Australian Parliament, Canberra, 17 September 2018

Mr Tim Watts, Member of the House of Representatives for Gellibrand, Victoria, spoke about the Australia-Indonesia relationship and the importance of Australians, from leaders to school children, learning Indonesian.

I spoke about the Australia-Indonesia relationship in Parliament yesterday.

In 1968 the Australian Prime Minister, John Gorton, visited Jakarta accompanied by his wife Mrs Bettina Gorton.

As recounted by Professor David Hill, Mrs Gorton spoke fluent Bahasa Indonesia and Javanese, leading President Soeharto reportedly to remark:

“It is indeed an honour, it is even very moving for the Indonesian people that this time outside the Malay race we have a State guest who is well versed in our language and who has a thorough knowledge of the Indonesian culture. I feel that Mrs. Gorton’s fluency and her knowledge of the Indonesian language are a manifestation of the friendly feelings and the understanding of the Australian people about the Indonesian people.”

Professor Hill observes:

“At no subsequent time has an Indonesian president been able to make such observations of an Australian Prime Minister or their spouse—or, for that matter, a foreign minister or any other member of an Australian government.”

Pleasingly, should Labor win the next election that would change.

Under a Shorten Labor government would have a Treasurer, Chris Bowen who speaks Bahasa Indonesia and a Foreign Minister, Penny Wong – Senator for SA who speaks Bahasa Melayu.

Click on the image to watch the full address (5 minutes).

Image of Parliament House, Canberra by David Peterson – retrieved from on 19 September 2018

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