The link below is to an article reporting on news relating to the persecution of Christians in Indonesia.
The violent riots that shook Jakarta last week led to at least six deaths, over 700 injured and more than 200 arrests. Demonstrations and rallies are common in Indonesia, but street violence like this had not been seen since the fall of Soeharto in 1998.
Protests began peacefully in front of the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) on May 20, after the General Elections Commission (KPU) made the surprise decision to release its official count at 3am that morning.
By 9pm on Tuesday, rioters supporting the defeated presidential candidate, former general Prabowo Subianto, (including some apparently linked to Islamic State) were burning cars and buildings, and using rocks, petrol bombs and fireworks to attack police.
Security forces responded with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. They claim not to have used real bullets, although families of at least two victims claim they died of bullet wounds and the National Police Hospital says autopsies show four died this way.
The violence was repeated the next night and spread beyond Jakarta, with incidents in East Java and Potianak (Kalimantan) as well. The government called in the army to help control the situation. Obviously deeply concerned, it took the extraordinary step of slowing down the internet to obstruct the sharing of provocative material across social media sites. Two nights later, the government seemed to have the situation under control.
On Friday, Prabowo’s campaign lodged protests against the election results with the Constitutional Court. They argue that the convincing 10%-plus margin of victory of his rival, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, was fraudulently obtained. To date, they have not been able to produce convincing evidence to back this up.
If, as likely, the court rejects the petition to annul Jokowi’s win, that may well spark another round of rioting. This is particularly so because Prabowo’s camp has been saying for weeks that the court is biased in favour of the government.
But even if the rioting starts up again, it is very unlikely to topple Jokowi, given the government, police and army seem to have closed ranks behind him.
Many members of the elite do not particularly like Jokowi, a provincial politician who made a spectacular leap to the presidency five years ago and remains somewhat of an outsider. But he has the huge advantage of incumbency. Leaders of the bureaucracy and security forces owe their positions, wealth and power to his administration. They fear being replaced in the purge of senior positions that would follow if Prabowo somehow took over.
Even though Prabowo’s fourth bid to become president seems doomed and Jokowi is doubtless confident of being sworn in on October 20, that does not mean Jokowi’s second and final five-year term will be smooth sailing. The riots seem to have fizzled out, but they are the product of tensions over the place of Islam in Indonesian life and what is now a deep cleavage in Indonesian politics.
How the fall of Ahok started it all
To explain how this has happened, we need to go back to 2017 and the major crisis of Jokowi’s first term: the prosecution and conviction for blasphemy of then Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (known as Ahok, or BTP, as he now prefers).
Ahok had been the deputy governor under Jokowi and stepped up when Jokowi resigned to run for the presidency. An ethnic Chinese Christian governor was seen as unacceptable to hardline Islamists. They used comments about the Qur’an made by Ahok while campaigning for re-election to launch a massive and bitter populist campaign against him. Hundreds of thousands took part in rallies that targeted Ahok and, eventually, his former friend and close colleague, Jokowi, at one stage even marching on the palace.
After Ahok’s fall, some of the Muslim organisations that had formed the so-called “212 movement” to tear him down began aggressively targeting Jokowi. In response, Jokowi has taken tough measures against them, including giving himself new powers to ban civil society groups. He also backed criminal charges against figures he saw as leading public criticism of his government.
As a result, the disgruntled Islamist conservatives who loathe Jokowi lined up behind Prabowo, the only alternative candidate.
This split meant that many members of the world’s largest Muslim organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), which is generally more tolerant of religious difference, sided with Jokowi, particularly after he chose NU leader Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate.
The world’s second-largest Muslim organisation, Muhammadiyah, traditionally NU’s rival, was officially neutral. But many of its members clearly sided with Prabowo. So did other, more conservative, Muslim organisations, such as the Islamist PKS party, and more extreme groups like the thuggish Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) – and, of course, the 212 alumni.
The result was a vicious social media campaign, full of trolling, hoaxes and conspiracy theories, fake news and online vilification. Rumours that Jokowi is a closet Christian from a communist family were circulated once again.
The election thus polarised Indonesia, reviving old divisions in an atmosphere of renewed anxiety about ethnic and religious identity. Jokowi prevailed in Javanese communities linked to NU and in areas where non-Muslims are a majority or a large minority, like Papua, Bali, East Nusa Tenggara and North Sulawesi.
On the other hand, majority Muslim outer islands often associated with Muhammadiyah largely fell to Prabowo, such as West Sumatra. Likewise, Prabowo took back South Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, Bengkulu and Jambi from Jokowi, who won them in 2014.
West Java tells the story. Although part of Java, it has never been a NU stronghold but is seen as historically a centre for Islamist conservatism. It went for Prabowo. Jakarta, urban and more urbane, but on the cusp of West Java, was split.
Divisions show no sign of healing
Prabowo’s defeat does not spell the end of his supporters’ aspirations for a less tolerant Indonesia that privileges their brand of Islam. The election’s geopolitical polarisation is likely to be a continuing source of problems for Jokowi in the years ahead.
