24 August 2020

Labor welcomes the Government’s decision to provide a financial lifeline to the Australian Consortium for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies (ACICIS).

This important organisation has helped build closer relations between Australia and Indonesia for the past 25 years.

But Labor questions why the Government took so long to answer the call for help from ACICIS, which was forced to retrench 60 per cent of its staff while it waited for a response.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has been aware for months that ACICIS would be unable to survive the Covid-19 pandemic unless it received government support.

But a proposal for ACICIS to access New Colombo Plan funding sat in the Minister’s inbox while the organisation was forced to draw up plans to close its doors.

Labor wrote to the Government in the middle of June to call for an urgent funding injection.

The Government’s tardy response highlights its lack of commitment to strengthening the people-to-people links that will be critical in diversifying Australia’s economic relationships in the region.

More than 3,500 students have studied in Indonesia through ACICIS since 1995.

Labor believe building our Asia capability through programs such as ACICIS is an important part of shaping the region that we want and supporting our economic recovery.

In February, Scott Morrison and Indonesian President Joko Widodo recognised education helps to create greater understanding and acts as a springboard for an even broader partnership between our two countries.

The Morrison Government is good at the talk – but not so good at delivering.

It’s time the Government began doing the long, hard work that is required to foster our crucial bilateral relationship with Indonesia. Just like ACICIS has been doing for years.