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Monday, 15 June 2009
Page: 5857

Mr NEUMANN (12:27 PM) —When I left off my speech on the International Monetary Agreements Amendment (Financial Assistance) Bill 2009 a week or so ago, I was saying that our relationship with Indonesia is of crucial importance to Australia’s economic development and prosperity. In our region we are a neighbour to Indonesia. They partner with us in all kinds of areas, not just in sport and culture but also in terms of tackling the challenges of climate change and education. There are 15,000 students from Indonesia alone studying here in Australia. That brings close to A$500 million into our economy each year. That is an enormous amount of money, contributed by Indonesian families to this economy, helping our prosperity, our economic development and our wealth in this country. So the importance of our relationship with Indonesia cannot be underestimated.

We have committed $462 million over the 2008-09 year in official assistance to Indonesia. There have been many visits by senior cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister, to Indonesia and other parts of South-East Asia to show how important our relations with the region are. Lest it be said that we are doing something unusual in terms of partnering with the World Bank and other countries to provide this sort of facility—US$1 billion to Indonesia as a standby loan—and lest it be said that charity begins at home and somehow we should not be doing this, I say it is extremely important to show that we are a good neighbour to Indonesia and to build on the many ties that we have with Indonesia.

In 1989 the Australia-Indonesia Institute was established by the Australian government. Its aim was to develop relations between Australia and Indonesia and to promote greater mutual understanding and expanded areas of contact, and we have had Indonesian students under the program studying here in Australia, for example. Mr Speaker, you and I had the privilege of being there on the 20th anniversary when the Australian ambassador hosted the conference. The goodwill, the amity and the friendship that was there between Australia and Indonesia was quite evident and we must do everything we possibly can to continue to improve the relationship.

Our bilateral economic and trade relationship with Indonesia is extremely important. Indonesia was Australia’s 13th largest merchandising trading partner in 2007, the 11th largest export market and the 11th largest source of imports. Our main merchandising exports to Indonesia are, of course, wheat, crude petroleum, live animals, aluminium and sugar. Our major imports from Indonesia are crude petroleum, gas pumps, non-monetary gold and simply worked wood. So it is important for us to acknowledge how vital Indonesia’s relationship is with Australia. Our two-way merchandise trade totalled $8.8 billion in 2007. Exports were valued at $3.9 billion and imports at $4.8 billion. Australia was Indonesia’s eighth largest export destination and ninth largest source of imports. So the relationship in terms of goods is important, providing assistance to Indonesia to ensure that the impacts of the global financial crisis and the global recession are lessened on that country. Our two-way services trade in Indonesia exceeded $1.6 billion in 2007. We are providing assistance in terms of education related travel and personal travel. Our major imports from Indonesia in terms of services were personal travel and transportation as well. So our relationship with Indonesia is simply vital for our economic security as well as our prosperity.

But what we are doing in terms of assistance for education is simply vital also. In the education sector strategic planning has been undertaken by Indonesia. The Indonesian people set a goal to ensure that all Indonesian children receive a minimum nine-year primary and junior secondary education. That is so important in increasing the prosperity and productivity of the Indonesian people and ensuring that Indonesian children have a better chance in life. We are partnering with Indonesia in our Australia-Indonesia Basic Education Program. That has an aspiration to ensure that there are 2,000 schools—1,500 general and 500 madrasa schools—constructed to create 330,000 new junior secondary school places for 13- to 15-year-old Indonesian children. We are financing through that program Indonesian schools and constructing them in consultation with local communities. It is important from the point of view of giving those children a chance in life. I have been to rural Central Kalimantan and to see the delight on the children’s faces when they have new facilities there is simply a wonderful experience to enjoy, and to realise that our dollars sent to this place and the work that we do in Indonesia are very important in creating a great deal of goodwill towards Australia as well is most rewarding.

Our partnership with Indonesia just does not go to lending money and helping in terms of education. It also goes to tackling the challenge of climate change. We have engaged with Indonesia in the Kalimantan forest in a climate partnership. Our governments have announced that we will help Indonesia in this regard. That was done at APEC in 2007 by the previous government. We have committed $30 million to the partnership and we hope to attract an additional $70 million over time with other partners. We are trying to work with other partners to ensure that the Peatland Project in Central Kalimantan is also dealt with in such a way as to conserve the environment there and the wetlands because they are just so important for orangutans and other fauna and flora. We are partnering with the World Wide Fund for Nature and the BOS Foundation as well as universities in rural Kalimantan. The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Indonesia is deforestation, estimated at 80 per cent of national greenhouse gas emissions. Our partnership, the Indonesia-Australia Forest Carbon Partnership, is key to ensuring that we can tackle this problem and deal with this issue in a global way.

What we are doing with Indonesia does not go just to education or climate change or cultural and interfaith assistance; we are also helping Indonesia in many ways, and not just in our trade but in other ways as well. We are partnering with them for national security, confronting the problem of people-smuggling and dealing with them through Australian Federal Police, who have a presence in Indonesia, tackling the problems of terrorism. We have seen over 200 terrorists prosecuted and convicted by the Indonesians, and the government’s initiatives are to be commended with respect to tackling the problem of terrorism. We have seen that in Bali and we have seen it on so many other occasions. Our own embassy has been attacked over there in Jakarta in Indonesia.

So our relationship with Indonesia is crucial for our economic development, our national security and in terms of being a good neighbour. In these circumstances this loan, which I note has bipartisan support, should be carried out and we can show just what good neighbours we are with Indonesia. We should also promote the kind of assistance that is crucial to cultural, sporting activities and other help. The legislation before the House does have bipartisan support. I note the comments made by the member for North Sydney in respect of this matter. He was quite equivocal and quite critical of the government in many ways in relation to this legislation, but, despite his criticism of the Rudd Labor government, the coalition will support this legislation, and I commend it to the House.