Indonesia Describes Australian PM Tony Abbott’s Boat Policy as Failure; Further Strains Canberra-Jakarta Relationship

By @ibtimesau on

The diplomatic relationship between neighbours Australia and Indonesia is far from healed caused by the spying scandal in 2013. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's recent decision to decline an invitation from Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to a Bali conference may have even added to the gap.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr Marty Natalegawa, one of the key Jakarta officials who criticised the Aussie government for wiretapping the mobile phone of Mr Yudhoyono, his wife and several ministers, also cited Canberra's asylum boat policy as another thorn in the still cold relationship between the two countries.

He commented in response to the interception by Australian border authorities of two boats of asylum seekers who were placed together in one wooden vessel and pushed back towards Indonesian waters.

"[That boat] has been forced back. It proves that Abbott's policy is not successful. Their unilateral policy coerces asylum seekers, threatens them and violates their human rights - and the policy doesn't bear fruit [because the boats keep coming]," the foreign minister said, quoted by The Age.

With Australia's unilateral policy, the minister accused the Abbott government of "acting as if it can simply move the problem to its neighbour."

Mr Abbott has begged off from the Bali conference because of the government's preparation for the release of a budget that would have a $30-billion deficit. But other political observers saw in Mr Abbott's move as rejecting the olive branch offered by the Indonesian president because the conference would have given them the opportunity to meet and talk.

Despite Mr Abbott's decision, Mr Yudhoyono still phoned him to affirm that he hoped the code of conduct being drafted as a result of the spy scandal could be finalised by August 2014.

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