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Jakarta Post

Australia clothes-changing season

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, May 15, 2019   /   03:00 pm
Australia clothes-changing season Flags of Indonesia and Australia with a white flag in the middle. (Shutterstock/-)

Whoever wins Australia’s May 18 federal election will be all right for Indonesia. A victory for the incumbent Prime Minister Scott Morrison with his center-right Liberal-National Coalition on Saturday would mean a continuation of the level of bilateral relations between the two members of the G20 club. And what about if Bill Shorten’s Labor Party defeats Morrison’s camp? It is very unlikely that Labor will make a major policy shift on Indonesia.

For outsiders like Indonesia, the political and economic platforms of both parties are not very different from each other. They are more focused on domestic issues, especially the economic slowdown. Foreign policy matters will be rather sidelined, although Australia is now facing a serious challenge from China. Australia is losing its traditional political, economic and security grip on smaller neighbors.

Unlike Australia, Indonesia is currently completing the process of its general election, with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo strongly tipped to win his rematch with Prabowo Subianto. On May 22, the General Elections Commission (KPU) is expected to declare Jokowi the winner and his coalition of parties will secure an outright majority in the House of Representatives. It seems a regime change is not going to happen in Indonesia.

Australia has seen six changes of prime minister over the last 12 years, and on Saturday we could see the seventh.

In response to the easy change of guard, which former PM Tony Abbott referred to as clothes changing, both Labor and the Liberals have now adopted much stricter internal rules. Labor requires the backing of 75 percent of its lawmakers to oust a sitting leader, or 60 percent while being the opposition. The Liberal camp necessitates the support of two-thirds of its legislators to replace a sitting prime minister. This means that the next prime minister will have more certainty of serving their full term.

Many Australians find it difficult to face the fact that their country is becoming less important for Indonesia than in the past. The two neighbors, however, will continue to enjoy a close friendship, as evinced in the signing of their comprehensive economic partnership last March, although Indonesia now has more choices of comrade.

Regardless of whether a regime change occurs in Australia, the country will remain a strategic partner for Indonesia.