Address to a dinner in Honour of the President of the Republic of Indonesia, Darwin
Posted on Monday, 2 July 2012
Mr President, Prime Minister, Chief Minister, Elder Bill, ladies and gentlemen.
I have often said that Australia’s foreign policy should have a Jakarta rather than a Geneva focus and congratulate the government because tonight it has.
Indonesia is the world’s fourth largest country, third largest democracy, and largest Muslim nation.
Australia has larger economic and historical relationships; but in some respects the relationship with Indonesia is our most important one because of Indonesia’s size, proximity and potential.
Hundreds of thousands of Australian tourists visit Indonesia. Tens of thousands of Indonesian students are in Australia. My hope, over time, is to see more Indonesian tourists in Australia and more Australian students in Indonesia.
I congratulate Indonesia on a remarkable recovery from the economic turmoil of the late 1990s.
Indonesia’s share of world coal exports, for instance, has increased from 14 to over 30 per cent in just a decade while Australia’s has been constant at just 18 per cent. On some measures, 50 million Indonesians now enjoy a middle-class life and Indonesia’s total GDP now exceeds Australia’s.
So I congratulate you, Mr President, for your leadership in the economic and also in the political transformation of your country.
Indonesian democracy has stabilised and matured under your Presidency and you have lead by example in setting new standards of probity in public life.
You have worked against all forms of extremism and have safeguarded Indonesia’s pluralism, as well as its democracy.
As a former Australian Health Minister, I valued the opportunity to work closely with my Indonesian counterpart to strengthen our cooperation against infectious diseases and both countries’ quarantine and laboratory capacity.
In whatever role I have, now and in the future, I look forward to working in the closest harmony with Indonesia to address all the problems of our region.
And I join the Prime Minister in welcoming you, Sir, as our most distinguished guest.