With NU in the vice-presidential office and very likely to continue its stranglehold on the Ministry of Religious Affairs, resentment from Muhammadiyah, PKS and others will be maintained. It will play out in conflicts in the legislature and in and around government.
The tough measures Jokowi’s administration – obviously worried – deployed in recent weeks to try to head off the riots has only exacerbated the situation. Former general Wiranto, now coordinating minister for politics, law and security, ominously formed a team to investigate “unconstitutional behavior”.
Twenty or so people linked to Prabowo, including two former generals, have been arrested on charges including treason and weapons smuggling. At one stage a warrant was issued to bring Prabowo himself in for questioning (although this was quickly rescinded).
These measures reflect a wider trend towards so-called “soft authoritarianism” in Jokowi’s administration, which has concerned many Indonesian and foreign observers. It also feeds the narrative promoted by his Islamist opponents of a president willing to use the full force of the state to marginalise them, and that simply entrenches the battlelines.
Jokowi is a pragmatic politician who values stability and cohesion above most other things. Once the riots die down, Jokowi’s instinct will be to “buy in” the Muslim right and Prabowo’s core supporters. He may do this by offering them positions in the incoming administration or access to resources.
If that doesn’t work, we can expect more trouble ahead.
The announcement that President Joko Widodo’s government will move Indonesia’s capital to another location, due to the severity of human-induced degradation in Jakarta, highlights a key tension for cities today. In the face of increasingly unsustainable urban environments, do we retrofit existing cities, or relocate and build new cities to achieve greater sustainability?
The answer is both. But each has its challenges.
Creating new cities
The goal of turning cities from sustainability problems to solutions is driving a suite of “future city” innovations. These include the planning and development of whole new cities.
An increasing number of countries are planning to build cities from scratch using technological innovation to achieve more sustainable urban development. Forest City in Malaysia, Belmont smart city in the United States and the Sino-Oman Industrial City are just some of the examples.
The urban ambition includes creating carless and walkable cities, green cities able to produce oxygen through eco-skyscrapers, high-speed internet embedded in the urban fabric, the capacity to convert waste into energy, and reclaiming land to create new strategic trade opportunities.
However, striking the right balance between innovative ideas and democratic expectations, including the public right to the city, remains a challenge.
The Minnesota Experimental City offers a cautionary tale. The aim was to solve urban problems by creating a new city. It would use the latest technology including nuclear energy, automated cars and a domed roof enclosure.
Despite significant government and financial backing, including its own state agency, the Minnesota project failed due to a lack of public understanding and local support for a top-down futuristic project.
Who gets left behind?
In 1960, Brazil moved its capital from Rio de Janeiro to the futuristic city of Brasilia. While the city was designed to accommodate both rich and poor, it quickly became unaffordable for the average family. Half a century on, it was reported:
The poor have been shunted out to satellite cities, which range from proper well-built cities to something more like a shanty town.
In Indonesia, more than 30 million people – a fifth of the nation’s urban residents and more than a tenth of the 269 million population – live in Greater Jakarta. The capital city Jakarta is just one part of a larger mega-city agglomeration, the world’s second-largest after Greater Tokyo. This vast connected urban meta-region is known as Jabodetabek, from the initials of the cities within it: Jakarta (with a population of 10 million), Bogor (1 million), Depok (2.1 million), Tangerang (2 million), South Tangerang (1.5 million) and Bekasi (2.7 million).
A key reason for moving the capital is that Jakarta is prone to serious flooding and is rapidly sinking. Jakarta also suffers overpopulation, severe traffic gridlock, slums and a lack of critical urban infrastructure such as drainage and sanitation.
Relocating the capital away from the crowded main island of Java offers the opportunity to better plan the political and administrative centre using the latest urban design features and technology.
Two key questions arise. If environmental degradation and overpopulation are the key issues, what will become of the largely remaining population of Greater Jakarta? At a national scale, how will this relocation help overcome the socio-economic and spatial disparities that exist in Indonesia?
Egypt, for example, is building a new capital city to overcome severe urban congestion and overcrowding in Greater Cairo. But there is no guarantee the new capital will resolve these issues if the emphasis is solely on technological innovation, without adequate attention to urban equity and fairness.
More of the same in Australia
The Australian population is projected to grow to 36 million in the next 30 years. This is focusing political, policy and public attention on what this means for the future of the nation’s cities.
Despite all the advances that have occurred in technology, the arts, architecture, design and the sciences, there is surprisingly little innovation or public discussion about what might be possible for 21st-century Australian settlements beyond the capital cities.
Future Australian city planning and development focuses largely on enlarging and intensifying the footprints of existing major cities. The current urban policy trajectory is in-fill development and expansion of the existing state capital mega-city regions, where two-thirds of the population live. But what is lost through this approach?
In the late 1980s the MFP was envisaged as a high-tech city of the future with nuclear power, modern communication and Asian investment. It failed to gain the necessary political, investment and public support and was never built.
The current CLARA Plan proposes building up to eight new regional smart cities connected by a high-speed rail system linking Sydney and Melbourne via Canberra. Each of these cities is designed to be compact, environmentally sustainable and just a quick train trip away from the capital cities.
