Australian Outlook

In this section

Episode 80: Indonesia in the World

26 Aug 2021
By Allan Gyngell AO FAIIA and Dr Darren Lim
Gary Quinlan, Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, Submits Credentials to President Joko Widodo in 2018. Source: Australian Embassy Jakarta

Also discussed in this episode of Australia in the World: Diplomacy in the time of COVID-19. This is Part I of Allan and Darren’s conversation with Gary Quinlan AO.

In a conversation recorded on Thursday 5 August, Allan and Darren welcome Gary Quinlan to the podcast. Gary’s career in Australian foreign policy can only be described as stellar, having worked at the top of each of its three pillars: the region, the alliance, and the rules-based order. Gary joined DFAT in 1973 and, until his recent retirement, held one of Australia’s most senior diplomatic appointments as Ambassador to Indonesia from 2018 until April 2021. From 2009, as our permanent representative to the UN, Gary presided over Australia’s successful campaign for election to the UN Security Council and our term in office, twice taking his place as president of the Council. He served as Prime Minister Rudd’s senior adviser on foreign affairs, defence and national security. His first head of mission posting was as High Commissioner in Singapore in 2001.

Allan begins the conversation by observing that, for pandemic-related reasons, Gary spent months of his time as Ambassador to Indonesia living in Canberra. How did that work? Did it work? Will diplomacy as a profession change as a result of the world’s experience with COVID-19?

The conversation turns to Indonesia. How do Indonesians think about the world and Indonesia’s place in it? Is this question contested or is there a strong consensus? How polarised is Indonesian politics and how are cleavages managed? What can be learned from the fascinating career trajectories of two controversial figures, the former Governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (known as Ahok), and Prabowo Subianto, the current Defense Minister? To what extent does Islam, and the politics of Islam, shape Indonesian foreign policy?

Part 1 concludes with a discussion of Indonesia’s views of, and relations with, the two major powers. What are the politics of China inside the country, and what is the trend-line of Indonesia-China relations? How would the Indonesians rate the Biden administration’s performance so far, and what do they want from the US?

In Part 2, the conversation will cover Australia-Indonesia relations as well as ASEAN and the future of multilateralism.

We thank Mitchell McIntosh for his help with research and audio editing and Rory Stenning for composing our theme music.

Relevant links

Gary Quinlan AO, short biography: