Thursday, December 18, 2014

Posts this week: Christmas contrasts in Indonesia; controlling the military in Papua; pilot New Columbo Plan gives rise to hope for more interest in Indonesia trade and investment; don't call the consulate if you've been a galah

Selamat datang ke Indonesia Today, the Indonesia Institute's blog,

This week Australians felt closer to terrorism than we have since the Bali bombings in 2002. It was devastating to watch a hostage situation unfolding in the middle of Sydney city and to lose two innocent people in the conclusion. The Muslim community immediately felt the aspersions of extremism and reacted promptly in the glare of the media to distance themselves from the madman who carried out the attack, and his poisonous IS ideologies.

Australian Muslim leaders were unified and vocal in rejecting Man Monis and his actions, and some of the first to gather in grief at the scene. It was with warmth and solidarity that people took up #illridewithyou to assure the Muslim community that they were safe and supported as the news of Islamic extremism cast its long shadow over normal, rights respecting Muslims. Indonesia also relayed the display of tolerance and #illridewithyou was widely reported in the Indonesia media.

Indonesia too, is on the alert for an act of terrorism. To Indonesia, the threat of terrorism is always on the horizon. Indonesia has now become the biggest supplier of IS fodder; 514 Indonesians have gone to Syria and Iraq to participate in the wars compared with around 150 Australians. Malaysia has just deported 12 Indonesians who were headed to Syria to fight for IS.This represents an enormous challenge and need for constant supervision to find and paralyze training camps. Poso in Sulawesi is currently being used as a training ground for IS bound fighters who are using local targets as bomb practice.

Unlike Australia, where Christmas is a pretty relaxed affair and many police are on holidays, Indonesian police are preparing 'Operation Candle' to safeguard celebrations and try to keep a lid on any religiously motivated violence. They will deploy almost 146,000 police. But it isn't all pitchforks and villagers, tinsel is certainly not taboo in Indonesia. Christmas is welcome in many areas and Jakarta malls rival any Australian attempts to create a 'Christmas atmosphere'. Like most things Indonesian, Christmas is also a contradiction.

On behalf of the Indonesia Institute, selamat hari Natal dan tetap aman sepanjang musim meriah.


New posts this week:

Message from the President of the Indonesia Institute, Ross B Taylor AM.

"Christmas of contrasts in Indonesia," by Catriona Croft-Cusworth, December 2014.

"Indonesian military kill more civilians in Papua: history of failed military containment does not bode well for Jokowi," by Warren Doull, December 2014.

"Not a moment too soon: New Columbo Plan put to use for in-country study in Indonesia," by Lauren Gumbs, December 2014.

"The cost of getting out of trouble overseas," by Ross B Taylor, December 2014.

Extra reading:

Freedom of speech in Indonesia threatened by arbitrary blasphemy law: The BBC takes up the report that Jakarta Post's editor, Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, is under investigation as a suspect in a 'blasphemy' case.

Rhonda and Ketut popularise and reflect Australia and Indonesia's relationship.

The wet season is beginning and a fatal landslide has taken the lives of 80 in Banjarnegara Jawa Tengah.

Such natural disasters create vast numbers of Internally Displaced Persons as well as security concerns for Indonesia.

What do Poso, Aceh and Papua conflicts have in common?

Operasi Lilin akan memastikan perayaan natal berjalan tertib, lancar, dan aman.

Christmas wishes to members and friends of the Indonesia Institute

Dear members and friends,

For those of you in Australia particularly, we trust you will have a very special Christmas and enjoyable holiday period. For our friends in Indonesia and other parts of Asia, our best wishes for the festive season.

As the year comes to a conclusion, our board extends our thanks from all of us at the Indonesia Institute (Inc) for your membership, support and comments during the year. Your institute has enjoyed a year of increasing membership (145 members) and considerable activities.
We also saw the bi-lateral relationship get back to 'normal' - although many of us feel 'normal' is below the level that we should accept; particularly in business and trade. There is much work to do.
As we head into 2015 our region, and World, faces some extreme challenges on a number of fronts. Most obvious is the rise-and-rise of what people refer to as 'extremist Islam' such as ISIL and its offshoots. A number of thoughtful Muslim leaders feel that in many cases Islam has been simply hijacked by despot regimes made-up of bitter and dis-affected people. This is a valid point , but the challenge for Muslim leaders around the world is: what are you going to do about it?
Australia works very closely and successfully with Indonesia in monitoring and rejecting extremist groups such as JI and MIT, plus radical preachers including Abu Bakar Bashir. Yet the number of people joining the ISIL network continues to increase in Indonesia. In the meantime, Malaysia is moving towards a more fundamentalist approach to not only religion, but also politics. This is a disturbing trend.
So there is much to be done. A close bi-lateral relationship between countries such as Indonesia and Australia is absolutely critical and with a new Indonesian president being elected in 2015 there is much to feel positive about.
So from all of us at ii we wish you every happiness for the festive season and may 2015 bring harmony and respect for humans throughout our region.
With warmest wishes
Ross Taylor
Ross B. Taylor AM

