How the Australian media is damaging relations with Indonesia, the Pacific consequences of a new Australian PM and a leading New Zealand politician.
An already rocky relationship between Australia and Indonesia has endured a drubbing in the Australian media this year, with some saying that the fourth estate has overstepped its mark and caused diplomatic harm. As two Australian drug smugglers faced an Indonesian firing squad in April, a photoshopped picture of Indonesian president Jokowi Widodo, smiling with bloody hands, graced the front page of Queensland daily The Courier-Mail. Later, when Australia’s government fought accusations of bribing Indonesian people-smugglers, the then prime minister Tony Abbott accused the media of promoting discord.
“Journalism and the media have often been the cause of bilateral problems between the two countries,” says The Age’s Michael Bachelard, a former Indonesia correspondent. “I think that is the legitimate role of media: to point out the shortcomings and failings in a society in the honest hope that by pointing out those failings, both societies might improve.”
But Bachelard adds that a largely uninformed Australian public must give the growing economy and the improved political conditions of their northern neighbours greater attention. He says he was disheartened by how low the level of interest was for Jokowi’s 2014 election victory.
Australian National University’s Dr Ross Tapsell says the lack of interest is down to Australians seeing Indonesia as a place to fear. “We have a long legacy of fearing Asian hordes to our north and that has been the theme in the Australian consciousness about Southeast Asia,” he says. “What we need to do in the education system, and where possible in the media, is think of Indonesia as a place of opportunity.”
Since its inception, New Zealand’s Green party – the country’s third-largest political party – has done something rare in politics, mandating that there must always be female and male co-leaders. Metiria Turei has been the Green party’s female co-leader since 2009. This year James Shaw was elected as her male counterpart.
What's the logic behind having male and female co-leaders?
We have a co-leadership for two reasons. First, to ensure gender equity in our leadership positions; men and women have different perspectives, both of which we value equally. We have co-leadership at every level and we are the only political party whose caucus is at least 50 per cent women. Second, we believe in distributive leadership and consensus decision-making; co-leadership ensures that principle is continuously met at the highest level.
What are the pros and cons of co-leading a political party?
We end up with better decision-making and a more collaborative leadership style, which I love. But it requires more communication and sometimes you don’t get your own way. James and I always talk, text and email but we also have great staff who help keep everything ticking along.
Considering the Green party holds 14 out of New Zealand's 121 seats in the House of Representatives, what changes can the party actually affect?
We’ve had many policy wins outside of government: we negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding with the National party for a $350m (€198m) home-insulation programme that benefitted more than 300,000 homes; and with the previous Labour government we secured $500m (€282m) for the electrification of Auckland’s rail system. We also campaign with the public; we stopped National mining on conservation land, for example. We’re proud of what we’ve done outside of government but there’s more to do once we’re in government.