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Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee
02/10/2012
Australia and the countries of the Indian Ocean rim

RUMLEY, Professor Dennis, Chair, Indian Ocean Research Group

Committee met at 0 8:40

CHAIR ( Senator Eggleston ): I declare open this hearing of the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee. The committee is today hearing evidence in its inquiry into the significance of the Indian Ocean Rim for Australia's foreign, trade and defence policies. I welcome you all here today. The committee's proceedings will follow the published program. This is a public hearing and a Hansard transcript of the proceedings is being made.

Before the committee starts taking evidence, I remind all witnesses giving evidence that they are protected by parliamentary privilege. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee, and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to a committee. A witness called to answer a question for the first time should state their full name and the capacity in which they appear, and witnesses should speak clearly and into the microphone to assist Hansard in recording the proceedings.

The committee prefers all evidence to be given in public but, under the Senate's resolutions, witnesses have the right to request to be heard in private session. It is important that witnesses give the committee notice if they intend to ask to give evidence in camera, but we can also do that if a witness decides that an issue has been raised which needs to be talked about in camera. If a witness objects to a question, the witness should state the ground upon which the objection is taken and the committee will determine whether it will insist on an answer, having regard to the ground which is claimed. If the committee determines to insist on an answer, the witness may request that the answer be given in camera. Such a request may of course be made at any other time.

On behalf of the committee, I thank everybody who has made submissions and sent representatives here today for their cooperation in this inquiry. Professor Rumley, would you inform the committee on the capacity in which you appear today.

Prof. Rumley : I have a title of Professor of Indian Ocean Studies at the University of Western Australia. I am also Chair of the Indian Ocean Research Group and, essentially, the basis of my representation is from that group.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Professor. The committee has received your submission, which has been numbered 6, and 6A to 6C. We also have with us the additional information you provided last week, which are attachments D and E. Do you wish to make any other amendments or alterations to your submission?

Prof. Rumley : Yes. I sent an additional appendix, F, which is the content of this report. It is a report that I edited for the Australia India Institute, which is due to be launched in Melbourne on 20 November. I did not wish to provide this as a full appendix because it is 45,000 words in length, but I have provided the contents just to give you the flavour of what that is. So that is the additional appendix F that I have submitted.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. The committee accepts this as an additional submission. Would you like to make an opening statement before we ask you questions?

Prof. Rumley : Thank you. I would like to highlight a number of points that I have made in the submission rather than reading the thing out and make one or two additional points as well in addition to what I first submitted. Perhaps just three introductory points first of all. Appendix A gives an outline of what the Indian Ocean Research Group has been doing for the last decade. Just for everybody's information, the Indian Ocean Research Group, which is actually incorporated in Western Australia, was launched in Chandigarh in India in November 2002. I would be very happy to answer questions on that. We have been developing a social science policy oriented research network around the Indian Ocean region and we have had various meetings in different parts of the region on issues of common concern such as fisheries, sea lanes of communication and so on, and we have published books out of that. The aim of each of these meetings in different parts of the region is to essentially enhance the network. When we had a meeting in Iran that became an additional node in the overall network; and Malaysia and so on. We have been trying to build a network for 10 years and we have published several books out of that network.

The second introductory point is that one of the things that has happened is that the international publisher Routledge approached us to start a new journal. We started a new journal of the Indian Ocean region—a copy of which I have here and I am happy to leave this with the committee if you would like—with Routledge in 2010. This is year 3. I agreed at the beginning to be the chief editor of this for three years and my term of office on this ends at the end of this year, and the editorship of that will then go to a colleague of ours at the University of Adelaide. I notice Adelaide is excluded on the DFAT map from the Indian Ocean, so that might create some problems in Adelaide. I will still be involved, but the chief editorship of that will move to Adelaide at the end of this year.

The third introductory point I would like to make in terms of background is that in December 2010 the Australian government appointed me as the nodal point for the Indian Ocean Rim Academic Group of IOR-ARC. I have attended three IOR-ARC meetings. There was a meeting in Oman, which was supposedly a reform committee meeting. The last meeting was in Bangalore last year. There is a meeting at the end of this month in Delhi which I will be attending.

On the submission itself, I make the point there that one of the difficulties with the Indian Ocean region amazingly is its definition and its naming. I do not need to go into any of that just to say that, even in my submission, there have been two changes to my definition—I started off as submitting from IORAG, then I was submitting from the Indian Ocean Rim Group and I am now submitting from the Indian Ocean Research Group. It does highlight the obvious point that I make in the submission that many others have made, so it is nothing particularly mind-boggling—that is, all regions are constructions. We can construct regions in any way we wish to on the basis of any formal perspective—let us say, a common characteristic—or as I say a functional institutional perspective, which would be IOR-ARC definition, or maybe a functional interactional behaviour definition. I am interested to see that DFAT have come up with a rim map—and I have a copy in appendix E, which I used in a paper in Heidelberg earlier this year. There are some who would argue that Adelaide is also part of the Indian Ocean—in other words, the Southern Ocean is included in that—but there is no point in belabouring that point. So there is a definitional issue which academics love to get their teeth into and spend a lot of time with.