Tanah longsor: Landslide in Central Java creates large scale damage

Photo courtesy of The Jakarta Globe

Eighty people are dead and tens of others missing in the first major landslide of the season.

Christmas of contrasts in Indonesia

By Catriona Croft Cusworth

Christmas is a time of year when Indonesia's state motto of 'Unity in Diversity' is really put to the test. The holiday provokes a variety of responses from the Muslim-majority population, ranging from taking selfies with shopping mall Christmas trees and celebrating with Christian friends to refusing to wish others a 'Merry Christmas', or, in extreme cases, violently interrupting church activities.

 hristianity accounts for two of the six officially recognised faiths in Indonesia, split into Protestantism and Catholicism. Some pockets of the country are majority-Christian, especially in the eastern islands and in parts of Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi. Major cities also have substantial Christian populations, including many ethnic Chinese Indonesians. Among communities where Christianity is a long-established faith, Christmas is celebrated openly with a mix of Western and indigenous traditions.

In Jakarta's city centre, Christmas lights can be found everywhere, along with banners wishing citizens a happy Christmas and New Year. Competition is high among the capital's most extravagant shopping malls to out-do one another with their holiday displays, involving forests of spangled Christmas trees, mountains of fake snow and the obligatory pop Christmas albums on repeat.

But in areas where Christianity is seen as expanding into new territory and gaining converts, the atmosphere is entirely different.

In parts of Java, newspaper headlines regularly warn against 'Christianisation', despite Islam's unquestionable dominance among the Indonesian population as a whole. In Bogor, a town in West Java  that brushes the edges of Jakarta's urban sprawl, a Protestant congregation has been battling for the right to open a church. The planned church building was sealed in 2010 by a former mayor who said it lacked the required permits and community support. Four years and two favourable Supreme Court rulings later, the congregation has still not been allowed to enter their church building. They plan to spend yet another Christmas worshiping on the footpath in front of the sealed church, potentially under threat of confrontation with opponents of the service, as has been the case in past years.

Christmas and New Year celebrations are guarded across the nation by security forces as part of an activity known as 'Operation Candle'. This year, almost 146,000 security personnel will be stationed at churches and other sites for worship and celebration across Indonesia. Throughout the year, churches around Indonesia come under attack by hardliners, usually under the pretext of accusations related to a lack of building permits and community endorsement. One of the major criticisms of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's 10 years in office was his lack of action on growing religious intolerance in Indonesia.

During this year's election campaign, rumours calling the now-President Jokowi a closet Christian were designed to detract from his widespread popularity. This in itself signals a poor state of interfaith relations, suggesting that voters were expected to be swayed by a candidate's religion over his credentials. To Jokowi's credit, rather than distancing himself from the rumours surrounding his faith, Jokowi plans to celebrate Christmas in Papua, where Christians are the majority.

These plans were made before a deadly clash occurred between civilians and security forces in the province last week, in which five locals were killed. Now some church leaders have withdrawn their invitation to the President, in protest over his refusal to make a statement on the incident. Nonetheless, government representatives have claimed that the visit will go ahead on 27 December.

It seems unlikely at this point that Jokowi could get away with visiting Papua and not making a statement on last week's deaths. In this way, the visit has the potential to address two important areas said to have suffered under the previous government: religious tolerance and recognition of human rights abuses. The question now is whether Jokowi will take the opportunity to deliver a Christmas message of peace and goodwill among all Indonesians.

