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High stakes as Australian PM visits Jakarta
There are high stakes for Tony Abbott's first visit to Jakarta as Australian prime minister.

Indonesia has rejected Australia's plans to 'turn back the boats' to address the influx of asylum seekers, but the Australian government has shown no willingness to reconsider its position.
Transcript
JIM MIDDLETON, PRESENTER: There are high stakes for Tony Abbott's first visit to Jakarta as Australian Prime Minister.

Indonesia has rejected Australia's plans to 'turn back the boats' to address the influx of asylum seekers, but the Australian Government has shown no willingness to reconsider its position.

Political editor Catherine McGrath reports from Canberra.

CATHERINE MCGRATH, REPORTER: Before election 2013, Tony Abbott was talking tough and announced a military plan to turn back asylum seeker vessels to Indonesia.

TONY ABBOTT, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: This is our country and we determine who comes here.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: Mr Abbott also wants an ongoing good relationship with Indonesia. It is a position he's confirmed as Prime Minister, even though Indonesia has again rejected Australia's plans to turn back the boats.

TONY ABBOTT: The important thing to remember is that Australia has a very good relationship with Indonesia. We have in the past worked very constructively together to stop this problem. We are even now working very well together with the Indonesians but we can do better in the future.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: Australia's discovering that executing the new asylum seeker plan and building a better and stronger relationship with Indonesia is difficult to do simultaneously.

Australia and Indonesia already have strong ties but top of the agenda at this meeting will be relationship building. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is finishing his time as leader and Indonesia goes to the polls in 2014.

The country is facing a generational change in leadership next year. Australia's new Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has to build the relationship with his Indonesian counterpart now.

The biggest danger for Australia in Indonesia is relevance. Indonesia's an enormous country with an economy that by 2020 will be larger than Australia's. It's actually up to Australia to see it isn't left behind as Indonesia grows, and left wondering why it didn't make more of the opportunities.

Indonesian strategic and political expert, Philips Vermonte, says Indonesians don't know enough about Australia, and don't understand where Australia is contributing to Indonesian life.

PHILIPS VERMONTE, CENTRE FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, JAKARTA: I think Australia has been a good friend of Indonesia. AusAID, Australian development agencies, AusAID I think now is the largest donor to many development programs in Indonesia. The problem is that not many Indonesians realise that. They still cite that it's US aid or donors from European countries.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: On the agenda for the upcoming meeting between the two leaders will be how the two countries can work together to stem the flow of asylum seeker boats.

PHILIPS VERMONTE We understand that there are issues of concern from the Australian side that is the non-traditional security issues - the immigration, illegal trafficking and so on. I think that should be put on the table without the tone of kind of patronising, you know, Indonesia. I believe it will help Australia because it is also the interests of Indonesia. Indonesia is also suffering from illegal immigrants on their way to Australia, and I think it's in the interests of the two countries to find a better solution to the problem.

PROF HAL HILL, AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY: The good news is Mr Abbott has said he wants a foreign policy more focused on Jakarta than Geneva. That's very encouraging. The challenge is going to be, we haven't yet seen whether the new government is willing to broaden its agenda to the issues which are important for Indonesia not just important for Australia.

Looking at refugees, looking at young Australians in jail in Bali, looking at the cattle trade, issues we're focused on, are really pretty minor issues on the Indonesian landscape. So the need is going to be to understand the Indonesian agenda and that's the way a constructive bilateral relationship will work.

CATHERINE MCGRATH: In terms of ongoing relationships, the president won't be in office much longer, but the foreign minister is expected to remain. The relationship between Julie Bishop and Marty Natalegawa will be crucial for Australia's future.
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