One of the more important things is that there is often an assumption that when you draw a line around a region, that somehow it is a uniform entity. Of course the Indian Ocean region, as we all know, is anything but that. It is highly diverse and so on. More importantly, from a strategic point of view—and I guess this is a policy issue for the future and of what IOR-ARC might be in the future—it is not a single strategic entity in that any security issues in the traditional security sense tend to be organised on a subregional basis. So you have a whole series of subregional security entities rather than an Indian Ocean regional security entity. In southern Africa, South Asia, the Persian Gulf, South-East Asia: all of those security organisations or institutionalisations are occurring at the subregional rather than at the regional level.

That creates a number of difficulties when dealing with Indian Ocean-wide issues—fairly obviously—because, again this is not earth-shattering social science, there are many Indian Ocean-wide security issues of both regional and global significance of a non-traditional sense. The management of the ocean itself, just to give you one very large one: there is no entity, there is no structure, there is no regional structure to deal with a host of non-traditional issues. That has created some dilemmas and I think we are in the process of working through what might occur in the future, particularly in the role of IOR-ARC and the membership of IOR-ARC. The membership of IOR-ARC will change again in October not only in its 90-member main states structure but also possibly in terms of the dialogue and partnerships, although that is a relatively confidential matter at the moment I have been told. So there is a host of non-traditional issues, nonstate threats, terrorism, non-traditional security, transnational issues, maritime security issues, environmental issues, issues of the economic exploitation of the ocean on or below or in it in the future.

What we have for the foreseeable future—if anyone were to look at traditional security in the military sense versus the non-traditional non-military security sense and the relationship of traditional security and conflict—is that most conflicts since the Second World War have occurred within states; there are now very few conflicts that occur between states. So in the Indian Ocean we have a situation where we have a whole swag of geopolitical changes, the nature of security itself has changed, there are many fundamental issues that need to be addressed, and what we effectively have is a kind of a mismatch between what might be called regional function—that is, the need to look at these non-traditional issues—and regional structure. There are no structures to effectively deal with these issues at the moment.

I suppose because of the nature of change and the realisation that the Indian Ocean is of such importance economically, strategically and so forth—it seems strange to us because we have been working on this for 10 years—states are now realising that the Indian Ocean is important, which is quite interesting. As the committee would be aware, there have been the beginnings of a reassessment of Australia's position vis-a-vis the Indian Ocean, the United States' position, India's position—there has been a reassessment of current stakeholder involvement, both regional and extra-regional involvement, in the Indian Ocean in terms of what their strategies might be and what their future policies might be. Those are a matter of some debate at the moment, some of which we have addressed but there are many more issues to be addressed. Rather than deal with each of the terms of reference, if the committee would allow me, I will highlight two or three issues which I am particularly familiar with for the few minutes I have left: the strategic developments issue, the Indian Ocean Rim association issue and relevant matters.

CHAIR: All right, and then the senators will ask you questions.

Prof. Rumley : The first of those issues was strategic developments. As I said, once I had finished the Australia India Institute report, I thought it would be worthwhile submitting it, and I have submitted it as appendix F. The aims of the Indian Ocean Security Task Force of the Australia India Institute are: to discuss the geopolitics of the Indian Ocean region and its changing significance; to analyse the numerous security challenges in the region; to discuss the roles of India and Australia in Asia-Pacific security; and to try and evaluate various policy and research implications and options. Effectively, that is what we have attempted to do in this report, and I am happy to answer any questions on that. There is probably no point in trying to labour through all of that because there is a lot in it. I will be happy to send a copy of the report to the committee when it is launched.

CHAIR: That would be useful.

Prof. Rumley : In fact, some of the committee members might want to attend the launch at the University of Melbourne.

Firstly, maritime energy security seems to be a critically important regional issue which deserves closer cooperation amongst states in the region. I have already mentioned there is considerable regional scope for the development of cooperative mechanisms on a whole range of non-traditional security issues. It is worth re-emphasising what I raise in appendix D, which contains the article from the Journal of the Indian Ocean Region. It discusses in some length the contestation of appropriate regional structures for dealing with security issuesin a cooperative sense. There is contestation about that, whichis not surprising in the least.

Secondly, I wanted to say a couple of words about the Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation . India is taking over the chair and Australia is becoming the vice-chair. I understand the next meeting of the IOR-ARC after Delhi in November will be in Perth in November 2013, when Australia will become the chair, so Australia will be the chair next year. Clearly both India and Australia, at least theoretically, have a reform agenda for IOR-ARC, and that is still in the debate process. IOR-ARC, as all of you will be aware, started out as an economic cooperation grouping. One of the points I make is that it is still a concept. There is hardly an Australian who would even have heard of the acronym IOR-ARC—never mind be able to mispronounce it!—so it is still a concept and an issue that needs to be addressed. Nonetheless, the process of reform is in train at all levels, including at the academic group, which I am involved in fairly closely.

The final point I would like to make concerns something which was raised in a report b y Sam Bateman and Anthony Bergi n in 2010 on the need to revive an Australian national tertiary focus for Indian Ocean social science and natural science studies and research. You will all be aware of the chequered history of this in Western Australia. It does not make for good reading. I think we have had three incarnations—maybe we will be fourth time lucky, if it ever occurs a fourth time. I do not know.

One thing that strikes me this time—and I have been approached confidentially to write a submission on this and I am happy to take evidence in camera on that if the committee wishes to hear more—is that there is considerable support not only within but outside of Australia for financial support for such a venture. I am aware of at least one case and there may be at least two cases where this is the case. As always, there is going to be some jockeying about: if this occurs should be in the west or should it be in the East? I do not want to go into that. The proposals I have heard are to possibly think about locating a new centre in Western Australia. I think this is potentially a very important issue because we are at the stage where there are things happening both on the science side in Western Australia with an ocean emphasis. At the University of Western Australia there is a new Oceans Institute, which is a science base organisation at the moment. There is enormous scope to revive in a more concrete way with appropriate support an Indian Ocean social science and humanities arm of that in Western Australia.

CHAIR: I am interested in the fact that your department has been working on Indian Ocean issues for some 10 years, which is a long time. The Indian Ocean as a region and as a concept seems to have a higher profile. It is almost as though we are beginning to reach out and see what is there. We are having slow beginnings. I wonder if you could outline some of the key challenges for Australia you see in making foreign and trade policy for the Indian Ocean rim. How does the difficulty in defining the region affect policy development?

Prof. Rumley : One of the principal challenges for Australia in dealing with the Indian Ocean region is one of resources. If we think of aid per capita, most of our aid has traditionally gone to the Asia-Pacific region, for want of a better phrase, and not to the Indian Ocean region. We have commitments to defence and to aid, which are stretched fairly thinly. To actually add to that enormous region produces a real difficulty, in my view, in managing the size and complexity of something like this region, which is highly diverse.

One of the major challenges is simply finding the resources to do it nationally. Maybe one of the answers to that question is to do it in collaboration with other regional states, particularly India, Indonesia and South Africa. I think of the Indian Ocean region as a kind of triangle with India, South Africa and Australia. That triangle is the basis for potentially much greater collaboration. For Australia to take it on singly is probably too big a task given the resources at our disposal, given the size of the tax base and given all the other things we are all aware of. It is a major challenge.

However, if you are thinking of security issues: traditional security, military security, and national versus state security, again, our resources are spread very thinly. As I said earlier, most conflicts occur now within states so there is enormous scope for collaboration on security issues with other regional states again. I think the challenge is how you actually organise the nature of the collaboration because I would suggest, as I have already suggested, collaboration is essential. Those are the two major challenges. The third one is how do you get regional states to agree on what are common interests?

Even in the early reform stages that I have been on the edges of with the academic group, there are some groups that are interested in—what shall I call them?—bureaucratic minutiae, on the one hand, without looking at a big picture on the other hand. That can create considerable frustration in coming to an agreement about what a common concern is. But I think identifying areas of common concern is probably the third major challenge, which of course is a barrier otherwise to collaboration.

On that particular point, certainly with the IOR-ARC, over the history of IOR-ARC, there has been sensitivity about traditional security—or even the mention of the word 'security', heaven forbid. Most people think of security in terms of traditional security. The term is misunderstood anyway. What we have tried to do in the Australia India Institute report is to take what we call a multidimensional view of security. It is a composite of traditional human, environmental and economic issues: a multidimensional view of security. I think the challenge is even to identify the nature of security among regional states and to come to some agreement on that.

One of the difficulties, as well, with the IOR-ARC structure is in facilitating all of those and trying to deal with all of those and many other challenges which I am sure you are aware of—and I have forgotten even what they are at the moment. To actually facilitate debate on those is very difficult, given the current administrative and institutional structure. I know there are council of ministers meetings and all of that, associated with IOR-ARC, but it seems to me that there needs to be a much greater grassroots involvement of NGOs and others in the process of identifying areas in which collaboration could actually take place, because I think there is a great will for greater collaboration. That is an opportunity rather than a challenge, I guess, and maybe we can broaden the question out to some extent to actually think about where the opportunities are, because there is a great will. There is also a great will on the part of some states around the region, who are on the yellow map, who are not in IOR-ARC and who would like to be in IOR-ARC as well, and I think those states should be encouraged. In outline, that is what I have to say at the moment.

CHAIR: Thank you, Professor. Do you think that it is perhaps too big an ask to expect to develop a regional association? Might it be better to develop individual relationships, bilaterals?

Prof. Rumley : I think it is a big ask, but if we shy away from asks that are too big then we may as well pack up our kit and go home. I think we ought to do both, but I think that, because there are so many issues of common concern around the ocean itself and in the ocean, under the ocean and all the rest of it, it is essential that we at least try to do that. But, as I have tried to say already, I would not underestimate the difficulties in doing that or even attempting to do it. Certainly, if you look at the track record, IOR-ARC, as you all know, was started in 1997. What has IOR-ARC achieved? I saw a paper once that looked at the nature of intraregional trade before and after IOR-ARC, and the difference was pretty negligible. In some cases, it has gone the other way. Australia's trade with certain states in Africa, for example, is minimal.

CHAIR: There is a lot of Western Australian investment.

Prof. Rumley : There is, yes. I would not deny that there are things happening, but the actual impact of the organisation today, which is the point I am making, has been relatively small. It is certainly not without difficulty, but I think it is a challenge that we need to address.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. I will hand on to my colleague Senator Fawcett.

Senator FAWCETT: Professor, thank you for your paper. During your discussion today you have talked a fair bit about the opportunities for collaboration amongst, for example, the Oceans Institute at UWA and the Indo-Pacific Governance Research Centre, in Adelaide, to create a node that would then be a basis for similar engagement. The very fact that we are struggling in Australia to get that alignment, let alone across that vast array of countries, puts in stark contrast the success we have had with a very needs focused collaboration. I look at antipiracy operations, for example, where India has largely taken the lead since about 2008 and now there is a growing partnership, with EU and China and other countries contributing. Would Australia be better off by saying, 'All the collaborations from a research perspective are a nice idea, but let's invest in a functioning relationship that is already occurring,' and then be prepared to fund things that might flow out of that, as opposed to trying to start from scratch, if you like, a relationship that is not actually there? Do you have any comment on that approach?

Prof. Rumley : I think that is a fair question. I have a lot of sympathy for the sentiment behind that. What DFAT have attempted to do to date is identify some key areas in which collaboration could take place—for example, the fisheries area is an obvious area. The identification of key priorities is perhaps the way to go. There is a fisheries research unit in Oman, but it does not really have the regional support that perhaps the Omanis think it should have.

Bateman and Bergman have raised the notion that Australia could develop greater linkages with Indonesia in the eastern Indian Ocean and I think that is fine. You would probably get better short-term returns from those kinds of identification of priorities, but I think the so-called concept of maritime regions ocean wide is also potentially of long-term benefit. In other words, add the chairman's view to yours and say, 'Yes, let's strengthen bilateral linkages, let's identify priorities which we can build further but let's also do a regional wide thing as well, if we can, and that comes back to the challenge, which I raised at the beginning, of resources. In the end, we might be then pushed back to one and two rather than it being ocean wide.

Senator FAWCETT: I have two follow-up questions. Firstly, do you think we have sufficient diplomatic representation from DFAT in terms of both diplomacy and trade in the rim nations? Secondly, with the talk of the new Colombo plan that is coming essentially from both sides of politics at the moment, are there specific areas—and I am happy for this one to be taken on notice—that you think would be well targeted in terms of those—

Prof. Rumley : Far be it from me to criticise DFAT, but others have written critical evaluations of DFAT so I am happy to go with those critical evaluations. There is a need for greater diplomatic representation in some countries. For example, we do not have an embassy in Oman. So there is a greater need for greater diplomatic representation in the region. I was not sure about your second question. Could you repeat that, please.

Senator FAWCETT: We have talked about revitalising a modern version of a Colombo plan where we seek to send our people places, to bring others here and to have collaborative training, development and capacity. Are there specific areas where you think that would be well targeted and, as I say, given time I am happy to take that on notice?

Prof. Rumley : If I could sidetrack a little bit but then come to the point of your question. One thing that has been happening, as you know, is that IOR-ARC was set up—the business group, the tourism group and the academic group—and at the last two meetings India had been trying to revive the University Mobility in the Indian Ocean Region, the UMIOR Scheme. Whenever I have approached any of the Indian colleagues in the academic group on this they have been very cagey and have asked, 'What's this all about? Is this an Indian Colombo plan of sorts?' I do not know. So there are things already happening there from an Indian point of view. India, as you are probably well aware, is now a state that gives aid as much as receives aid. So India has this view of its own, anyway. Having said that, there are a great many fairly obvious areas in which Australia could, again, as a matter of resource, improve education and training in agriculture, for example, and in technological areas and a whole host of areas—service areas, education areas and so on. Facilitating all of those is, again, going to be a matter of resources, so the answer is yes, of course. But those three in particular are of interest: agriculture; education; and service and technology.

CHAIR: Senator Kroger.

Senator KROGER: Thank you for your submission, Professor. This is a matter that I have come to more recently, unlike yourself, so it is interesting to have someone provide such an eminent submission. In our first day of public hearings, I came away essentially thinking that clearly we should be exploring a bilateral relationship, as we have been doing with India. But after a full day we brought the discussion around to a holistic Indian Ocean rim strategic approach and the conversation—with whatever witness—turned to our relationship and what we had explored with India. I know the chair has come back to it a couple of times, but should we just be exploring bilateral relationships with different countries, with different states, as opposed to a holistic approach with the Indian Ocean rim itself? I am not convinced.

Prof. Rumley : My honest view, with great respect, is that we should not discount one or the other. We should do both. Our relationship with India is totally underdeveloped. I know the Prime Minister is going there in the near future, and it is about time the Indian Prime Minister came here as well. That will probably happen in the fullness of time. It is a pity that, in the development of a relationship with India, we do not place more relative importance on it. Even at the IOR-ARC meeting in December, we are not giving the importance to that that I think we should be. There is a certain ambivalence, I think, even now around the region about what Australia's real intentions with regard to the region and with regard to India are. We need to develop stronger links with the African states. I know we have done that in recent years for a whole variety of political and diplomatic reasons, but trade with Africa is highly underdeveloped, in my view; yes, we need to develop stronger links with Africa, India and all of the states of the region.

Senator KROGER: Do you think the lack of will or even definition of the process—I say this given that this has been since 1997—has been from the ministerial level down? Is it a departmental will? At what level do you think we have required more impetus?

Prof. Rumley : My honest response to that would be to defer to somebody in Western Australia who is the person who pushed Indian Ocean studies, and that is Ken McPherson. The Indian Council of World Affairs and our Indian Ocean Research Group had a conference in Delhi a couple of years back. I think I said in my submission that I would give a copy of this book to the committee. Unfortunately, I do not have any copies left, but I can try to track one down. I have only got one essay here. The title is 'Refloating IOR-ARC: Australian perspectives'. I touch on Gareth Evans's Indian Ocean vision, and I touch on some of the critiques that have been made of IOR-ARC, including Ken McPherson's. Ken identifies some, in his one paper that he did on evaluating IOR-ARC—and maybe, with your permission, I can note these out. This is what he said in terms of the failings of IOR-ARC. He effectively said it had been taken over by trade and foreign ministry officials and that it had become 'dehumanised'. But he listed a dozen, and I think to some extent that might still be the case. Firstly, a vague IOR-ARC charter; secondly, conflicting visions of what IOR-ARC is meant to be about; thirdly, a weak commitment of member states. Even now, on that point, I think there is some doubt about even the chair and the vice-chair, to be brutally objective. Fourthly, the system of governance is unclear. Fifthly, should it be an open regionalism or a closed regionalism? Certain states, such as Pakistan, are excluded for political reasons and other states are included. Even the nature of the process, which is consensus, means that if the United States wants to become a dialogue partner Iran can potentially say no because of the consensus basis of the organisation. So changing the membership is an issue of governance. Sixthly is membership conflicts—this notion of a common vision on a whole variety of issues. Seventh, certain agenda items are off limits; you cannot talk about security, and while you might be able to talk about this or that we dare not talk about Pakistan, and let us not say anything about Iran. Eighth, the impact of external events, whether that be China or the impact on the United States, is fogging the clarity of the thing functioning. Ninth is bilateralism versus multilateralism, a point that has been raised a couple of times already.

Tenth is the pre-eminence of domestic issues. One of the disappointments of IOR-ARC has been South Africa's apparent lack of enthusiasm because of its domestic situation and because of its own role, as it sees it, within Africa itself. Eleventh is reduction and resource commitment, the point I made right at the beginning. If you expect very low-income states to participate fully in an IOR-ARC you are asking a lot. They cannot afford to function their own state let alone being regional states as well, so that is a major issue and not just for Australia. The final point he lists is lack of background and regional cooperation. As I said at the beginning, most of the regional cooperation is at the sub-regional level, and this totality of points means that IOR-ARC has been fairly weak. That is his view, and I would concur with that assessment.

Senator KROGER: We are doing a comparison for the Asia-Pacific region. It is part of our vernacular; Australians have a view of what you mean when you refer to the Asia-Pacific region. Were similar issues apparent in the formation of that, going back all those years ago?

Prof. Rumley : I do not think so, no. One of the things Australia should be really proud of is its role in regionalism. Australia was fundamental in APEC and one of the founding partners in IOR-ARC. I know Gareth Evans's original vision of IOR-ARC was a notion of a possible revival of APEC but, because of the issues I have just mentioned and others besides, that vision never eventuated because of the completely different context, players and so on.

I cannot resist the temptation when you mention the Asia-Pacific region to note that some people have included part of the Indian Ocean in the Asia-Pacific region, and now people want to talk about the Indo-Pacific region. Some of the definitions of the Indo-Pacific region are pretty enormous. I think the issues are different. The vision was, to some extent, similar from an Australian point of view but the outcome has been quite different.

Senator MARK BISHOP: Thank you, Professor, for your comments. One of the things that has been running through the submissions has been whether the organisation as proposed, or the existing organisation, for the Indian Ocean is really a name looking for a purpose—for want of a better description. I was much intrigued by your introductory comments, where you advised us that the academic journal editor was going to be relocated to a city 1,500 or 2,000 miles from the Indian Ocean.

Prof. Rumley : The centre of the universe!

Senator MARK BISHOP: That's right. It is the centre of a particular universe!

You then advocated, I think, that inland states in the continent of Africa want to be part of the Indian Ocean rim organisation, or others want them to be. If you are heading to the west coast of Africa—on that side—and the east coast of Australia, by incorporating the existing countries aren't you just spreading this rim concept so wide and making it so diffuse that it has no utility at all to those countries that might be trying to develop a form of common purpose?

The second comment that I would ask you to address is that one of the glaring omissions from this inquiry—it is the first time I have seen such a list of omissions in an inquiry of this nature in almost 20 years—is the almost total lack of interest by businesses, business organisations or companies. When we have done other inquiries into trade with Africa, mining interests in the Indian Ocean region, trade links with different parts of Asia, trade links with the Middle East, or whatever it might be, we have been almost swamped with submissions—some of a high quality—from companies, businesses and organisations expressing what they are doing.

So, on those two points could you firstly tell us the utility of spreading the rim organisation so widely—because I do not get hold of it. And, secondly, if business is not interested in making a submission that tells me that there is minimal trade linkage and little interest on their part, and they are the ones that drive serious contact.

Prof. Rumley : With the greatest of respect, Senator Bishop, I think you have misunderstood what I have said. I did not say that the editorship of the journal would move to Adelaide. I said the chief editorship would move; I said I would still be involved in it. On the map—

Senator MARK BISHOP: What is the difference between a chief editorship and an editor?

Prof. Rumley : One does the work and the other one has the ideas.

My second point is that on the map before you, the Southern Ocean in brackets underneath says 'Australia only'. Some people actually disagree with the definition and regard Adelaide as an Indian Ocean capital city.

Senator MARK BISHOP: Who? That is the first time I have heard the suggestion.

Prof. Rumley : If you look at the map it say, 'Australia only'.

Senator MARK BISHOP: Yes.

Prof. Rumley : That means everybody else. In terms of—

Senator MARK BISHOP: I am sorry; I do not understand the point you are making.

CHAIR: I think he is trying to say that in other parts of the world the southern coast of Australia is seen as being on the Indian Ocean.

Prof. Rumley : Sorry to be so obtuse. The second point is that on the issue of inland states, that was just one definition based on a functional definition of the Indian Ocean. I did say that the definition I accepted was the Indian Ocean rim definition.

Senator MARK BISHOP: So what utility does the word 'rim' have, if you are going inland into Africa and way inland into Australia?

Prof. Rumley : The notion of 'rim' is very simple—that is, it is a formal definition based on a common interest, which is the Indian Ocean itself. All states that border onto the Indian Ocean are part of the Indian Ocean rim, by implication.

Senator MARK BISHOP: Right. So, do you argue, from this map, that the Indian Ocean has always, in some people's minds, extended to the west coast of Tasmania and, by implication, up to the bottom part of Victoria?

Prof. Rumley : I think we can construct whatever region we want for whatever purpose. Can I ask you a question?

Senator MARK BISHOP: No, you can't; we ask the questions.

Prof. Rumley : Okay.

Senator MARK BISHOP: Are you suggesting—

Prof. Rumley : I am happy to accept the Australian government's definition. This is a definition from DFAT, I think.

Senator MARK BISHOP: So it goes, now, to the east coast of Tasmania and, arguably to Bass Strait up to the southern part of Victoria. And you suggest that that is a serious and workable definition of Indian Ocean rim?

Prof. Rumley : I will put it this way. If you want to include all states that border the Indian Ocean, you cannot exclude the capital city of the state that is actually bordering the Indian Ocean.

