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Monday, October 02, 2006


Poll finds Australian neighbor gap

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Australians believe Indonesia is a dangerous source of Islamic terrorism, a new opinion poll has found.

Indonesians, on the other hand, believe Australia tends to try to interfere in Indonesia's affairs too much, according to findings released Monday by the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based think tank.

A majority of people in both countries agree it is "very important" that they work to develop a close relationship, according to the poll. And both see the United States playing the role of global policeman more than it should be.

The Lowy poll of Australians had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent. The organization's survey of Indonesians had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percent.

The landmark opinion poll shows a relationship between two very different countries that is sometimes under strain, but with some grounds for optimism.

Under Prime Minister John Howard, Australia has been a staunch ally of the United States and has committed troops to Afghanistan and the war in Iraq.

Under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has been at the center of the battle against terrorism in Southeast Asia.

As the site of a spate of deadly terrorist acts such as the Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005, Indonesia figures largely in Australian security concerns.

The Lowy Institute survey of 1,000 Australian respondents found a majority agreed that "Indonesia is a dangerous source of Islamic terrorism" and that "Australia is right to worry about Indonesia as a military threat."

They also believe that Indonesia essentially is controlled by the military, but nonetheless believe Indonesia has benefited from having Australia as a stable and prosperous neighbor.

'Reliable friend'
Australians believe their country -- which was one of the biggest donors to the reconstruction effort after the devastating tsunami hit Aceh province in December 2004 -- has shown itself to be a reliable long-term friend to Indonesia.

Australians' feelings for Indonesia fall exactly in the middle of a 0-100 scale, with a score of 50. Among 15 countries, Britain was the mostly warmly regarded by Australians, with a score of 74, followed by Singapore 65, Japan 64, Papua New Guinea 63, the United States and India on 62 and China on 61. Iraq, 44, Iran and North Korea (both 43) were at the bottom.

For Indonesians, the country it viewed most warmly was Malaysia, with a score of 66, followed by Japan 64, Singapore 59, China 58, India 56 and the United States and Britain, both on 54. Australian ranked in the next group with South Korea and Iran on 51. For Indonesia, the lowest three of the 15 countries were Papua New Guinea 45, East Timor 43 and Israel 39.

Among Indonesians, Australia's role in the formation of the now independent nation of East Timor and more recently, its attitude to the Indonesian state of (West) Papua, are sources of tension.

A majority of 1,200 Indonesians respondents thought that "Indonesia is right to worry that Australia is seeking to separate the province of Papua from Indonesia."

Indonesians also think that Australia's policy towards the region is shaped too heavily by its alliance with the United States.

While 47 percent of Australians think relations between the two countries are getting worse, Indonesian respondents are more inclined to see the relationship getting better. They also think that Australia's motives in helping Indonesia fight the threat of terrorism are "mostly good."

Seventy-seven percent of Australian respondents said it was "very important" that Australia work together to develop a close relationship, while 22 percent thought the countries were too different to develop such a relationship.

Among Indonesian respondents, the corresponding figures were 64 percent and 36 percent.

Sixty-one percent of Indonesian respondents thought the war in Iraq had worsened America's relations with the Muslim world. In Australia, the corresponding figure was 91 percent.

The top four threats for Australians were perceived to be international terrorism, 73 percent; the possibility of unfriendly countries becoming nuclear powers, 70 percent; global warming, 68 percent; and Islamic fundamentalism, 60 percent. There was no similar question asked in the Indonesian survey.

The opinion polls were conducted in Indonesia and Australia between June 19 and July 6, 2006.

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