Rector, thank you very much for your warm welcome, Ambassador, Consul-General.
A short while ago I officially opened Australia’s Consulate-General in Makassar. Yesterday in Jakarta I opened Australia’s new Embassy which is now the largest overseas mission that Australia has anywhere in the world. I think that this expansion of our diplomatic presence in Indonesia reflects the strength and the depth of our bilateral relationship.
I am particularly delighted to be here today at Hasanuddin University for not only is it a very beautiful, environmentally friendly campus, but it is also a university with a very strong reputation in educational excellence, the oldest university in eastern Indonesia. So as I have paid tribute to the Rector today, I have been reliably informed by no less than the Timur Tribune that 138 of your lecturers have a degree from an Australian university and the alumni is simply outstanding, for it also includes Vice-President Kalla and your Agricultural Minister Sulaiman, among others.
I can think of no more fitting place than this university to speak about what I believe is a new chapter in Australian-Indonesia relations, built very much on our recognition of the significance of regional Indonesia.
So this relationship must be more than Jakarta and Canberra. It must embrace the regions, not least South Sulawesi. On my way here I visited the Makassar City Museum and I saw an exhibition that reflected the deep historic links between Makassar and Australia. As you know, Makassar is a trading city but its relationship with Australia goes back many centuries as Makassan traders travelled down to the waters of northern Australia harvesting sea cucumbers. In fact the Makassan sailors travelled as far as the Kimberley in Western Australia and Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory and forged harmonious and prosperous relationships with the Aboriginal people of Australia.
The Makassan traders left their mark in culture, language, art, and spirituality. In fact, the Makassan ships feature in some of the Indigenous rock at that is still seen today in some of the most remote areas of northern Australia. The Makassan legacy is present in the songs and the dance and the language of the Aboriginal people of Australia.
Some of these links have been lost in the mists of time but archaeologists and anthropologists have rediscovered the links in more recent decades.
So today I seek to build on our historic links as we enhance the Australia-Indonesia relationship by reviving the ties of the past and embracing them in a contemporary modern relationship.
We had much to build upon already: Australia and Indonesia are close neighbours. We share many common interests including the stability and prosperity of our region. We have a joint framework for strategic cooperation. Our defence, law enforcement and intelligence agencies work closely on some of the regional, indeed some of the global challenges of our time including countering terrorism, tackling transnational crime, preventing human trafficking and people-smuggling.
We also engage across the broadest range of issues. In fact, in 2013, when I first became Foreign Minister, your then Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and I assessed the number of treaties, frameworks, agreements that existed between Australia and Indonesia, and we discovered there were 60 fields where we cooperated through about 20 government agencies and authorities. On every matter you could imagine there was formal engagement between Australia and Indonesia. And of course, in the very important area of economic ties, Australia and Indonesia are both members of the G20, ours being the 12th largest economy in the world, Indonesia’s being the 16th largest, and we have no doubt that Indonesia will be in the top 10 economies worldwide in the coming decades. So we have strong economic ties but there is so much more we can do together.
That is why it was quite a milestone last week when your Trade Minister visited the Australian capital of Canberra and confirmed that the negotiations for a free trade agreement, a comprehensive economic partnership agreement, between Indonesia and Australia, would recommence.
So this base, at a government-to-government level, is a fantastic beginning for us to build our new chapter between Australia and South Sulawesi.
Already the people-to-people links between our two countries are quite inspiring, and particularly in the area of educational exchange. There are currently 17,000 Indonesian students studying in Australian universities - 17,000 across Australia. A number of them are there because of scholarships awarded by the Australian Government, particularly in postgraduate courses, but many of them are there because they know they will receive a high quality qualification from a high quality institution.
In the area of cooperation between universities, as the Rector mentioned, Hasanuddin University has a number of connections with universities in Australia including the Australian National University in Canberra and Griffith University in Queensland. I mention this particularly because students here can now obtain a dual degree in public health from Griffith University in Queensland and Hasanuddin University.
In the vocational education sector, we see that enrolments in Australian institutions have increased by 22 per cent from Indonesia in recent times. We’re also told that of the Indonesian students studying abroad, about 25 per cent are studying in Australia. In the vocational and technical education sector, students are undertaking courses in business and management, food and hospitality, so the business owners, the entrepreneurs of the future in Indonesia, are obtaining their qualifications in Australia today.
There are other areas where Australia and Indonesia have very close people-to-people links. For example, in tourism, Australia is one of the top ten destinations for Indonesians seeking a holiday overseas and one million Australians came to Indonesia as a tourist last year. The Australian tourists are now spending longer here, and are spending more money here. In fact last year Australian tourists spent almost $AUD2.5 billion in Indonesia. I believe that the opportunities for us to expand the tourism trade are enormous.
