Indonesia Outpaces Malaysia

I read the speech given overnight by our newly minted PM (see below) and wondered about the missed opportunities of Malaysia.

In its earlier days, Malaysia had the educated population, government framework (including a highly respected judiciary) , heritage, economy, stability and great ties with UK, US, China and Australia. It could have spearheaded regional cooperation on areas like education and commerce. Instead, it went on a path of national chest beating – twin towers, spite of British, cultural one upmanship against Singapore, crazy casino styled ventures into tin markets and all that other rubbish. As a result, Malaysia now lags in shame whereas a previously “backward” neighbour now attracts accolades as an Asian giant. It’s a wonder how so many Malaysians still view Indonesia as an inferior neighbour. Indonesia is a fast rising giant who will outperform Malaysia in every way. Its Ministers are far more well-spoken than their Malaysian counterparts and appear far more intelligent.

No doubt the PM was being diplomatic and being a good neighbour but I think Malaysia could have been such a better country. Sincere leaders who aren’t just thinking of themselves is ever so important. Sigh…


30 September 2013





President and Ibu Yudhoyono, ministers, ambassadors, business leaders, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is an honour to be in this grand setting, that’s witnessed so much history, to pay tribute to Indonesia, our largest and most important neighbour; and to honour you, Bapak President, a patriot who has led by example, a moderniser of your country and a strong voice for decency in the wider world.

Long ago I promised a foreign policy focussed on Jakarta rather than Geneva and that a visit to Jakarta would be the very first trip I made as prime minister – and here I am, within two weeks of being sworn in.

Indeed, I hope a convention has now been established: that Jakarta should always be an incoming Australian prime minister’s first overseas visit.

That would be a fitting way for us officially to acknowledge the strength and significance of the friendship between our two countries.

Indonesia has created a modern nation from a vast and diverse archipelago; lifted tens of millions from the third world to the middle class; transitioned from military rule to robust democracy; improved human rights; and now stands on the threshold of rapid economic take-off.

Along with India, Indonesia is the emerging democratic superpower of Asia.

It’s that important.

Australia has always considered itself a good friend of Indonesia and is now determined to be a trusted partner.

We stood by Indonesia during the Asian financial crisis and at the time of the devastating East Asian tsunami.

We worked together in counter terrorism after the Bali bombings.

After the 2005 bombing, I personally witnessed your visit, Bapak President, to the Australian casualties in Sanglah hospital and was moved by the way you comforted each one of them.

Now, we are working together to counter a range of security challenges, including people smuggling, which has led to more than 1100 deaths at sea in the waters between our countries.

I am grateful to you, Bapak President, and to your government for this cooperation and look forward to building on these foundations.

Yours are the actions of a true friend and will never be forgotten – just as Australia will never forget Indonesia’s work to bring to justice the killers of so many innocent people, including nearly 100 Australians, after the Bali and Jakarta bombings.

There have been times, I’m sorry to say, when Australia must have tried your patience: when we “put the sugar on the table” for people smugglers; or cancelled the live cattle trade in panic at a TV programme.

There have been times when all sides of Australian politics should have said less and done more.

I am confident that these will soon seem like out-of-character aberrations and that the relationship will once more be one of no surprises, based on mutual trust, dependability and absolute respect for each other’s sovereignty under the Lombok Treaty.

As your closest first world economy with a strong interest in its neighbour’s success, and with the right attitudes, Australia is Indonesia’s obvious and natural partner in development.

Nowhere on earth would there be such an abundance of goodwill between two quite distinct countries.

In any year, hundreds of thousands of Australians come to Indonesia as tourists and tens of thousands of Indonesians come to Australia as students.

These are the movements that our citizens freely choose to make because they individually appreciate what each of our countries can offer.

Our challenge is to build on this goodwill in ways which deepen Australia’s relationship with Asia and which accelerate Indonesia’s rise.

We must succeed.

As you said, Bapak President, when you last addressed the Australian Parliament, “Our two countries have a great future together.

We are not just neighbours, we are not just friends; we are strategic partners.

We are equal stakeholders in a common future with much to gain if we get this relationship right and much to lose if we get it wrong.”

I respectfully concur and adopt your words as my own.

Australia has more significant economic and security relationships yet no other relationship – not one – is more important than our friendship with Indonesia due to its size, proximity and potential to be a global leader.

Tomorrow, I will outline a deeper cultural engagement including a new Australia Indonesia study centre at Monash University to match the United States and China centres elsewhere in Australia.

With your permission, Bapak President, and to honour your friendship with Australia, the new, two-way street version of the Colombo Plan will feature a Yudhoyono fellow: the best and brightest young Australian who elects, in any year, to study in Indonesia.

And I will outline new measures to build an economic partnership with Indonesia that’s scarcely less significant in the years to come than China is now.

That’s why I’m accompanied on this trip by 20 business leaders to promote trade and investment between our two countries.

Our relationship has so much promise – and everything will be easier once the people smuggling complication is gone.

There will be no more vital task for the new Australian government than to build on the mutual respect and affection between our two countries and I am confident that this visit has been a strong start.