SBY’s speech in the Australian parliament

…Today Indonesia looks at Australia in a different way. Australia means different things to the Indonesian generation of today. Australia is now a country of choice for Indonesian students and tourists. Indonesians admires Australia’s high standard of living, social dynamism, openness and generosity. They can watch the Australian Open on their TVs. They watch your soap operas and Australian stars such as Hugh Jackman, Mel Gibson, Nicole Kidman and the late Steve Irwin. They all have many fans in Indonesia. Indeed, I know of no other Western country where Bahasa Indonesia is widely taught in the school curriculum. I know of no other Western country with more Indonesianists in your governments, universities and think tanks, and no other Western country has more Indonesians studying in their universities and high schools. Here I wish to extend my deepest gratitude to the professors, teachers, students and families across Australia who have been so kind and generous in welcoming tens of thousands of Indonesian students into your campuses and your homes. I have heard heartwarming stories from various Indonesians who studied and worked in this country, including from my son Ibas, who spent five years at Curtin University. So allow me to say on behalf of many Indonesian parents, ‘Terima kasih, Australia’—‘Thank you, Australia’…

Excellencies, friends, the Australian-Indonesian partnership today is solid and strong, but just how far this partnership will take us will depend on our ability to address a set of challenges. Let me highlight at least four of them. The first challenge is to bring a change in each other’s mindset. I was taken aback when I learned that in a recent Lowy Institute survey 54 per cent of Australian respondents doubted that Indonesia would act responsibly in its international relations. Indeed, the most persistent problem in our relations is the persistence of age-old stereotypes—misleading, simplistic mental caricature that depicts the other side in a bad light. Even in the age of cable television and internet, there are Australians who still see Indonesia as an authoritarian country, as a military dictatorship, as a hotbed of Islamic extremism or even as an expansionist power. On the other hand, in Indonesia there are people who remain afflicted with Australiaphobia—those who believe that the notion of White Australia still persists, that Australia harbours ill intention toward Indonesia and is either sympathetic to or supports separatist elements in our country.

We must expunge this preposterous mental caricature if we are to achieve a more resilient partnership. I want all Australians to know that Indonesia is a beautiful archipelago. We are infinitely more than a beach playground with coconut trees. Indonesia is the world’s third-largest democracy and the largest country in South-East Asia. We are passionate about our independence, moderation, religious freedom and tolerance; and, far from being hostile, we want to create a strategic environment marked by a million friends and zero enemies.

Indonesians are proud people who cherish our national unity and territorial integrity above all else. Our nationalism is all about forging harmony and unity among our many ethnic and religious groups. That is why the success of peace and reconciliation in Aceh and Papua is not trivial but a matter of national survival for us Indonesians. We would like Australians to understand and appreciate that.

The bottom line is that we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to people-to-people contact and when it comes to appreciating the facts of each other’s national life…

The full text is in Hansard (pdf).

Yesterday Jim Belshaw heard the speech live.

I was lucky enough to listen live to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono just finished speech to the Australian Parliament. What a tour de force, one that I actually twittered.

I will need the Hansard record to get all the details, but it was magnificent. He mentioned by name some of the Australians who had died helping Indonesia, bringing tears to my eyes. He was frank about some of the ups and downs in the relationships between the two countries. He placed the relationship at the centre of Indonesian foreign policy, a key strategic alliance…

Of course some issues will rub still: West Papua for example. But it was a great speech.

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