Leading article Australia

Triumph in Jakarta

5 October 2013

9:00 AM

5 October 2013

9:00 AM

Walking into the gilt opulence of the ‘Credentials Room’ of the Istana Merdeka palace in Jakarta, our new Prime Minister glanced surreptitiously down at the floor to ensure he ‘hit his mark’, as actors say, stopping in precisely the right spot to face the cameras for the official photos of his final meeting with President Yudhoyono. As a metaphor for the entire visit the moment was apt; he hadn’t put a foot wrong.

Mind you, Tony Abbott’s trip to Jakarta could not afford any missteps or stumbles. Potential banana skins lay everywhere, particularly surrounding the three key issues of border protection, live cattle exports and Indonesian investment in Australian land.

Of the three, it was understandably border protection and its many manifestations that most excited the press and the peculiar triumvirate of Labor MPs (one acting, the other two candidates) who occupy the role of Opposition leader. Barely able to contain their gleeful outrage, they appeared desperate to see Mr Abbott brought to his knees in the face of Indonesian realpolitik. Meanwhile, the airwaves were full of hysterical talk about such matters as the Julie Bishop and Marty Natalegawa incident at the UN the previous week, where minutes of their private meeting were ‘accidentally’ released, Alexander Downer’s outburst on sovereignty, the implausibility of towing or turning back boats, the semantics of both and so on.

As befits an ‘adult’ government, however, Mr Abbott showed both his strength of character and purpose as well as his understanding of ‘saving face’, the most prized assets in South-east Asian diplomacy. Promising that his overriding goals were stopping the boats no matter what it takes while maintaining good relations with our nearest neighbour may be a big ask, but in spelling it out with clarity and determination Mr Abbott earned the respect for Australia that our previous government self-evidently squandered.


Indeed, apologising on several occasions for the juvenile behaviour of his predecessors was a masterstroke, allowing Australia to appear both a good, contrite neighbour as well as a loyal and trustworthy friend for the future. After all, messing with Indonesia’s food supply at the behest of the ABC’s Four Corners was rightly perceived as a profound insult and threat by the Indonesians, with us displaying a childishness and stupidity that has blighted our relationship ever since.

On Indonesian investment in Australian cattle-grazing land, only time will tell if Mr Abbott is as skilful a negotiator in his own party room as he has proven to be outside of it. It is reasonable to assume that a nod and a wink towards some sort of land-buying agreement was the ‘sugar on the table’ that persuaded the Indonesians to co-operate more fully with Australia on stopping the boats.

Yet again, Labor and their media mates underestimated Tony Abbott. His maiden visit to Indonesia was a success that will bear fruit for many years to come. He hit his mark and scored a foreign policy triumph. Keep the sharp objects away from Kevin Rudd.

Saint Julia

In the week the canonisations of John Paul II and John XXIII were announced, a multitude of the faithful assembled in Sydney and Melbourne to confirm the canonisation of our own Saint Julia. With the High Priestess of Feminism Anne Summers performing the rituals, an adoring congregation came to bear witness to the suffering and deification of Labor’s newest martyr.

As with any convoluted beliefs system, a certain amount of rewriting of inconvenient facts was necessary to assuage residual guilt on the part of the true believers. Thus, we learnt that it was morally acceptable for Julia to betray Kevin because she did so in the interests of the Labor party, yet it was diabolical of Kevin to betray Julia because he did so, er, against the interests of the Labor party.

We also learnt that the handwritten notes to that holiest of writs, the Misogyny Speech, have been preserved like some medieval toenail or other such relic. Which is unsurprising, because the ‘gendered abuse’ supposedly heaped upon Ms Gillard has become the ‘burden’ she had to carry throughout the travails of her beatific period in office.

Most fascinating of all was Ms Gillard justifying her opposition to same-sex marriage without upsetting the faithful. Thus, in a promulgation worthy of the Council of Nicaea, marriage itself has now become the villain, with the blessed Ms Gillard unwilling to inflict such a perfidious institution upon her most ardent followers.

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