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Debates

Australian journalism in Southeast Asia

9 Mar 2010 08:04

Fergus notes the luke-warm feelings Australians have for Indonesia (reciprocated by Indonesians). One of the explanations of this attitude is the carping, condescending and critical tone of Australian journalistic commentary on Indonesia.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's problems with parliament have been consistently reported here as being about corruption in the rescue of the mid-tier Bank Century while Indonesia was caught up in the backwash of the Global Financial Crisis in late 2008.

In fact, the story is one of pure politics. One parliamentary faction wants to unseat the reformist Vice-President so that they can have his job. Another faction wants to roll the Minister of Finance, because her success in reforming corporate taxation and governance is threatening their commercial interests.

COMMENTS

12 Mar 2010 14:50

Greg Earl is the Asia Pacific editor at the Australian Financial Review.

After almost 20 years of writing about Indonesia I’ll take Stephen Grenville’s admonition for being ‘carping, condescending and critical’ on the chin. At least I can use it as evidence for the defence next time I’m accused of being a member of the Indonesia Lobby.

But split personalities aside, Stephen’s familiar criticism of Australian journalists does raise a few issues after a week of debate about the bilateral relationship which began right here with Fergus Hanson’s work.

There could be more diverse coverage of Indonesia (including by my newspaper which doesn’t have a staff correspondent there any more) and I lament the fact there are often more Australian journos in the Bali courts these days than in Jakarta, let alone places like Sumatra. But there are still far more Australian reporters in Indonesia than Indonesian reporters here.

COMMENTS

15 Mar 2010 12:20

President Yudhoyono's speech to Parliament (p.29) last week is a remarkable document that makes uneasy reading. 

Rudd welcomed SBY with a routine speech of mutual self-congratulation for having such a splendid relationship (p.27 of the above document). SBY responded with a sophisticated, frank and at times stern analysis of a relationship which is still very vulnerable to mutual mistrust, and still falls far short of its potential. The contrast was stark. 'We should not be complacent', SBY said. 'The worst step we can take is to take this partnership for granted.' It almost sounded as if he was reprimanding the Prime Minister.

The heart of SBY's speech was a warning about the dangers posed by the perceptions that Indonesians and Australians have of one another. He could not have been more blunt:

COMMENTS

17 Mar 2010 10:27

Geraldine Doogue is host of ABC Radio National's Saturday Extra program.

In the debate over how to boost comprehensive coverage of modern Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, I favour a new journalistic emphasis: seeking out shared dilemmas.

Instead of the tried-and-true policy of highlighting key differences, why not encourage more curiosity around common middle-class vexations? There's plenty to work with and fresh angles are going begging.

Of course we would need to lose our sentimental attachment to the 'exotic East' stereotype, hardly something to grieve over. Anyway, it could linger in the background to be legitimately mined, given the significant differences in the scale of challenge facing the two different communities. 

But concentrating on similar problems, especially among urban dwellers, would surely lead to a much truer representation of contemporary lives. This could assist a better national conversation that would ultimately buttress sensible inter-country dialogue.

COMMENTS