CAUSINDY welcomes Cardno as a minor sponsor!

Cardno is an ASX-200 professional infrastructure and environmental services company, with expertise in the development and improvement of physical and social infrastructure for communities around the world. The company has been operating since 1945 and has more than 8,000 employees worldwide.

Cardno’s Emerging Markets business works with a diverse range of international clients in the public and private sectors. They deliver and manage major aid initiatives in core disciplines such as education, health, HIV and AIDS, governance, infrastructure, resources and environmental management. Their work expands across Latin and North America, Europe, Africa, the Pacific and Asia.

Cardno has an impressive history of operation in Indonesia that spans three decades. From its large corporate presence in Jakarta, Cardno manages three AusAID’s flagship national development programs in the law and justice, decentralisation and education sectors;

  • The Australia Indonesia Partnership for Justice—an AU$28 million Australian Government program aimed at increasing access to justice for poor and marginalised groups in Indonesia;
  • The Australia Indonesia Partnership for Decentralisation—an AU$61 million program to allow the Government of Australia to support the Government of Indonesia to effectively implement its decentralisation policies, with a particular focus on improving essential service delivery; and
  • The School Systems and Quality Program—an AU$88 million program that assists the Government of Indonesia to reduce disparities in access to education; improve the quality of teaching and learning in Indonesian schools; and improve management and accountability at all levels of school administration (national, provincial, district and school).

Cardno is also responsible for a number of infrastructure and environmental management programs across the country, including the Indonesia Road Survey Services—an AU$1.45 million project which forms part of the AusAID-supported Eastern Indonesia National Roads Improvement Project. It aims to improve 390 kilometres of roads and bridges in Eastern Indonesia. Cardno is responsible for the planning and implementation of the field surveys and data analysis processing.

Given the breadth and depth of Cardno’s experience in Indonesia, we are very excited to have them on-board as a minor sponsor for CAUSINDY 2013.

Announcing our keynote speaker: Mr Sid Myer, AM

The CAUSINDY team is thrilled to announce our keynote speaker for the CAUSINDY Gala Dinner, Mr Sidney Myer, AM.

Mr Myer is the Chairman of Asialink, the CEO of the Yulgibar Group of Companies, and a prominent philanthropist. His bio in full can be found on the Confirmed Speakers page:

Mr Myer is a graduate of Monash University in Melbourne, with over 30 years experience in retailing and investment management industries in Australia and overseas. He has built diverse global networks, especially in Asia, across business, government, academia and the arts. He has particularly strong associations with Asia, having lived and worked in Malaysia for over four years in early 1990’s.

As Chief Executive Officer of Yulgilbar Group of Companies, Mr Myer is responsible for the development and management of local and international investment portfolios, agricultural interests in Australia, and the property and business interests within the Group.

Mr Myer is a Director of The Myer Family Company Holdings, a diversified unlisted family investment and wealth management Company; a Director of OC Funds Management, a boutique funds management firm; a Director of the National Portrait Gallery; Chairman of the Zoos Victoria Foundation; Chairman of The Sidney Myer Estate and a Trustee of The Sidney Myer Fund, which funds initiatives across a wide range of social and community projects in Australia and Asia.

Mr Myer retired from the Australia‑Thailand Institute Board after serving two, three-year terms. Mr Myer served as the Chairman of the National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools Ministerial Reference Group advising the Australian Government on Asian languages and literacy teaching in schools from 2009 to 2011.

Sid Myer is married to Fiona and has three children. He is a keen skier, horseman, and golfer and participates in a number of other sports.

Looking beyond ‘Beef, boats, and Bali’

This article by the Indonesia Institute’s Ross Taylor first appeared in The West Australian:

The PM-elect Tony Abbott got off to a good start in building trust and a good working relationship with Indonesia. His telephone conversation last week with Indonesia’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, (SBY) has set the scene for both countries to co-operate in the implementation of the coalition’s ‘turn back the boats’ policy.

Indonesia knows that good relations between our two countries are critical at this time throughout the region, and particularly as both the USA and China are now positioning themselves as the regional superpower.

The danger for Australia’s incoming government however, is that Indonesia has a democratic electoral system as robust as that in Australia, and as Indonesia now heads into its own national pre-election period, a ‘turn back the boats’ policy could easily become a strong point of nationalism in Indonesia used by opposition parties, for domestic political purposes, to portray Australia as the big and arrogant southern neighbour.

