Indo Pacific Strategy Program
Perth sits in a unique position at the fulcrum of the Indo-Pacific region. Recognizing Perth as the gateway to the Indian Ocean, we seek to leverage Western Australia’s position and economic significance to shape strategic thinking and encourage stronger relationships within the dynamic Indo-Pacific region. Perth USAsia Centre initiatives include:
"Today, the world sees Australia to be at the heart of the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean region. This dynamic region holds the key to this world's future; and Australia is at its cross-currents. And, as Australia has become more engaged in this part of the world, we welcome its growing role in driving this region's prosperity and shaping its security."
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Speech to Australian Parliament, 18 November 2014
“Through maritime diplomacy, Indonesia invites other nations to cooperate in the marine field and eliminate the source of conflicts at sea, such as illegal fishing, violations of sovereignty, territorial disputes, piracy, and marine pollution.”
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Speech at the East Asia Summit, 13 November 2014
Perth is home to some of Australia’s top scholars on Indonesia. The Perth USAsia Centre will leverage their knowledge and expertise as well as Perth’s close proximity to Indonesia to offer programming and research focussed on deepening Australia-Indonesia relations. Our Working Group on Australia – Indonesia Relations is a core group of Indonesia experts who will meet regularly to help progress our initiatives around two major themes:
- The Indo-Pacific as a Driver for Australia-Indonesia Cooperation
- From Threat to Opportunity: Challenging Australian Perceptions of Indonesia
To mark Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s assumption of office, we commissioned a publication to bring fresh perspectives on Indonesia. It looks at the implications of changes in Indonesian politics, diplomacy, and society for Australia-Indonesia relations and for the Indo-Pacific region. Building on this publication, we plan to conduct targeted research, commentary, and expert workshops on Indonesia-related issues.
Perth USAsia Centre Working Group on Australia - Indonesia Relations
The Perth USAsia Centre’s Working Group on Australia - Indonesia Relations is a track two initiative convened to address the imperative for Australia to pursue better relations across a broad range of issues with its closest Asian neighbour. The group consists of Indonesia scholars, defence and foreign policy thought leaders, and business and civil society leaders with expertise and deep interest in Indonesia. The initiative aims to constructively contribute to the public policy process to enable Australia and Indonesia to take advantage of the multitude of opportunities that exist. To this end, and leveraging Perth’s proximity to Jakarta and the community of Indonesia expertise located here, the working group will develop and commission a range of programs and research initiatives to improve Australia - Indonesia relations.
During an initial strategy session in June 2015, members of the working group identified four fundamental challenges to improving Australia - Indonesia relations. These four issues will help structure and direct future working group efforts:
- Current levels of engagement, exchange, and understanding across a broad range of sectors are insufficient to meet current and future needs of the relationship, despite the multitude of opportunities available. This is true across all sectors: business, government, education, sports, defence, civil society, youth, and media. Part of this problem is that the movement of people is restrictive and therefore the exchange of ideas and culture is inhibited by visa and immigration policies on both sides. Negative stereotypes are not countered by the media on both sides, whose focus on the other can be shallow and miss each other’s complexity.
- Business-to-business ties remain underdeveloped. Existing free trade agreements like ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) remain underutilised and no progress has been made on negotiations of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) since negotiations were last held in 2013. Australia and Indonesia have complementary economies with potential for two-way trade and investment and collaboration in value chains. However, business is not leading demand for Indonesian expertise and language skills in Australia. Schools and tertiary education respond to the demands of business as we have seen with the popularity of Mandarin and Japanese language teaching in schools. Australian businesses lack a view of Indonesia as a “strategic” future opportunity whereas South Korea and Japan see Indonesia so. Indonesian business delegations don’t visit Australia regularly and vice-versa.
- There have been unsuccessful attempts by the political leadership in both countries to articulate an enduring, bipartisan vision for the relationship particularly given the opportunities. The rise of the “Indo-Pacific” concept in foreign policy thinking offers opportunities for Australia and Indonesia to cooperate on a number of regional issues in which both countries share an interest. Australian strategic policy has often overlooked Indonesia and other ASEAN countries as partners and placed stronger geopolitical importance on countries in Northeast Asia like China, Japan, and South Korea. Australian leaders must craft a bipartisan, long-term, and institutionalised vision and commitment to sustained engagement with Indonesia.
