The relationship with Indonesia is one of six the Government determines as crucial to Australia's future in the new Australia in the Asian Century White Paper. The priority placed on Indonesia mirrors regular Government statements about the importance of bilateral ties and the need to further advance the relationship. But on a first read, with the same caveats as Sam, I'm not convinced the White Paper contributes much to doing so.

There are two key problems. One is the stance of the paper itself on Australian policy to date. That a White Paper was commissioned suggests that a sea-change was required to take advantage of the opportunities that the Asian Century will present; the paper itself speaks of the need for a new mindset.

Belying this, the paper is generally bullish on the status quo; many of the policies it announces to achieve its 25 national objectives by 2025 are existing policies.

Second, where the paper does set new goals, it is short on specifics, and does not make specific resource commitments. For example, the paper states the objective of all school students having access to one of four priority Asian languages, namely Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Indonesian and Japanese. But it does not commit specific resources over a more politically relevant time frame to achieve this goal, nor state even indicative targets for how many students should actually take up these studies and gain proficiency.

On people-to-people ties too, on first read the paper appears to lack a clear and specific commitment of new resources. For example, the expansion of the working holiday visa program to Indonesia to 1000 places was already announced in July. Nor is it clear that 12,000 Australia Awards over five years (presumably 2400 per year) represents an increase on present levels, with 2784 such awards allocated to the region in 2011. On diplomatic ties, a consulate in eastern Indonesia will be established only when circumstances allow, with the PM making the qualification during her launch speech that these are fiscally constrained times.

Photo by Flickr user Julia Gillard.