Tough issues will test new Australian ambassador to Indonesia

Tough issues will test new ambassador to Indonesia
The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 July 2010

Bill Farmer ... has served for five years.














THE mutual effort to tackle terrorism and people smuggling will be at the forefront of issues facing Greg Moriarty, nominated yesterday as Australia's next ambassador to Indonesia.

Mr Moriarty, the former ambassador to Iran, is expected to win the approval of Indonesia's parliament to take up the high-profile posting, replacing the career public servant Bill Farmer, who has served there since 2005.

The nomination comes as Australia seeks to win Indonesian support for its regional processing centre for asylum seekers, flagged by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, last week to help combat people smugglers, many of whom use Indonesian ports as a departure point.

The Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith, said yesterday that Mr Moriarty would make a ''first-class ambassador'' and was well known to Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa.

Mr Smith talked up the prospects of developments in the ''Asia-Pacific Community'' championed by the former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

''We think that we might not be too far away from getting a very good practical outcome,'' he told ABC television.

He pointed to efforts to overcome the fact that no regional gathering had brought all key nations together, noting that Australia had led countries in the Association of South-East Asian Nations to consider whether the US and Russia should join either the East Asia Summit or a new group, ASEAN Plus 8.

Last week Ms Gillard appeared pessimistic about developments in the area, noting ''we're unlikely to see that degree of movement'' on the proposal achieving its aim.

Mr Moriarty previously served as counsellor and head of the political section at the Australian embassy in Jakarta. He has also been director of the Papua New Guinea section in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

He has most recently worked on the repatriation of bodies from plane crashes in the Congo and PNG.

An expert on international relations, Damien Kingsbury, said Mr Moriarty was an ''appropriate choice'' for the role and would need to focus on co-operation on security issues.

''Security co-operation in relation to intelligence, policing and defence, with a particular emphasis on Islamist terrorism and also the people smuggling issue, [will be high on the agenda],'' said Dr Kingsbury, an associate professor at Deakin University.

With relations between the two countries the strongest they have been, he said Mr Moriarty would need to lay the groundwork to maintain the relationship beyond the departure of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2014.

''The new ambassador will be looking at that transition in Indonesian politics and … at how Australia responds,'' he said. ''There are no clear successors, but the stronger candidates at the moment are probably those that we might have a more difficult relationship with.''