PRIME Minister Kevin Rudd will meet Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda today as both countries herald a new era in bilateral relations.
Dr Wirajuda was in Perth yesterday for talks with Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith on the day a new security agreement took effect.
The Lombok Treaty covers 10 areas including cooperation on defence, counter-terrorism, maritime security, emergency preparedness and transnational crime.
The pact is the first between the two countries since a 1995 security agreement was junked in the aftermath of Australia’s intervention in East Timor.
To coincide with Dr Wirajuda’s visit, the federal government has committed $40 million to fight HIV in Indonesia.
Dr Wirajuda says relations between Australia and Indonesia are at a new level these days, based on friendship, maturity and logic rather than emotion.
But he’s admitted relations between the two countries have been a roller-coaster ride at times, particularly during the dark days of the 1999 East Timor crisis.
The initial signing of the Lombok Treaty in November 2006 marked an improvement in relations that had deteriorated again over the issue of Papuan asylum seekers.
Earlier that year Indonesia recalled its ambassador, angry at an Australian decision to grant protection to 43 Papuans.
But Mr Smith says Indonesia is central to the foreign policy approach of the Rudd government. Indonesia was the first overseas destination for Mr Rudd after he became prime minister.