And the suggestion by Mr Abbott that Australia would buy old fishing boats and pay village wardens to ‘dob in’ people smugglers is seen by most Indonesians-including senior government officials-as silly and quite offensive to Indonesia.

Mr Abbott will therefore need to handle this matter with great skill and diplomacy because at some stage, if the coalition government desires to build a deeper relationship with this emerging giant of 240 million people situated on our doorstep, the focus will need to move beyond not only the ‘boats’, but also beyond the other two dominant issues that sucks any oxygen out of larger and more significant issues facing our two countries: Beef and Bali.

The term ‘Beef, Boats and Bali’ was coined on the recent ABC ‘Q&A’ program that was filmed live in Jakarta. It was a phrase that did in a way summarise how many Australians see our relationship with Indonesia; a relationship built upon misperceptions, fear and a narrow community mindset that is trapped in a twenty year-old time warp.

The PM-elect and his soon-to-be foreign minister may therefore, as a first step, take a look at a snapshot of how Australians view today’s Indonesia. The recent survey conducted within Australia by our own Department of Foreign Affairs revealed a community perception of Indonesia that is insightful but disturbing in its misunderstanding of our near neighbour:

• 50% see Indonesia as a military threat to Australia.
• 53% see Indonesia as having an undemocratic political system.
• 50% see Indonesia as having laws based on the Islamic code.
• 20% of Australians see Bali as an independent nation,
and the two words most associated with Indonesia were ‘Holidays’ and ‘Muslims’.

Ironically, very few Australians see Indonesia as it really is: the absolute opposite of the above. These misperceptions are often fuelled by politicians who seem only to focus on the ‘three B’s’, and also some sections of our electronic media who appear interested only in the latest Bali holiday disaster.

The second thing that Ms Bishop should consider doing is to attend the inaugural Conference of Australia & Indonesia Youth in Canberra next month. Thirty youth leaders from both countries will attend this event that has the appropriate title, ‘Our turn to decide’. They are right, as these young people can provide our foreign minister with an honest and achievable vision for the future, and some good starting points.

These could include making it easier for our youth to move more freely between our respective shores; to be able to work, holiday and learn without bureaucratic red tape that makes it simply too hard at present for many young people.

We need to look how more young people from Indonesia can undertake temporary work here in the hospitality and tourism sectors, and how young Australians can live and study in Indonesia. In this regard the coalition’s reverse ‘Colombo Plan’ is an excellent initiative.

As part of the review of our foreign aid budget for Indonesia we need to ensure the focus is on how to lift the living standards and education of young people into the 21st century. Indonesia is already number three in the World for Facebook usage and number two for Twitter, yet online banking using smart phone technology is almost non-existent. Their youth are ‘high tech’ savvy, but the country’s internet infrastructure is rundown and outdated. Here is an opportunity for Australia to make a difference.

So whilst the immediate challenge for Mr Abbott and Ms Bishop will be about turning around the boats, there must be a broader agenda to completely review the relationship to move beyond the too often used cliché, of needing, ‘to build closer ties’ because without a coherent plan they indeed become ‘just words’.

The ‘Indonesia Strategy’ as developed by DFAT provides the framework for a substantial upgrading of the bi-lateral relationship. Australia and Indonesia are very different in many respects but we are also natural partners. Therefore the sooner we start to look beyond ‘Beef, Boats and Bali’, the sooner we will genuinely strengthen the relationship, starting by re-focusing on our young people, language skills, technology, and exchange programs. Then business, cultural and educational opportunities will flow to benefit both countries, and the region.

It’s just a matter of whether the new PM and his foreign minister are willing to seriously invest in a new and more vibrant relationship with our close – and very youthful – neighbour.

All the indications are that they will.

Ross Taylor AM is the Chairman of the Indonesia Institute (Inc) and Australia’s 2013 ‘Presidential Friend of Indonesia’.

CAUSINDY welcomes UNSW as a sponsor!

CAUSINDY is proud to announce that the University of New South Wales has joined with CAUSINDY as a sponsor.

UNSW is one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities and the university’s reputation is based on the strength of its research activities, links with industry and for its strong regional and global engagement.

UNSW offers Indonesian studies and language through its Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences as well as a number of Indonesia-focused courses through other Faculties, including Law. UNSW was the first Australian university to accept scholarship students through the Colombo Plan and has welcomed Indonesian students to its campus for more than 60 years.

