Interview with Amanda R.U Soeleiman, Jawa Pos TV

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Visit to Sunan Ampel Mosque, Australia-Indonesia relations, trading pathways, economic growth, sustainability.

Jawa Pos TV News Anchor, Amanda R.U Soeleiman: [Foreign language spoken]

And of course joining us at the studio, our special guest for today, Mr Tim Watts MP as the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs. Hello. How are you doing today?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: [Foreign language spoken] It's a pleasure to join you here in Surabaya.

Amanda Soeleiman: Pleasure to meet you too. Now, just before we get into the tidbits of our discussions, now, we all know that for today's visit you're visiting the Sunan Ampel Mosque. Have you already tasted the culinary, the signature food over there?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Well, I arrived in Surabaya, and because Indonesia is important to Australia, and we want to understand Surabaya, because we understand that Surabaya has been such a powerful influence on the whole of Indonesia, culturally, economically, religiously, politically. So when I arrived in Surabaya, I said, "What is the one thing to do in Surabaya?" And there is only one answer: Rawon Setan.

Amanda Soeleiman: Okay. So before Sunan Ampel you were thinking about Rawon Setan in the first place?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Very, very, very much so. I met with some stakeholders here, and they told me that it was the best beef soup anywhere in the world. You know, in Foreign Affairs, I travel a lot, I see a lot of beef soup, but having tried it last night, I can say with certainty, there is no better beef soup anywhere in the world than Rawon Setan.

Amanda Soeleiman: True, couldn't agree more. Now, let's talk about your visit to Sunan Ampel Mosque, we all know that it's actually the most sacred place in the city, this morning and what is your main purpose, you know, visiting Sunan Ampel Mosque, because not many people are actually thinking of visiting that place instead of probably going to, you know, most famous place, but why Sunan Ampel as the first place.

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Well, I wanted to pay my respects to the significance of Sunan Ampel to Indonesia's history, to the cultural and religious influence of Surabaya, throughout Indonesia, and it was a real pleasure to talk with Gus Bidin about the commonalities between Australia and Indonesia.

We know that the motto of Indonesia is unity in diversity, and that's something that Australia shares as well. Half of Australians are either born overseas or have a parent born overseas, we're a home to 300 different ethnicities, and Islam is now the second biggest religion in Australia, and that flows through to every part of our society, so the Government that I'm lucky enough to be a part of, in our Cabinet, we have two ministers of the Muslim faith, Ed Husic, and Anne Aly, who regularly visit Indonesia, I might say, as well as one of newest, most dynamic and most popular senators, our youngest senator, 27 years of age [when elected] ‑

Amanda Soeleiman: 27?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: ‑ 27 years of age [when elected], Fatima Payman, who's become the first Senator in Australia to regularly wear a hijab on the floor of the Senate.

So diversity, multiculturalism is something that Australian and Indonesia share. So being able to talk about the practice of, you know, unity and diversity with Gus Bidin, at the Sunan Ampel Mosque this morning was meaningful.

Amanda Soeleiman: Great, that is awesome. Now, not only visiting to Surabaya, and Sunan Ampel but you've recently been in Semarang, for the ASEAN and EAS Economy Ministers' meeting. Could you tell us about why Australia's also participating in this event?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Well, Australia's future is tied to the region that we share, the future of the region that we share, so we want to deepen our engagement with Southeast Asia as a whole. All nations in Southeast Asia, Australia, Indonesia included, rely on a region that's peaceful, prosperous and secure, but importantly a region governed by rules, norms and international law agreed by the countries.

Now, we want to live in the region where no country dominates and no country is dominated, where sovereignty is respected. Now central to that, we believe, is ASEAN, and ASEAN‑centred institutions, we believe that ASEAN should hold the centre in our region. So it's important to Australia that we support Indonesia's role in the ASEAN Chair. We've done that throughout the different forums this year, and the Economic Ministers' meeting was another way that we could show that support, importantly on an economic priority deliverable for Indonesia, and that's the trade agreements surrounding ASEAN.

Amanda Soeleiman: Trade agreements. That's pretty interesting, Mr Tim, because all this times the relationship, the diplomatic relationship between Indonesia and Australians has always been about education right? Will it expand to other sectors, let's say industrial sectors or health sectors, probably?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Well, education is a very big part of Australia's engagement with the entire world, not just Indonesia. It's our second biggest export, and under the Indonesia‑Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement, it is a priority area for engagement, and I'm really proud, and one of the reasons that I'm here in Surabaya is that Western Sydney University will be opening a campus right here in Surabaya.

Amanda Soeleiman: Sydney University?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Western Sydney University.

Amanda Soeleiman: Oh, yes.

