Australian PM signals stronger ties with Indonesia on security, climate

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (left) and Indonesian President Joko Widodo ride bicycles around the presidential palace grounds in Bogor on June 6, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (left) and Indonesian President Joko Widodo during a news conference following their meeting in Bogor on June 6, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese heralded a deepened relationship with close neighbour Indonesia on Monday (June 6), pledging stronger cooperation on trade, security and climate change during his first bilateral visit since being elected last month.

Before the formal talks began, Mr Albanese accompanied his host, President Joko Widodo, for a ride through the presidential palace in Bogor on bamboo bicycles. 

Stressing the importance of engaging with South-east Asia’s largest economy, Australia’s new prime minister brought a high-profile business delegation to Indonesia, along with Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Trade Minister Don Farrell. 

“Indonesia is on track to be one of the world’s five largest economies,” said Mr Albanese. “Revitalising our trade and investment relationship is a priority for my government.” 

The government would work together to realise the potential of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA), he said, and also offer technical expertise for the development of Indonesia’s planned new green and high-tech capital, Nusantara. 

Mr Albanese reiterated a A$470 million (S$466 million) pledge over four years for overseas development in Indonesia and the region, a A$200 million climate and infrastructure partnership with Indonesia, and the creation of a new South-east Asia office in Australia’s department of foreign affairs. 

“True to my government’s ambitious climate targets, I want better access to affordable, reliable and secure clean energy right across our region, as we transition to a net zero world together,” he said. 

The trip comes as Australia's new Labor government, which ended almost a decade of conservative rule in a May 21 election, puts greater focus on relations with South-east Asia and climate change, an issue crucial to its Pacific neighbours, as it navigates ties with a more assertive China.

Australia’s new Malaysian-born foreign minister, who previously said Indonesia did not get the attention it deserved under the former administration, met with Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi on Sunday. 

President Jokowi, as the Indonesian leader is commonly known, emphasised the importance of the two nations strengthening their bilateral commitments amid current global challenges.

Mr Joko reiterated the importance of the strategic economic partnership and IA-CEPA, which will allow more Indonesians to work in Australia, the recent opening of a Monash University campus in greater Jakarta, and the importance of food security and sustainability. 

Mr Albanese was also scheduled to meet Mr Lim Jock Hoi, the Jakarta-based secretary-general of the 10-member Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean), before heading to Makassar in eastern Indonesia.

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