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Stretching the friendship: Australia, Indonesia and the ‘good friend’ narrative

How far can friendships stretch? Two months ago, the rhetoric of the Indonesian and Australian governments was centred on the countries being good friends. Until last week, from the Indonesian perspective…

Who holds the upper hand in the Australia-Indonesia relationship? The power may be shifting Indonesia’s way if recent events are anything to go by. EPA/Romeo Gacao

How far can friendships stretch? Two months ago, the rhetoric of the Indonesian and Australian governments was centred on the countries being good friends. Until last week, from the Indonesian perspective, the positioning of the friendship between the two countries was one of strength and co-operation.

But when Australia does things that are not usually part of a friendship – as happened in recent days with the unilateral (and failed) action of turning back boats carrying asylum seekers – Indonesia is within its rights to claim that Australia is not being a good friend to their country.

This comes amidst continued confusion over the success of the Australian government’s “turn back” policy. Indonesia said three out of six boats carrying asylum seekers have been been declined, while Australian immigration minister Scott Morrison claimed Indonesia accepted two boats and rejected two.

Indonesian MP Tantowi Yahya, a member of the country’s Foreign Affairs Commission, started the friendly diplomacy narrative early in the post-election period. He said:

Indonesia and Australia are very good neighbours, despite our up-and-down relationship, but then I think we have homework to deal with, we have homework that we have to solve together. And I do believe that the new administration will be a good partner of Indonesia in overcoming all issues that come up in this region. We are friends.

In taking up the position as a good friend to Australia, Indonesia indicated that it was willing to co-operate to find a solution to the asylum seeker issue from within a wider Asian regional context. In essence, Indonesia was taking the moral high ground: a position of power.

In both taking up and assigning the “good friend” position in the immediate post-election period, Indonesia had the right to warn of things that could damage the friendship between the two nations. Both Indonesian politicians and officials did exactly that, including foreign minister Marty Natalegawa, who warned Australia’s new prime minister Tony Abbott that:

We will reject his policy on asylum seekers and any other policy that harms the spirit of partnership.

It was essentially a situation where one friend was reminding the other that they were in fact friends, and to remain so required that they act in the manner of good friends. Foreign minister Julie Bishop’s response to her Indonesian counterpart was that:

I point out we’re not seeking Indonesia’s permission to implement our policies, we’re seeking their understanding.

Here, Australia was perhaps overplaying its position of friendship. In the Indonesian responses – including by Natalegawa again – it was evident that this approach was not in line with the “good friend” storyline. Natalegawa maintained that Australia’s plans would be rejected as they were not in the spirit of partnership between the two countries.

This was a clear indicator that if Australia was to try and implement unilateral action, Indonesia would see that as breaching the current status of the relationship. This, of course, is exactly what has happened.

Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa and his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop haven’t had the easiest start to their diplomatic relationship. EPA/Made Nagi

Australia’s position over the past two months reflects its confidence that it still holds the position of strength in its relationship with Indonesia. This position is debatable. ANU professor Hugh White wrote in June this year that Indonesia was emerging as one of the key powers in Asia, with the balance of wealth and power between Australia and Indonesia shifting Indonesia’s way.

However, in thinking it held the “power card”, Australia’s new government might have felt confident to flex a little muscle over Indonesia. It might have also felt sufficiently comfortable in the partnership to assume that Indonesia would let the Australian government step over the line a little in order to play to its domestic audience. Indonesia’s positioning of itself and Australia seems to indicate that it was feeling confident within the partnership.

Indonesia was doing one of two things. It was either giving Australia every opportunity to work things out co-operatively, or it knew that Australia had to position itself in a way that was sympathetic to domestic political pressures. As such, Indonesia was setting up the new Australian government to be unsuccessful in implementing its asylum seeker policies.

Indonesia was setting the stage to be seen as the more reasonable country; seeking new ways on partnership and regional solutions. This makes it look like Australia is something less than a regional player and less than reasonable. If Australia was to go forward with such a positioning assigned by Indonesia, Australia could be seen as being at a disadvantage.

Indonesia has outplayed the new Australian government. And in rejecting the full ramifications of the “good friend” storyline, Australia was seen to appear as somewhat morally defective, as arrogant or even a bully.

