Indonesian president Joko Widodo to visit Australia in November 2016
Sydney Morning Herald – September 8, 2016
Jewel Topsfield — Indonesian President Joko Widodo has flagged he will visit Australia in November in a powerful indication of the warmth between the leaders of the two countries.
Mr Joko and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull cemented their relationship when they were mobbed by fans during a sweaty impromptu visit — known as blusukan — to a market in Jakarta last year.
"The temperature is warm but the warmth of the people towards the President is much warmer still," Mr Turnbull cried at the time as he flung off his coat and tie.
The successful one-day visit in November last year was seen as a turning point in the bilateral relationship, which had been scarred by the execution of Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan in April last year
Indonesians had taken umbrage to former prime minister Tony Abbott’s comments linking the Bali nine executions and the $1 billion in aid Indonesia was given after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
Australia, meanwhile, temporarily recalled its ambassador, Paul Grigson, in the wake of the executions.
During a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Laos on Thursday, Mr Turnbull gushed over Mr Joko and said he looked forward to welcoming him to Australia later in the year.
"You are an absolute beacon in the way that you demonstrate again and again that democracy, moderation, tolerance and Islam are thoroughly compatible," Mr Turnbull said.
Mr Turnbull has often spoken of Mr Joko’s commitment to promoting a tolerant and moderate Islam and his powerful rejection of extremism, which the Prime Minister says resonates well beyond Indonesia.
"Australia has a vital interest in seeing President Widodo’s commitment to tolerance succeed, as my own discussions with local Muslim leaders have made clear to me," Mr Turnbull said at the 2016 Lowy lecture in March this year.
"Indeed, the Executive Director of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Nail Aykan, wrote to me to say that the mere fact of my mentioning President Widodo’s example has helped in combatting extremism and promoting better, more tolerant and mainstream understandings of Islam and the Muslim world."
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the leaders had discussed economic cooperation (especially relating to cattle imports and breeding), counter terrorism and maritime cooperation, as well as the President’s slated visit to Australia. "The President said we will try to do it in November," she said.
Ms Retno said both leaders agreed to increased cooperation on counter-terrorism and Australia and Indonesia would be the first states to implement maritime cooperation within the East Asia Summit.
Meanwhile, Senator Penny Wong is in Jakarta this week for her first overseas visit in her new role as opposition foreign affairs spokesperson.
Senator Wong said the visit demonstrated the value the ALP placed on the relationship with Indonesia, citing former prime minister Paul Keating’s oft-quoted comment that "no country is more important to Australian than Indonesia".
The audience — students from Atma Jaya Catholic University — laughed when Senator Wong said: "At times our friends in Jakarta could be forgiven for thinking that all Australia is interested in when it comes to Indonesia is boats, beef and Bali".
"In recent years, the relationship has often focused on resolving immediate problems — and these have typically been Australia’s problems — rather than Indonesia’s concerns or priorities," she said.
"We must work to ensure the relationship between the two countries is focused on much more than the day to day transactions."
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