CLARA has outlined a “value capture” business model based on private city land development, not “government coffer” funding. How these new cities propose to function within the constitutional framework of Australia is as yet unclear and untested.
A bipartisan challenge
Are we thinking too narrowly when we talk about future Australian cities?
The “future city” prompts us to rethink and re-imagine the complex nature and make-up of our urban settlements, and the role of critical infrastructure and planning within them.
The future of Australian cities will require creativity, vision (even courage) to respond effectively to the challenges and opportunities of sustainable development.
This will not be the remit of any one political party, but a bipartisan national urban settlement agenda that affects and involves all Australians.
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo (known as “Jokowi”) looks poised to win another five years in office by a convincing margin.
Official results from Wednesday’s election won’t be released by Indonesia’s General Elections Commission (KPU) until 22 May, but the usually reliable “quick count” results produced by six private polling groups suggest Jokowi may have won by as much as 10% of the vote (54% to 45%). This is hardly a surprise, as polling in the months leading up the vote never had his lead lower than double digits.
This is the second election defeat for former general Prabowo Subianto, who also ran against Jokowi in the last presidential race in 2014. It is also likely the end of Prabowo’s aspirations to follow his former father-in-law, Soeharto, the authoritarian ruler of Indonesia for three decades, to the Presidential Palace. But that doesn’t mean Prabowo will go quietly.
For weeks, he has claimed the elections were rigged, alleging widespread fraud. He has called on his supporters to take action if he loses, saying they should be prepared to “come out onto the streets” for a month if necessary.
It is certainly true that there have been problems with this election, but that was always going to be the case.
When the Constitutional Court ruled that Indonesia’s presidential election had to be held simultaneously with local, provincial and national legislative elections this year, it imposed a huge burden on the hardworking KPU. On Wednesday, 193 million eligible voters were asked to choose from over 300,000 candidates from 16 parties for 20,528 seats across 34 provinces and more than 17,000 islands.
Under these circumstances, it would have been surprising if there were no irregularities. Among the allegations being levied by Prabowo’s campaign have been manipulation of the electoral rolls, millions of “ghost voters”, ballot box stuffing and widespread attempts to buy votes with cash and gift handouts.
As in previous elections, many of these allegations will end up in the Constitutional Court. This is where Prabowo is expected to file a challenge to reverse the result of the presidential ballot, just as he did, without success, in 2014. The nine judges on the court will probably be overwhelmed by hundreds of cases, and the chief justice has warned they will not be decided until early August at best, with legislative disputes given priority over the presidential ballot.
But it is unlikely the court will end up sending Prabowo to the palace. The margin of victory looks too big to be overcome by challenging voting irregularities.
So why bother sending his supporters into the streets? The answer probably has lot to do with the real struggle for power that begins today.
Jockeying for positions in the new administration
Indonesia has a political system that loosely resembles America’s, in that the president appoints his cabinet from outside the legislature. But in Indonesia, the ministries have traditionally been treated as cash cows to be milked.
Jokowi, who has proved utterly pragmatic as a politician, will have no choice but to spend the next few months negotiating the allocation of ministries with the powerful oligarchs who wield great power and influence in Indonesia’s corrupt political system. These include hugely wealthy businessmen, some of whom “own” their own political parties, or control major media groups – or both. They will want to recoup their investments in the election campaigning, plus profits.
These negotiations will be complicated by the fact that, once again, no party looks likely to win an outright majority in the legislature. A governing coalition will somehow have to be pieced together, with political threats neutralised by offers of positions of power in the legislature or administration. A lot of minor parties have failed to meet the new higher threshold for seats in the legislature, so how all this will play out is unpredictable.
But Jokowi will likely end up brokering a broad legislative alliance. Just as in his last administration, and former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration before that, the Cabinet will probably be largely filled by proxies of oligarchs and powerful politicians. There will likely only be a few lonely technocrats to bear the burden of policy making.
Prabowo and his party, Gerindra, know the haggling has already begun, but they are in a difficult position. According to the “quick count” results, Prabowo looks certain to lose again, and although Gerindra is poised to come in second in the national legislature, it scored just under 13%, well behind Jokowi’s party, the PDI-P, with 20%.
Prabowo and Gerindra’s campaigns have also drained vast sums from the personal fortunes of Prabowo’s family and his vice-presidential candidate, Sandiaga Uno. Gerindra’s second place finish in the legislature is about the only political capital Prabowo has left – unless, of course, his die-hard supporters are marching in the streets protesting Jokowi’s victory.
This will be easy for Prabowo to arrange among his core supporters of conservative Islamists. The Islamists have strongly backed him largely because he is the only alternative to Jokowi, whom they despise as a major obstacle to their aspirations to push Indonesia in a more conservative Islamic direction. They will be all too eager to protest, giving Prabowo the leverage he wants to try to win places in the new administration for his party, inner circle and proxies.
Whether Prabowo succeeds in winning concessions from Jokowi will be another question, of course. If he does, he will eventually distance himself from the street protesters.
