Indonesia-Australia ties priority for both Presidential candidates

Indonesia-Australia ties priority for  both Presidential candidates
Indonesia's presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo (L) shakes hands with his opponent Prabowo Subianto after a debate in Jakarta June 15, 2014.

Presidential candidate Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Prabowo Subianto agreed during their third presidential debate on Sunday evening that establishing mutual trust was a prerequisite for rebuilding Indonesia-Australia relations, which nose-dived after revelations of the wiretapping of a number of high-ranking Indonesian officials by Australia's intelligence agency emerged last year.

The statements came in the question and answer session, during which Jokowi asked Prabowo to share his thoughts on why Indonesia-Australia relations were so rocky.

Responding to the question, Prabowo said there was no problem between Indonesia and Australia.

"But Australia tends to see us as a threat and has a kind of phobia […] and if elected, I'd be committed to improving relations between Indonesia and Australia," said Prabowo.

In late 2013, it was revealed that Australia wiretapped President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife in 2009, raising tensions between the two countries.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's visit to Batam in early June was the first encounter between Yudhoyono and his Australian counterpart since the revelation of the case.

Jokowi said that to rebuild the trust, Indonesia and Australia must increase communication and exchanges between governments, business players and people.

"Indonesia is still seen as a weak country and does not receive as much respect as it deserves.

Gaining respect from other countries must be a priority for the next Indonesian president," he said.

Relations between the two countries took a nose-dive shortly after Abbott's Conservative Party-led coalition won the election in September last year, defeating the incumbent Labor Party, whose governments have been traditionally favoured by Indonesia.

One of Abbott's policies included taking a much tougher stance against undocumented migrants trying to enter Australia by boat through Indonesian waters.

The wiretapping of Yudhoyono, his wife Ani Yudhoyono and several top officials worsened the situation, outraging the President, who then suspended Indonesia's military and police cooperation with Australia and recalled Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Nadjib Riphat Kesoema.

The ambassador returned to his post in Canberra in May, following reduced tensions between the two countries.

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