In pushing things in the last week with failed attempts to turn back boats carrying asylum seekers, Australia has positioned itself as not only morally defective, but also as incompetent. Not a good look in anyone’s language.

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  1. Ken Alderton

    PhD student, former CEO

    This article rightly highlights the change in Indonesia's self-belief and in its confidence of its position in the world. It has been accepted into the G20, it has forged stronger ties with both its regional neighbours and the economic powerhouses of Asia through its efforts at bringing ASEAN into wider economic alliances. Its position in the Muslim world has been enhanced and it is being used as a model of democracy in a Muslim majority nation.
    Many in Australia including, it would seem, the Coalition have completely missed the change. They insisted continually during the election, and since, that boats had been turned back during the Howard era and could be turned back again despite constant warnings to the contrary. Indonesia would simply acquiesce to Australian demands yet again. They were wrong. The days when Australia could “flex a little muscle over Indonesia” are gone.

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    1. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      The coalition may need to learn to pull back on the spying a little (and not kowtow to the USA), and leave the Badan SAR Nasional to patrol its own waters.

      Based on the size of their economy (and the dislike many of their neighbours have toward Indonesia) it is unlikely that Indonesia could do much to derail the relations between Australia and it's larger trade allies.

      GDP (Millions of USD)

      * China = 5,878,257
      * Japan = 5,458,872
      * South Korea = 1,007,084
      * Indonesia = 706,735

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Asian_countries_by_GDP

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    2. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      My apologies.

      You were discussing Indonesia's perception of itself rather than it's actual place in the world..

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    3. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Both. The thing I wasn't discussing was anthing to do with "derailing" trade between Australia and its main trading partners. Upsetting Indonesia might not advantage our trade with ASEAN.

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    4. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      So Indonesia is all set to take umbrage at our alleged spying and refusal to accept economic immigrants...

      Doubtless this will have absolutely no effect on our other trade partners.

      It remains to be seen that this will have any effect even on our trade with Indonesia.

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    5. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Further to the above, they have neither the economic clout now the diplomatic clout to do either.

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    6. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      What are you talking about? Where have I raised spying, economic migrants or our trade with Indonesia.

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    7. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      The current storm in a tea cup is a pretty good indication that they've got nothing.

      Aside from sound and fury for the local political scene.

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    8. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      There are disagreements with Indonesia. Indonesia has told Australia to stop spying out of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. Indonesia has consistently warned the Coalition and then the Australian government that it would not accept the return of asylum seeker boats. The Australian government initially said that they could get round this problem. Abbott then changed and gave Indonesia a direct assurance that "Australia's got total respect for Indonesia's sovereignty, total respect for Indonesia's territorial integrity”. Now Morrison has tried to turn around a boat in direct contravention of Abbott’s assurance and the Indonesians stuck to their. This boat was stopped in international waters by an Australian warship. It was apparently still floating and there was no danger to life. It was a straight attempt to bluff the Indonesians and it failed. It is perfect illustration of the point of this article

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    9. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      They stood the Australain government up and then backed them down. If consider that nothing then why all the compaints?

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    10. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      I forgot to mention that when Indonesia accepte asylum seekers rescued in an operation that did engage their law of the sea obligations Morrison publically characterised it as turning back the boats by.other means. He completely ignored any embarassment to Indonesia for the sake of domestic points scoring, something for which Abbott made an apology a week earlier.

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    11. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Once out of how many times they've been successfully returned?

      Although the key to bluffing Indon would be to allow Indon search and rescue to do the water taxi-ing from Indon waters to Indon land.

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    12. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Why is the spying a problem now and not under the previous regime when it was initially revealed the spying took place?

      Why the stand on stopping this boat being returned to its nation of origin and not the others Indon let back?

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    13. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      So the problem is after returning a few boats they big noted themselves causing the Indons to lose face and consequently stop cooperating?

      As a self proclaimed Indon expert, what can the Australian gov do now to ensure the super low number of boat arrivals (relative to the Rudd-Gillard era) continues?

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    14. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Because the evidence of spying became public after September 7 . You can't ask for an explanation without evidence.
      Because Indonesia's obligations under the law of the sea were engaged in previous episodes. The "boat" allegedly returned on 27 September was in fact 44 people from a boat that had sunk. This boat was afloat and according to HMAS Ballarat in working order. No danger to the passengers.

