Australian Outlook

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Episode 81: The Future of Multilateralism

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

Also discussed in this episode: Australia-Indonesia relations and ASEAN. This is Part II of Allan and Darren’s discussion with Gary Quinlan AO.

This second half of the discussion begins with Australia-Indonesia relations. How does Indonesia see Australia? How much do the views expressed by President Widodo in a speech to the Australian Parliament reflect broader opinions among Indonesia’s elite? Darren chimes in with a “cheeky” question about the Australian public’s attitudes towards Indonesia—would it be preferable for the bilateral relationship to be as high profile in the media and public consciousness as that with China or the United States?  And how can Australia increase its engagement with Indonesia? Is a “step up”—our approach in the South Pacific—the correct frame?

The conversation turns outward. Allan asks Gary what he has concluded about ASEAN’s capability “to carry the weight the rest of the world is putting on it.” And specifically, has the regional organisation’s performance during the recent and ongoing Myanmar crisis surprised him? Allan then highlights a recent monograph published by the AIIA and authored by Michael Bliss, and for which Gary wrote the Afterword, about Australia’s most recent term of the UN Security Council and our legacy. What is Gary’s advice to the Australian government about how we can best contribute to the continuation of an effective multilateral system?

Finally, Darren ends by asking Gary to reflect upon his entire career by asking whether there are any distinctively Australian characteristics that cause success or failure in Australian foreign policy.

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

Relevant links

Joko Widodo, “Address by the President of the Republic of Indonesia”, Parliament of Australia, 10 February 2020:

Michael Bliss (Afterword by Gary Quinlan), An Enduring Contribution? Australia’s Term on the United Nations Security Council (2013-2014), Australian Institute of International Affairs, Diplomatic History Series | 2, Canberra, 2021: