Back in February, I wrote about the inquiry by the Parliament’s Treaties Committee into Australia’s new security agreement with Indonesia. I’ve long been vocal about my concerns with human rights abuses in West Papua, but I have also tried to emphasise and encourage some of the major democratic advances Indonesia has made in recent years.
The Committee tabled its report in the Parliament today. Not surprisingly, it recommended that the Treaty be adopted, and not surprisingly, I dissented from that. Although I think it is crucial for us to have better and stronger relations with Indonesia, I think the cracks that are still there in our relationship and our (mis)understandings are simply too wide at present to satisfactorily paper over them with a treaty such as this. However, the report had four other recommendations which I thought showed some positive signs – these are detailed below. These were aimed both at encouraging more openness about West Papua and human rights, and also towards making Australians more aware of the positive changes that have been happening in Indonesia.
There is a strong tendency in Australia to be dismissive towards Indonesia’s institutions of governance, whilst ignoring the shortcomings in our own. To use a small but relevant example of how we could have some things to learn from their very new democracy, Indonesia’s Parliament actually has the power to veto or amend a Treaty like this one, while Australia’s doesn’t – our government has the power to do as it likes, regardless of what our Parliament thinks about it.
You can read the report by clicking here.
The four extra recommendations from the Committee’s report are:
The Committee recommends that the Australia Government continue to address widely expressed concerns about human rights in Indonesia with the Indonesian Government and in appropriate international fora.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government increase transparency in defence cooperation agreements to provide assurance that Australian resources do not directly or indirectly support human rights abuses in Indonesia.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government encourage the Indonesian Government to allow greater access for the media and human rights monitors in Papua.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Government engage in a campaign to increase public support for the Australia – Indonesia relationship. This campaign would have the goal of increasing awareness of the democratic reforms in Indonesia and the value to Australian security of strong relations with Indonesia.