Australian premier in fence-mending talks with Indonesian president


Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull met Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Thursday as Canberra sought to improve often-prickly relations with Jakarta.

Turnbull said strengthening economic cooperation was a priority.

“The overwhelming concern in Indonesia and Jakarta, or in Canberra, is about growth, economic growth, investment and jobs,” Turnbull said on ABC News24.

“So trade, investment, economic growth, stronger economies in both Indonesia and Australia for the benefit of both sides is the focus of the discussions.”

The countries sought to get past recent diplomatic hurdles. Indonesia executed two Australian drug traffickers in April despite Australia’s repeated appeals for clemency, prompting Canberra to withdraw its ambassador for several weeks in protest.

Ties were also hurt by a 2013 revelation that Australian intelligence agencies spied on the mobile phones of Joko’s predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his inner circle.

Joko said after the meeting that he invited Australian business people to invest in Indonesia, especially in the digital economy and infrastructure sectors.

“Indonesia is opening itself to investment from Australia,” he said.

The president also said the two neighbours also agreed to share intelligence and strengthen cooperation in the fight against terrorism and extremism.

Jakarta is the first stop on Turnbull’s 11-day tour to meet world leaders since he ousted Tony Abbott two months ago from the top post in a party-room vote.

Turnbull will later fly to Berlin, accepting a personal invitation from Chancellor Angela Merkel to meet before the G20.

Turnbull’s wife Lucy, a commercial lawyer, businesswoman and former lord mayor of Sydney, has strong connections with Germany as president of the German-Australian Chamber of Business and Commerce.

Business links and climate goals will be key to talks with Merkel as Turnbull, unlike his predecessor, is not a climate change sceptic and promoter of coal.

At the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, Turnbull will be the sixth new face representing Australia in six years.

At last year’s G20 in Brisbane, then leader Abbott notoriously threatened to confront – “shirt-front” in Australian slang – Russian President Vladimir Putin over the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine.

Turnbull then flies to Manila, where 21 economic leaders meet for the APEC summit, and then to Kuala Lumpur, where 18 national leaders meet for the East Asia Summit and the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community.