TEMPO.CO, Canberra - Australian shadow foreign minister Julie Bishop said Indonesia will be the first country to be visited by Opposition leader Tony Abbot if he wins the election in September. "It will be a rite of passage for future Australian leaders to show how important Indonesia is to Australia," Bishop told Tempo, today, at a meeting with visiting Indonesian senior editors.
Bishop further said that if the opposition coalition parties win the election in September -- and she confidently predicted they will replace the Julia Gillard government -- Australia's foreign policy will place great emphasis on improving comprehensive relations with its biggest neighboring country to the north. "We will work hard to change the ban on the cattle trade, and look to intensifying all aspects of bilateral trade," said Bishop.
She revealed that their signature foreign policy program will be the establishment of a 'second Colombo Plan' that would send thousands of Australian students to attend universities in Indonesia. "We want the Indonesian experience to be a rite of passage for the Australian youths," said Bishop.
On the boat of people and illegal immigrants, Bishop said her government, if elected, would revive the policy of former Liberal coalition Prime Minister John Howard, who set up a temporary refugee visa for humanitarian reasons, and return the refugees to their country of origin when the emergency situation there had improved. She said Howard's policy succeeded in lowering the number of illegal immigrants coming to Australia. The succeeding government discontinued that policy.
Yuli Ismartono (Canberra)