Catriona Croft-Cusworth works as a media professional in Jakarta. Her article originally appeared 18 December in The Interpreter

Indonesian military kill more civilians in Papua: history of failed military containment does not bode well for Jokowi

By Warren Doull

The recent massacre in Paniai, Papua has moved Indonesia further away from a ‘Papua Solution’. When a combined force of Indonesian police and military opened fire on unarmed demonstrators on 8 December 2014, five demonstrators were killed. 

There are fears that the Jokowi Government is emulating the same approach to the military that his party chief, former president Megawati, adopted in 2001-2004. This approach involves treating military hardliners like spoilt children because they can create huge problems if a civilian president tries to assert authority over them. Later this article will examine the experiences of three former civilian presidents. 

But giving the military a free reign also has its share of problems.

Firstly, wiping up after every military misdemeanour is not good for national pride. To purge this latest massacre from the national consciousness will require further dehumanising of Papuans by the national media. Sure the media is adept at promoting certain notions of beauty, social interaction, land use and wealth that make ‘mainstream Indonesians’ feel superior (not unlike Australian media treatment of indigenous Australians). However the increasingly educated Indonesian public is starting to question whether demonstrators elsewhere in Indonesia would have been treated the same way as the Papuans. To defuse the international community’s concern over the latest incident will require more fabrications by security forces about rogue elements and the worn reiteration of a commitment to human rights. These efforts will unfortunately do nothing to alleviate conflict in Papua.

Secondly, giving free reign to the military will almost certainly lead to heightened conflict in Papua. Perhaps heightened conflict is actually what military hardliners desire, seeing as Papua offers commanders opportunities for private fund-raising and fast-tracked promotion. New Defence Minister Ryacudu plans to add a second territorial command unit in Papua, a step that will no doubt further alienate Papuans. Heightened conflict may be good for the military and for the legitimate dispersion of funds, but it is not good for Indonesia.

The new Jokowi Government needs to walk a tight rope between the whimsical approaches by former presidents Habibie and Gus Dur that led the military to undermine them from 1999 to 2001, and the ‘free reign’ approach by Megawati that just exacerbated problems in Aceh and Papua from 2001 to 2004. Habibie’s presidency was undermined by the military’s attempts to intimidate voters ahead of the East Timor referendum in 1999, and the military’s subsequent campaign of arson, murder and looting carried out in front of the world’s media. This military backlash occurred even though Habibie had gained agreement from key generals like Wiranto and Feisal Tanjung in the days before he offered a referendum

Jokowi will need to remember that a yes from the military doesn’t always mean a yes.
Indonesia’s next president, Gus Dur (Abdurrahmin Wahid), was impeached by Indonesia’s parliament on 23 July 2001. This crisis grew from Gus Dur’s increasingly divisive leadership style and from the World Bank’s decision, after Gus Dur ignored their policy advice, to delay and downsize loans that could have reinvigorated Indonesia’s ailing economy.
However, the crisis also grew from the military’s efforts to undermine their new president. Military anger was fed by Wahid’s decisions to apologise for Indonesian atrocities in East Timor, dismiss the powerful general Wiranto from his Cabinet, allow Papuans to change the name of their province from ‘Irian Jaya’ to ‘Papua Barat’ (West Papua), and promote reformist General Wirahadikusuma to head the military’s elite Strategic Reserves, ‘KOSTRAD’. Wirahadikusuma angered hardliners by advocating a withdrawal of the military from politics and by quickly finding a KOSTRAD-controlled account where 189 billion rupiah (at that time equivalent to around 22 million USD) had gone missing.

The military took numerous steps to undermine democratically elected president Gus Dur. When the President dismissed General Wiranto from his Cabinet, a Wiranto ally, Lieutenant General Djaja Suparman  publicly complained that “this step could hurt the heart of the TNI and provoke them to ‘do something’ about it”. Subsequently, in May 2000, boatloads of Laskar jihad forces – totaling some 3000 fighters – were allowed to sail from Surabaya to Ambon against the express orders of President Gus Dur. Upon reaching Ambon, they were apparently armed by the local military command so they could escalate the conflict. By August 2000, the military had successfully ousted reformist General Agus Wirahadikusuma from the senior military position that President Gus Dur had given him just four months earlier.  

