Address at the Opening ofthe Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA)20th Biennial Conference“AsiaScape: Contesting Borders”

11/28/2014

 

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Perth, 7 July 2014
 
Professor KhrisnaSen, Winthrop Professor and Dean Faculty of Arts,
University of Western Australia
Professors, Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen
 
I am delighted and honoredto be here at the reception to mark the opening of the Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA), 20th Biennial Conference, at the University of Western Australia—one of Australia’s leading universities. I would like to thank Professor KhrisnaSen for extending her kind invitation to attend this conference, where academics and scholars from Australia and other countries gather to discuss and share their knowledge and expertise on Asia.
 
Let me take this opportunity to commend the outstanding work of ASAA in promoting Asian studies, and thus promoting better understanding on Asia here in Australia. What ASAA has done through its various programs and activities for almost 40 years, is a fine example of how the academic community can play an important role and make tremendous contributions to strengthening relations between Australia and Asia.You are the real assets that will serve as bridges in relations between Australia and Asia.
 
I acknowledge that successive governments in Australia have always expressed and emphasized their interest, desire and commitment to establishing stronger engagements with Asia. The previous Labor Government issued the White Paper of Australia in the Asian Century. Likewise, the current Coalition Government has also clearly stated that engagement with countries in the region is one of its foreign policy priorities.
 
While Australia and Asia aregeographicallyveryclose, there are differences in terms of culture and identity between the two. However,these differencesshould be viewed as an opportunity rather thanobstacles for cooperation and partnership. At the same time, these inherent differences have madethe issue of mutual trust and understandings very crucial as a foundation for a strong and durable relation. The term “trust” might be considered vague, and indeed it’s not easy to measure trust. But all of us know that trust is the most essential element in any relationship. We may have numerous exchanges and interactions, but without a strong foundation of trust, it will be difficult to have a strong and fruitful partnership.
 
The people-to-people links and ties, including through education, are what I believe to be the key in promoting mutual understanding between Australia and Asia. In this regard, I commend the Australian Government’s program New Colombo Plan – a plan to promote Asian literacy among Australian youths through education and work experience in Asian countries, including Indonesia. In our part, we have more than 17.000 Indonesians students here in Australia – and of course there are many more students from China, Korea, Japan, India, Malaysia, Vietnam and other Asian countries.
 
Indonesia's roleas a passagefor Australiatobe partof Asian Century will beparticularly relevant. Inthis regard, Indonesia has been viewed as a naturalleader inASEANandan active member of EAS, APEC, and G20. Many believe that strong relations with Indonesia will help Australia in further reaching out to the region. And as Australia’s closest neighbor, Indonesia welcomes Australia’s commitment to build deeper ties and stronger relations with Asia.
 
Australiais a partnerthatcan contribute and support economic growthand prosperityin the region.We want a region that is peaceful, stable, and prosperous where all countries can interact and cooperate toward the pursuit of common interests and goals.That’s whyweseethat thebilateralrelationbetween Indonesia andAustralia has a very strategic value.
 
Our bilateralrelationsin thepast decade has been strong andsolid, covering various areas–political, security, defense, trade and investment, education, agriculture along with other sectors. Yes, from time to time there has been some ups and downs and distractions in our bilateral relations - including the recent issue of intelligence and surveillance activities. It is also true that there remain issues of mutual understanding and trust between our two nations and peoples. But all those issues and challenges will not prevent us from moving forward.
 
Ibelievethis situationwillserve asalearning processthatwill hopefully makeour relationshipmorematureandstronger.The history of our relationship has proventhat IndonesiaandAustraliahasbeen able to get throughthe challengestime and again to rebuild a stronger relationship. As for Indonesia, we are committed to nurture the relation based onmutual respect and mutual trust.
 
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
Before I conclude my remarks, let me share a little bit about the domestic politics of Indonesia. Many of you might be following closely the general elections in Indonesia this year. The day after tomorrow, 9 July, more than 180 millions Indonesians will go to polling stations all over the country to vote for their new President.
 
There has been a lot of discussion here in Australia about the outcome, whether it will beJokowi or Prabowo who will come on top. As an Indonesian, I am sure the people will not only choose the best candidate, but most importantly, they will make sure that the new president serves the country best, upholding the Constitution, strengthening our democracy and will always fight for the betterment of governance. I am sure that the new President will share the convictions by the people of Indonesian that as neighboringcountries, there is nootheroptionfor IndonesiaandAustraliathanhaving a strong friendship and partnership – for the benefit of the countries, the region, and the world.
 
I wish you all the very best for your deliberations at this conference.
 
Thank you.