We warmly welcome UNSW as a sponsor of CAUSINDY 2013.

CAUSINDY welcomes Anthropologist Jacqui Baker on board as a speaker

JacquelineBakerCAUSINDY is excited to welcome Jacqui Baker as a speaker. Jacqui has a very unique experiences with the Australia Indonesia relationship. While most of the time she is infatuated with the country, she has found also found herself in very challenging situations feeling vulnerable, afraid and uncomfortable.

Delegates will have the opportunity learn how Jacqui overcame these challenges as she dealt with Indonesian police and military officers, gang and militia members, Chinese capitalists, drug offenders, politicians and illicit casino operators to produce some inspiring work including  a audio piece in collaboration with ABC Radio National, Eat Pray Mourn, a radio documentary that uses public storytelling to present research on the killing of petty criminals in Jakarta. You can find this audio here 

She once conducted a Kopaja bus from Ancol to Blok M and don’t feed her kripik tempe because once she starts, she can’t stop.

Welcome aboard, Austrade!

We are pleased to announce that the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade), has become a sponsor of CAUSINDY 2013.

Austrade helps Australian businesses to take advantage of commercial opportunities in Indonesia, helps Australian businesses understand the Indonesian marketplace and has an extremely important role in promoting our education sector in Indonesia. Austrade also promotes Australian investment opportunities to Indonesian investors.

Austrade has undertaken some great work in building person-to-person links with Indonesia. In April this year Austrade held a seminar in Jakarta on entrepreneurial skills with 60 returned Indonesian female alumni of Australian universities. Engaging with returned alumni of Australian universities was a key recommendation in AIYA’s recent submission to the Asian Century White Paper Indonesia Country Strategy. Consequently, we are pleased to see Austrade demonstrating innovation in this area.

Based on Austrade’s strong track record in building connections with Indonesia we are pleased to welcome Austrade again to its partnership with CAUSINDY. We look forward to building a strong relationship into the future.

Interview with Dr. Paul Monk

Paul Monk MA PhD is a polymath and widely known as a public intellectual. After completing his PhD in International Relations, looking at cognitive and policy aspects of US counter-insurgency operations during the Cold War, he worked for a number of years in Australia’s Defence Intelligence Organisation on East Asia, with a particular emphasis on the challenge of North Korea, the stagnation of Japan and the rise of China.

Dr Monk spoke to CAUSINDY’s Nick Fabbri:

NF: I’m here with Dr Paul Monk who is a doctor in international relations and a former senior intelligence officer with the defence intelligence organisation and a director at Austhink Consulting. We are here this morning to talk about Australia and Indonesia and how CAUSINDY, the Conference of Australian and Indonesian Youth, can contribute to that relationship positively. Dr Paul Monk it is a pleasure to be with you this morning.

PM: Good morning Nick.

NF: Can you perhaps start by briefly outlining some of the key challenges facing the Australia-Indonesia relationship, and ultimately where you feel the relationship can go from here over the next 10, 20, 30 years?

That’s a great deal and I’ll try and put it in a brief context. I think it’s important to frame where we might head in the context of where we have come from. There are a number of landmarks in the bilateral relationship going back 70 years which seem to be neatly and more firmly embedded in the public understanding. That goes all the way back to when the Indonesian nationalists after the Second World War struck out for independence. Australia had to make a decision. Do we back the Dutch going back to resume their colonial rule, or do we back the nationalists?

We decided to back the nationalists. That was a step based on the perception that colonialism was going to pass away, and that we wanted an effective relationship with this new and emerging nation. We found over the next 20 years that it was very difficult to forge that relationship with the new Indonesia in the way we’d hoped for, because it had a leader in Sukarno who had rather, how would you say, dictatorial tendencies. He had designs on wider territories which caused tension with his neighbours. And so there were a number of instances in which we were on the wrong side of Sukarno. The most notable instance or turning point in the development of the relationship was when he indicated that Dutch New Guinea should be a part of Indonesia. Not because its inhabitants were the same ethnic group of cultural background as the Javanese, but because the Dutch had ruled it.  Australia opposed that idea, but Washington and London made clear that they thought the tidiest solution here in terms of regional development was to let Sukarno have it and not make an issue of it. We were very uncomfortable with that but had little choice but to acquiesce in it.