Australia’s limited clout in Indonesia
What does all this mean for Australia-Indonesia relations? In the final analysis, not much.
Jokowi is an inward-looking politician with limited interest in international relations. He has made it clear that it doesn’t see the relationship with Australia as “special” in the way Yudhoyono did; that is not likely to change now.
And Australia has limited clout in Indonesia. Despite our proximity, we have slashed our aid to Indonesia, are a low-ranked trading partner, and invest more in New Zealand, Luxembourg and smaller Southeast Asian nations than we do in Indonesia. We are not an important player in Indonesia’s political and economic decision-making.
Of course, the recently signed Indonesia-Australia free-trade agreement (IA-CEPA) is intended to change that by giving both countries greater access to each other’s markets. But don’t hold your breath. The agreement has yet to be ratified, and for all its rhetoric of deregulation, Indonesia remains heavily protectionist.
Despite the fact that neither came close to winning a majority in the legislative elections, Jokowi and Prabowo’s parties will be important powers in the new legislature, and both are nationalist and often suspicious of foreign influence. It is by no means certain the free-trade agreement will be quickly ratified. It may well face major amendments or simply be put on hold, like a number of other international agreements inked by past administrations that still await ratification.
Like much else in Indonesia today, the outcome depends heavily on the intra-elite back-room horse-trading and deal-making that will be happening quietly behind closed doors for weeks to come, while court challenges and noisy protesters in the streets get all the attention.
With investigations under way into two crashes of Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 aircraft, the US manufacturer has caved to pressure and grounded the entire global fleet totalling 371 planes. That includes both model 8 and 9 versions of the aircraft.
The company issued a statement saying this occurred:
… out of an abundance of caution and in order to reassure the flying public of the aircraft’s safety.
But the impact on passengers and air travel could last for months as airlines try to reschedule flights and seek other aircraft to meet demands. While things are still evolving, what should you anticipate as a traveller?
While it is legitimate for a government to issue regulatory orders to intervene in an airline’s operation due to safety or security concerns, it is unprecedented that such a large number of countries are taking action.
At least 45 International Civil Aviation Organisation member states had already either ordered their airlines to ground 737 MAX aircraft, or suspended entry of such planes into enter their airspaces.
Countries affected include China, Indonesia, Germany, UK, France, the Netherlands, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and now the US.
While investigations into the two crashes could last for months or even years before any conclusion is drawn, the length of suspension is also unknown at this stage.
Yet holiday seasons such as Easter and school vacations are approaching, and many of us will no doubt be looking to fly away for a break.
Airlines face disruption almost every day: airline operation is a complex system. Disruption can be caused by unforeseeable weather conditions, unexpected technical or mechanical issues of an aircraft, or associated safety hazards or security concerns.
Airlines therefore have strategies in place to manage or at least mitigate the effect of the disruption and reduce any potential delays. This could include but is not limited to:
changing or swapping an aircraft type
combining two or three flights into one operation
arranging alternative flights for travellers
moving travellers to other airlines if their tickets have been issued.
With only 371 Boeing 737 MAX family jets in operation, this is a small percentage of the total of more than 6,000 of the previous model and gives airlines the ability to use other jets in their fleet as a replacement.
But the current suspension will present significant challenges for some airlines.
Subject to their fleet size, the scope of their network, and other resources and capacity available, big airlines with multiple types of aircraft in their fleet are more capable of managing such disruption.
For example, Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, American Airlines and Southwest will have more resources to arrange for travellers to fly to their destinations.
In contrast, low-cost or regional carriers will be limited in their capacity to manage the disruption.
Fares could go up
While airlines are making every effort to minimise the disruption, all these arrangements come at a cost.
Airlines might have difficulties in sourcing capacity to replace the aircraft, resulting in inevitable delays or cancellations. And delays and cancellations also result in additional cost to airlines operation.
Impact on Boeing
Boeing and Airbus are a duopoly, said to dominate 99% of the global large aircraft orders, which make up more than 90% of the total aircraft market.
Over the past few decades, Boeing has weathered problems before and maintained an exceptional reputation for its reliable and efficient aircraft design, manufacturing and service.
Of all the aircraft sales, the Boeing 737 MAX series – designed to replace the current 737 family – was becoming one of the most popular airliners, despite being only introduced to the market in May 2017.
But the two recent crashes have raised concerns about reliability of the 737 MAX 8 autopilot system, the Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System.
The aircraft represents a significant change from its predecessor models, including new engines, new avionics and different aerodynamic characteristics.
The risk for Boeing now is the potential consequences flowing from any investigation into the aircraft crashes. These could include:
complete or partial cancellation of orders placed by global airlines yet to be delivered
litigation by the affected airlines and the victims of the ill-fated aircraft, seeking damages caused by any product defect (if proof of any defect could be established)
new opportunities for its rivals to promote their aircraft; this could allow, for example, China’s state-owned aircraft manufacturer, COMAC, to make new waves in the industry.
Regardless, Boeing could face enormous financial losses and devastating economic consequences.
While Boeing surely carries enough insurance coverage for losses, it is inevitable the damage to its brand is more far-reaching in the medium to long term. This will affect the confidence of aircraft operators and the general public.
