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Bali shook Australia’s foreign policy

October 09, 2003

SYDNEY: John Borgia lost his wife and daughter in the terrorist attack that 12 months ago obliterated Bali’s Sari nightclub.

They were among 202 people, 88 Australians, who died in a bomb blast that also exploded the notion that the frontier of the “war on terror” was a long way away.

“Australians are more aware of what’s happening in the world now,” Borgia said.

The deaths hammered home the reality that innocents get caught up in international politics, and that tropical islands are not quarantined from current affairs.

But as with John Borgia, so with 19 million other Australians: October 12, 2002, changed lifestyles just as it changed perceptions of security.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer reckons Bali put more impetus behind a more active posture in international relations.

Australia, which had committed troops to the United States-led invasion of Afghanistan, also joined its most important ally in the invasion of Iraq.

“I think it would have occurred anyway, but Bali underlined the urgency of solving these problems,” Downer said.

The Bali bombing impressed on minds in Canberra that desperate situations required desperate remedies and that procrastination would lead to a much bigger bill in the future.

The explosions on Indonesia’s holiday island also strengthened Canberra’s relations with Jakarta.

There is a recognition in Canberra that engagement with Indonesia is the only way forward. Officials say that securing the fledgling democracy in Indonesia is crucial for Australia’s own security.—dpa