Gary Hogan is Australia’s former Defence Attaché to Jakarta and the first Australian graduate of Indonesia’s top leadership academy, the National Resilience Institute. He is Director of National Security at KPMG Australia.
Campaigning is now in full swing for Indonesia's two-step democratic process, first to elect members of the House of Representatives in early April and then to vote directly for a new president later this year. Indonesia's vibrant free press has declared open season on the candidates, its reporting rife with claims, counter-claims, denials and promises. Pundits are busy predicting winners and losers. Horse-trading to cobble together viable coalitions is reaching fever pitch.
History shows that social unrest and political upheaval have one of two elemental causes: either empty stomachs or full stomachs. Hungry people are angry people, while a well-fed middle class looks beyond basic needs to metaphysical desires, like having a say in government.
The central security challenge of Communist China has always focused on pulling the right levers to balance central authority with economic freedom and to control the rumblings of a billion stomachs.
The men and women who operate the levers of power in Indonesia know us far better than we know them.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Cabinet contains several members with tertiary degrees earned by living and studying in Australia. Among the President's trusted advisers are men who studied economics and diplomacy at Australia's most prestigious universities. His closest colleague trained as a pilot instructor in the skies over East Sale, country Victoria.