Considering the lefties of AE hasnÃƒÂ¢Ã¢Â‚Â¬Ã¢Â„Â¢t had much to say about our gov't good humanitarian work at the moment. This is a good story for the lefties to read. But I won't expect any positive feedback! ps. it's from one of those big papers too with not many pictures. The Australian. --------------------------------------------------------------- PM: they will never forget us Patrick Walters, National security editor January 08, 2005 IT was a fleeting observation but in a blur of mind-searing images it left a lasting impression on Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. At Banda Aceh airport last week, en route to Jakarta, Indonesia's President watched a deeply traumatised Acehnese family getting ready for emergency evacuation. The air force personnel helping them on board were Australian. The aircraft was an RAAF C-130 Hercules. A deeply moved Yudhoyono relayed the story to John Howard in Jakarta on Wednesday night as he praised Australia's extraordinary generosity in response to the tsunami disaster, which has killed more than 101,000 Indonesians. Indonesia's leader knew in military detail everything about Australia's relief efforts in Aceh. As he told Howard in their emotional encounter at the presidential palace, he would never forget Australia was "first on the ground" with its aircraft in the wake of the devastating Boxing Day tsunamis. The early Australian response helped set in train the transforming events witnessed in Jakarta this week. It paved the way for Canberra's path-breaking $1billion joint partnership announced late on Wednesday night -- the most generous single foreign aid package ever by an Australian government. "There's no doubt it's had a huge effect on the Indonesians," Howard said yesterday. "He did say to me on a couple of occasions that 'I will never forget the generosity that you have displayed'. "It's had a very big effect. I don't think they expected us to help in such a big way." From the original conception to the prime ministerial announcement, the Australia-Indonesia "partnership for reconstruction and development" took just seven days. The speed of its execution, driven personally from the top by Howard, was stunning. As an exercise in Australian public policy this is remarkable enough. Combined with sensitive foreign policy considerations, the Howard-Yudhoyono agreement is a historic achievement for Australia and Indonesia. Yesterday, Howard called it a defining moment in bilateral relations with Jakarta. Up to a dozen Australian bureaucrats will now be based in Jakarta helping BAPPENAS, Indonesia's national planning agency, co-ordinate the long-term rebuilding of Aceh. The partnership agreement began with a conversation between Howard and Prime Minister and Cabinet boss Peter Shergold 10 days ago. Ever since Boxing Day, the Prime Minister had watched the unfolding horror in Aceh as the death toll climbed from a few thousand rapidly into the tens of thousands. Out of the tragedy he sensed a strategic opportunity for Australia to recast its relations with its largest northern neighbour. "I felt we needed to have a much bigger package for Indonesia," Howard told The Weekend Australian. "It was very obvious to me we needed a long-term program on top of the existing aid program. "I was determined that it would be big. When you think big you think of a billion." Howard personally drove the decision-making process, confident in his judgment that the Australian people were with him all the way. His confidence in Indonesia's new leader was also a critical element. He not only likes Yudhoyono but can do business with him. The two men first spoke on the telephone the day after the tsunami, Howard being the first foreign leader to call the Indonesian President. They discussed the immediate dispatch of Australian military and medical teams to Aceh. "Of all the Indonesian presidents I have dealt with he has been the easiest. It was an instinctive thing to ring him," Howard said. "The catalyst (for the package) was realising what an enormous burden Indonesia would carry. Also a feeling that I could work with him and that the Government could work with Indonesia." Another positive signal, Howard said, was the speed at which the different levels of the Indonesian Government accepted Australian help, beginning with co-operation between the two defence forces in allowing RAAF planes into Indonesia's most sensitive province. By Thursday, the energetic Shergold had convened a small, high-level taskforce to work through options for the bilateral assistance plan. It included the heads of Treasury, Defence and Foreign Affairs, AusAID boss Bruce Davis, Defence Force chief General Peter Cosgrove, and ambassador to Jakarta David Ritchie. Within 48 hours the group had prepared the broad outlines of the billion-dollar offer, including both cash grants and concessional loans. From the start there was a determination that the massive aid boost should be managed jointly by the countries. "We wanted to do something bold and fast and do it in a different way," Shergold told The Weekend Australian. "We wanted to make it clear that this was going to be a genuine partnership, jointly controlled by both countries." By the evening of New Year's Day, Howard had what he wanted -- an offer of unparalleled generosity that would have sufficient Australian involvement to ensure that the huge quantum of funds was not misspent. The joint involvement of Jakarta also dovetailed neatly, with Indonesian sensitivities about managing foreign aid flows. The Prime Minister then cleared the package in a series of phone calls last Sunday to senior colleagues including Peter Costello, Finance Minister Nick Minchin and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who had been involved from the start. Then he rang Yudhoyono to brief him on the plan without telling him the exact sum Australia planned to offer. "I explained to him it would be for five years, and said it wouldn't just be a few hundred million. He was very warm and reminded me that we had been first on the ground in Aceh. "I said we wanted to provide a very large aid package to be administered by a joint commission. That obviously appealed to them." The details of the package were then worked through by Downer with Indonesian ministers on Wednesday while Howard was in the air bound for the Jakarta tsunami summit. The two leaders, meeting that evening, signed off on the landmark joint partnership. It was at this meeting that Yudhoyono again reminded Howard that he had been first to telephone after the tsunami struck and Australian help the first to arrive. "That is a gesture I will never forget. I think it will be hugely positive," Howard said of the joint agreement yesterday. "It will help enormously. In an hour of need Australia had provided greater help to Indonesia than any other country. "I think it does send a message through the Indonesian system that we are genuine. As the months and years go by, and people become conscious that Australia has helped in such a generous way, it will be hugely beneficial. "In scale, it's the biggest aid effort we have ever undertaken. the structure of it sends a clear message that it's not something which is delivered in any patronising way. It's a joint commission. "They will play a role, we will play a role. We have to agree on the spending of the money. We have to have a say in how it's spent. That's what the Australian taxpayer wants."