Prime Minister Julia Gillard and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono met in Darwin last week for the second Annual Leaders' Meeting. Headline items included:
- * People smuggling and President Yudhoyono's call for the release of 54 Indonesian boat crew members identified as underage;
- * Calls for an expanded economic relationship with President Yudhoyono proposing a target of two-way trade of US$15 billion by 2015;
- * PM Gillard announced an expansion of the work and holiday visa annual quota for Indonesians from 100 to 1000;
- * Australia announcing the gifting of four Hercules aircraft to Indonesia, while joint Australian-Indonesia-US disaster relief exercises with potential Chinese involvement were again foreshadowed, after President Yudhoyono first proposed inviting China and other countries to joint exercises last November.
For further details of the meeting, you can access the joint communique.
Indonesia is Southeast Asia's leading democracy, albeit one with problems, and it has established an increasingly outward looking foreign policy under President Yudhoyono. Its economy is the largest in Southeast Asia, and has established Indonesia as a G20 member. Although reducing poverty remains an important priority, rapid economic growth has also seen the emergence of an expanding middle class in Indonesia.
Although Australia and Indonesia engage in broad and increasingly institutionalised security cooperation, many citizens of each country know very little about the other nation, and public opinion in Australia towards Indonesia has been consistently lukewarm. As Indonesia grows in power, broadening and deepening the bilateral relationship will only grow in importance.
We've gathered together research and commentary on the Australia-Indonesia relationship by the Lowy Institute's experts here. You can also access the recent debate on Australia-Indonesia relations on the Lowy Interpreter blog via this link.