It has remained a subject of some tension. As everybody knows similar things occurred with East Timor a decade on. But in between there had been a major change within Indonesia, which is when Sukarno was overthrown and along with him the Indonesian Communist Party which had been the object of great misgivings within Indonesia and Australia and around the world. It was destroyed in a concerted purge by Suharto and the military in Indonesia. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed extra-judicially; it was a very brutal business. But instead of that causing misgivings in Canberra, the process was seen as reassuring. We were close to Suharto, deeply relieved the communist party had been destroyed, and nobody really to this day has reckoned with the enormous human cost and bloodshed that was entailed

The relationship with Indonesia from a diplomatic point of view came better under Suharto than under Sukarno. But from a public point of view there was discomfort with Suharto because he was a dictator and because of the bloodshed that occurred when he took power. Notwithstanding, there were a series of points over the next 20 years with Suharto in which Canberra had to decide ‘do we confront Indonesia, disagree with it, or try to build the relationship?’ The consistent policy has been to try and build that bilateral relationship. It hasn’t been easy, but that’s been the focus from the Department of Foreign Affairs and by and large from the military, against the background of concern and unease in difference.

Over the past decade things have moved forward rather well, and the primary reason for that is that Suharto fell from power with the Asian Financial Crisis, and there was a democratic transition in Indonesia. It’s not altogether surprising that we’ve found it easier to deal with a democratic government because it is more open. It allows more scope for debate with Indonesia, and can read it more easily. We are not faced with a single power centre that’s easily offended.

To then go to your question about where are the tensions or the uncertainties in the relationship right now, well clearly one of them is to do with boat people, refugees transiting Indonesia to get to Australia. They don’t want to settle in Indonesia, they want to get here. We would prefer that we didn’t have so many coming, but when we send them as Jakarta recently pointed out, if Tony Abbott comes into power and he turns back boats to Indonesia that’s not appropriate because the boats did not come from Indonesia they came by Indonesia.

You are a firm believer in the importance of looking back on this historical perspective and to have a firm understanding of our history as both Australia and Indonesia in order to tackle these problems in the bilateral relationship. It’s not something we can just be completely prospective about, we have to be retrospective in looking at where we’ve come from.

Yes I think so, and we need to be dispassionate in our view of our shared history as far as we can. Indonesia was an emerging state, there was no Indonesia before the late 1940s, and so it had to grow into statehood. We were a very different nation state, with a long British background and a stable government, and the differences between the two countries were enormous. We had many advantages they didn’t have so many; they spoke a completely different language had a different culture etc. There were many obvious ways in that there could have been misunderstandings or disagreements. What is remarkable is that despite those things, over time we have managed to keep deep hostilities from getting entrenched and we’ve now entered a period where there are deliberate and constructive efforts to deepen the relationship. It’s not a matter of remembering grievances or animosities from the past, but a matter of actually understanding the sources of tension and disagreement.

How do you see the current bilateral engagement at the political, economic, business and public policy level? 

At the public level there is significantly less tension or hostility towards Indonesia now than there has been at any time since the 1940s. I think the reason for that as I remarked before is that we now have a democratic government in Indonesia that is substantially more open than any government Indonesia has had since independence. That means more Australians can observe it and think, well there is debate going on there, there are changes in policy and differences of opinion. We’re more at ease with that. As for how we’re conducting the bilateral relationship, it seems to me that at the declaratory level with things like the Asian Century White Paper largely wave hands and say ‘Indonesia’s a big country with a substantial and growing economy and we hope that it continues to grow and we need to grow with it’. That’s all very general and rhetorical. I don’t see many signs at the top of the tree that there is deep engagement and sophistication.

But at the level of what’s often called second track dialogue there are some very encouraging signs. I think the CAUSINDY youth dialogue fits into that context very well. I think in many ways that’s the best way for it to proceed, in that it filters up to people who are not specialists in Indonesia and who are very busy, but who can then get a  sense in private briefings and meetings that there is lots of stuff going on and there’s a kind of subtle micro-political movement or micro-diplomatic movement going on.

CAUSINDY the Conference of Australian and Indonesian Youth is an example of that second track dialogue that will filter through society over the next couple of generations given that 50% of the Indonesian population is below the age of 35 and that demographic is who we’re bringing to our conference in Canberra. Could you speak to the importance of investing in the youth of both Indonesia and Australia in ensuring that there is that cohesiveness and integration on a personal level?

