Crikey reporter Jane Nethercote writes:

As reported yesterday,
Australia and Indonesia are poised to sign a landmark security treaty.
And the idea that we wouldn’t is just “ridiculous,” says Tim Lindsey,
director of the Asian Law Centre at the University of Melbourne. “How
on earth are we going to deal with terrorism that affects our region
without a treaty?” On an ad hoc basis?

We need to have this
security pact with Indonesia, Lindsey told Crikey today. Paul Keating
had his version, now the Coalition will have theirs. It’s the
“necessary and sensible” step to take with a country that has the
world’s largest Islamic population – not to mention the fact that it’s
where the greatest number of Australian civilians have died over recent
years.

As the biggest economy in the region, Australia needs to
find a way to co-operate with Indonesia, which is set to become the
third most populous country in the world in the next decade.

As
for concerns about suggestions that the treaty will require Australia
to promise not to intervene in Indonesia’s internal affairs or
undermine its territorial integrity, they’re ill-informed, says
Lindsey. Australian forces only went into East Timor at President
Habibi’s invitation, he says – “if this hadn’t happened we wouldn’t
have gone.” To do it without an invitation “would be an act of war,”
and “Australia would never do this.”

What’s really interesting
about this aspect, says Lindsey, is that it seems to be a “real
watering down of the Howard doctrine of pre-emptive strikes” – news
which would be a significant sign to other Asian nations.

As
for suggestions that Australia shouldn’t get involved with an army that
engages in humans rights abuses, Lindsey says this is madness. “If
they’re human rights abusers then we should be training them and
working to develop a more professional armed force in Indonesia.” If
we’re not involved then we’re “doing nothing to support human rights
awareness.”

Timor didn’t become a major conflict between
Australian and Indonesian forces, he says, precisely because “the two
sides had trained together and knew each other.”

Anyway, says
Lindsey, let’s not be hypocritical. All military forces engage in human
rights abuses. If we are to say we couldn’t work with the Indonesian
army for this reason then we “wouldn’t be able to work with the
Americans. Or the British. Or anyone.”