Senator MARK BISHOP: And that is?

Prof. Rumley : That is Canberra.

Senator MARK BISHOP: So it has now extended virtually to the Pacific Ocean.

Prof. Rumley : Of course, because that is what Australia is. Australia is a two ocean state, as you know.

Senator MARK BISHOP: We will just have to agree to disagree. It never occurred to me—

Prof. Rumley : I am not quite sure what we are disagreeing about, quite frankly.

Senator MARK BISHOP: The proposition that the Indian Ocean seriously extends to Canberra. But if you want to argue that then the secretary will take note of it.

Prof. Rumley : I think you should argue with DFAT on this, because it is a DFAT definition.

Senator MARK BISHOP: My second question is on the lack of business interest.

Prof. Rumley : I think that is a very good question. If you look at the structure of IOR-ARC, when it was set up there was the academic group, the tourism group and the business group. The tourism group has been very weak. The academic group has hardly functioned. If you look at the projects it has undertaken, honestly the output is almost laughable. The only group that has actually taken off a little bit has been the business group. The main reason for that is that it is driven very hard out of India. The Indian business community has a very strong view of India's role in the Indian Ocean. Maybe Australian business does not—I am not sure. I do not know what Australia's business mind is. But I think the point you make about the lack of business submissions to this is a very important one. I honestly do not know why that is.

Senator MARK BISHOP: I have two comments on that. India is increasingly taking significant interest in a range of matters relating to developments in the Indian Ocean. You are right to assert that. But is it not more linked to matters off their west coast, heading over towards the northern parts of Africa and the Middle East? Secondly, you say India is leading with heavy interest in this concept. We of course have massive investment in the continent of Africa—huge. We are probably the largest trading investor nation in mining, resources, oil and gas and ancillary industries. It is something like $20 billion per annum. So there is significant Australian external business focus and investment on the eastern edge of the Indian Ocean area.

Prof. Rumley : I think your point is well made. I do not know whether the committee has had answers to that question from any other witnesses, but it is an interesting puzzle. Why is it that business has not made submissions even to this inquiry? I do not know.

Senator STEPHENS: It has been a very interesting canvassing of the issues. I want to come to some parts of the discussion that we have not really touched on. You refer in your notes to Bangalore and the most recent considerations of the work of IOR-ARC. To what extent does Australia's very targeted aid investment feature in considerations of IOR-ARC's work? I am asking that in the sense that you were suggesting in your appendix 2 that you had to circulate the issue of social sciences and humanities. I saw energy, food and water security as being fairly critical issues in the region from AusAID's perspective and I wondered whether that was one of the hooks from which we could strengthen some of the research.

Prof. Rumley : I agree. The obvious comment—and you have probably heard it—regarding descriptors of the Indian Ocean region, is the centre of the Third World, and therefore aid issues are particularly potentially significant for development in the region. When you look around the region, fairly obviously Australia, being one of the richer states in the region, is potentially one of the main aid donors. I come back again to the comment I made at the beginning about the nature of resources. Australia's aid budget is already thinly spread. We have our own strategy of aid for Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and other states north of Australia. India is taking a greater role in aid. Some have argued, for example, that some of the European states should take a greater role in delivering aid in the Indian Ocean region, particularly Germany. Aid issues and some of the issues that you just mentioned, like food and energy security, are the hooks potentially, but whether we have the resources to achieve that I do not know.

Senator STEPHENS: It is a conversation for another day, I guess. I have recently come back from a trip to Japan and Korea. What we discovered there was the extent to which Australian trade commissioners were assisting Korea and Japan to invest in Third World countries and the extent to which Australia has been able to facilitate some of that investment in other countries, because of our longstanding relationships, good processes and good governance. It seems to be an opportunity that we should be working on.

Prof. Rumley : I could not agree more. I come back to Gareth Evans's view of foreign policy—of Australia being an honest broker, a middle power, threatening no-one, an intermediary, a facilitator. It is an enormously important role. Japan is a fairly large aid donor. There is an interesting thing about countries like Japan in their Indian Ocean role. For the sake of the argument, I will expand that a little bit to consider all of the dialogue partners. There are five dialogue partners in IOR-ARC. Japan is a dialogue partner. At the last meeting in Bangalore I happened to sit next to the Japanese representative. Our Indian Ocean Research Group is one of two observers to IOR-ARC; the other being the tourism group. The guy from Japan had no idea at all about why he was there or what the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation is or does. I said, 'Mr Rudd is going to give a brief introduction,' and fortunately he gave a brilliant introduction of what IOR-ARC was for. This was the first time that this guy had actually heard this. The guy in his right was from one of the other dialogue partners, from the UK. He was equally ignorant and he was equally enlightened. Getting back to your point, our facilitation role is critical—even making these guys aware of what is going on here. The amount of ignorance is not just within Australia but among the partners who are meant to be part of the organisation.

