Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Australia's national security requires an improved relationship with Jakarta.

Download PDFDownload PDF

KEVIN RUDD M.P. Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs



Australia’s national security and the security of Australians abroad requires a rapid improvement in the political relationship between John Howard and the Government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Whether the Howard Government likes it or not, our ability to advance the security of Australia and Australians in the region is determined by the strength of our relationship with Jakarta.

This applies to the quality and quantity of the intelligence flow from Jakarta to Canberra. Former intelligence officials advise that what was a substantial flow of information five years ago has now become a trickle as the calibre of the political relationship has declined.

It also applies to our ability to work with Jakarta in dealing with the operation of terrorist organisations on the ground - including cooperation between our respective police agencies.

The truth of the matter is that the Jakarta-Canberra relationship has been deteriorating not just over the past few weeks - but more accurately, over the past five years. Prime Minister Howard has had a poor working relationship with four Indonesian Presidents in succession, Suharto; Habibi (both pre- and post-Timor); Wahid; and now Megawati.

It is just all too easy for John Howard to attribute the poor state of the relationship to East Timor. East Timor has inevitably produced unavoidable tensions in the relationship - but these tensions have been compounded enormously by the lack of any effective personal relationship between John Howard and successive Indonesian counterparts.

In fact, Howard Government advisers in recent years have simply shrugged their shoulders and said the Jakarta relationship is all too hard and incapable of effective remedy. The problem with this attitude, which has become endemic to the Howard Government, is it now undermines Australia’s direct national security interests in the region.

The Howard Government’s disengagement from Jakarta over the past five years mirrors its broader policy of disengagement from the region - both South East Asia and the South West Pacific.

It’s high time for Howard, Downer and Hill to inject one-tenth of the time, energy and resources into the immediate region that for the past year they have injected into war plans over Iraq.

In my visit to Jakarta over the next three days, I intend to speak with Indonesian Foreign, Defence and Security Ministers on what measures the Government of Indonesia now intends to adopt in dealing with terrorist and extremist organisations in Indonesia - and what resources these Ministers believe they might need from Australia and elsewhere in prosecuting this task.

Loose language by Australian Government Ministers about deploying Australian SAS troops to Indonesia for joint operations with Indonesian Special Forces appears not to have been coordinated with the Indonesian Government and appears more likely at this stage to compound difficulties in the political relationship with Jakarta - rather than improve them.

Subject to discussions this week in Jakarta, our view is that cooperation with Indonesian security forces should focus on the police, rather than Indonesian Special Forces such as Kopassus.

Ends 3 November 2002

For further information contact: Kevin Rudd, MP on 0418 796 931 or Alister Jordan on 0417 605 823