By mid- 2001, Vice President Megawati had all but abandoned President Gus Dur and was moving closer to military hard-liners. With Gus Dur’s impeachment looming, the reform movement lost momentum. On 3 July 2001, a key reformist, newly appointed High Court Judge Baharuddin Lopa, died in mysterious circumstances while overseas. Then a few weeks after Gus Dur was impeached, 49-year old Lieutenant General Wirahadikusuma died in his home in equally mysterious circumstances. The military did not deem his death suspicious enough to warrant an autopsy. Out of fear or gratitude, Megawati appointed hardliners Endriartono Sutarto and Ryamizard Ryacudu to lead the military, hardliner Hendropriyono to lead Indonesia’s intelligence services and numerous other retired generals to Cabinet positions. If the constellation of Megawati, Ryacandu and Hendropriyono in late 2001 sounds familiar, it’s because this same constellation now plays an integral role as advisers to President Jokowi.

Given the way she came to power in 2001, Megawati was in no position to assert authority over the military, even if she had wanted to. She did maintain a moderately pro-reform general from the Gus Dur Cabinet, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, but the key role of Defence Minister went to a civilian politician, Matori Abdul Djali, who did not even have power within his own political party, PKS. She did also sign off on a Special Autonomy package for Aceh and Papua in August 2001, but this package had already been designed and passed through parliament during Gus Dur’s presidency.

The rise of Ryacudu and Hendropriyono brought an end to military reform and an end to meaningful dialogue in Papua and Aceh. In November 2001, Papuan independence statesman Theys Eluays was assassinated. The seven Kopassus (special forces) soldiers later convicted of strangling the unarmed 64-year old politician to death were praised as national heroes by Ryacudu.

In February 2002, military hardliners established a new Territorial Military Command in Aceh. Between April 2001 and mid-2002, the number of police in Aceh was reduced by about 8000, but the number of military personnel was increased by about 9000. Though peace talks were conducted throughout 2002, the conflict raged unabated in Aceh. In August 2002, when Cabinet member Susilo Bambang Yudoyono announced that dialogue was continuing, Army Chief of Staff Ryacudu retorted, “Dialogue for a thousand years hasn’t brought results” and “Fundamentally, there is no dialogue.”

In May 2003, the military were given a Presidential Decree to impose martial law in Aceh, including vetting the movement of journalists. Unfortunately, as the civilian body count in Aceh went up, so too did Acehnese support for the independence movement. Does this sound like Papua during the Jokowi Presidency?

Approaching the end of Megawati’s Presidency, her intelligence agency had grown tired of pro-democracy activists. The best known pro-democracy activist of the period, Munir, was assassinated in September 2004. Hendropriyono admitted in 2014 that his agency had carried out the murder, though neither Hendropriyono nor his deputy have been charged. Megawati’s Defence Minister at the time, the civilian Matori Abdul Djali, may have been able to shed some light on the Munir assassination or other hardliner tactics in the Magawati era, but Matori himself was murdered in 2007.

President Jokowi can learn from the Aceh peace breakthrough of 2005. It was a civilian team, led by Yusuf Kalla, who ultimately negotiated peace. Yusuf Kalla back then was Vice President to Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, just as he is Vice President to Jokowi today. Indonesia’s military may have helped pressure Aceh’s independence movement to accept autonomy rather than independence. However, peace was only achieved after President SBY removed hardliner General Ryacudu from his influential position as Army Chief of Staff (the 2nd most powerful position in the military).

Jokowi is no doubt aware that Muslim hardliners could undermine his Presidency, especially if they are animated by Jokowi’s political rival, Prabowo. They could wage anything from a public vilification campaign to violent disturbances. With sufficient financial and military backing, they could even create another ‘Ambon-style’ conflict. Given what happened to former presidents Habibie and Gus Dur, Jokowi needs allies in the military. His presidency may indeed need Hendropriyono, who proved capable of keeping a lid on religious-based terrorism in the post-9/11 era. And it may also need Ryacudu, whose links within the military can help detect any factional plotting at an early stage.  Jokowi certainly needs the support of Hendropriyono’s and Ryacudu’s ally Megawati, whose PDIP party is the main basis of Jokowi’s support in parliament.

Jokowi has enough of a battle ahead dealing with an uncooperative parliament. The last thing he’ll want is to also face an uncooperative military. But if Ryacudu’s generals in Papua cannot prevent their troops from killing unarmed civilians, Jokowi may consider asserting more pressure for military discipline. Or allow freer access to foreign journalists so their presence acts as pressure for military discipline.

