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Speech at Indonesian State banquet

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Press Statement, E. G. Whitlam, Canberra/Jakarta, 21 February 1973

Following is the text of an address by the Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Gough Whitlam, at a State banquet given by the Government of Indonesia in Jakarta. '

He said: I regard this occasion as a particularly happy omen for me and my Govern­ ment. It is one that brings me a special personal satisfaction. This is my eighth visit to Indonesia, and my first as Prime Minister of Australia. Apart from a brief visit to New Zealand, this is my first visit as Prime Minister to an independent

neighbouring country. This is not by chance. Relations between Australia and Indonesia have always been cordial and strong. It is my Government’s intention that they will become stronger still. I stressed this during the recent elections. The Australian people have endorsed the objective. Individually there is much our two countries can achieve for the welfare of our region. There is even more that we can achieve together.

In visiting Indonesia I am most pleased by the opportunity to renew personal contact with President Soeharto. I attach great importance to establishing relations of mutual confidence with him. I deeply admire his qualities of leadership which combine dignity and realism with great positive achievements. Under President Soeharto Indonesia’s course has steadied and become firm. This is a source of great hope and encouragement to Australia.

What, Mr President, lies at the basis of this confident relationship that we have? We can hardly be more different— in history, in size, both of population and area, in culture, in language and in origin. It is, of course, a curious thought that, had the tradewinds not blown so persistently from the south east, Australia could well have been, indeed almost certainly would have been, a continent populated by

Malays. It nearly happened. There is much evidence of Javanese interest in an abortive settlement in the north west of Australia. We do not have a commonly shared colonial history. We in Australia are a transplant. We are the descendants of the colonial authority. In all too sad a sense we are the colonisers and my Government, Mr President, will strive mightly to

right the wrongs that have been done to the original Australians. Of course, there is some recent history from 1945 on which has contributed to our friendly relations. There are national and neighbourly ties in security, in trade, and in the contacts of proximity. We perceive that each of us is really very important to the other. Others have come to the area and have gone, or are going home. We are both going to stay here. Our future is intertwined forever. And, for all our differences, we share, I believe, tolerance, humour, friendliness, reasonable modesty and an unshakeable belief in the brightness of our destiny.

I believe that Australia and Indonesia— and let it be said, Papua New Guinea as well— are necessarily involved in one another’s destinies. This has already been so. No countries in the region have a firmer foundation of trust and cooperation on which to build. . . ........


Australia was one of the first countries to support Indonesia’s struggle for independence in the postwar years. The Australian Labor Party and the Australian trade union movement actively encouraged your independence movement, both bilaterally and in the international sphere. The United Nations, through a Good Offices Committee on which Australia was the Indonesian nominee, played a medi­

atory role in the peace settlement which led eventually to the transfer of sovereignty to an Indonesian Government representing the Indonsian pople. That link is symbolised tonight by the presence of the Honourable Sir Richard Kirby, the

President of our Concilation and Arbitration Commission, who, as His Honour Judge Kirby, was the Australian Representative on the Good Offices Committee, and whose affection and regard for your country has continued undiminished. In the difficult day of confrontation there were enough people of wisdom in

both countries to keep up the bridges of friendship. Today, Australia and Indonesia remain steadfast supporters of the United Nations, of which Indonesia became the 60th member in 1950 when her struggle for national independence was won. I am sure it is an auspicious sign that Indonesia and Australia will be working together in partnership especially during the coming two years as members of the United Nations Security Council.

We welcome the great progress you have made since the difficult days of 1965. We admire the efforts your country has made to strengthen the security and pros­ perity of our region. Your concern for the welfare of the region has been shown by your active support for ASEAN and your sponsorship of the Asian Conference on Cambodia in 1970. We respect your free and active foreign policy, and your reluctance to become involved in obsolescent military alliances.

Cultural links, too, are of growing importance in the relations between our countries. We are proud that Australian universities are currently training more than 200 Indonesian post-graduate students selected by your Government. I take this opportunity to announce that Australia will contribute $200,000 over five years to the UNESCO Fund for the Restoration of the Temple of Borobudur. I want now to explain to you the broad principles and ideals that will sustain and guide my Government’s international relations. Let this be known to all: .

With a new Government there will be a new emphasis in Australian foreign policy of profound importance. I want this new emphasis to be clear and un­ mistakable among the nations of our region, particularly here in Indonesia, where we attach such importance to the warmth and cordiality of our relationship. You may know that foreign policy decisions were among the very first initiatives under­ taken by our Government during its first days of office. The aim of these decisions, as with all future decisions, is to establish a reputation for Australia as a nation with an independent and distinctive foreign policy. We want to be regarded as a friendly, tolerant and cooperative neighbour and at no time open to any suggestion of racism. . . : .

' · Let me be more specific about Australia’s intentions in this region. We believe the peaceful progress and development of South-East Asia will be more speedily achieved if the region is insulated from greater power rivalries. We support the ASEAN concept of a zone of peace, freedom and neutrality in South-East Asia.

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While we support the concept and will encourage all nations involved in our region to support it, we also acknowledge our existing obligations to our friends.

We have declared our willingness, should Indonesia so desire, to make arrange­ ments with your Government— and equally with an independent Papua New Guinea—to provide assistance in the training of forces, and in technical facilities and the supply of equipment. We seek no binding treaty or formal alliance, merely

an understanding based on mutual trust and friendship. We will be charting a new course in our foreign policy, with less emphasis on the kind of military pact that is no longer relevant to the realities of the seventies. The keystone of our foreign policy for the seventies will be the search for regional cooperation. In this we look first., and foremost to our great neighbour

and firm friend, Indonesia. We will be discussing with Indonesia and all our friends in the region the possibility of new forms of cooperation to complement existing arrangements like ASEAN which we regard as a model of regional co­ operation. We see regional cooperation as offering the best hope for peace and progress in our part of the globe. Working together, in understanding and mutual trust, there is much we can do to enhance the living standards of all our neigh­ bours and to mitigate the ancient scourges of poverty, ignorance and disease.

This is our paramount task. We are impressed by what your Government has already done, through its policies, and through the national philosophy of Pancasila, to achieve progress for your people and political and economic stability. We pledge our continuing encouragement and support for a new form of regional co-operation that will speed your progress and bring nearer the fulfilment of your

goals. The future peace and progress of South-East Asia will depend largely on how quickly and successfully these goals are achieved.

This region, I believe, is entering a new and more hopeful era. There are three principal reasons for my optimism. The first is the ceasefire in Vietnam, which has brought to an end 20 years of bloodshed, suffering and turmoil. . '

My second reason for optimism is in the progress which Indonesia herself has made—under your guidance, Mr President — to achieve peace and develop­ ment, and to restore fully the principles of harmony and justice, democracy and freedom embodied in your Constitution of 1945. A just and prosperous Indonesia

is an essential condition of a just and prosperous South-East Asia. We in Aus­ tralia have looked to you to set an example to our neighbourhood of progress and social transformation. In this, our expectations have not been disappointed. I am confident that Indonesia’s progressive development will continue.

The third reason for my optimism— if I may be bold enough to say— is the election of a new Government in Australia committed to close regional cooperation and determined in every way to promote the peace and welfare of our neighbours. We hope to gain increasing standing in the eyes of Indonesia and our other friends

as an independent, tolerant and helpful neighbour. There are still vast problems before us all, but also vast opportunities. It is my earnest hope that, working to­ gether, we can do much to advance the prosperity and happiness of all our peoples.