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    15. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Take up the suggestion of several refugee organisation and use all Australia's Humanitarian quota to drain the "pool"of UHNCR processed refugees in Indonesia and those in Malaysia awaitng resettlement in cooperation with Indonesian and Malaysian authorties. In return Indonesia agrees to continue prosecution of people smugglers and both countries tighten up border control to make it a regional problem,

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    16. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      If they issue false requests for assistance is only Australia stupid enough to send a boat to retrieve them? Is that why it's always Australia responding then trying to hand to Indon?

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    17. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      That's an excellent suggestion. However what's to stop the 'pool' from growing ever larger and how would Australia ensure compliance on the part of Indonesia. Why is it that we have so few economic refugees coming from Malaysia and Sri Lanka and other neighbiurs when compared to Indon (at least under the previous aus gov).

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    18. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Perhaps we will be lucky enough to have the Indonesians and the rest of ASEAN recognise that this Murdoch enabled abomination of a government is an aberration which does not represent the majority of Australians.
      And none of those nations will needed to spy upon Australia to understand what is happening.
      We've been in their backyard for some time, and they are not stupid.

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    19. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      The pool was only 376 in 2004. There is evidence that the flow into Indonesia is slowing. Indonesia is a not a secret state. It would be obviuos if Indonesia were not living up to its committments.
      Your statement is wrong. Go look at the DIAC statistics on IMA pubished quarterly. All those granted visas are genuine refugees.

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    20. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Yep, Indonesia has self belief in how they want to run the show and the latest in their idea of handling the people smuggling is for Indonesia to take those rescued in exchange for refugees, all at Australia's cost thank you very much.
      " "It should not just be one side imposing its will on the other's," she said.

      She says there are discussions between the two countries for a new agreement, in which asylum seekers intercepted by Australian authorities could be sent to Indonesia in exchange for refugees.

      "The cost of the burdens would be borne by Australia and then at the same time Australia would take the same number of people that are already sitting in detention centres in Indonesia," she said.
      WTF! AND we ought to tell a supposedly good friend to Foff.
      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-12/indonesia-flags-new-asylum-seeker-swap-deal/5084674

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    21. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      2004 is a long time ago.

      And why wouldn't it grow?

      Some of the pull factors been removed, but the push factors esp in nations undergoing an "arab spring" are recently intensifying.

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    22. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      So it's speculation that the majority of illegal arrivals to Australian waters are facilitated by Indonesia?

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    23. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      It irritates people like you and Scott Morrison that Indonesia wants to run its own country and foreign policy without either the approval of Australia or or doing Australia's bidding like a good little boy. Those days are gone. I presume "she" is Dewi Fortuna Anwar who made exactly that point in your quote.
      Indonesia is making a proposal. If Australia doesn't like it then it can say so or make a counterproposal. Either way it won't hurt Indonesia. If the government were to take your advice, it wouldn't hurt them either.

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    24. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      " Just don't pick them up then. "
      More pressure certainly needs to be put on Indonesia to be looking after their backyard and that could easily enough start by if a call comes through for rescue, it gets re-directed to Indonesia.
      If Indonesia requests Australia to respond, we should be only doing that with the explicit agreement that the people get taken back to Indonesian authorities.

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    25. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      So Ken, it seems you support the notion of Indonesians not only encouraging people smuggling but abandoning all responsibility for what they encourage.
      In philosophy, is that any way to have relations with a neighbour?
      You know as well as I do that there has been no end of discussions re the people smuggling and it is way past time the Indonesians pulled their finger out and left it out.

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    26. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Not really. Indonesia may do what it likes within its own borders....

      It's when they begin to impinge upon our borders that I have and then they will have an issue.

      The best solution from Australia's perspective would be for Abbott to grow a pair, step back and let Indon handle their arrivals as they see fit.

      Including rescuing them if they intend to shove them out to sea on unseaworthy vessels.

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    27. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      That's the law of the sea... return to the closest port of call.

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    28. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      So when have they ever impinged on our borders. They can handle, and have been handling, their own arrivals. It seems that you never seem to appreciate that asylum seekers and refugees are not an issue for the Indonesian government because it isn't an issue for their voters.
      It wouldn't have been an issue in Australia if Abbott hadn't made it front and centre simply to mobilise votes iin key seats. He now has to wear the consequences.
      Where have all the crocodile tears about 'deaths at sea' gone? No longer useful?

