The Gillard Government’s 2011 decision to suspend live cattle exports to Indonesia should be seen as a ‘10 out of 10 as a case study in how not to deal with Indonesia’, a former Australian ambassador to Indonesia has told an international affairs audience in Melbourne.
In a distinguished public service career Bill Farmer AO served as secretary of three Australian Government departments and held multiple diplomatic postings, including positions as Australia’s Head of Mission in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, and as one of Australia’s representative to the United Nations.
In June 2011 in the wake of the controversial live export suspension he was also appointed by agriculture minister Joe Ludwig to lead an independent review of Australia’s live export trade, a review that has since led to the introduction of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance system which now underpins welfare standards in Australia’s live export markets.
In an address to the Victorian branch of the Australian Institute of International Affairs last week, Mr Farmer said Australia had to take more notice of Indonesia.
He said the 2011 live beef export decision had seriously undermined the Australian-Indonesian relationship.
“In 2011, with the flimsiest fig leaf of consultation, our Government announced the suspension of the live cattle trades to Indonesia,” Mr Farmer said, as reported by ABC television.
"This ill-conceived decision adversely affected Australian trading interests and the livelihood of thousands of Australian families.
"It undermined Australia's claims to be a reliable food supplier for the huge Indonesian populace, it played into the hands of elements in Indonesia hostile to our commercial interests, and it caused political difficulties for the Indonesian government.
"I think 10 out of 10 as a case study in how not to deal with Indonesia."