Anthony Albanese has declared Australia needs to move past its reliance on China for trade and income-generating opportunities with business needing to prioritise new strategies in Indonesia.
On his final day in Indonesia, the prime minister on Tuesday said industry could not rely on a thaw in the Australia-China relationship to restore lost opportunities.
Albanese said Australia’s commercial strategies needed to be rebalanced. During a visit to the city of Makassar, the prime minister noted that at one point “the trade proportion for China was up above 45%”.
Albanese argued China needed to abandon its “unjust” trade sanctions against Australia but said diversification was the way forward.
“We need to make sure we diversify the opportunities that are there,” he said.
Albanese said there were opportunities in Indonesia because there was “significant economic growth [and] significant growth in the middle class”.
He noted that Australia was currently ranked at 13 on the list of trade partners with Indonesia and it was obvious that performance could improve. “Common sense tells you that that’s the case. We can do much more.”
Albanese said he was pleased that executives from some of Australia’s largest corporates chose to accompany him on his state visit to Indonesia on “very short notice”.
“The fact that you had the head of the Business Council of Australia, Jennifer Westacott; you had the president of the Australian Industry Group; the chief executive of the Commonwealth Bank; representatives of major companies like Wesfarmers and Fortescue.
“What that indicates to me is that there’s a recognition of the opportunity that is here for increased investment from Australia, and it’s a very positive sign indeed.”
He said the head of Industry Super Funds, Greg Combet, would shortly lead a delegation to Indonesia “to look at ways in which Australian superannuation funds can invest in Indonesia”. “That’s a huge opportunity for a win–win.”
Albanese is the first Australian prime minister to visit the city of Makassar in the Sulawesi region. Makassar people travelled to the Arnhem Land coast from 1700 right through to 1907.
On Tuesday, the prime minister addressed alumni and faculty at Hasanuddin University, visited the Eastern Pearl Flour Mill, which is a joint venture between Australia and Indonesia, and the foreign minister, Penny Wong, visited the Rise project, where the Australian government has given $4m to improve climate resilience in a region often beset by flooding.
Albanese told journalists the Indonesia visit had exceeded all his expectations.
“You know, we’re a fortnight into this government, I was sworn in 15 days ago, and the election was 17 days ago, and they’re still counting votes.
“This is a government that has acted from day one, we’re acting in the national interest.
“We’re acting to make sure that we maximise the economic opportunities from engagement in our region – but also that we deal with the challenges which are here in our region, that strategic competition brings, and that we develop good relations with people.”