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Albanese calls for Indonesia white paper, more tourists to Australia

Sydney Morning Herald - August 26, 2019

James Massola, Jakarta – Labor leader Anthony Albanese has called on the Morrison government to commission a white paper on Australia's economic relationship with Indonesia, as parliaments in both nations move towards ratifying a free trade deal.

And Mr Albanese, in his first official overseas visit as Opposition Leader, has also backed "common sense" changes to Australia's strict visa rules, which make it difficult for Indonesian tourists to visit.

Mr Albanese was joined in Jakarta by Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong and Darwin MP Luke Gosling for meetings with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and a range of foreign policy and diplomatic officials.

The Labor leader said the relationship between the two nations was "particularly important" at a time when China's influence in the region was growing.

Mr Albanese told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that Labor policy supported a specific white paper being undertaken on the economic relationship between the two countries, much as former foreign affairs department boss Peter Varghese had led a report on the India-Australia economic relationship.

"This would be a constructive contribution by the Australian government to this important relationship," he said.

On the free trade deal between the two countries, Mr Albanese said ratification would "go through the processes in the normal way in terms of the treaty committee and the caucus".

"We will consider it in the normal way. We believe free, fair and transparent trade is very important," he said.

The Labor leader also supported a simplification of the visa process for Indonesians who wished to travel to Australia as tourists.

At present, Australians can travel to Indonesia without a visa and stay for up to a month, but Indonesian tourists have to undergo a lengthy application process that is time consuming, costs $140 per person, and asks questions such as whether the individual has committed genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture, slavery and a host of other questions.

"We have in this vast country, across the archipelago, a rising middle class that has the potential for a considerable increase in tourism to Australia from Indonesia," he said.

"At the moment, Indonesia is the second highest destination for visitors from Australia [more than million Australians visit annually] after New Zealand. The fact is that the numbers going back the other way are around about 200,000, it could grow to much more.

"We should have a common sense solution to that [the visa issue], recognising that we are in a competitive global environment."

Trade, foreign investment and people to links were also discussed during the visit as were human rights, including the recent unrest in Papua and West Papua.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/albanese-calls-for-indonesia-white-paper-more-tourists-to-australia-20190826-p52kzx.html