Senator STEPHENS: That is a challenge, isn't it?

Prof. Rumley : It gets back to Senator Eggleston's first question regarding awareness of the organisation itself, even within members. It is incredible.

Senator STEPHENS: Are you optimistic about the future of IOR-ARC?

Prof. Rumley : I am a total optimist by nature anyway. I think there is a political will to make this work. That is why I am optimistic about the organisation, apart from my own intrinsic nature. India and Australia, I think, are committed to making it work. As I said earlier, there are a number of other states, particularly in the Gulf, who would like to participate more actively. Oman and Indonesia are two very active states—Oman was a founding member, of course, of the former cricket alliance—the only one that was not part of the cricket alliance in the seven original founding members. Not only that, strangely enough, if you look at IOR-ARC before India took the chair, it was one of the few, if not the only, regional organisations in the world whose membership was declining. They lost the Seychelles. But now the Seychelles have come back in. Other members are going to be joining in the next year or two. There is a will to increase the membership from the outside of the organisation. There is a will within and a will without. The key is going to be resources in the end. If it is going to fail, it will fail because of lack of resources, not because of political will.

Senator STEPHENS: You raised several issues in your editorial issue, such as the issue of managing the maritime zones, illegal fishing and environmental security—those kinds of things. DFAT has described Australia's approach to the upcoming chair of IOR-ARC as encouraging the implementation of small, practical initiatives. Do you agree with that?

Prof. Rumley : Is that the only thing that they have said? I am sure that that cannot be the only thing that they have said.

Senator STEPHENS: No, it is not.

Prof. Rumley : I would agree with that, among other things.

Senator STEPHENS: Listening this morning, it seemed to me that there are daunting challenges. The region is huge and the issues are diffuse. The way in which you can effect change is to target some quite specific things.

Prof. Rumley : I made the point in relation to Senator Fawcett's questions that DFAT have identified a number of specific targets, fisheries being one. That is a very good starting point: identifying issues that are common among states. Those six issues that they have identified are common among states. Targets are essential. But agreeing to common targets within the region is one of the challenges.

Senator STEPHENS: In terms of having the chair, you said that India has led a bit of a resurgence of IOR-ARC. Do you think that there is the potential for Australia to shift the focus when it takes the chair in 2013-14?

Prof. Rumley : When you say 'shift the focus', what do you mean?

Senator STEPHENS: You are suggesting that IOR-ARC should be—

Prof. Rumley : More active.

Senator STEPHENS: Yes, more active and more focused.

Prof. Rumley : The honest answer to that is that it depends on what happens at the meeting in Delhi. If there is a good feeling about common interests being defined at the meeting, particularly at the ministerial section of that meeting, then there will be grounds for optimism. But there are so many other issues involved that it could be a problem. I know that Indonesia is very keen to become the deputy chair when Australia becomes the chair.

Senator STEPHENS: And the chair goes to them after us, doesn't it?

Prof. Rumley : If Indonesia becomes the deputy chair then they become the chair after two years. Then it goes on like that. There is scope to shift the focus, of course. But you simply cannot do it alone. You need collaboration from other member states. That is one of the major challenges.

Senator FAWCETT: Looking at Australia taking the chair and at one of our significant relationships, our relationship with China has been almost equally categorised by concerns around human rights and the economic importance of our trading relationship with them. In terms of Australia taking the chair for the Indian Ocean region, from your perspective, how much priority should Australia place on things such as the child slavery issues throughout much of the Subcontinent that have been spoken about in the media recently, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the rights of women and so on? There are a lot of human rights issues in those rim nations. Do you care to make any comment on what focus if any Australia should have on those issues?

Prof. Rumley : The focus on those things has usually been in some of the dialogues that have gone on behind closed doors. China, as you know, is a dialogue partner in IOR-ARC. Depending on the nature of the agenda of IOR-ARC, it is certainly not likely to expand into consideration of human security issues. So I would suggest that whatever has been occurring behind closed doors should continue, to be the most effective.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Professor, for your comments this morning. Senator Bishop made the point that there was not a lot of business interest expressed, but I noticed that DFAT, in their submission, have said that the largest macroeconomic trend will be a surge in middle-class populations, driving both an increase in trade and GDP per capita, with India's middle class reaching a billion, and also a growing middle class in the African area. So there are great trade opportunities, including with the Gulf, where we are already trading. But I just get the sense that this is the beginning of a journey and we are not very far down the track yet.

Prof. Rumley : No, I do not think we are at all.

CHAIR: But there is potential there. Thank you very much indeed.

Prof. Rumley : Thank you.