Following the massacre of civilians in Paniai District, respected peace activist Pastor Neles Tebay requested a civilian-controlled investigation. He explained that Papuans had lost faith in the neutrality of police and military, especially in investigations where their own people were the suspects. This request really applies to the whole peace process. Ultimately, it will be a civilian team, possibly led by Vice-President Yusuf Kalla that makes the compromises necessary to achieve peace.  There are many models available. Look at the relationship of Washington DC to Puerto Rico and American Samoa, the relationship of Kuala Lumpur to Sabah and Sarawak, the relationship of Beijing to Hong Kong or the relationship of Port Moresby to Bougainville Island. If these countries could find a compromise, and if Jakarta could find a compromise with the Acehnese, surely Jakarta can also find a compromise with the Papuans.

Warren Doull has lived and worked extensively in Indonesia and Timor Leste, including for the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor in 2002. His article originally appeared in Asia Sentinel 15 December.

Not a moment too soon: New Colombo Plan put to use in Indonesia for in-country study in Indonesia

The Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies (ACICIS) is one of the first organisations to test the New Columbo Plan, receiving $284,000 in funding for Australian university students to study in Indonesia.

And it could not have come sooner, after a PricewaterhouseCoopers report 'Passing Us By' revealed that Australia has not invested enough in trade relationships with the world's fastest growing region, especially in the ASEAN.

The New Columbo Plan aims to encourage university students to study in Asia and to develop closer ties and links as a result of cross-cultural experiences.

Hopefully such experiences will create a future involvement in and connection to Asian countries for both cultural and trade related purposes.

The Federal Government's New Columbo Plan is being piloted in four Indo-Pacific countries - Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade oversees the program that offers scholarships and mobility to Australian students to live, work and study in Asia.

The New Colombo Plan has a budget of $100 million to spend over five years on scholarships and in-country study support for semester, short course, internship and mentorship options.

Knowing the importance of investing in Asia-literate future leaders, three businesses within the private sector have recently partnered with the Australian Government to deliver training to support students taking up the mobility arm of the program. 

ACICIS, an organisation that facilitates in-country study in Indonesia, will use its funding to make up to seventy scholarships available for students from eleven Australian consortium member universities for study in Indonesia.

Over twenty of those scholarships will be earmarked for students participating in the Jakarta Business Professional Practicum.

The funding will also enable ACICIS to develop a new semester program in Agriculture, Food Science and Resource Management. 

ACICIS’ Consortium Director, Professor David Hill said that with the projected dramatic growth in the Indonesian economy over the next two decades, it is inevitable that Australian businesses in all sectors of the economy will need to understand and operate effectively in Indonesia and the Southeast Asian region.

"Any student graduating from a business degree program in Australia will benefit from a knowledge of the business environment in Indonesia," Professor Hill said.

According to ACICIS, the Jakarta Business Professional Practicum will be modeled closely on ACICIS’ highly successful, existing practicum programs in Development Studies and Journalism.

Students will undertake a two-week language course at Atma Jaya University in Jakarta, followed by a four-week internship placement at a Jakarta-based business organisation.

Placements will include small and medium enterprises, government departments, businesses in the banking and finance sector and the Indonesian stock exchange.

According to ACICIS, networks developed over the course of the placement will sow the seeds of increased engagement between Australian and Indonesian businesses.

The New Columbo Plan is not just vital to people to people relations but for Australia to take advantage of the opportunities to do business with its closest Asian neighbour, slated to become the world's seventh largest economy by 2030.

'Passing Us By' provides a worrying indictment of the current scale of investment and engagement - paltry in comparison with our investment in other countries with smaller populations and economies.

According to the report, last year, just 5.7 per cent of Australia’s foreign direct investment went into ASEAN countries. 

"By contrast, Australia invested more in New Zealand, a country with less than four and a half million people and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 2.5 per cent," the report stated.

"The biggest issues seem to have at their core, problems in relation to culture, our willingness to deal with change and our ability to manage and operate in an Asian
"Putting it bluntly, Australian business has operated in a relatively sheltered, comfortable competitive environment. And we have become complacent."
The report makes it clear that opportunities to have a solid presence in Indonesia could slip through Australia's hands if the business community is not prepared to invest in getting business and staff on the ground in Indonesia.

The New Columbo Plan is a great step in the right direction to prepare a generation of bright and talented Australians to go forth and connect Australia to Indonesia's, indeed Asia's, rise and rise.