Even if any technical defects discovered are quick to fix, a damaged brand tends to require more time and much more significant efforts to recover.
Is it safe?
Of course there is a question everyone wants answered: is it safe to fly?
The answer is definitely. Statistically speaking, flying on a commercial passenger airliner is the safest mode of transportation.
A recent study of US census data puts the odds of dying as a plane passenger at 1 in 188,364. That compares with odds of 1 in 4,047 for a cyclist, 1 in 1,117 for drowning and 1 in 103 for a car crash.
Globally, 2017 was the safest year in aviation history with no passenger jet crashes recorded.
The most advanced technology used in aircraft design and manufacturing, and in air traffic control management, and the comprehensive, efficient pilot training and management are aimed at a safe flight.
So the decision of Boeing to suspend flights of its 737 MAX aircraft is welcomed, for now. But, pending the findings of the investigations, the questions as to how long the suspension will be in effect and how Boeing will address the issue remain unanswered.
Australia’s trade minister Simon Birmingham and his Indonesian counterpart Enggartiasto Lukita signed the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement on Monday. Only afterwards (as is often the case) did we get to see what was in it.
We might never see an independent assessment of its costs and benefits.
Beforehand the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade released a summary of the good news about increased Australian agricultural and education exports, together with statements of support from export industry representatives.
It said more than 99% of Australian goods exports by value would enter Indonesia duty free or under significantly improved preferential arrangements by 2020. Indonesia will guarantee automatic issue of import permits for key products including live cattle, frozen beef, sheep meat, feed grains, rolled steel coil, citrus products, carrots and potatoes. Australia will immediately eliminate remaining tariffs on Indonesian imports into Australia.
But most deals have winners and losers. The devil is in the detailed text, released only after the ceremony.
Employment rights? The environment?
First, what’s missing. There are no chapters committing both governments to implement basic labour rights and environmental standards as defined in the United Nations agreements, and to prevent them from seeking trade advantages by reducing these rights and standards.
Such chapters are increasingly included in trade deals like the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP-11) encompassing nations including Brunei, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam, and the Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement at present under negotiation.
They acknowledge that trade agreements increase competitive pressures, and are intended to prevent a race to the bottom on labour rights and environmental standards.
The fact they are missing from the Indonesia-Australia agreement shows neither government sees them as a priority.
The deal does include something else contentious that was included in the Trans-Trans-Pacific Partnership; so-called investor-state dispute settlement clauses, in Chapter 14, Section B.
They give special rights to foreign corporations to bypass local courts and sue governments for millions of dollars in extra-national tribunals if they believe a change in law or policy will harm their investment.
The tobacco giant Philip Morris tried it in 2011 using investor-state dispute settlement provisions in an obscure Australia Hong Kong agreement after it lost a fight against Australia’s plain packaging laws in the High Court. It eventually lost in the international tribunal, although after four years and at the cost to Australia of nearly 40 million dollars.
Temporary migrant workers
Article 12.9 of the Indonesia-Australia agreement will give Indonesia an additional 4,000 temporary working holiday visas, and a commitment over the next three years to negotiate arrangements for more “contractual service providers”.
Unlike permanent migrants, who have the same rights as other workers, temporary workers and contractual service providers are tied to one employer and can be deported if they lose their jobs, and so are vulnerable to exploitation, as shown by recent research.
After signing, the implementing legislation has to be passed by both the Australian and Indonesian parliaments before it can come into force.
And not for some time
In Australia, the next steps are for the treaty to be reviewed by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. But the likely calling of the federal election in April will dissolve this committee. The committee will be reconstituted after the election with the winning party having a majority.
Last year Labor faced a strong backlash from its membership and unions when it supported the implementing legislation for the TPP-11 despite the fact that it was contrary to the then Labor policy.
It requires independent assessments of the economic, social and environmental impacts of future trade agreements before they are ratified, outlaws investor-state dispute settlement clauses and the removal of labour market testing for temporary workers, mandates labour rights and environmental clauses and requires the renegotiation of non-compliant agreements should Labor win office.
If the Coalition wins office but not a Senate majority, and Labor implements its policy, a Coalition government could face opposition to ratification of the Indonesia-Australia agreement in the Senate.
If Labor wins government, it will face pressure from its base to implement its policy to conduct an independent assessment and renegotiate the provisions before ratification.
In Indonesia, which has elections in April, the deal could also face a rocky road.
Criticisms of the process led civil society groups to lodge a case which resulted in a ruling by the Indonesian Constitutional Court in November that the Indonesian President cannot approve trade agreements without parliamentary approval.
The opposition parties have been sceptical about the deal. Azam Azman Natawijana, deputy chairman of the parliamentary committee overseeing trade, was quoted in The Australian saying he expected the ratification process to be protracted.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will have learned a valuable foreign policy lesson in the past day or so as it relates to the Holy Land.
As ye sow, so shall ye reap (Galatians 6:7).
When Morrison allowed a thought bubble to become a political ploy in the Liberal party’s desperation to cling on to a safe seat in the Wentworth byelection, he miscalculated the damage it would cause to his own credibility and the country’s foreign policy settings.
