"The bilateral relationship over the next 10 months ahead of Indonesia's elections will be, at best, cool."This then raises the second driver; Abbott's diplomatic skills. His comments in Parliament were seen to diminish the importance of the matter and thus entrenched a pre-existing antipathy from Yudhoyono. Abbott had already alienated Indonesia’s political leadership while in opposition, with his "turn back the boats" policy playing very poorly in Jakarta. This was made worse during his September visit to Bali, when he showed up late for two functions and excluded the Indonesia media from a press conference. Yudhoyono was said to have made sure he did not sit next to Abbott at the APEC summit dinner. Indonesia's media, insulted by their exclusion, now regard Abbott as fair game. Moreover, Abbott's front-footed political style goes down poorly in Indonesia, where it is regarded as coarse. This "coarse" perception was made worse by government pollster Mark Textor tweeting "that bloke who looks like a 1970s Filipino porn star", understood as referring to Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa. The third and now most important driver in the bilateral relationship is that Yudhoyono and his Democratic Party have been tracking poorly in polls and he is seen as a weak leader. Although he cannot stand for re-election in the presidential elections next year, he wants to anoint a successor. To do so, he needs to be seen to be strong. Standing up to Australia is, now, not just an easy option but a necessary one. It's also necessary for the rest of the field of likely candidates in the elections. None are as well-disposed towards Australia as Yudhoyono has been and all have jumped on the nationalist, anti-Australia band-wagon. Regardless of Abbott's letter to Yudhoyono, the negative perception of Australia will now not come off Indonesia's nationalist agenda. The bilateral relationship over the next 10 months ahead of Indonesia's elections will be, at best, cool. Depending on the outcome of those elections, Australia's relationship with the growing regional economic and strategic power could turn even colder. * Professor Damien Kingsbury is Director of the Centre for Citizenship, Development and Human Rights at Deakin University
Abbott, that ‘coarse’ diplomat, is in an Indonesian pickle
It is becoming increasingly clear is that Australia's close relationship to Indonesia, developed especially since Yudhoyono has been in office and at its strongest just a couple of months ago, may remain in reverse for a lot longer to come.