I think it’s going to be difficult for either government to invest across the board. For example as we said a few years ago that we should get Indonesian language into many if not all of our schools. I’m not sure that’s a practical proposition for a number of reasons. There are impediments to mass take up to a language that culturally and linguistically is very different from our own. So I think what we need is targeted, more strategically orientated cultivation of these skills.

We need language programs that encourage people with an aptitude for language to pick up Indonesian or Chinese and run with it. Rather than have programs where a lot of resources are expended in dropping everybody into them where the great multitude don’t have an aptitude for the language, can’t figure out why they’re being made to learn this, and drop out fairly quickly. That’ll take some sophistication. I don’t see at the moment that the government in Canberra has their mind around that problem, which is why I remarked that the Asian Century White Paper is a hand wave. It talks in very generic terms about language learning, but nothing substantive is being done about it.

In a recent speech Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono challenged the global perception that Islam and democracy were incompatible. Is Indonesia therefore an example of a southeast Asian nation balancing modernisation, Islam and democracy?

It’s increasingly looking as though it can. From its inception, Indonesia had a majority Muslim population and there was a long period of time in its development where the question was ‘which interest group or ideological group will dominate?’ There was the military, there was the communist party, and there were the Muslims. From a western point of view, there was unease about a Muslim state or a communist state. There was a tendency to hope that Sukarno could keep the balance between them, but then he was a difficult guy to deal with. So when Suharto took over and said ‘we’ve got a new order and we will keep that balance, and it’s the military that will hold it,’ there was considerable relief, but difficulty in dealing with a military dictatorship. Now we have a democratic society, it is not a theocratic one, it doesn’t seem to trending in that direction and it is certainly not a communist one.

It is important for us to bear in mind, however, that Indonesia does have a distinctive brand of Islam, broadly speaking, and a brand of Islam that is easier for us to engage with than many Middle Eastern and North African varieties.  It will nevertheless take a great deal of work for us to feel really at ease with that and rather than say that Islam is or is not compatible with democracy, we should say that Islam needs to grow into a modern and democratic context, just as Christianity had to. Let’s bear in mind that for most of western history we had monarchies and dictatorships often of a deeply reactionary nature, which were also Christian. Did that mean that Christianity was incompatible with democracy? Well in its traditional and hierarchical form yes it was. But we still have a great many people who are Christians and we still tend to think of western civilisation as Christian civilisation and we have democracies. What we need to see is a similar development in the Islamic world, and that’s going to take some time and work.

Final Thoughts:

Many years ago when I was the age of the young people who are embarking on this dialogue, I spoke to a professor of international law from Boston and we kicked around my interests in the world and what I hoped to do. And he said to me, and it was an important point, ‘young man, do you see yourself in the world of ideas as a priest of an explorer?’ and I said ‘an explorer, every time’. And he said, ‘well, have I got the course for you’. So here’s what I would say to the young delegates from Australia or Indonesia. Ask yourselves when it comes to the world of ideas and exploring the relationship do you see yourself as a priest or a mullah on one hand, or an explorer on the other. I hope the answer in both cases will be an explorer. There is a lot of exploring to do, to open up new territory and to build new bridges, and that’s the future we should all embark on.’

Interview with the Hon. Dr. Craig Emerson

Earlier this month, CAUSINDY’s Nikkola Pickering-Rodda spoke to the Hon. Dr. Craig Emerson, federal member for Rankin and former Minister for Trade and Competitiveness. Dr. Emerson spoke about the importance of Australia’s relationship with Indonesia. See below for this video’s transcript.

NPR: The Honourable Doctor Craig Emerson MP, Federal Labor Member for Rankin, is exceptionally well placed to speak with CAUSINDY this morning.

A distinguished federal parliamentary and public policy career over the past three decades has seen Dr Emerson at the forefront of the Australian-Indonesian bilateral relationship, beginning with his role as senior economic and environmental advisor to the reforming Hawke-Keating governments, which played such a crucial role in helping to steer Australia towards closer ties with its Asian neighbours and in particular Indonesia.

Dr Emerson has served Australia most recently as Minister for Trade and Competitiveness, Minister for Small Business and the Service Economy, and Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Trade and Tourism. To further his credentials, since 2012 Dr Emerson has played a key role in developing the government’s connections with Asia as Minister assisting the Prime Minister with Asian Century Policy. Dr Emerson it is a pleasure to be here with you this morning.

CE: Thank you, thank you very much for inviting me.