We are also seeing greater connections between the creative, enterprising people of Australia and the creative, enterprising people of Indonesia. At last year’s Jakarta Fashion Week, almost half the winners were fashion designers who had honed their craft at Australian fashion institutions.
The animated Indonesian film ‘The Battle of Surabaya’ was in fact mainly produced in Australia, bringing together the wonderful ability of Indonesians to tell a story and the technical capabilities of Australian film production.
There’s always been a great intellectual curiosity about Indonesia in Australia. It’s a little known fact that our National Gallery in Canberra houses the largest collection of Indonesian textiles anywhere in the world, and the National Library in Canberra houses the largest collection of Indonesian literature anywhere in the world.
You might find this rather fascinating – we have collected over 250 media publications, that is, from separate media organisations – all of their publications, all of their papers – since 1945. We’ve also collected all of the political material of every political party in Indonesia’s history since 1945. It is a treasure trove of information about Indonesia for researchers and academics and it’s a collection that we value very much.
So what does this mean for Makassar and South Sulawesi? I believe the time is right for us to make connections between the cities and states of Australia and the cities and provinces of Indonesia of . We have a platform in the national engagement between the Australian Government and the Indonesian Government, but at another level there’s an enormous opportunity for us to engage and get to understand each other and respect each other.
We chose Makassar as a place to open our third mission – we have the Embassy in Jakarta, we have a Consulate in Bali and now in Makassar – because we see Makassar as the gateway to Indonesia. The gateway to eastern Indonesia, and a great opportunity for us to increase the economic ties, the trade, investment and commerce. That means greater economic growth, that means more jobs, particularly for young people in this part of Indonesia.
We know that South Sulawesi is thriving. The GDP here is growing faster than the national average. GDP growth in Indonesia is about 5 per cent; it’s predicted to be 7.5 per cent here in South Sulawesi.
As we drove here this afternoon, it was evident that the sea port, the waterfront is being enhanced. I’m told that international flights are increasing, there is significant private sector investment, infrastructure is increasing, income levels are rising. So this is a very exciting place for Australia to engage.
We want to see more connections between our institutions, our universities – I know that there are about 20 universities here in South Sulawesi, many have networks with Australian universities but there’s more we can do to exchange researchers, academics, administrators as well as students.
Australia has established a student study scheme called the New Colombo Plan. Back in the 1950s there was an original program called the Colombo Plan - because the agreement was signed in Colombo - and it brought students from the region to study in Australian universities. Over 30 years about 40,000 students from our region lived and studied in Australian universities. When I became Foreign Minister in 2013, I decided it was time for the Government to support Australian students living and studying in universities in our region. We commenced a program called the New Colombo Plan - not very original but at least people knew that the program was about student exchange – and under the New Colombo plan we established a pilot program for 2014 to see how challenging it would be to arrange for Australian students to study in universities the region. So we selected four locations: Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia. I must say the Indonesian Government welcomed this initiative with open arms. And now the New Colombo Plan, after the success of the pilot, has been rolled out across 38 nations in the Asia-Pacific. By the end of this year, just three years after commencement, about 2,000 Australian students will have studied and lived in Indonesia under the New Colombo Plan. I’ve found that Indonesia is the most popular destination for Australian students.
So I would like to see our students going to universities here in Makassar, in South Sulawesi, giving them the opportunity to get to know you, to gain qualifications from your universities, and come back to Australia with new perspectives and new ideas and new insights, and hopefully friendships and connections that will last a lifetime.
We hope that there will be more opportunities for Australian tourists to come here to see the wonderful sights, to experience the different culture and language. And we are encouraging schools to make connections. Under a program called Bridge there are Australian primary school students in a town called Geraldton in regional Western Australia who are connecting via video link with a school here in Makassar. They have joint classes and they talk to each other over Skype or video link. We need to expand that because I believe that as two close neighbours, two significant economies, two significant stakeholders in our part of the world, we need to spend more time with each other. We need to understand each other. We need to talk more often. We need to stand in each other’s shoes and see the world from each other’s perspective. I believe that if we invest in our young people we can encourage student exchange and visits between Australia and Indonesia. If we focus at the provincial and the city level as well as at the national level, if we tap into the institutions here in Indonesia, we will set up friendships and a relationship that will not only be durable in the near future but will forever endure.
That’s what I propose to do as Foreign Minister of Australia, and working closely with my female counterpart, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, I feel sure that the very best days of the Australia-Indonesia relationship lie ahead of us.
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