Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has described Prime Minister Tony Abbott's asylum seeker policy a failure as boats continue to arrive. On May 5, two groups of asylum seekers were turned back which has added pressure to the already strained relationship between Australia and Indonesia.
Following the turn-back, the Indonesian minister launched another verbal attack and criticised the Abbott government's boats policy. Indonesian authorities had previously confirmed the interception of two boats carrying asylum seekers by Australian naval vessels. About 20 passengers were placed in one wooden boat pushed back to Indonesia's waters.
Dr Natalegawa said the boat policy has remained a problem between his country and Australia. Since the boats have been turned back, the minister said it only "proves that Abbott;s policy is not successful." He said Australia's asylum seeker policy includes coercing asylum seekers and "violating" their human rights.
Dr Natalegawa's criticism came after Mr Abbott had called Indonesia's president Susilo Bambang Yudyuhono. According to the Indonesian president's statement, Mr Abbott had called to say he regretted his absence in the Open Government Partnership Asia Pacific Regional conference in Bali.
According to reports, Mr Abbott had intended to accept Indonesia's invitation and conduct a bilateral meeting with Dr Yudyuhono. However, the Australian prime minister had decided on May 2 to pull out of the conference. The Indonesian president said in the statement that he understood Mr Abbott had to decline the invitation because of the budget discussion in Parliament. However, reports have alleged that the real reason was Mr Abbott didn't want to expose himself to any embarrassment for the boat turn-around.
In March, Mr Abbott had declared "victory" over asylum seekers and claimed he had stopped the boats of asylum seekers. The Australian prime minister said keeping the boats away can be done despite critics who "scoffed" and said the government could not do it. But Mr Abbott's claim resulted after two Australia employees of G4S, the security contractor hired by the government, have become suspects in the violent death of Iranian asylum seeker Reza Barati on Manus Island.