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    29. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Indeed, so there is no problem.

      They can carry on handling, and we can continue on returning them to them to handle.

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    30. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Ending the trade, and forcing the flow of trafficked refugees to a trickle has successfully reduced the deaths as sea. So yes. No more tears now.

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    31. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      How do they encourage people smuggling? They continue to arrest and jail people smugglers as they have since 2007. They continue with their "disruption" programs against people smugglers (for which the AFP are now trying to take credit) and at least "The Australian" thinks cooperation is going along fine.
      You are just miffed because they won't let Abbott take the credit.

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    32. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      We have no role in handling their arrivals. You are totally confused between arrivals and departues. If we keep trying to turn back their departures the result will be a repeat of the last one. Who do you think will give in first?

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    33. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Not accepting the return of illegal immigrants "rescued" off of their coast line?

      Having lax entry requirements, knowing that such entrants are likely on their way through Indonesia to Australia?

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    34. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      I am glad you accept that. The management of immigrants within Indonesia's territory is entirely a matter up to them and should be left as such.

      We should have no role in managing these.

      "Who do you think will give in first?"

      Depends on how much dane's geld Abbott will fling them with this alleged latest "deal".

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    35. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      No matter what spin you put on it Morrison tried it on and it didn't work.
      You want Australia to tell Indonesia how to run its country. Why didn't Abbot tell SBY and Morrison tell Amir Syamsuddin at their respective meetings that their slack immigration controls were the cause of the whole problem and that they condoned it? Surely they are both straight shooters

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    36. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Not at all.

      Indonesia should be free to run their immigration program as they wish.

      Just as we are.

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    37. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      You persist with the old, tired and outdated assumptions. You assume in this post that Indonesia is dependent on Australian financial assistance. Firstly Indonesia is growing at at a rate twice as fast as Australia's without any trade assistance from Australia. Bilateral trade with Australia is only 2.3% of Indonesia's total trade which ranks us 13th. We supply less than 1% of the foreign direct investment in Indonesia which ranks us No.15 . Both China and the US have told Indonesia that they woyld increase their aid to cover any shortfall from Australia.

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    38. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      If they are not in need of financial assistance then end it. We could do with a few more good roads.

      If this upsets Indonesia (and according to you it won't as China and USA are happy to give them extra $), then where is our disadvantage?

      My only wish is for the coalition to leave Indonesia to manage their own borders (and their search and rescue area) as they see fit, without saddling Australia with additional economic migrants.

      Howard pulled this off with ease. Thus far Abbott has done…

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    39. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      You immediately display the type of outdated thinking that got Abbott and Morrison into the mess they are now in. The foundation of their asylum seeker policy has always been that if the Indonesians sat still when Howard turned back the boats then they'll sit still for it now. Despite all the warnings to the contrary they went ahead.
      They have now been proved wrong and all the consequence that follow are on their heads. No amount of trying to shift the blame elsewhere will work.

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    40. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Not at all.

      I am advocating that we don't pick up the boats that are the responsibility of Indonesia to retrieve.

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    41. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      So you are advocating both abrogating our responsiblities under the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue and that we let people drown just to support bad policy that went wrong?

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    42. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Not at all.

      Just allow Indonesia a chance to undertake their responsiblities under the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue.

      No need for people drown.

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    43. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      "I am advocating that we don't pick up the boats that are the responsibility of Indonesia to retrieve", A clear breach of the SAR Convention ,viz
      "2.1.10 Parties shall ensure that assistance be provided to any person in distress at sea. They shall do so regardless of the nationality or status of such a person or the circumstances in which that person is found.
      3.1.1 Parties shall co-ordinate their search and rescue organizations and should,whenever necessary, co-ordinate search and rescue operations with those of neighbouring States."

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    44. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      The same maritime law that indicates rescued persons should be returned to the nearest port or port of origin?

      Appears Indon have avoided their responsibilities long enough.

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    45. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Is this the same responsibility that J.Howard avoided with the Tampa?

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    46. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Correct, the ship continued to Australian waters rather than returning the rescued persons to the nearest port.

