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Australian diplomacy and public attitudes towards Indonesia, 1965 to 1980

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Harris, Stephen V(Stephen Vincent) (1988) Australian diplomacy and public attitudes towards Indonesia, 1965 to 1980. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

This thesis analyses Australian policies and attitudes towards
Indonesia from 1965 to 1980. It commences with a brief outline of
relations between Australia and Indonesia before 1965. This is
followed, with a view to providing a background to the subsequent
phases of the relationship, by a survey of Indonesia's domestic and
international policies under the 'New Order'.
The thesis then canvasses Australia's rapprochement with
Indonesia following the coup in 1965. In doing so, it examines the
significance of Australia's international environment in
determining official attitudes towards Indonesia, as well as issues
related to the Australia-Indonesia relationship. With Britain's
withdrawal from the region and a vast reduction in the role of the
United States, it is argued that, because of its proximity and
strategic importance to Australia, Indonesia received particular
attention in Australian thinking about foreign policy and its
relations with the neighbouring countries of South-East and East
Asia. This was especially the case insofar as fears for our
national security continued to dominate Australia's approach to
foreign and defence policy. Hence -- and a major theme of this
thesis -- the development of a 'special relationship' was pursued
vigorously by the major Australian political parties. It became,
however, an increasingly significant and volatile component of
Australian foreign policy, because attitudes were developed and
policies resolved within an atmosphere of increasing dispute.
This thesis proceeds to consider evolving policies and
attitudes to the Australia-Indonesia relationship within the
context of specific foreign policy problems confronting Australia
in the late 1960s and 1970s. While Australia's West New Guinea
policy is examined, of catalytic influence was the mounting
domestic criticism of Australia's relations with the Suharto
government, and, in particular, the Indonesian Government's
domestic policies, which were seen to be marked by debilitating

corruption and an increasing suppression of all opposition, as well
as by a widening gap between the rich and poor. Such issues were
well documented in Australia, and they steadily alienated many
observers. It is argued that these developments in Indonesia
strengthened the position of opponents of the 'special
relationship', with the debate compelled to widen as continuing
sensitivities in the Indonesian political system gave rise by the
mid-1970s to the 'Malari Affair', the closure of newspapers,
student arrests, charges of corruption in high places and the
Pertamina scandal. Nevertheless, more immediate and tangible
interest prevailed, and the new Whitlam Labor government remained
committed to Australia's very close association with Indonesia.
Finally, this study examines Australian policy towards
Indonesia in the face of heightening domestic criticism during the
East Timor crisis. Throughout the 1975-80 period, the issue was a
constant reminder of the extent of Australia's entrenched
commitment to the 'special relationship'. It is argued that
attempts by the Australian political parties to resolve disputes
generated by this policy, significantly affected Australian
attitudes toward the Australia-Indonesia relationship as a whole.
Australia's policy consequently came under siege, with the
government under criticism, not only from Indonesia, but also from
significant sections of Australian society. Many groups and
individuals in Australia began to question the central plank of
Australia's South-East Asian policy the maintenance of a 'special
relationship' with Indonesia, particularly if it meant acceding to
the latter's wishes on all issues. Indeed, assessments began to be
made on its effectiveness and its cost. In essence, a sense of
vulnerability infused a more serious, if not sophisticated,
interest in the basis for Australian policy towards Indonesia.
Throughout this thesis it is argued that the cultivation of
Indonesia's friendship has grown from a vague notion that Australia
has had to keep on good terms with its neighbour. This stemmed
from Australia's historical obsessions with security and the

persistently argued official view that Indonesia is the linchpin of
Southeast Asian Security. However, the tendency to overstress the
security aspect of our association or to think in terms of some
need for a 'special relationship' with Indonesia, out of a concern
about Indonesia's potential to wield power and influence within the
region, was doing little other than directing Australian policy
makers towards a cul-de-sac of uncertain bilateralism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

copyright 1988 the Author. The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 1992. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 531-562)

Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2014 00:00
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2016 05:55
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