- Current relations are too narrowly focussed on the Canberra - Jakarta axis and don’t adequately reflect geographic, economic and civil society diversity. Other Australian cities like Perth and Darwin are natural gateways with established and diverse relationships to the region and should leverage their proximity to Indonesia. Outside of Jakarta, cities like Denpasar, Makassar, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, and others are growing in importance as Indonesia becomes less centralised and should be recognized as centres of important cultural, intellectual, and business development. Sister city and state relationships provide opportunities for engagement. Australian aid resources and trade and investment promotion efforts should be directed with more geographic diversity throughout the archipelago
This is a consensus list and does not necessarily represent the individual or institutional views of all members of the Working Group.
- Mr Chris Barnes, Department of State Development
- Dr Elizabeth Constable, UWA
- Dr Jacqui Baker, Murdoch University
- Mr Greg Gaunt, Australia Indonesia Business Council (AIBC)
- Dr Greta Nabbs-Keller, University of Queensland
- Prof Vedi Hadiz, Murdoch University
- Prof David Hill, ACICIS
- Mr Bill Johnston MLA, Member for Cannington
- Mr Terry Mills, Midian International
- Mr Paul Ramadge, Australia Indonesia Centre
- Prof Ben Reilly, Sir Walter Murdoch School of Public Policy and International Relations
- Prof Bruce Robinson, UWA
- Ms Natalie Sambhi, Australian Strategic Policy Institute
- Mr Ian Satchwell, Perth USAsia Centre
- Prof Krishna Sen, UWA
- Prof Stephen Smith, Perth USAsia Centre
- Mr Ross Taylor, Indonesia Institute
- Mr Phil Turtle, Australia Indonesia Business Council (AIBC)
- Rory Medcalf, Australian National University (ANU)
- Gary Hogan AM, KPMG
To raise public awareness in Perth and promote the city’s strategic location in the Indo-Pacific, the Perth USAsia Centre hosts the Ambassadors’ Dialogue, a series of public and private speaking events featuring senior Australian and foreign diplomats with knowledge of the challenges and opportunities in the region. So far, we have hosted a number of Australian ambassadors: the Ambassador to the United States, the Hon. Kim Beazley, AC; the Ambassador to China, Ms. Frances Adamson; the High Commissioner to Singapore, Mr. Philip Green; the Ambassador to Indonesia, Mr. Gregory Moriarty; the Ambassador to Japan, Mr. Bruce Miller; the Ambassador to Russia, Mr. Paul Myler; as well as Australian Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, AC, AFC (Retired), Special Envoy for MH17. In 2015-2016, we will host events featuring Asian ambassadors to Australia.
Natural Resources Governance Program
Indo-Pacific economies have variable capability in natural resources governance and management. All are seeking to improve their policies, legislation, practices and skills. The Natural Resources Governance Program develops understanding of the role of natural resources and their governance, builds consensus about leading practice in natural resources governance frameworks, and facilitates information exchange and capacity-building in natural resources governance. Activities include:
- Commissioning and publishing research papers about key issues of natural resource governance and how they should be addressed
- Discussion of natural resource governance issues and leading practice approaches in forums convened by the Centre
- Facilitation of personnel exchange with economies through fellowships on natural resources governance
- Facilitation of guest lectureships by experts into relevant natural resource governance capacity-building programs.
In 2013 representatives from Mexico, Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia met to form a new informal grouping, ‘MIKTA’, based on their common interests and similarities as open economics and large democracies. Strongly supported by Australia, MIKTA is different from other groupings in that it is not based on shared language, religion, or geography. The Perth USAsia Centre will continue to host programs and conduct research to raise awareness of MIKTA, with events to be held in Canberra and Jakarta in 2015. The Centre is also planning joint MIKTA workshops and research projects with Korean think tanks.
In 2014, the Perth USAsia Centre released a report evaluating the MIKTA nations - Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, and Australia - within the framework used in volume 1 of Smart Power, illustrating how the five countries are similar and their differences. We hosted MIKTA workshops in Seoul & Jakarta in 2014.