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Letís just get over it

By Duncan Graham - posted Monday, 15 July 2013


Australia and Japan have been mightily abusing each other.  The slander has been offensive, strident and public.

The issue involves trade and traditions, sovereign rights and national identity – volatile ingredients where one spark can ignite major international incidents.

Yet no credible observer has suggested the nasty accusations made by both sides in the International Court of Justice over Australia’s bid to stop Japanese whalers will lead to conflict.  Expect nothing more serious than harsh newspaper editorials.

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There’ll be no greasing of M 16s. We’ll buy Toyotas; they’ll eat Queensland beef cooked with Pilbara gas. They’ll cuddle koalas and our love of sushi will be unstoppable.

This is what ‘mature relationships’ means.  Like a good cross-cultural marriage we can disagree and speak truths, but still share the same bed provided there’s mutual respect.

Will such a happy union ever exist between Australia and Indonesia? Not without some radical changes in both countries’ behaviour.

 Indonesia Country Strategy- Towards 2025 released by PM Kevin Rudd in Jakarta this month (July) glows with feel-good jargon and happy snaps of diplomats in batik.

The Strategy tells us that there are lots of Indonesians; they’re young, have cash and live nearby.  Also they use Facebook and Twitter. 

Important had Indonesia invented the technology, but mall rats rating boyfriends on smartphones is awesomely insignificant – though teens would disagree.

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Commented The Jakarta Post editor Meidyatama Suryodiningrat: ‘the report often feels like a quick list of remedies that do little to address fundamental problems that will colour the relationship’. 

Of course we should get to know each other better.  What’s the problem? Here’s the Strategy’s mixed metaphor answer, highlighting why the issues are too important to be left to officials:

‘The challenge for governments will be to strengthen our bilateral architecture by deepening people-to-people engagement.’  

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About the Author

Duncan Graham is a Perth journalist who now lives in Indonesia in winter and New Zealand in summer. He is the author of The People Next Door (University of Western Australia Press) and Doing Business Next Door (Wordstars). He blogs atIndonesia Now.

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All articles by Duncan Graham

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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