Australia-Indonesia Leaders Visit Fosters Greater Diplomatic Collaboration

2016 Australia-Indonesia Leaders Program participants

By Asialink Diplomacy

Asialink was privileged to host the third Australia-Indonesia Leaders Program at the University of Melbourne on 23 May. As part of this ten-day program, 28 policymakers, diplomats, media figures, business people and academics from Australia and Indonesia were invited to a series of workshops and events about crisis management and economic diplomacy.

Given that Indonesia is Australia’s 12th largest trading partner, there is potential to strengthen the economic connection between our two countries. Whether negotiating further trade agreements, gaining market access for goods and services, attracting new investment or brokering solutions for regulatory issues, economic diplomacy requires a sophisticated understanding of how the policymaking process operates in different countries.

In partnership with the Australia-Indonesia Centre, the University of Melbourne program focused on managing shared crisis scenarios for our two countries, especially in the energy sector. As Asia’s economic landscape becomes more interconnected and competitive, policymakers in Indonesia and Australia must define uncertain problems and make complex decisions in a fast-moving environment. Asialink invited academics at the Melbourne School of Government (MSOG) and the Centre for Disaster Management and Public Safety (CDMPS) to facilitate workshops that explored these challenges and ways to improve the government response.

In the opening session, Professor Helen Sullivan from MSOG asked delegates to reflect on the nature and role of policymaking. Drawing from previous lessons in the Leaders Program, the delegates compared scholarship on public policy with their professional experience. In the second session Greg Ireton from CDMPS presented a case study of the 2014 Hazelwood Mine Fire. This example required delegates to think about managing diverse stakeholders and coordinating the policy response across multiple areas, including energy, health, and urban planning. The third session conducted by Dr Sara Bice from MSOG applied decision-making scholarship to complex problems, with a number of different scenarios for Australia and Indonesia to collaborate on.

2016 Australia-Indonesia Leaders Program participants discussing

The delegates also heard from leading experts in Australia’s private sector, with Grant Dooley from Hastings Funds Management and Christian Bennett from GE Australia joining a panel discussion on the pressing issues for economic diplomacy in Asia. With previous expertise in diplomacy, Grant and Christian were well positioned to advise how policymakers can successfully engage with business, civil society, and international partners.

In the afternoon, delegates toured the Carlton Connect Initiative, an innovation hub developed by the University of Melbourne. This collaborative space is home to a range of University alumni, research groups, and entrepreneurs exploring new ideas for collaboration and investment, including a start-up recently established in Indonesia which provides an online platform for car sales.

A key part of the Australia-Indonesia Leaders Program is to foster people-to-people links between our two countries. By focusing on interactive discussion and collaborative problem solving in small groups, the visit encouraged delegates to think about different perspectives and learn from one another’s experience.

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Renuka Rajadurai