Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 12:16 | SYDNEY
Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 12:16 | SYDNEY

Australia-US: Have we peaked?


Sam Roggeveen


18 August 2009 10:39

In his joint paper with Michael O'Hanlon about the US-Australia alliance under Rudd and Obama, Michael Fullilove points out that 'for the first time in history, the US president has thicker personal connections to our near neighbour Indonesia than to Australia.'

If you're tempted to think this might only be a four-year or eight-year blip, then consider this op-ed in today's Age. Even without any personal connections, a future US president is likely to place increasing emphasis on the Indonesia relationship, for simple national interest reasons: the global financial crisis has flattened most countries, Indonesia has flourished. In this decade, its economy has grown by almost two-thirds. More Indonesians now live in cities than on farms. Per capita incomes have risen almost 25 per cent in five years, almost 50 per cent in a decade. Even on the IMF's forecasts - seen in Jakarta as unrealistically low - its economy would grow 15 per cent over the three years of this global recession. Only China and India will do better.

If Indonesia remains stable and continues to grow, it seems only logical that the US-Indonesia relationship will grow with it. That doesn't have to mean that the US-Australia alliance will suffer, because economic factors are only one part of the broader relationship. But although Indonesian economic growth and political stability is undoubtedly good for Australia, it does make us relatively less important and influential, and that carries consequences.

I wonder if we'll look back on the Howard years as the high water mark of the US-Australia alliance?