Commentary | 25 January 2012

Bipolar policy on Indonesia harms our ties

Policies separately announced by the government and opposition over the past six months toward Indonesia suggest Australia has a form of bipolar disorder, which makes it usually oblivious to its external circumstances and socially passive, but prone to unpredictable mood swings, leading to sudden bouts of extreme asocial behaviour. Once the episode is finished, it expects everyone else to carry on as if nothing's happened.

  • Michael Wesley

Policies separately announced by the government and opposition over the past six months toward Indonesia suggest Australia has a form of bipolar disorder, which makes it usually oblivious to its external circumstances and socially passive, but prone to unpredictable mood swings, leading to sudden bouts of extreme asocial behaviour. Once the episode is finished, it expects everyone else to carry on as if nothing's happened.

  • Michael Wesley

Key Findings

  • 'Both sides of politics need to come together and agree that interests as important and perpetual as Australia-Indonesia relations must never become chips to be tossed and bartered for short term electoral advantage.'
  • The government’s announcement of an end to all shipments of live cattle to Indonesia and the Opposition’s that it will turn all asylum seeker boats back to Indonesia both show a bipartisan culture of treating Australia's relationship with Indonesia with casual abandon.
  • A stable relationship between Canberra and Jakarta could change very quickly, to the great detriment of Australia.
  • It would be a useful exercise to think about the consequences of an Indonesian government as prone to domestic politics-driven bipolar mood swings as we are.