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    47. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Where Australia, specifically PM Howard, refused permission for the captain to land rescued asylum seekers and enforced the decison with armed force.

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  2. John Crest

    logged in via email @live.com.au

    Excellent news that Indonesia is now becoming more powerful: they won't need our aid $ any more then?

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to John Crest

      Aid $ is usually given to developing countries to buy influence. A share of it ends up in the hands of the elite despite Indonesia having about 120 million people living on under $2 per day (source DFAT).

      Still I appreciate how the far right hate giving money to the poor, particularly foreign poor. Nevermind. China is waiting in the wings.

      "Between 2001 and 2011, China's pledged foreign aid was $671 billion. China's programs have been under way in all the emerging-market regions. ... in Asia, the largest are in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia."
      http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303796404579099843923882238

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    2. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to John Crest

      Just after Senator Carr started to mumble about cutting aid to Indonesia earlier in the year, the US aid agency suggested that they would consider replacing the whole $541.6 million and that they wouldn't mind taking over supplying the wheat and boxed beef that Australia supplied as well. Value about $2 billion. Talk of cutting aid vanished immediately.

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    3. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Crest

      Does seem much of a incentive to continue to "invest" in aid.

      Because I had thought the actual amount under Labor was closer to $800 million with the coalition still schedule to announce cuts to this figure?

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    4. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to John Crest

      If it keeps US farmers happy and reduces the size of the farm subsidies it is a very good investment. Indonesia's per capita beef and wheat consumption are increasing at about 10% per year.

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    5. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to John Crest

      That's right. The latest news indicates that the coalition has only "cut" aid to Indonesia in the sense that it is not increasing as much as predicted (or indicated under the previous gov).

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    6. John Crest

      logged in via email @live.com.au

      In reply to John Crest

      I wonder what sort of influence we are buying then? Doesn't seem like much.

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  3. David Elson

    logged in via Facebook

    It would appear that the softly softly approach has now failed.

    Time to use a little bit of muscle.

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to David Elson

      What are you going to do Colonel Blimp. Send over Julie Bishop and her death stare.

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  4. Ronald Ostrowski

    logged in via Facebook

    While Coalition, and much of the media, engaged in an orgy of disrespectful, and often childish, fear and smear levelled against our previous minority Government led by a female PM it won much local applause from those who wanted regime change. Of course, when the media and Abbott started villifying the human rights record of Malaysia to discredit Labor's workable Malaysian Solution, or when, despite contrary opinions from senior Indonesian Government officials, that the boats will be turned back they were seen as grossly disrespectful. Abbott's ridiculous post election profuse apologies to Indonesia and Malaysia did did not cut it, obviously. Disrespectful megaphone foriegn diplomacy to win the domestic red neck constituency has its serious consequences. And they say the adults are now in charge. Spare me!

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  5. george kokoti

    fibreglass worker

    Dear John

    Foreign aid usually benefits the donor country.

    Any aid to Indonesia probably went to good Aussie causes (e.g. employing Aussie "aid" workers, getting rid of obsolete Aussie military equipment, gaining some commercial advantage as in East Timor).

    I bet Australia gains more from our aid than what the Indonesians do!

    I'm also prepared to bet that, in the fullness of time, Abbott will increase the Foreign aid budget.

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    1. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to george kokoti

      I doubt it.

      Some individual rent seekers maybe, but the Australia tax payer, most unlikely.

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  6. Richard Fox

    Policy development

    This is an excellent example of the old adage that it is much easier to say what you are going to do when in opposition than to actually do it when in power. Minor parties can say what they like, knowing that they are not going to be called to account, but a major party that is hot favourite to win an approaching election should be rather more careful.

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  7. Steve Hindle

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    "Indonesia was setting the stage to be seen as the more reasonable country"
    As I understand it, the Indonesian Govt allows Australian ships into their search and rescue zone as they either don't have the capacity or will to rescue boats in distress. However even though these Indonesian boats may have just left Indonesia, they expect Australia to resettle all on board in Australia instead of taking them to the nearest port as required under the IMO SAR convention.
    They are putting Australia in…

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    1. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      Australia cannot, nor ever has rescued, any boat inside Indonesia's 12 nautical mile territorial waters. Indonesia's search and rescue zone extends into international waters.The procedure under law of the sea regulations for international waters is that everyone responds to a call for help but to avoid confusion zones have been laid out giving each country prime resonsibility for coordination and offical response by warships etc. The protocol says that no one steps in unless the prime country says it cannot handle the situation.
      Indonesia has made it clear (and has acted on this in the past) that in the case of danger to life they would accept rescued people. In this last case Australia did not consult with Indonesia and there was no danger to life.
      Everybody seems to forget that in a similar situation, the Tampa wanted to land refugees at the nearest land, Christmas Island. PM Howard used armed force to prevent it. Exactly the same situation.

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    2. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      Ken, the 12 nautical mile territorial zone is irrelevant to a search and rescue zone. These zones have been created for entirely different reasons (One defines sovereignty while the other defines areas of SAR responsibility). And Australia can rescue a boat inside Indonesia's 12 mile zone if the situation ever arose.
      Also the Tampa incident occurred in Indonesia's SAR zone so it is not exactly the same situation.

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    3. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      The International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) disagrees
      "3.1.3 Unless otherwise agreed between the States concerned, the authorities of a Party which wishes its rescue units to enter into or over the territorial sea or territory of another Party solely for the purpose of searching for the position of maritime casualties
      and rescuing the survivors of such casualties, shall transmit a request, giving full details of the projected mission and the need for it, to the rescue co-ordination centre of that other Party, or to such other authority as has been designated by that Party."
      Not so. The Australian government is saying that "nearest land" is the test not search and rescue area.

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    4. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      Disagrees with what?
      Your "cut and paste" answer still contradicts your own statements.

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    5. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      According to the UN High Commissioner of Refugees;

      29. In summary, the Executive Committee pronouncements, taken in conjunction with the
      obligation under international maritime law to ensure delivery to a place of safety, call upon
      coastal States to allow disembarkation of rescued asylum-seekers at the next port of call.
      16

      “Next port of call”
      30. Since the “next port of call” with reference to the disembarkation of rescued persons is
      nowhere clearly defined, there are a number of…

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    6. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      Disagrees with "the 12 nautical mile territorial zone is irrelevant to a search and rescue zone" and "And Australia can rescue a boat inside Indonesia's 12 mile zone if the situation ever arose" The Clause of the convention quotes says quite clearly that countries have absolute control over the search and rescue operations in their territorial waters and who and dertemines under what conditions external units are allowed into territorial waters.

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    7. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      You are completely wrong again. The "Guidelines for Commercial Shipping Rescuing Persons at Sea" published June 2005 (note the date) by Department of Transport and Infrastructure and still in force make it crystal clear
      "While international conventions are clear on the duties of various parties to assist persons in distress at sea, there are no conventions which specify where survivors are to be taken, beyond the requirement that they are to be taken to a place of
      safety" and
      "Any decision to disembark rescued persons at a particular port of a State should not be made without the consent of that State"
      and even more blunt in the case of Australia
      "Australia has a sovereign right to determine who comes into Australia." Presumbly the same principle is applicable to Indonesia

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    8. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      Yes, Australia does have to communicate and co-operate with Indonesia when rescuing boats in distress in Indonesia's SAR zone. This is what happens every time Australia does a rescue. If a boat overturns 11 nautical miles from Indonesia and only an Australian vessel can get there quickly, then that is what happens. Your suggestion that instead the survivors are to be left in the water due to clauses in the convention regarding the 12 mile limit is wrong.

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    9. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      This contradicts the more recent advice from the UN and is clearly wrong. :D

      Have a nice day.

      "30. Since the “next port of call” with reference to the disembarkation of rescued persons is
      nowhere clearly defined, there are a number of possibilities, which would need to be further
      explored to clarify this concept. In many instances, especially when large numbers of rescued
      persons are involved, it will in effect be the nearest port in terms of geographical proximity
      given the overriding safety concerns. Under certain circumstances, it is also possible to
      conceive the port of embarkation as the appropriate place to effect disembarkation, arising
      from the responsibility of the country of embarkation to prevent un-seaworthy vessels from
      leaving its territory"

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    10. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      The Australian Guidlines are based, and refer to, MSC 78/26/Add.2 "Guidlines on the Treatment of Persons Rescued at Sea" which is the document in force and which provides in: s
      Appendix, 3. "The SAR Convention does not define “place of safety”"
      Clause 6.14 "A place of safety may be on land, or it may be aboard a rescue unit or other suitable vessel or facility at sea that can serve as a place of safety until the survivors are disembarked."
      Clause 5.1.7 "shipmasters should comply with any relevant requirements of the Government responsible for the SAR region where the survivors were recovered, [Indonesia] or of another responding coastal State, and seek additional guidance from those authorities where difficulties arise in complying with such requirements."

