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Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

Morrison and Jokowi plan two visits before the end of 2019

Both Mr Joko and Mr Morrison won re-election this year, in April and May respectively, and attending the swearing in of Indonesian presidents has become something of an informal tradition for Australian prime ministers.


Former prime minister John Howard began the tradition back in 2004, when he flew in for the inauguration of then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and it was carried on by Kevin Rudd in 2009, and Tony Abbott in 2014, when Mr Joko won his first term as president.

A visit by Mr Joko to Australia after his October inauguration is also being discussed. Mr Morrison issued the invitation in Osaka.

The invitation was highlighted by Indonesia’s Foreign Minister, Retno Marsudi, who tweeted that “PM Scomo [sic] extended an invitation to President Jokowi to visit Australia this year”.

There is some discussion that Mr Joko could also be invited to address the Australian parliament, according to the sources, though no final decision has been taken.

Former president Yudhoyono became the first Indonesian leader to address Australia’s parliament in March 2010, soon after winning his second term in office.

The leaders of Australia and Indonesia hold annual meetings and it is Mr Joko’s turn to visit Australia in 2019. Three possible meetings in the space of six months, between July and December, would signal that relations have improved between the two nations since the diplomatic stoush over Australia’s possible move of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The decision to consider moving the embassy – which Mr Morrison subsequently backed down from – infuriated Indonesia’s government. Ms Retno described it as a “slap to Indonesia’s face”.

The status of Palestine is a totemic issue in Indonesian politics, and for ordinary citizens, and that anger was eased after Morrison’s decision to delay the move until after a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians is reached.

Passage of the Australia-Indonesia free trade deal through both nations’ parliaments is by no means guaranteed.

Labor and the union movement have pushed back against ratifying previous deals, while economic nationalism is an ever-present in Indonesian politics. The country’s economy is heavily protected by trade and tariff barriers, while regulations can make it difficult to do business in Indonesia.

The free trade deal between the two countries, formally known as the Indonesian-Australian Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA), will give 99 per cent of Australian exports to Indonesia either tax free entry or preferential treatment.

James Massola is south-east Asia correspondent, based in Jakarta. He was previously chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in Canberra. He has been a Walkley and Quills finalist on three occasions.