The aim of this article is to use theories of bonded and embedded trust to explain the ‘roller-coaster’ nature of the Australia-Indonesia relationship. An examination of Prime Minister Keating and President Suharto as a case of bonded trust between leaders reveals the value such a relationship has in building trust in bilateral relations. However, it also reveals that such trust cannot survive changes in leadership if it has not become more broadly embedded in both government and society. This is particularly problematic given Australia’s tendency for rapid leadership and ministerial turnover across the past decade. While President Joko Widodo and Prime Minister Turnbull were able to develop a warm relationship which helped to reset the relationship and enabled them to navigate diplomatic incidents, Malcolm Turnbull’s recent political demise only serves to further highlight the necessity of building trust between societies. Without trust, cooperation between the two states will be limited. Building trust between societies will be required if Australia wants to develop a trusting relationship with Indonesia capable of undertaking deeper forms of cooperation on more sensitive issues–something which will be fundamental to Australia’s ability to navigate growing strategic uncertainty in the region.
- Australian foreign policy