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  8. Lee Emmett

    Guest House Manager

    It's bad that Australian journalists now need to resort to getting facts about asylum seekers activities from Indonesian media.

    It's totally unacceptable and undemocratic that the Australian PM and ministers are hiding behind the façade of 'secret military operations' instead of giving real time reports.

    Julie Bishop's 'good friend' narratives just don't wash with the real situation, where Australia's intentions and actions (under this government) have resulted in contradictory statements by Indonesia's representatives. Whether she is incompetent, arrogant or just naïve, she's quickly becoming a national embarrassment.

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    1. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Lee Emmett

      That's true.

      Who knows if the Aus Gov is or isn't about to commit to another misconceived people swap deal (this time with indonesia)?

      The Indonesians say they want us to (and apparently we are signing up to it at great expense?) but the Australian Government has neither confirmed nor denied this is occurring....

      Why bother to change governments if Abbott merely is going to repeat the mistakes of Labor?

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  9. helen stream

    teacher

    This article is obviously the work of a Labor supporter or a Green with GreenLabor's political interests at heart and Australia's interests nowhere in sight.

    This is a supine position that thumbs its nose at Australian sovereignty, and makes Indonesian sovereignty which isn't even in question---paramount.

    The author is pushing her own political barrow at Australia's expense in aid of her GreenLabor comrades.

    The author believes Australian Navy assets and Australian taxpayers' money must…

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  10. Rene Oldenburger

    Haven't got one

    Give Christmas Island to Indonesia

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    1. Jim KABLE

      teacher

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      Well, at last some sense. Of course this little island lies just to the south of western Java and is clearly part of that Indonesian region. Not unlike The Falklands/Las Malvinas in relation to Argentina. One of the maps I saw the other night on TV news showed the Indonesian Search and Rescue zone incorporating Christmas Island. And since John HOWARD excised it from counting as Australian territory - to try and dissuade asylum-seekers - what indeed could make more sense than to hand it over to Indonesia - perhaps a swap for allowing West Papua its independence?

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    2. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      "perhaps a swap for allowing West Papua its independence?"

      I don't think Indonesia would allow it... suggesting it might even actually stretch the "friendship" between Indonesia and Australia for real....

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    3. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      Hand it over to the UN could also be an option. Basically just get rid of it

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  11. David Elson

    logged in via Facebook

    As I said before, a storm in a tea cup.. Looks as though efforts to cooperative between Indonesia and Australia are continuing regardless of Natalegawa's grand standing -

    "Since September, 1151 asylum-seekers have been prevented from leaving Indonesia, Malaysia or Sri Lanka on 27 boats"

    "The Australian has been told that on one occasion where Indonesia refused to take the asylum-seekers, the refusal was made because the incident occurred too far away. On two other occasions, Indonesian officials…

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  12. Shirley Birney

    logged in via email @tpg.com.au

    Rickety old Indonesian boats, Indonesian skippers, Indonesian crew and some Indonesian people smugglers makes the washed money go around for Indonesians but Indonesia says get stuffed, not our problem while Herr Abbott plans to erode free speech in Australia by cracking down on “anti-Indonesian protestors.”

    Indonesia, the recipient of $646.8 million for the 2013-14 year, compliments of Australian taxpayers. Let’s kow-tow a bit more and up the bribe. Indonesia knows all about bribery and cronyism in its halls of parliament as it hacks at Australian cattle and puts the finger up to its donors.

    Meanwhile Indonesia’s deliberately lit forest fires contaminate its neighbours, destroying tiger and orangutan habitats, despite Norway’s contribution of $1 billion to mitigate deforestation.

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  13. Tony Simons
    Tony Simons is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Dodgy Director

    The Indonesian leadership including the foreign minister look sophisticated and competent and make Abbott, Bishop and co look like amateurs. Perhaps they should go there and do a crash course in diplomacy.

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