University Of Tasmania
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Australian diplomacy and public attitudes towards Indonesia, 1965 to 1980

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posted on 2023-05-26, 23:53 authored by Harris, SV
This thesis analyses Australian policies and attitudes towards Indonesia from 1965 to 1980. It commences with a brief outline of relations between Australia and Indonesia before 1965. This is followed, with a view to providing a background to the subsequent phases of the relationship, by a survey of Indonesia's domestic and international policies under the 'New Order'. The thesis then canvasses Australia's rapprochement with Indonesia following the coup in 1965. In doing so, it examines the significance of Australia's international environment in determining official attitudes towards Indonesia, as well as issues related to the Australia-Indonesia relationship. With Britain's withdrawal from the region and a vast reduction in the role of the United States, it is argued that, because of its proximity and strategic importance to Australia, Indonesia received particular attention in Australian thinking about foreign policy and its relations with the neighbouring countries of South-East and East Asia. This was especially the case insofar as fears for our national security continued to dominate Australia's approach to foreign and defence policy. Hence -- and a major theme of this thesis -- the development of a 'special relationship' was pursued vigorously by the major Australian political parties. It became, however, an increasingly significant and volatile component of Australian foreign policy, because attitudes were developed and policies resolved within an atmosphere of increasing dispute. This thesis proceeds to consider evolving policies and attitudes to the Australia-Indonesia relationship within the context of specific foreign policy problems confronting Australia in the late 1960s and 1970s. While Australia's West New Guinea policy is examined, of catalytic influence was the mounting domestic criticism of Australia's relations with the Suharto government, and, in particular, the Indonesian Government's domestic policies, which were seen to be marked by debilitating corruption and an increasing suppression of all opposition, as well as by a widening gap between the rich and poor. Such issues were well documented in Australia, and they steadily alienated many observers. It is argued that these developments in Indonesia strengthened the position of opponents of the 'special relationship', with the debate compelled to widen as continuing sensitivities in the Indonesian political system gave rise by the mid-1970s to the 'Malari Affair', the closure of newspapers, student arrests, charges of corruption in high places and the Pertamina scandal. Nevertheless, more immediate and tangible interest prevailed, and the new Whitlam Labor government remained committed to Australia's very close association with Indonesia. Finally, this study examines Australian policy towards Indonesia in the face of heightening domestic criticism during the East Timor crisis. Throughout the 1975-80 period, the issue was a constant reminder of the extent of Australia's entrenched commitment to the 'special relationship'. It is argued that attempts by the Australian political parties to resolve disputes generated by this policy, significantly affected Australian attitudes toward the Australia-Indonesia relationship as a whole. Australia's policy consequently came under siege, with the government under criticism, not only from Indonesia, but also from significant sections of Australian society. Many groups and individuals in Australia began to question the central plank of Australia's South-East Asian policy the maintenance of a 'special relationship' with Indonesia, particularly if it meant acceding to the latter's wishes on all issues. Indeed, assessments began to be made on its effectiveness and its cost. In essence, a sense of vulnerability infused a more serious, if not sophisticated, interest in the basis for Australian policy towards Indonesia. Throughout this thesis it is argued that the cultivation of Indonesia's friendship has grown from a vague notion that Australia has had to keep on good terms with its neighbour. This stemmed from Australia's historical obsessions with security and the persistently argued official view that Indonesia is the linchpin of Southeast Asian Security. However, the tendency to overstress the security aspect of our association or to think in terms of some need for a 'special relationship' with Indonesia, out of a concern about Indonesia's potential to wield power and influence within the region, was doing little other than directing Australian policy makers towards a cul-de-sac of uncertain bilateralism.


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Copyright 1988 the author. The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 1992. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 531-562).

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