An inexperienced prime minister blundered into the thicket of Middle East politics by announcing Australia would both consider moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and would also review its support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
This latter is the 159-page document negotiated by the permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany. In it, Iran agreed to freeze its nuclear program.
In any event, Morrison indicated Canberra would continue to adhere to JCPOA, thus putting itself at odds with Washington. The United States announced it would abandon the JCPOA, pending the negotiation of better terms.
In his efforts to purloin the Jewish vote in Wentworth, Morrison’s shallow marketing impulses got the better of policy prudence.
He proceeded with haste in the first instance, and now he can repent at leisure after having sought – unsuccessfully it seems – to thread the needle in his policy pronouncements at the weekend.
If we stretch the biblical allusions further, we might say that when it comes to the Middle East, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a political ingénue to shift the status quo in Australia’s position on the vexed Arab-Israel issue.
What has now happened – as it inevitably would – after Morrison announced that Australia would recognise West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and establish a branch office there, is a negative reaction not only from the Muslim world, but from Israel itself.
So an Australian prime minister goes out on a limb for the Jewish state, only to have it sawn off by critics in Israel who did not like the distinction he made between Jerusalem’s Jewish west and Arab east.
Under Israel’s Basic Law, the constitution, an undivided Jerusalem is deemed to be the country’s capital in perpetuity. This position was bolstered in a Knesset vote as recently as this year.
Israel’s official reaction to the Morrison announcement was to describe it as a “step in the right direction”. However, as its implications sunk in, Israeli public figures began to take strong exception to Australia’s “acknowledgement” of Palestinian claims to Jerusalem in a final status peace settlement.
Typical of the reaction was this, via Twitter, from Tzachi Hanegbi, a prominent Knesset member of the nationalist Likud party and confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Yuli Edelstein, the speaker of the Knesset, went further.
We expected more from a friendly country like Australia […] I am hoping that our cool response will make it clear to the Australians that this is not what we were wishing for.
Pointedly, Netanyahu had not commented publicly at time of writing.
In his announcement on Saturday at a Sydney Institute event, Morrison set out his stall on the Jerusalem issue. In the process, apart from infuriating the Israeli nationalist right, he exposed himself to withering criticism at home and in the region.
This was the nub of Morrison’s statement:
Australia now recognises West Jerusalem, being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel […] Furthermore, recognising our commitment to a two-state solution, the Australian Government has also resolved to acknowledge the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem.
While Morrison’s use of the word “acknowledge” falls a long way short of “recognising” Palestinian aspirations, his “acknowledgement”, in the context of final status peace negotiations, trespasses on an Israeli article of faith.
Israel’s insistence on an undivided Jerusalem in perpetuity under its control contradicts an international consensus that East Jerusalem remains occupied territory since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Australia has supported numerous United Nations resolutions to this effect, including Security Council resolutions 242 of 1967 and 338 of 1973 that called on Israel to withdraw from territories occupied in war.
In his efforts to find favour with Israel’s supporters, Morrison crossed that divide, thereby infuriating an Israeli government and discomforting Israel’s backers in Australia, notwithstanding their professed delight at the latest turn of events.
Australia’s position, it might be noted, contrasts with that of the United States. Washington recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital earlier this year without making a distinction between “west” and “east”.
In his Sydney Institute speech, Morrison indicated he and his public service advisers had conferred widely in their efforts to come up with a form of words that would be consistent with his pledge to review Australia’s position on Jerusalem.
This review included consultations with:
…some eminent Australian policymakers: former heads of various agencies and departments whether in Defence, Foreign Affairs or Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Advice to Morrison from what was known as a “reference group” of “eminent Australian policymakers” was overwhelmingly, if not unanimously, resistant to changing the status quo.
In other words, Australia should adhere to settled policy.
Morrison chose to ignore this advice after having committed himself to a review. In the process, and unnecessarily, he has risked negative reactions from Australia’s important neighbours, Indonesia and Malaysia, and from the Arab world. At home, he has exposed himself to criticism he has jeopardised Australia’s international standing for no conspicuous benefit.
This has been a mess, and one entirely of Morrison’s own making, driven by short-term political calculations.
Scott Morrison has announced a compromise position that recognises West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital but does not move Australia’s embassy there until a peace settlement determines Jerusalem’s final status.
Instead Australia will simply establish a Trade and Defence Office in West Jerusalem.
The government briefed Indonesia before the Prime Minister outlined the new Australian policy in a speech in Sydney on Saturday.
Morrison’s announcement in the run up to the Wentworth by-election that Australia would consider moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem caused Indonesia – a Muslim country that is hostile to Israel – to put on ice the conclusion of the free trade agreement between the two countries. It also led to criticism from Malaysia. The government is hoping the compromise will mollify the Indonesians, and enable the finalisation of the trade deal.
In a speech strongly sympathetic towards Israel and condemning the “rancid stalemate” that had emerged in the negotiations to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, Morrison outlined Australia’s position.
“Australia now recognises West Jerusalem, being the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel.
