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The politics of brinksmanship: Abbott heads to Indonesia

Running foreign policy on domestic agendas is always risky business. In the lead-up to the Australian federal election, the two main political parties locked themselves into a competition over who had…

Nationalistic politicking on both sides has set the scene for prime minister Tony Abbott’s first foreign trip abroad - to Indonesia. EPA/Adi Weda

Running foreign policy on domestic agendas is always risky business. In the lead-up to the Australian federal election, the two main political parties locked themselves into a competition over who had the toughest policy towards refugees. Winning the election meant delivering on these promises, and now new prime minister Tony Abbott has to find a way to temper domestic expectations.

Ahead of this week’s summit between Australian and Indonesian political leaders in Jakarta - Abbott’s first foreign trip as prime minister - both sides have publicly fired shots across the bow. For Abbott, who has long held the view that Australia’s foreign policy under a Coalition government would be focused in Jakarta, rather than Geneva, the talks may mark a turning point in the Australia-Indonesia relationship.

On the other side of the Arafura Sea, Indonesian political leaders are also entering a period of political grandstanding. While the economic, social and cultural ties between Australia and Indonesia are strengthening, these could be affected by a turn for the worse in political relations.

Indonesia made its position on refugee boats clear in the lead-up to Australia’s election. Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s (SBY) announcement of a multilateral approach to the problem of refugees was a recognition of its complexities. The cynical journey of refugees in unsafe boats does not exist as a problem in isolation.

Addressing the problem requires looking at source countries, transit regions and stopping-off points, as well as final destinations. Indonesia has also made it clear that refugees are not a high priority for them. They have more pressing national problems, and while Australian editors continue to put refugee stories on the front page of our papers, they are rarely visible in the Indonesian press, except when deaths occur.

Indonesian papers, instead, are dominated by reports of corruption-busting, attacks on religious minorities and the 2014 presidential elections. Indonesia’s message to Australia is clear: the multilateral approach is all that’s on offer.

For Indonesia, there are few issues as sensitive as national sovereignty. While Indonesia’s struggle for independence against the Dutch has largely become a distant memory, the post-independence experience of regional revolts was revived when various islands threatened to secede in the period after the fall of Suharto in 1998.

One of the rationales of the Suharto regime’s military order was that strong rule was required to hold the country together. The military was forced to accept East Timor’s vote for independence, and were subsequently sent back to the barracks by a coalition of their own leaders, including SBY.

Nevertheless, the memory of East Timor as a defeat left a bad taste for Indonesia. It led to the settlement of the Aceh problem, but an intractable situation remains in West Papua. Secessionism declined after East Timor’s independence, but the threat of national disintegration is raised by the idea of any compromising of Indonesia’s boundaries.

The period between 1999 and 2005 – East Timorese independence, the Bali bombings of 2002 and 2005, the Australian Embassy bombing in 2004, and the Schapelle Corby case – represented probably the lowest period in Australian-Indonesian relations. In response to the terrorist attacks in Indonesia, Australia under John Howard became America’s “deputy sheriff” in the region, which included a statement at the end of 2004 that the Australian government had the right to control a “security zone” of over 1000 nautical miles, an area that took in large parts of Indonesia.

Between 2002 and 2005, a young Indonesian foreign affairs spokesman had to bear the brunt of the Australian media’s attention. Having received his PhD from the Australian National University, that spokesman well understood the workings of politics and media in Australia. Marty Natalegawa is now Indonesia’s foreign minister, and he does not want to see his country pushed around.

Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa has warned Australian leaders that their asylum seeker policies may be an affront to his nation’s sovereignty. EPA/Eduardo Munoz

Leaving aside the fact that Natalegawa is probably wary of a Coalition government repeating Howard-era tactics, he is also influenced by the current atmosphere in Indonesian politics. Indonesia has one of the longest lead-ups to presidential elections of anywhere in the world. As soon as SBY was re-elected for his final term in 2009, political commentary on who was going to be president in 2014 started, and in the next few months the level of heat is going to increase.

Nationalism is the easy card to play in this political atmosphere. The key player of this card is discharged general Prabowo Subianto, a former son-in-law of Suharto, whose candidacy has seen a great emphasis on economic nationalism - but also draws on his military background to foster an image of strong national rule. Indonesian politicians have already fired a few nationalist salvos, including Natalegawa’s warning that Indonesia “cannot accept any Australian policy that would, in nature, violate Indonesia’s sovereignty”.

Unfortunately some on the Australian side have been equally nationalist, from former foreign minister Alexander Downer’s rebuff to Natalegawa to statements by members of the National Party about Indonesian proposals to buy landholdings in Australia. In the latter case, Indonesians are well aware that Chinese, Britons and other foreigners already have similar large holdings, and would be quick to identify discrimination.

On the vexed asylum seeker issue, Downer’s statement that Indonesian boats are breaching Australia’s sovereignty is simply not true under international law, as Professor Don Rothwell - one of Australia’s most highly regarded experts in the field - has pointed out.

