Your Excellency Honourable Stephen Smith,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very much honoured and delighted to be here with you today. I feel I am in a close circle of friends—some old and some very new ones. In fact, my trip to Australia this time is all about friendship.
Volumes have been written about how Australian-Indonesian relations fluctuate from time to time. And it is true that there have been times when our diplomatic relations felt like a roller-coaster ride.
But during the past half decade, our bilateral relations have been quite stable. They have become much more rational than emotional. And the underlying friendship is so much more in evidence now.
That friendship, however, has always been there. Even during the most turbulent times in our diplomatic relations, there has always been a huge reservoir of goodwill for Australia and Australians among the Indonesian people.
That reservoir is not to exhaust. A bilateral crisis may rumble along and skim some goodwill from it. But the crisis must pass and when it does, the reservoir is still there and is still very substantial.
The explanation for this is simple: we Indonesians have a durable national memory. It is indelibly imprinted in our national subconscious that it was the Australian representative on the UN Security Council who, in late 1947, submitted the Indonesian revolution as a case of decolonization.
That started a string of events, which ensured the survival and subsequent universal recognition of our newly-born Republic. We will never forget that.
Nor will we forget the heroism of the members of the Australian rescue team who died while carrying out a mission to save Indonesian lives in the wake of the tsunami in Aceh in December 2004. They gave their lives to the cause of our shared humanity and to Australian-Indonesian friendship.
It helps our relations that many Australian individuals are much admired in Indonesia. I refer not only to Hollywood celebrities like Nicole Kidmann, and to intellectuals like Prof. Jamie Mackie, whose writings have led to a better appreciation of Indonesia. I refer also to many individual Australians working as volunteers to improve the lives of Indonesian communities.
One great Australian who is no longer with us is Steve Irwin, who has come to represent the lovable, ebullient and nature-caring Australian. He is a hero not only to Australians but also to every Indonesian who has access to a TV set. All of Indonesia mourned his untimely death.
Today we in Indonesia watch closely with an affectionate eye the rise of his daughter, Bindi Irwin, as an engaging celebrity and, like her late father, a personification of the Australian’s love of nature.
Of course, in spite of our friendship, we don’t agree on everything— not even in the realm of sports. To many Australians, the only sport that matters is cricket. To most Indonesians, the only sport worth talking about is soccer.
What is difficult to understand is that Indonesia, with a population of some 240 million, most of whom are crazy about soccer, cannot send a decent football team to the World Cup. While Australia, with a population of just over 20 million, most of whom are addicted to cricket, can send so formidable a team to the same World Cup.
There is no truth to the rumour, however, that I came here to pry the secret of Australia’s success in soccer.
While there may be a secret behind Australia’s success in soccer, there is no secret to the strength of Australian-Indonesian relations: it is all very clear that our friendship is a product of history.
Moreover, Mother Teresa once said: Love of God has no meaning unless you love your neighbour. You can therefore read a spiritual mandate behind Australian-Indonesian friendship.
On top of that, it makes a great deal of common sense for two neighbours that share common ideals of democracy, human rights and good governance, to reach out to each other in friendship and help each other, while contributing to the stability and prosperity of the larger neighbourhood—the region.
That is what we have done in the past. We will do more of it and do it even better in the months and years ahead. We have just strengthened the mechanisms for that purpose today.
But important as they are, diplomatic mechanisms alone will not do the job. There has to be human goodwill— and many friendships at work.
It matters a lot, therefore, that a strong rapport instantly developed between Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono when they met in Bali a few weeks ago.
And it matters a lot that during this visit of mine, I have struck such a friendship with Foreign Minister Stephen Smith that I feel so much like an “old mate” of his.
I am confident that this new friendship will stand the test of time and the vicissitudes of international affairs—because this friendship is absolutely “fair dinkum.” Just like the friendship between Australia and Indonesia.
I thank you.