“And we look forward to moving our embassy to West Jerusalem when practical, in support of and after final status determination”.
Morrison said Australia would start work now to find a suitable site for an embassy in West Jerusalem.
“Out of respect for the clearly communicated preference of the Israeli government for countries to not establish consulates or honorary consular offices in West Jerusalem, the Australian government will establish a Trade and Defence Office in West Jerusalem.”
Morrison said the defence aspect of this office would be concerned with defence industry, not diplomatic activity, because the Israeli defence ministry was in Tel Aviv.
He also said that “recognising our commitment to a two-state solution, the Australian government has also resolved to acknowledge the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a future state with its capital in East Jerusalem”.
Bill Shorten described the Morrison announcement as “a humiliating backdown”.
Shorten said the government had “walked away from their initial rush of blood to the head”.
Asked whether a Labor government would reverse the decision, Shorten said the ALP believed “Jerusalem should be recognised as the capital of both Israel and Palestine as part of the final stages of a negotiated two-state peace deal”.
Labor would do this “at the final stage and we’re not at the final stage of a two-state peace deal”.
Shorten said he hoped the trade deal with Indonesia would go ahead.
There was no immediate reaction from Israel because of the Jewish Sabbath. At the time when Morrison announced that Australia was considering moving its embassy, this was warmly welcomed by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, so the Israelis might be disappointed with the Morrison halfway house.
The official Indonesian reaction gave no indication about whether the Morrison announcement would be enough to move along the trade agreement. An Indonesian statement called “on Australia and all member states of the UN to promptly recognise the state of Palestine and to cooperate towards the attainment of sustainable peace and agreement between the state of Palestine and Israel”, based on a two-state solution.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported a member of the main Indonesian opposition coalition, Dian Islamiati Fatwa, a candidate for next year’s election, was critical of the announcement and said the free trade deal should be put on hold.
The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network denounced the Morrison announcement saying that it “was appeasing extremist elements of the party while further slamming closed the door to peace”
“As Israel claims exclusive sovereignty over all of Jerusalem and refuses to abide by United Nations resolutions calling it to withdraw from occupied East Jerusalem, we cannot give them a free kick,” said Bishop George Browning, President of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network.
SUNDAY UPDATE: Malaysia slams Morrison Jerusalem decision
Malaysia has issued a strong statement opposing the Australian decision to recognise West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
As statement from the Malaysian government said: “Malaysia firmly believes that this announcement, made before the settlement of a two-state solution, is premature and a humiliation to the Palestinians and their struggle for the right to self-determination”
“Malaysia reiterates its long standing position that a two-State solution, in which the Palestinians and the Israelis live side by side in peace, based on the pre-1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine is the only viable solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
All hell broke loose during the Wentworth by-election when Prime Minister Scott Morrison suddenly announced that he was thinking of moving of Australia’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The main objections came, not on merits of the idea itself, but on whether it would upset Indonesia, the nation with whom Australia had just completed a landmark, but unsigned, free trade agreement and the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population.
The agreement is now unlikely to be signed for quite some time. In a face to face meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo last week that was intended to clear the way, Morrison was instead pressed about the Middle East.
But how important is the Indonesian trade relationship really? And would it be folly to sacrifice it on the altar of Middle East politics?
Why the relationship matters
Australia and Indonesia have been entwined for a long time.
What is now Indonesia is almost certainly the Australian continent’s oldest trading partner.
Indigenous Australians fished and traded sea cucumber and other goods with their Makassan counterparts from at least the least the early 1700’s. Makassar is in the south-west corner of the Indonesian province of Sulawesi.
Australia provided critical support as what was then known as the Dutch East Indies fought for independence from the Dutch after the end of the second world war.
The Australian government provided medical supplies. Australian waterside workers refused to load Dutch ships.
Australia has helped in times of need
These close ties continued 50 years later during the late 1990s Asian financial crisis when the Reserve Bank of Australia clashed with the International Monetary Fund and Clinton administration, who wanted to impose tough conditions on Indonesia in return for bailing it out.
Australia’s Treasurer Peter Costello took the advice of Reserve Bank Deputy Governor Stephen Grenville, who had been a diplomat in Jakarta, and stared down the IMF and the United States.
As a result the Indonesian economy fared much better, recovered more quickly and avoided much of damage endured by other developing economies that had done as the IMF wanted.
Two decades on, Indonesia is one of Australia’s top 15 trade partners, worth A$16.5 billion in two-way trade, and one of the biggest markets for Australian education.
There’s room for growth
In many ways, Indonesia is underdone as a partner for Australia.
It houses abound 262 million people but only around 250 Australian companies of any size, compared to more than 3,000 in China.
Among the companies that do have a big presence are the ANZ, Leightons, the Commonwealth Bank, Orica and Bluescope.
Its attractions are a massive and growing urban middle class and its need for infrastructure given the logistical challenges of connecting a huge population living across over 17,000 islands.
The relationship will survive Jerusalem
A free trade agreement is important to both sides, whatever political rhetoric President Widodo might need to employ to hold off his fundamentalist opponents.
