Extreme caution needed on post-execution retribution by Australia: Indonesia Institute

Ross Taylor, Indonesia Institute , 29/04/2015
Indonesia Institute president Ross Taylor, a former WA Government Regional Director to Indonesia and Vice-President of the Australia-Indonesia Business Council, is a regular commentator on Australian Indonesian relations. In the wake of the overnight executions by Indonesia of Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, Mr Taylor says the Australian Government must consider its response very carefully.
Ross Taylor, president, Indonesia Institute.

Ross Taylor, president, Indonesia Institute.

As Australians contemplate the deaths by firing squad of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran last night, attention will now turn to Australia’s response to the executions by Indonesia of two Australian citizens.

I have previously argued that when considering any sanctions or retaliation against Indonesia we must be very considered; particularly in the area of trade and business. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has already recalled Australia’s recently appointed ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson, and other sanctions are now being considered. But we must proceed with care.

Economic nationalism and isolationism is on the rise in Indonesia as the administration of Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo struggles to establish itself as a viable alternative to the government of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who retired from office last year.

Any anti-foreign sentiment that we perceive, needs to qualified. Whilst relations with a number of Western countries including particularly with Australia will be strained – and the Jokowi-lead government is showing plenty of signs of inexperience and dysfunction in foreign affairs – business and trade relations with Asia, and in particular China and Japan, continues to be extremely robust.

Walk through most business hotels in Jakarta and the number of national and ‘overseas’ Chinese business people is highly visible as they position themselves to win the bulk of the huge number of infrastructure projects set to begin over the next few years throughout the archipelago.

A ban or partial withdrawal by Australian companies from doing business in Indonesia now would hardly be noticed in Jakarta. It is us who needs the business, and it is us who must consider our response, in light of these executions, very carefully.

Indonesia’s economy is slowing down and also growing slower than some other Asean countries for the first time in years, but it still represents enormous opportunities for foreign countries who position themselves well. Indonesia also needs huge changes to its agriculture industry – that employs over 45 million people – to simply feed its people and to meet the demands of a fast-growing middle class. The opportunities for Australian companies are significant.

Our cattle industry is finally recovering from the disastrous live cattle ban by former Labor agriculture minister Joe Ludwig, and we continue to be a very significant supplier of grains into the Indonesian market. A number of large Australian companies in the services, manufacturing and resources sector enjoy a very strong presence in Indonesia, but overall the business and trade relationship has been lukewarm at best. Indonesia is today, looking north; not south.

Sanctions at a government-to-government level would be very unwise. Both Australia and Indonesia have a mutual interest in maintaining strong G-to-G links with anti-terrorism support, people smuggling and regional security including how to deal with a more ‘active’ China in our part of the World. All of this means our options are very limited in penalizing Indonesia for its decision to carryout these executions.

Rather than to precipitate a bitter ‘tit-for-tat’ response from Indonesia’s young and inexperienced government, a better way maybe to work to build the relationship with our northern neighbour and assist them to develop as a young, vibrant and hopefully civil society, that includes getting rid of not only smoking that kills hundreds of thousands of Indonesians every year, but also capital punishment.



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  1. Peter Bucknell, 30/04/2015

    I do feel sorry for the families and friends of the drug smugglers,however they didn’t feel sorry for the young people they were going to effect and if this government ruins our trade with Indonesia they are no better than Ludwig, after all they were only bloody drug smugglers.

  2. Donald brown, 29/04/2015

    I am with Ross and CHRIS on this one we need to take a deal breath and work on being a good neighbour

  3. Steve Ellison, 29/04/2015

    Every Australian who receives an Australian passport is reminded that if you travel to a foreign country you come under their laws,you are reminded of that when you get off what ever you are traveling on,when you go through their immigration.
    Maybe they can’t read. They have no leg to stand on, if you try to flaunt their laws.

  4. Chris Hughes, 29/04/2015

    Ross Taylor’s article is both measured and makes good sense. We need Indonesia far more than she needs us. As Ross points out a bitter tit- for- tat response would damage our relationship in the long term; and knowing a little about Indonesians,Javanese in particular if they felt insulted they would have little hesitation in cutting Australia off completely..
    Ross mentioned the Joe Ludwig debacle to which the Indonesian response was to stop Australian live cattle exports; a retaliatory action which had disastrous consequences on the whole of Australia’s Northern cattle and aligned rural industries.
    What the average Australian does not seem to realise is that .Indonesia is one of our nearest neighbors with 15 times our population and offers great benefits in trade if we treat them as equals and with friendly respect.

  5. Trish Brown, 29/04/2015

    Indonesia has only itself to blame if Australian companies pull out of that country that we all know is rife with corruption at the highest and lowest levels.
    Now that the Australian Ambassador has been withdrawn, anyone who goes to Indonesia will have no diplomatic protection and every Australian should be wary of this fact, especially if they still insist on holidaying in Bali.
    A new policy in Bali now prohibits beer being sold by street vendors and small business’s and the only way it can be purchased is from licenced large stores…This wont go down with beer drinkers from Australia!

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