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Right here in Surabaya, and that's an exciting opportunity because Western Sydney University is a dynamic, innovative institution with a focus on advanced manufacturing – something that Surabaya and East Java more broadly is well known for so it's a commonality. But of course our relationship is broader than just education, and if we look at the recent meeting between Pak Jokowi and Prime Minister Albanese in Australia at the Annual Leaders' meeting, there are a number of announcements coming out of that and progress under IACEP that was discussed.

One really exciting area that I think will further develop our relationship in the future is on the response to climate change.

Amanda Soeleiman: Climate change.

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: It's a very big opportunity, and we have a $200 million climate infrastructure partnership between Australia and Indonesia, and at that Leaders' Summit meeting, there was a $50 million announcement for a fund to invest in SMEs, small and medium enterprises in Indonesia, assisting with the green transition.

Amanda Soeleiman: So it's not only going to supporting in terms of the investments but also reaching out to the SMEs.

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: That's right. I mean, I think that climate change is clearly a great challenge that our region confronts. We want to move towards net zero emissions by 2050, and we want to work with our partner countries in the region to do that, but also I think it's a big opportunity that this transition has potential to drive innovation and to create jobs and to create a next generation of economic growth.

Amanda Soeleiman: Sustainable growth.

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Sustainable growth, absolutely.

Amanda Soeleiman:

So education, and you also mentioned about climate change, and the SMEs as well. Now, President Widodo visited Australia in June, Prime Minister Albanese has visited Indonesia also several times since becoming the leader of Australia. Now, is the relationship between our countries better than it has ever been in the past?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs:

I think the relationship between our countries is incredibly strong. Now at that leader level it's obvious to anyone that watches Pak Jokowi and Prime Minister Albanese, the affection and the friendship between them, I think they genuinely like each other, and I think they see a little bit of themselves in each other, and their life stories, and you know, on their first meeting Pak Jokowi gifted Prime Minister Albanese a bamboo bike, and they rode bikes together in residential palace, and I know personally how much that meant to Prime Minister Albanese, that shared connection.

Now, that said though, a relationship between two countries has to be broader than just that leadership relationship. So one of the important things that we've been doing is investing in the trade architecture, the economic architecture between our countries, so the Australia‑Indonesia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement is one part of that.

But more broadly, we want to really invest in creating pathways for young people to move between our countries. So one of the announcements coming out of the Leaders' Meeting was new visa pathways for Indonesian business people and frequent travellers to Australia as well as professional credential recognition and mobility arrangements there. Another big opportunity that I know is important both for Pak Jokowi and Prime Minister Albanese is the transition to electric vehicles.

Amanda Soeleiman: Oh, the EVs.

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: We know this is a big part of the green transition, and we know that the world really is relying on Indonesia and Australia succeeding in this endeavour. So there were announcements about deepening cooperation and collaboration on the EV ecosystem between Australia and Indonesia, and in the month following that Leaders' Meeting, Minister Ed Husic, the Minister for Industry and Science, who I mentioned earlier visited Indonesia to follow on those discussions and to deepen that.

Amanda Soeleiman: Yeah, that's pretty interesting, because the Government's – Indonesian Government's – main focus was actually to try to grow and to build the ecosystems for the EVs.

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Yes.

Amanda Soeleiman: Now, in terms of the partnerships between Australia and Indonesia for the EV ecosystems itself, in what part of exact partnership that will have, is it going to be the batteries, or what sort of a partnership?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Well, this is an ecosystem that we're really building out from the ground up and scaling it up, at a global level, so the way that I look at it, I think that there are opportunities throughout the supply chain, opportunities throughout the ecosystem.

You know, Indonesia and Australia are obviously blessed with the critical minerals required for many parts of that ecosystem, many parts of that supply chain, and unlocking that through co‑investment arrangements, private sector lead, I think it's a really exciting opportunity.

But also more broadly, investment in innovation, and research and development, and all of those things that we'll need to make this industry really take off at scale.

Amanda Soeleiman: Okay. So lastly, Mr Tim, what are your reflections on the opportunities for Australia and Indonesia to work together, especially in the digital and technology sector?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Well, when I think about digital and technology, I think about young people, you know, Indonesia is known for being home to some very significant unicorns, very global large‑scale startups, as is Australia, and I think that joining those up is a great opportunity. So one of Australia's big unicorn startups is Canva. It's a graphic design startup and Indonesia is one of their most important growing markets, and they are providing products to school children across Indonesia, helping them with their education, their skills development, and when I see young people in Indonesia, not just the volume of them, but the dynamism, the energy of young people, I'm really excited about that potential. And to think that Australian universities, Australian technology companies can be a part of unleashing that potential for all of our benefit makes me both really proud and really excited for the future.

Amanda Soeleiman: Thank you so much, Mr Tim, for coming to our studio, Jawa Pos TV, and I'm looking forward for a more prosperous relationship between Australia and Indonesia.

[Foreign language spoken]

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