Executions haven’t changed opinions on Indonesia aid: poll

A new poll by the Lowy Institute shows that the recent executions of Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran for drug trafficking in Indonesia haven’t changed opinions about whether Australia should cut aid to the country in response.

Only 28% of respondents agreed that Australia should suspend aid projects in response to the execution of an Australian national overseas. The poll was conducted between May 1-3, and the response was unchanged from a poll conducted by Lowy in February/March this year, prior to the executions. On the same question, some 68% of respondents disagreed with suspending aid projects before the executions, with 69% disagreeing afterwards. There was stronger, yet still modest, support for other measures, such as making private diplomatic protests and recalling the ambassador.

For context, a poll by DFAT in 2013 showed that 45% of Australians believed aid to Indonesia ‘was probably at the right level’, 18% thought it should be increased, and only 29% thought it should be decreased–and that was well before the Chan and Sukumaran executions were in the headlines.

The Indonesian government also seems unfussed. Foreign affairs spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said that Indonesia would be unconcerned if aid was cut in the Australian Federal Budget next week, as is anticipated.

“Indonesia at the moment is no longer a country that needs aid for development,” he said, according to The Guardian.

“Nevertheless, any aid given by Australia is their effort to increase, to strengthen our partnership.

“And so, it’s their right to give, but Indonesia is not asking.”

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi also told The Jakarta Globe that the aid cut had “long been planned across the board”.

Ashlee Betteridge

Ashlee Betteridge is the Program Manager (Research Communications and Outreach) at the Development Policy Centre. She was previously a Research Officer at the centre from 2013-2017. A former journalist, she holds a Master of Public Policy (Development Policy) from ANU and has development experience in Indonesia and Timor-Leste.

2 Comments

  • Thanks Ashlee,

    Here’s a puzzle: does this mean, given that it appears Australians are somewhat supportive of aid cuts more generally, that they want Indonesia spared at the expense of the rest of the world, or does the finding suggest that Australians are supportive of cuts in the most general sense, but the moment they are confronted with specifics they baulk?

    Terence

    • It’s a good question Terence! I don’t have an answer though. It does make you wonder which countries Australians think should have their aid allocations cut? I thought Indonesia would be a prime target, but perhaps it does show that when it comes to specifics people are more timid? Perhaps people have misconceptions that we give aid to China or other larger economies and that should be reduced? Perhaps they balk more at the idea of multilateral aid (i.e. to the UN) rather than aid Australia delivers itself bilaterally? Perhaps the frequent trips that Australians make to SE Asia, including Indonesia (particularly Bali), means there is more support for aid to those countries?

      There’s so many questions! The Australian public seems rather fickle, yet this survey seems to show they are much less retaliatory than some of the media coverage in recent weeks would have you think. I guess it does provide some further backing to previous surveys showing that Australians think aid should be predominantly about poverty alleviation rather than foreign policy objectives.

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