posts in Surabaya and Makassar.

This sort of deepening of our relationship is critical to our future.

The better we get to know each other, the better positioned we are to take advantage of the immense opportunities emerging as a result of the economic and political transformation underway in the region we share.

A changing region

Now, you do not need me to tell you that the centre of global economic weight is moving in our direction.

The scale and pace of global change is one of the key reasons why the Australian Government is currently preparing a Foreign Policy White Paper, our first since 2003, to guide our international engagement for the next five to ten years.

This document will serve as a roadmap for advancing and protecting Australia's international interests, defining how we engage with the world in the years ahead.

By 2025 the countries of Asia-Pacific will be home to 60 per cent of the world's middle class – 2.8 billion people, with immense spending power [of 26,519 billion dollars].

Australia and Indonesia have the great fortune of being right in the middle of this political and economic transformation.

In Australia, the growing wealth of the nations to our North has underwritten more than 26 years of unbroken economic growth, making our currency the 5th most traded in the world and keeping our economy in the top fifteen globally.

For Indonesia – the promise is even greater.

Indonesia is on track to be at least the ninth largest economy in the world by 2030, and in the top four by 2050 – with a consumer class of up to 135 million people.

  • The Australia-Indonesia relationship has the potential to bring enormous benefits to our people and to be one of the most consequential in our region.

Building the relationship into the future

Over many years, Australia and Indonesia have invested in the difficult political and economic reforms that will support our future prosperity.

Australia values Indonesia because it is dynamic, democratic and diverse with great economic potential.

Today we are both tolerant and diverse democracies, with an open economic outlook.

Australia believes the modern global climate calls for us to support these principles at a time that they are under threat by opposing views in some parts of the world.

Democratic and tolerant

Modern Australia is the most successful multicultural nation in the world – as our Prime Minister often says.

The numbers support that claim.

More than 6 million Australians – one in four of our people – were born outside of the country.

Our people come from nearly 200 countries, representing more than 300 ethnic ancestries, speaking over 300 different languages and holding faith in more than 100 religions.

Over half of all Australians born overseas – more than 3 million people – speak a language other than English at home, most often Chinese or Vietnamese.

This diversity has been our strength for many years now, lending new perspectives to our national story.

I must say I too am struck by the sheer diversity of the Indonesian people.

Both of our countries have found stability through tolerance – despite the great diversity of our peoples ethnicities and beliefs.

To paraphrase President Widodo - as my Prime Minister has done6, "Indonesia is proof that democracy, tolerance, moderation and Islam are compatible."

Staying open to economic opportunity

Now while we have a lot to be excited about in the region, there is no denying that some uncertainty comes along with change.

The rapid pace of globalisation and technological change has led to a backlash in many countries against open economic principles – manifesting, in some cases, in a rising protectionist sentiment.

Australia and Indonesia are both proud trading nations, and we recognise that putting up barriers to trade increases costs for everyone - threatening jobs, and stifling innovation.

With this in mind, Australia is committed to expanding our network of modern, high-quality free trade agreements, including with Indonesia.

Modern agreements open up new economic opportunities - by enabling businesses to tap into regional supply chains, giving investors the confidence they need, and lowering transaction costs for all parties.

We have been thankful for many years that Indonesia shares our resolve on the importance of trade openness in our region and beyond.

In early 2016, Indonesia and Australia confirmed that negotiations for an Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) would recommence.

A high-quality trade agreement between our countries will help boost the trade and investment relationship by removing barriers to investment, and to businesses exporting goods and services to each other's market.

Fewer barriers to exports trade and investment mean more opportunities for collaboration and more opportunities for success.

Australia is committed to working with Indonesia towards concluding a high quality agreement this year.

Services sector potential

Services like education are a large part of this story.

As young professionals in the making – you stand to gain the most from an improvement in services access in Australia and throughout the region.

In the coming decades services will drive economic growth in Indonesia and in the region more broadly, as it already does in Australia.

Most crucially, it is the services sector that provides the majority of jobs.

In Australia, for example, services already account for roughly 90 per cent of all jobs.

Already the growth in the Indonesian services sector is transforming our trading relationship.

Indonesia has gone from having a services trade deficit with Australia in 2007, to having a surplus of $1.7 billion dollars in 2016.

This trend will create a whole range of opportunities for us to work more closely together.

Services, and the trend towards regional economic integration, will open more opportunities for businesses from both our countries to cooperate in global value chains.

We are also seeing an emerging synergy between Australia and Indonesia in the creative sector.

Last night I attended a fascinating reception with some emerging entrepreneurs who are doing just that.

For example, an Indonesian pastry chef who studied at Le Corden Bleu culinary arts institute in Sydney and worked with famous Australian chefs such as Adriano Zumbo before returning to Jakarta to start the restaurant Nomz Kitchen with fellow Australian-trained chef Arnold Purnomo.

Australia has also supported Jakarta Fashion Week, Indonesia's premiere fashion industry event, for the past four years, showcasing both Australian designers and Indonesian designers, such as Peggy Hartanto, who have honed their craft at leading Australian design schools.

Examples like show that when savvy Indonesians and Australians work together, great things happen.


Australia and Indonesia are two nations linked not just by history and geography, but also by choice.

Today, we have built a strong and mature relationship that continues to grow.

We have chosen to work together as partners - and so it is as partners that we will face the challenges, and rise to the opportunities, of the 21st century.

Thank you.


1Speech: Prime Minister Turnbull in Indonesia

2Tacon, P and May, S (2013) Maccassan History and Heritage: Journeys Encounters and Influences; Chapter 8: Rock art evidence for Macassan–Aboriginal contact in Northwestern Arnhem Land


4#AussieBanget roughly translates to 'Very Aussie'

5Media release: A Small Corner of Australia Opens in Indonesia

62016 Lowy Lecture

Last Updated: 21 November 2017
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