Post-Suharto democratisation and the obstacles to a security community between Australia and Indonesia

Will Lee

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis considers the prospects of a security community between Australia and Indonesia in the post-Suharto period. A security community is characterised by widespread identification and trust, and is distinct from both English School solidarism’s emphasis on purposive cooperation between states, and the democratic peace theory’s conception of states interacting in isolation from broader relations of rule. During the early 1990s, Paul Keating and Gareth Evans sought a degree of ideational convergence with Jakarta. They focused on promoting a common conception of regional security, which was reflected in the state-centric norms of cooperative security, multilateralism and trade liberalisation. These norms found institutional expression in the Cambodian peace settlement, the ASEAN Regional Forum, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. However, Canberra and Jakarta were constantly challenged by widespread opposition in Australia towards Jakarta’s sovereignty over East Timor, demonstrating why the solidarist bilateral relationship during the late Suharto years was not a security community. According to the democratic peace theory, post-Suharto democratisation and decentralisation should have steadily increased trust between Australia and Indonesia. However, this expectation has not occurred, and the absence of a security community is particularly evident in the fractious and partial quality of post-Suharto bilateral cooperation on state-building, regionalism, and asylum seekers. The democracies of Australia and Indonesia do not interact with each other in an ideational and material vacuum, but are located within broader relations of rule which condition the scope and quality of identification. In the post-Suharto period, these relations of rule have principally included the unequal power relations which constrain democratic institutions in Australia and Indonesia, the Australian aid programme’s fostering of neoliberal and technocratic forms of belonging in Indonesia, the militaristic bent of United States’ unilateralism, and the exclusivist quality of nationalism. These restrictive relations of rule have meant that the conditions have not been created for a security community between Australia and Indonesia which is based on their common humanity, not merely in terms of their relations as democratic states.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
  • Chen, Jie, Supervisor
  • Pitty, Roderic, Supervisor
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


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