Morrison told Widodo he would decide on the location of Australia’s Israel embassy by Christmas. The trade deal is likely to be signed soon after.
The magnitude 7.5 earthquake, and subsequent tsunami, that struck Indonesia days ago has resulted in at least 1,200 deaths.
Authorities are still gauging the extent of the damage, but it’s clear the earthquake and tsunami had a devastating effect on the Sulawesi region, particularly the city of Palu.
It’s not the first time earthquakes have caused mass destruction and death in Indonesia. The tsunamis that follow are particularly damaging. But why?
A combination of plate tectonic in the region, the shape of the coastline, vulnerable communities and a less-than-robust early warning system all combine to make Indonesian tsunamis especially dangerous.
Indonesia covers many complex tectonic environments. Many details of these are still poorly understood, which hampers our ability to predict earthquake and tsunami risks.
The biggest earthquakes on Earth are “subduction zone” earthquakes, which occur where two tectonic plates meet.
In December 2004 and March 2005, there were a pair of subduction zone earthquakes along the Sunda Trench offshore of the west coast of Sumatra. In particular, the magnitude-9.1 quake in December 2004 generated a devastating tsunami that killed almost a quarter of a million people in countries and islands surrounding the Indian Ocean.
But only looking out for these kinds of earthquakes can blind us to other dangers. Eastern Indonesia has many small microplates, which are jostled around by the motion of the large Australia, Sunda, Pacific and Philippine Sea plates.
The September quake was caused by what’s called a “strike-slip” fault in the interior of one of these small plates. It is rare – although not unknown – for these kinds of quakes to create tsunamis.
The fault systems are rather large, and through erosion processes have created broad river valleys and estuaries. The valley of the Palu river, and its estuary in which the regional capital Palu is located, have been formed by this complex fault system. Studies of prehistoric earthquakes along this fault system suggests this fault produces magnitude 7-8 earthquakes roughly every 700 years.
The sea floor shapes the wave
Another important factor for tsunamis is the depth and shape of the sea floor. This determines the speed of the initial waves. Strong subduction zone earthquakes on the ocean floor can cause the entire ocean water column to lift, then plunge back down. As the water has momentum, it may fall below sea level and create strong oscillations.
The bulge of water moving outward from the centre of a earthquake maybe of limited height (rarely much more than a metre), but the mass of water is extremely large (depending on the surface area moved by the earthquake).
Tsunami waves can travel very fast, reaching the speed of a jet. In water 2km deep they can travel at 700km per hour, and over very deep ocean can hit 1,000km per hour.
When the wave approaches the shallower coast, its speed decreases and the height increases. A tsunami may be 1m high in the open ocean, but rise to 5-10m at the coast. If the approach to the shoreline is steep, this effect is exaggerated and can create waves tens of metres high.
Despite the fact that the waves slow down near the coast, their immense starting speeds mean flat areas can be inundated for kilometres inland. The ocean floor topography affects the speed of tsunami waves, meaning they move faster over deep areas and slow down over submarine banks. Very steep land, above or below water, can even bend and reflect waves.
The coastlines of the Indonesian archipelago are accentuated, in particular in the eastern part and especially at Sulawesi. Palu has a narrow, deep and long bay: perfectly designed to make tsunamis more intense, and more deadly.
This complex configuration also makes it very difficult to model potential tsunamis, so it’s hard to issue timely and accurate warnings to people who may be affected.
Get to high ground
The safest and simplest advice for people in coastal areas that have been affected by an earthquake is to get to higher ground immediately, and stay there for a couple of hours. In reality, this is a rather complex problem.
Hawaii and Japan have sophisticated and efficient early warning systems. Replicating these in Indonesia is challenging, given the lack of communications infrastructure and the wide variety of languages spoken throughout the vast island archipelago.
After the 2004 Indian Ocean disaster, international efforts were made to improve tsunami warning networks in the region. Today, Indonesia’s tsunami warning system operates a network of 134 tidal gauge stations, 22 buoys connected to seafloor sensors to transmit advance warnings, land-based seismographs, sirens in about 55 locations, and a system to disseminate warnings by text message.
However, financing and supporting the early warning system in the long term is a considerable problem. The buoys alone cost around US$250,000 each to install and US$50,000 annually for maintenance.
The three major Indonesian agencies for responsible for earthquake and tsunami disaster mitigation have suffered from budget cuts and internal struggles to define roles and responsibilities.
Lastly, the Palu tsunami event has highlighted that our current tsunami models are insufficient. They do not properly consider multiple earthquake events, or the underwater landslides potentially caused by such quakes.
No early warning system can prevent strong earthquakes. Tsunamis, and the resulting infrastructure damage and fatalities, will most certainly occur in the future. But with a well-developed and reliable early warning system, and better communication and public awareness, we can minimise the tragic consequences.
With earthquakes that occur very close to the beach – often the case in Indonesia – even an ideal system could not disseminate the necessary information quickly enough. Indonesia’s geography and vulnerable coastal settlements makes tsunamis more dangerous, so we need more and concerted efforts to create earthquake and tsunami resilient communities.