The real reason for security deal with Indonesia

The 1995 security agreement between Australia and Indonesia was seen by some as a crowning achievement of Paul Keating's late prime ministership. But it was also about John Howard, in a way.

The December 18 signing was aimed at a new beginning for both nations.

Cabinet was informed of the impending agreement on December 14 and also alerted to criticisms that could be expected from those concerned at Indonesian policy on East Timor.

But signing, cabinet was told, would not "commit Australia in any way it did not wish on security matters in East Timor" or require Australia to compromise its position on human rights in Indonesia.

However launching the cabinet papers last month, the then Deputy Prime Minister, Kim Beazley, said he had been invited to the signing by the then Prime Minister, and on the flight back to Australia Mr Keating revealed another reason for the security agreement.

"Paul says 'you know Kim, I don't think we're going to win the next election'," Mr Beazley said.

"'I think we have a problem. Our opponents are ignorant on Asia ... I'm worried that they will come into office without any anchors. Particularly in relation to Indonesia. So what I'm trying to do here is give them an institutional structure which will put them into a conversation with our most important relationship ..."

Mr Beazley recalled it was the only conversation over the years in government that Mr Keating ever suggested Labor could lose.

This story The real reason for security deal with Indonesia first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.