My mind has been churning since I published “Who can we believe?” yesterday. The comments on that article and interaction on Twitter made me delve deeper into the potential for conflict, which we should avoid at all costs.
I have always held grave concerns about the impact Abbott’s religious fervor has on his decision-making. As I am an avowed atheist, I do try to temper my concerns but it has been difficult. Abbott’s declaration that all children should read the bible, his attitude to women as the little woman in her place in life doing the ironing and his attitude to non-white, non-christian asylum seekers has worried me (and many others) for some time.
Even before his government was elected, essentially he was telling Indonesia what Australia would and would not do, despite Indonesia disagreeing. There seemed to be little real consultation. Abbott had an election to win, bugger the neighbours. What I detect from that is a sense of superiority over our neighbours. Let’s be real here: a good diplomat who respects his neighbouring countries as equal, doesn’t humiliate them, as if not worthy of respect. Then there was the phone tapping. Michelle Grattan wrote a very good article in November on that diplomatic screw-up.
The current situation, however, is much more serious. The disclosure that Australia tapped the phones of Yudhoyono, his wife and other senior figures has outraged Indonesia, not least because the eavesdropping is seen as a humiliation of the country.
I can only imagine how insulted Indonesia must have felt by the proposal to buy up the fishing boats.
We now discover Australia has run roughshod over Indonesia’s territorial rights. I have to ask, who the hell do we think we are? What would be our attitude if Indonesia was doing this to us?
Do we treat New Zealand this way? I suggest we never would because they are “like us”.
Indonesia has the largest Islamic population in the world, about 88% of the population.
Indonesians watched with dismay the Howard government adopt the racist anti-Asian policies proclaimed by Pauline Hanson. Aid to Indonesia was slashed in the first two Costello budgets, during the Asia’s severe economic downturn. Anti-Asian and anti-Islamic rhetoric was ramped up. Dog-whistling became the national song.
I suggest it is reasonable to hypothesise that in Abbott’s mind and the minds of some of his cabinet, Indonesians are “not like us” and “we” are the superior Judeo-Christian society a la Cory Bernardi. So we can ignore their protests and expect them to do as we say. This might not be the way it IS, but it is the way it LOOKS and our politicians need to take that into consideration, because how it looks may well determine the reaction of those looking.
Professor Mark Beeson has stated our bi-lateral trade with Indonesia is a mere 2.3% of our total trade. This is our closest neighbour, with a population ten times that of ours. Quite a market opportunity, one would think. More effective engagement would seem extremely sensible.
The reality of the situation is Indonesia now has an election looming and just as Abbott was posturing in his electioneering mode, we can expect Indonesian politicians to be in a similar mode. Here we are, this little (by population) irritant trying to boss the larger nation around. If that larger nation decided to break out the fly swat, I wouldn’t be surprised.
All it takes is a wrong word here, a misunderstanding there, to start a conflict. Someone pushes the wrong button at the wrong time and all hell breaks loose.
We need to be neighbourly. We need to stop believing we can ride roughshod over our neighbours. Before they really do decide to teach us a lesson for our dogmatism.
I will leave you with this video which was sent my way today. Our most senior man in action.