Opinion article* published in The Newcastle Herald written by Associate Professor Wayne Reynolds, lecturer and researcher in the history of Australian defence and foreign relations at the University of Newcastle.

TONY Abbott has called the relationship with Indonesia the most important that Australia has.

It is an old theme in Australian foreign policy.

In the Great Depression, Prime Minister Joseph Lyons declared at a time of heightened tension with Japan that what Britain calls the ‘‘Far East’’ Australia calls the ‘‘Near North’’ and as such would have to assert its own interests. In the event, Australia sided with Britain against a key trading partner in the region. 

Similarly, the recent downturn in relations with Indonesia underscores the importance of Australia’s current key alliance partner, the United States. Pointedly, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has called on Australia and the United States to explain the reasons for the alleged spying. 

That Australia has been engaged with the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand (now the ‘‘Five Eyes’’) in UKUSA signals intelligence operations has long been known. Indeed, the grouping was formed in 1947 – two years before the Republic of Indonesia was born. 

Behind the intelligence gathering, however, was a fact that has been overlooked in the recent controversy. It is not the spying as such that will receive attention – governments will not comment on these operations.

READ the full opinion piece in the Newcastle Herald.

* Opinion pieces represent the author’s views.