PM cancels Bali trip to avoid possible issue with boat

Tony Abbott has told the Indonesians that he would like to visit as soon after the budget as is convenient to them. AAP/David Crosling

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has cancelled plans to fly to Bali early next week to meet Indonesian premier Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The visit had been at the President’s invitation and would have been their first meeting since Indonesia put relations on ice after the disclosure of Australia’s spying on him, his wife and other senior figures. The two would have met on the margins of a major conference Indonesia is hosting.

The invitation has been seen as a significant step in repairing relations.

It is believed that a major factor in the decision was that an asylum seeker boat is on the water and the government did not want turning it around to become an embarrassing issue over the next few days.

But the official reason being given is that Abbott is more bogged down than expected with final budget preparations and the aftermath of the Commission of Audit report’s release.

Abbott is indicating to the Indonesians that he would like to visit as soon after the budget as is convenient to them.

The President – considered a very good friend of Australia – leaves office after the presidential elections later this year, and it is in Australia’s interests to normalise relations before he goes.

Preparations for next week’s expected visit had been under way this week but sources said it had not been officially locked in.

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