Professor, Foundation Director
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After the dramatic leadership spill within the Liberal Party of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull was elected to replace Tony Abbott as the new Australian prime minister. Whereas Abbott was the acknowledged leader of the right-wing conservative bloc within the party, Turnbull is much more a moderate in the tradition of Australia’s longest-serving prime minister and Liberal Party founder, Sir Robert Menzies.
During two years of Abbott’s prime ministership, relations between Australia and Indonesia experienced notable oscillations. Abbott chose the Southeast Asian neighbor as his first foreign destination, in September 2013 he promised a foreign policy of “more Jakarta, less Geneva”. Relations nevertheless started to deteriorate just two months later when then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recalled the Indonesian ambassador from Canberra in protest of the alleged bugging of Indonesian top leaders’ phone conversations. Indonesia then terminated some pivotal cooperation with Australia on military, intelligence and undocumented migration matters. Relations then reached a new low when Abbott recalled the Australian ambassador in a protest of the executions of drug convicts Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in April 2015.
While It is too early to expect that Turnbull’s rise to power will significantly change the course of relations between the two neighbors there are some signs that Turnbull is eager to reexamine Australia’s existing foreign policy stance.