NPR: I’d like to start on the topic of youth. Everyone says that the Australia-Indonesia relationship is important, and they have been saying so for many years. However, the relationship has not yet achieved the strong interest of emphasis anticipated by the Keating government. Why should younger generations care about the relationship, and is there much to be excited about?

CE: There is a lot to be excited about. Indonesia is a country and neighbour on Australia’s doorstep. A country with 245 million people, amongst those 245 million are lots and lots of young people with a very young population. It is true that our friendship could be strengthened even further. Our commercial relationship definitely could. I’ve said before that our relationship is underdone. Young people could certainly take up the campaign for strengthening not only our commercial and economic relations, but also those bonds of friendship that are formed when people get to meet each other, bond through social settings and enjoy each others’ company in social settings.

NPR: Reflecting on the ways in which young people can be engaged, given that the rates of Indonesian language learning in Australia are at an all time low, what substantive policy should we put in place to encourage Indonesian literacy given that the White Paper identified Bahasa Indonesian as a priority language?

CE: One of the priority languages identified were Bahasa, and in doing so we were very conscious of the importance of the relationship and the very fact that Bahasa is not being taught in our schools and universities to the extent that it should be. It’s not actually a difficult language, and it has been a disappointment over the last 20 odd years that there has not been adequate interest. We want to build this into our every day school and university life, really encouraging people to study Bahasa because again it is human nature when you have Australian citizens who can speak Bahasa fluently for it to be appreciated by the Indonesians. This is a big push from the Labor government to spread the teaching of Bahasa through our schools and universities.

NPR: On a personal note, I went to Indonesia in 2010 and spent the year learning the language and culture and it really is a very easy language to learn compared to others.

CE: Yes, that’s right. It’s quite phonetic, hasn’t got hugely complicated grammatical structures. I think that this is going to be one of those relationships where we are on the threshold of history now. This is the relationship we really need to nurture now. We have a really good relationship at the governmental and academic level, but the people to people level is too much associated with Australians going to Bali. As important as that is to the Indonesian economy and to Australian experiences, there’s so much more to see and do. Indonesia has 17,300 islands – Bali is one of them, but there’s a lot more to see and a lot more people to meet.

NPR: I’m from WA originally, and there’s a portion of students there who think that Bali is part of the top of Western Australia.

CE: (laughs) that’s right – I’ve heard stories of people completing their immigration forms when coming back into Australia and where is asks ‘in which country did you spend the most time?’ they write Bali.

NPR: Quite exciting for us was the recent Q&A  special from Jakarta entitled Indonesia: More than Beef, Boats and Bali. Moving beyond the most commonly identified layers of the bilateral relationship, what do you as someone with extensive governmental, public policy and economic experience identify to be the most fundamental strengths in the relationship?

CE: There’s a lot of trust in the relationship, and I think that’s been developed largely over the past 20 years under the current administration Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has very much reached out to Australia and our present government has reached out to Indonesia. The conversations at the highest levels are very easy. There’s a lot of laughter, and we treat each other as friends. My own counterpart, Indonesian Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan, enjoy each others’ company. I think that’s a sign of a mature relationship. That, incidentally, is the sort of relationship we’ve had with the United States for a long period of time. At the top level, it’s all first name basis and friendly banter and then getting down to business. That’s where the Australia-Indonesia relationship is going. With the foreign minister Marty Natalegawa and Gita Wirjawan and of course President Yudhoyono. But of course we need to spread the engagement so that it’s not simply at the political level. Here I think we need to do more with Australian students studying in Indonesia. It may not be for the whole 3 year degree, but it may be a semester or a year that counts towards your degree back in Australia. Not only so you can get exposed to Indonesian ways of thinking, but the broader Indonesian way of life. Young people will never forget that. They will tell their children, they will tell their friends, and that’ll encourage more of that sort of interaction. The White Paper on the Asian Century was written overwhelmingly by a group of us who were economists. But we concluded nevertheless that the strongest gains we can make with our near neighbours are the personal bonds. It’s not through the big mathematical equations, but through reaching out and getting to know each other, enjoying each others’ company. You can do great things out of that.

NPR: I think that came out really strongly in the White Paper, and it’s exciting for us who aren’t involved in the business or government level to see that opening up.

CE: Yeah, and it wasn’t an accident nor the view of one person. The more we looked at it, the more we looked at using our economics training, the more we realised that it’s those personal contacts and relationships and the sense of trust that is built up over time is where we can do more and that’s where the real value is.