Lauren Gumbs is Blog Editor at Indonesia Today and Director of Social Media at the Indonesia Institute.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The cost of getting out of trouble overseas

By Ross B Taylor AM

It was only a massage. But the young Australian man found that a ‘difficult’ situation arose whilst visiting the Bangkok massage parlour. The story goes that he was less than happy about his experience and decided to trash the entire parlour, resulting in his arrest and being subsequently charged by Thai police for wilful damage, assault and threatening behaviour.

As an Australian citizen, the man then sought assistance from the consular section of the Australian Embassy in terms of resolving his predicament and legal costs. Not cheap in a foreign country.

This story is only one of many tales about Australians getting into serious trouble whilst overseas, and then seeking the services – at no cost to themselves – of Australian consular officials to assist them. 

And as reported recently in The West Australian (‘Embassies may rebuff Aussie pests’ Tuesday 3rd December) assistance from our overseas consulates may no longer be ours ‘as of right’.

Apart from officials routinely handling enquiries such as, ‘Can you help me with feeding my dog whilst I am away on holidays?’ or, ‘Will the sand in Egypt affect my asthma?’, Australian consular officials are finding themselves trapped by consecutive governments cutting back the number of diplomatic staff in overseas postings, whilst the numbers of Australians travelling overseas is booming like never before.

Last year Australians made an astonishing eight million overseas visits and over 50% of all Australians now hold a current passport, with 1.7 million new passports being issued in 2013 alone.

Bali remains our favourite destination with 890,000 Aussies travelling to their paradise island in the past twelve months. Over 380,000 visitors were from WA, and many of these tourists were young people heading-off overseas for the first or second time. And herein lies the danger: In past years almost all overseas travel was arranged by an experienced travel agent, yet today it’s just a simple task to ‘jump online’ and book your low-cost airline ticket and hotel within minutes. 

With Bali only three hours away, what is often overlooked are the ‘essentials’ such as travel insurance and importantly, advice that when overseas you are subject to the laws and rules of a foreign country. Sadly on too many occasions this lack of knowledge, or just plain lack of respect, sees Australians either in trouble with the law or injured as a result of their own stupidity, ignorance or bad behaviour.

It is at this point when the local Australian Consulate is often contacted for assistance. And Australian consulate officials – including our consulate in Bali who deals with hundreds of enquiries every month - have a very good record of prompt and efficient service to Australians in need. But with this boom in travel, combined with a reduction in the number of consular staff based overseas, something had to give.

This dilemma has now lead Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop to examine whether Australians, who get themselves into trouble overseas as a direct result of their bad behaviour, should contribute to the cost incurred by our government in order to assist them.

Last year, Greenpeace activist, Colin Russell was a case-in-point as he obviously felt he had the ‘entitlement’, as an Australian passport holder, to unlimited support from our government after being arrested for illegally climbing onto a Russian oil rig in the Arctic as part of a protest. Despite Russell being a paid employee of Greenpeace, the Australian Government and the foreign minister spent significant amounts of time and taxpayers funds in order to secure his release from a Russian jail-which they successfully did. 

As to whether Russell had a ‘moral issue’ to fight is a separate matter. The question is should the Australian taxpayer fork-up every time a protestor seeks to take-on a foreign country?

Likewise, back in Bali should a drunken tourist from Perth, who ends up being arrested for fighting and abusing local staff, have the right to expect the Australian Government to not only get him out of jail but to also cover all his costs associated with the crime he committed?

This issue is not about taking a hard line against Australians who through no fault of their own find themselves in serious trouble whilst overseas. Most Australians rightly would expect that our government should be ready to help our citizens where they can; remembering of course that our consular officials have no power to override local laws or to direct police. 

As foreign minister Julie Bishop reminded us this week, when releasing the Consular Assistance Strategy Paper that we need to modify our expectations as to what the government can provide for people who travel overseas and get into trouble. Furthermore, when the predicament is caused by their own misbehaviour or recklessness, then perhaps they should make a financial contribution to getting themselves out of trouble.

A harder line by our government on this issue is well overdue and it may also force many travelling Aussies – young and old - to take responsibly for their own actions whilst overseas; starting with acting responsibly and respectfully whist a guess of another country.

Ross Taylor AM is the President of the WA-based Indonesia Institute (Inc)
(This article originally appeared in The West Australian Newspaper - 8th December 2014)