Prime Minister Scott Morrison wins hearts in Indonesia
by Tom McIlroy
Scott Morrison channelled the story of a boy working in his father's furniture factory at 12 who grew up to lead the world's largest Muslim nation, as he won hearts in Indonesia on Friday.
Already receiving praise for meeting President Joko Widodo just a week into the job, the Prime Minister made an easy transition to diplomat-in-chief during a visit to the SMPN 2 Babakan Madang school in West Java.
Funded with $200,000 in Australian tsunami recovery aid, the school has 454 pupils and is just one of 2700 built as part of efforts to build goodwill with Indonesia's Islamic education sector.
Mr Morrison praised Mr Widodo's life story, calling him an inspiration to the people of his nation.
"Australia is your friend," he told a class studying Islamic ethics through a translator, after being greeted by boys and girls waving the Australian and Indonesian flags.
"Even better â" we're good mates."
Imploring the children to believe they too could become the leader of the 261 million-strong country, Mr Morrison said his own daughters were at school in Sydney's Sutherland Shire at the same time.
In a wider itinerary originally planned for Malcolm Turnbull, and including an agreement to finalise long-running free trade negotiations, the Liberal leader has sought to capitalise on increasing goodwill to Australia.
His two immediate successors had what commentators called "night and day" experiences with the Indonesian President.
Tony Abbott failed to connect with the 57-year-old leader, with a clash over death penalty sentences for Bali Nine drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran dominating their relationship.
Strong personal connectionThe disagreement, which saw Australia's ambassador recalled by Canberra, was replayed in local media this week along with reports of Mr Abbott's role in last week's leadership coup in Canberra.
By contrast, Mr Turnbull emphasised his backgroun d in business to build a strong personal connection with the entrepreneur-turned-politician, dubbed a "batik bromance".
Mr Widodo made a successful visit to Sydney, even joining Mr Turnbull and his wife Lucy Turnbull for dinner at their Point Piper mansion.
"It is my absolute intention and priority to keep the momentum going and to take it to a new level â¦ the platform that has been built by Prime Minister Turnbull with President Widodo to get us to this point.
"I am very happy to pick up where the Prime Minister previously left us, and to take it forward for both countries."
The trip, overshadowed in the local media by Jakarta's hosting of the popular Asian Games, comes a day after Mr Widodo hosted Namibia's President Hage Geingob and Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim at the Presidential Palace, carefully following the same set-piece diplomatic rituals put on to welcome Mr Morrison.
The pair planted a tree together, inspected members of the Presidential Guard and held extended one-on-one talks before the singing ceremony.
In a reprise of a successful meeting with former US president Barack Obama, Mr Widodo took his counterpart for high tea at a restaurant set in extensive botanical gardens.
If all politics is local, Australia's new Prime Minister came prepared to woo his hosts.
"You can achieve anything you put your mind to in Indonesia," he told the children.
"You should feel very proud to have such a great President and to live in such a successful country."
Source: Google News