Australia–Malaysia relations

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Australia–Malaysia relations
Map indicating locations of Australia and Malaysia


High Commission of Malaysia in Australia
Monthly value of Australian merchandise exports to Malaysia (A$ millions) since 1988
Monthly value of Malaysian merchandise exports to Australia (A$ millions) since 1988

Australia–Malaysia relations refers to bilateral foreign relations between Australia and Malaysia. Australia has a high commission in Kuala Lumpur,[1] and Malaysia has an high commission in Canberra.[2] Both Australia and Malaysia are members of the Five Power Defence Arrangements and often participate in military exercises together.[3]

On the whole, both countries enjoy close relations, although the situation was somewhat tense during the Mahathir years. Occasional issues such as perceived Australian influence in Southeast Asian affairs, as well as the detention (and execution) of Australian citizens in Malaysia, further complicate relations between the two nations. Malaysia has a large student population in Australia, and many Malaysians have become naturalised Australian citizens (see Malaysian Australian).

Economic relations[edit]

Malaysia is Australia’s 9th largest trading partner, with two-way trade worth A$17.7 billion in 2012. The two countries commenced a free trade agreement in January 2013.[4]

High level visits[edit]

In July 2008, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd visited Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.[5]


Malaysia and Australia have had a well-established tradition of military cooperation. Australian air and ground forces formed part of the defence during the Japanese invasion of Malaya and Borneo. Australian troops also contributed significantly to Malaysia's defence during the Malayan Emergency and Indonesian Confrontation.

The Royal Australian Air Force formerly operated the base RMAF Butterworth in Malaysia until transferring it to Malaysia in 1988. The RAAF still maintains a presence at this base.[6]

Lynas and Bersih 3.0 rally[edit]

Main article: Bersih 3.0 rally

Himpunan Hijau (Green Assembly), a civil movement protesting the Lynas rare earth project in Malaysia. In addition to the main rally at Kuala Lumpur, smaller rallies were held in 10 other cities in Malaysia, as well as in 34 other countries.


In 2012, Senator Nick Xenophon was on a fact-finding mission to Malaysia when he was caught up in anti-government protests in Kuala Lumpur. Subsequently, on 2 May 2012, the New Straits Times published an article written by Roy See Wei Zhi and headed "Observer under scrutiny". The report replaced words from a 2009 speech made by Xenophon and turned it into an attack on Islam, ostensibly to pit Malay-Muslim opinion against the senator, who was a known associate of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.[7][8] In fact the speech had been an attack on Scientology and is recorded as such in the Hansard of the Australian Senate. Xenophon threatened to sue the New Straits Times for defamation and the newspaper quickly removed the offending article from its website.The gaffe sparked media outrage in both Malaysia and Australia,and has greatly reinforced public perception that the New Straits Times and most mainstream media merely serve as propaganda mouthpieces for the ruling Barisan Nasional.

On 16 February 2013, Xenophon was detained on arrival at Kuala Lumpur International Airport's LCCT and refused entry by the Malaysian immigration authorities. He was deported back to Australia on a flight early the next day. Other members of that Parliament of Australia cancelled their plans to travel to Malaysia while the matter was resolved.[9] The Prime Minister's Department of Malaysia confirmed that Xenophon was not part of the Australian Delegation scheduled to meet Parliamentary Affairs Minister Nazri Aziz submitted to it by an aide to Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader in response to claims that it had deliberately denied entry to Xenophon.[10]

Two journalists from the ABC were detained on the 13th March 2016, after attempting to question the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak over corruption allegations. The journalists were attempting to question Razak over the 1MDP scandal.[11]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Diplomatic List and List of Representatives of International Organisations" (PDF). Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia). Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 September 2011. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  2. ^ "Welcome To The Official Website of high commission of Malaysia, Canberra". Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Malaysia). Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  3. ^ Australian Department of Defence Archived 5 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "Malaysia-Australia FTA". 
  5. ^ "PM - Rudd meets with Malaysian PM". 
  6. ^ Force, Air. "RMAF Base Butterworth - Royal Australian Air Force". 
  7. ^ "Observer under scrutiny - General - New Straits Times". 2012-05-02. Archived from the original on 2 May 2012. Retrieved 2016-03-15. 
  8. ^ Flitton, Daniel (2012-05-03). "Xenophon verballed in Malaysia". The Age. Retrieved 2016-03-15. 
  9. ^ "Xenophon detained at Malaysian airport". ABC News. Retrieved 2016-03-15. 
  10. ^ "Nick Xenophon detained in Malaysia". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2016-03-15. 
  11. ^ Press, Australian Associated (2016-03-14). "ABC journalists leave Malaysia after no charges brought". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-03-15. 

External links[edit]