NPR: My next question is about trade and economics, ironically. The two way trade between Australia and Indonesia in 2011-12 was $14.9 billion dollars, an increase of 8.3% on the previous year and in line with positive and rapid trend growth. As the Former Trade Minister, what do you count as being the key successes in fostering this recent expansion.

CE: I think it’s in significant part that Indonesia itself is going through a very exciting phase of economic development. Indonesians are demanding quality products and services that Australia is producing. I think the fondness that Indonesians have for Australia helps there, so you’ll get tourism and certainly Australian tourists visiting Indonesia, the academic exchanges and the commercial engagements in accounting and finance, all of those are really important. As Indonesia’s economic development continues to deepen and spread right through Indonesia, you’re going to get more and more of that sort of demand. I hope that I’ve played some role in encouraging or facilitating more trade into Australia. We should never have the view that exports are good and imports are bad. Imports from Indonesia are good, they come here because they are competitive and that means that they are lower cost in many cases than domestic production or from other countries. We don’t have the same relationship that has been the cornerstone of our relationship with China which has been minerals and energy. So you don’t get the vast numbers associated with the trade with China, but we don’t seek to export massive quantities of iron ore or coal to Indonesia, and similarly neither does Indonesia to Australia. So it’s smaller, but it really is concentrating in those areas that I think are very much open for a lot more growth.

NPR: How do you think we can diversify and expand the trade relationship?

CE: In the end I’m a market economist and it won’t be government picking particular industries. But if you get the exchange of people, then the people see the opportunities. Then government can facilitate it through Austrade and may have some ideas. But we’re not a government that gets into central planning and decrees or determines particular industries that should be promoted. The more we have that two-way exchange of people increasingly led by young people, they will suss out the opportunities over time, and then you bring the government forces in behind to encourage that and support it, rather than getting the government  out the front saying ‘why don’t we try these things’. Governments don’t have the commercial exposure to do that. I think the right order is business people coming up with ideas and identifying opportunities, then having government support them.

NPR: We all know the Paul Keating quote: “no country is more important to Australia than Indonesia. If we fail to get this relationship right, and nurture it and develop it, the whole web of our foreign relations is incomplete.” How right was Paul Keating in this assessment of Australian foreign policy? Is it inevitable that we must shift away from the old alliances of the US and the UK and fight our security in Asia through a partner like Indonesia, or is it not necessarily a balancing act?

CE: There’s no real necessity to make choices here. To be friendly with Indonesia doesn’t mean you have to be less friendly with someone else. We’re friendly people. Australian people are friendly people. Paul Keating was right. What’s happened in that period is of course democracy in Indonesia. I think Australian governments try to keep abreast of developments in the parties and the formations of governments. We have a fantastic embassy in Indonesia, which would be among the biggest, staffed with very professional people. The Indonesian side like them because they speak good Bahasa, are respectful and are funny and have a good time with their Indonesian counterparts. That’s the shopfront of our relationship with Indonesia, but behind that are all minsters who very much are very keen to support the nurturing of that relationship.

NPR: I’ve seen a recent photo of one of the young diplomats over there on one of the Indonesian pop singing competitions.

CE: That’d be right – they’re pretty big on singing over there. I might have a career! Not in Australia, but certainly in Indonesia.

NPR: How would you summarise the relationship in three words.

CE: Under-developed, That’s actually one word if you hyphenate it. The gap between the reality and the potential is bigger in our relationship with Indonesia than just about any other country. That gap might be seen to be a disappointment, but I see it as an opportunity. If you can see where you are and where you can be, and there’s a big gap between them, then dive into that gap and close it. I think that’s where we need to be going. It is a bit of a surprise if we reflect on the last 50 years why that gap hasn’t been closed to the extent that it could have, but let’s look forward. Let’s realise that that gap actually represents a fantastic opportunity.

NPR: I really like your positioning of that, it’s very exciting. People can tend to look towards the negative aspects in the relationship, but it doesn’t have to be like that.

In 30 seconds or less, what are some words of advice you would give to our delegates that are going to be at the conference, with the goal of connecting with other young people, building the dialogue and creating new ideas?

CE: My advice would be for this not to be a one off event. As much fun and enjoyment as that will involve, and it will create good memories, I think developing a programme for ongoing interaction is central to this. We’ve been talking about building the relationship, trust and friendship, but you can’t do that at one gathering on one occasion. So the follow up of travelling to each others’ countries and spending some real time there would be what I’m recommending.