Lock up your resources, the Aussies are coming

Mar 12, 2023
Australia and Indonesia flag together realtions textile cloth fabric texture

Ignorance and fear can be effective weapons in a manipulative politician’s arsenal. They’re guaranteed to pierce the armour of those least protected by doubt and most susceptible to flannel.

‘High tension’ and ‘social unrest’ are likely during the upcoming Indonesian presidential election campaign according to Moody’s investors’ service.

That was the case in the 2019 election when Prabowo Subianto – who is standing again – said during a televised debate that terrorist attacks in Indonesia were caused by non-Muslims disguised as Muslims.

He cited a 2015 US Sci-fi novel Ghost Fleet as proof of overseas plotters planning the disintegration of Indonesia by 2030, pandering to the superstitious susceptible to prophecies.

Education can be a useful shield against stirrers if well fitted. But that’s not the case in Indonesia where schools and unis rarely teach the value of open inquiry; religion and nationalism are usually off-limits.

The Republic ranks 68 for a ‘well developed education system’ among 85 countries measured, according to a US News survey.

Australians are being told by arms industry alarmists and their cheerleaders that the threats are so great we must spend more on devices to destroy, so less on health, education, welfare and other services to build.

Tanks, drones, subs and missiles will supposedly frighten away cravers for our continent, as though a country of 26 million with few smokestacks can repel a highly-industrialised superpower with 1.46 billion citizens – a ratio of one to 56 – and the capacity to lob a Dongfeng-41 ICBM into Canberra.

Indonesia no longer has red under beds as an estimated half-million were literally dragged out and butchered more than 50 years ago in a genocide, though their ghosts lurk ready to be revived come election time.

Not because Beijing might invade Taiwan – a possibility that bothers few Indonesians protected by a rigid no-sides foreign policy – but because the Chinese carry the virus of a godless ideology.

Those demonising the Middle Kingdom for electoral gain have to watch their words, for their country owes more than US $17 billion to its biggest trading partner.

The death of a worker in January on a Chinese-run nickel smelter has aroused the ‘spectre of political opportunists exploiting anti-Chinese sentiments’ according to a Channel News Asia commentary.

A scapegoat less likely to impose sanctions or rip apart the economy by banning imports isn’t red, but green and gold.

The Indonesian ballot won’t be till next February, but we’re already being set up as the fall guys. Some tactics seem laughable to us, though not to the gullible.

Agence France-Presse reports multiple videos that have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube and Facebook falsely claim Indonesia and Australia are at war over the ownership of Ashmore Reef’.

The four low-lying uninhabited islets known to Indonesians as Pulau Pasir (sand islands) are 320 km off the WA coast but 144 km south of the Indonesian island of Rote. This is the base of traditional fishers who work the area although it’s supposed to be a marine park.

An AFP fact check adds that foreign ministry officials confirm the reef belongs to Australia. But the unknown sources of the slander aren’t letting facts spoil a good scare when votes are for turning.

The videos are ragbags of news clips and dramatic shots of bombings, but they’ll excite the paranoid and will probably get better made as the campaign advances.

The anti-Oz narrative runs roughly like this: Australia initiated the 1999 referendum on East Timor which led to its breakaway from Indonesia. Now foreign miners want to drive their Haulpaks into West Papua, steal its mineral wealth and make the province independent.

These imaginations get reinforced by recalls of Aussie spies tapping the phones of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife Ani in 2013. Our furious neighbours saw this as proof of malice.

Two years later our protests against the death penalty for two of the Bali Nine heroin runners showed we were soft on crime. The executions delighted the Indonesian populace long saturated by ‘war on drugs’ propaganda into believing that shooting offenders stops the evil trade.

The AUKUS eight nuclear-powered subs deal is worrying Jakarta fearing an arms race, though these steel fish are unlikely to be slipping through the Riau Archipelago this decade. China currently has 79 subs and is building more.

A more immediate concern are the estimated 35 US facilities now being readied to refuel and replenish B52 bombers, and the 2,500 Marines already on rotation through the Top End.

To understand how Indonesians feel about neighbours preaching friendship while pointing weapons their way, imagine our terror if China built a base on Sumba island, less than 1,000 km from Broome.

Then we’d have a Southeast Asian version of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis when the then Soviet Union tried to deploy ballistic missiles too close to the US for Washington’s comfort.

Despite government showers of cliches about warm relationships, Australia isn’t well understood. Much is our fault.

A survey last year by the Australia-Indonesia Centre and reported by the Indonesian Islamic University ‘shows that Australian history, culture and politics ranked as the least-interesting aspects for Indonesians to learn about Australia.’

‘Indonesian media do not treat Australia as a priority for news coverage. The latest Australian election was reported only once a week, whereas the US election received daily coverage.’

Despite proximity the two nations share little. The colonial Dutch legacy doesn’t include English or cricket. Both have helped PM Anthony Albanese find common ground in his trip this month to India.

Potential presidential candidate and former Jakarta Governor Dr Anies Baswedan has been in Australia urging more people-to-people contacts, though failing to offer ways and means.

So don’t expect less nonsense about us whoever runs for Indonesia’s top job. Telling the electorate to trust its neighbour won’t win votes. Shouting ‘beware’ can be more effective.

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