It seems that both sides need to take a deep breath. Abbott probably has the most “face” to lose here. He can hope that the proposal to buy back asylum boats will not be mentioned at the talks, but it is going to take some creativity to both maintain the rhetoric aimed at a domestic audience and maintain good relations with Indonesia.

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202 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. Peter Boyd Lane

    geologist

    an excellent article. Hard to believe how quickly Abbott painted himself into a corner.

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    1. Ella Miller

      retired

      In reply to Peter Boyd Lane

      Thank you, a very good read.
      I am increasingly concerned that Abbott is has as much knowledge about diplomacy as he has about leadership.
      So you alienate one Geneva to make amends for past comments on Indonesia.

      His advisers should put a muzzle on him before he destroys Australia's reputation.

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    2. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Peter Boyd Lane

      Oh I don't know, grab a tin of paint, pour it over your head --- bingo! No wriggle room.

      But never mind, Abbott's 'Australia is again open for plunder' ought to reassure everybody.

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    3. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Peter Boyd Lane

      They do say small things amuse small minds, not to mention the focus of munds because of the recent election loss of one of the two equally worst PMs the country ever had, both leading a floundering government, a Trifecta we could say and perhaps an omen for the Melbourne Cup.
      Have to look for horses with connections to Rudd, Gillard and Labor but then it could be third last, second last and last.

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    4. Alex Njoo

      Architect/academic (ret.)

      In reply to Greg North

      Asinine remarks such as "worst PMs" without any credible evidence is, to be analogous, pretty dumb! Even for an engineer.

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    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Alex Njoo

      The evidence Alex is very clear and you can start by looking at what the situation was before Rudd revoked what the LNP had in place and then where we have been going with this for six years and yet some people already criticise a new PM.

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    6. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Greg North

      Yeah keep it up Greg.

      But I note that you can't even bring yourself to make excuses for the PM this time - all you have left to fall back on is criticism of the last lot.

      The rest of us have moved on. The past - as they say - is history. How about you focus on what is happening now? How about you give us your words of wisdom on the PM's visit to Jakarta and how it may be received. And see if you can do it without reference to previous governments.

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    7. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      " The rest of us have moved on. "
      You reckon Mike and that's why there are so many all set to criticise Tony Abbott even before he has left Australia for Indonesia!
      If it is not the side effects of swallowing a whole heap of bitter pills Mike, I wonder what it could be.

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    8. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Greg North

      If you are wondering Greg, let me explain it to you.

      Our erstwhile PM has made a habit of spouting three word slogans instead of developing thoughtful policy. "Stop / turn back the boats". "Axe the tax". "Climate science is crap". etc. etc. etc.

      In doing so, he has painted himself into an ideological corner, and the chickens are coming home to roost a lot sooner that he would have planned. The IPCC have released their report - and it would appear that climate science is not crap after all…

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    9. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Morning Mike,

      I afraid what we're discovereing - disturbing quickly - is that underneath those chants and mantras , our new Team Leader just ain't too bright... and has surrounded himself with a team of compliant dullards to boot. The only talent (eg Turnbull) has been exiled or driven out. And we are left with a team of reserve graders.

      Rat cunning is fine for oppositions... bullying even has its place apparently ... but one needs a bit more than chanting and bullying to negotiate a deal and maintain a working relationshipo with folks who don't really care what you are saying, but only what you do and what you can offer them.

      Just awful to watch this flailing about.

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    10. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Three word sloganeering would seem to have hit home as an electioneering campaign approach Mike and perhaps something Labor can learn there re focus rather than focus groups though didn't they once try something like " No Work Choices "
      I think you might even find Tony has moved on and that the LNP do have policies to fit with what the slogans brought us to focus on, even for climate change.
      Look, we're amongst friends here and you can come clean and admit you're having trouble coming to grips with your side not likely to get a look in for a decade or so.

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    11. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Peter Boyd Lane

      not wishing to be argumentative Peter ... but it was a no-brainer with Abbott ... his bully-boy tactics on the 'metrosexuals' (you'd have to wonder why they are against gay marriage) of his party ... he and Pyne and Robinson's squeals of indignation pre-election and silence post merely suggest a recognition that these tactics won't work with the greater population ...

      Indonesia has a smiling face, but the men there would dust Abbott in a heart-beat ... and Abbott knows it ... so he will go through the motions and pretend to have achieved something (maybe send more jobs off-shore) and re-enter the cone-of-silence ... (which is apparently being dramatically up-sized as we speak ...)

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    12. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg ... Abbott hasn't been in long and you're already paiting him as a better 'leader' .... seems like you have a LNP agenda, whereas most of us have an Australian population agenda ...

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    13. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg ... you want to put money on that?
      In the context of LNP losing considerable seats next federal election?

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    14. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Greg North

      "....Look, we're amongst friends here and you can come clean and admit you're having trouble coming to grips with your side not likely to get a look in for a decade or so...."

      I hate to break this to you Greg, but I have voted for the Coalition for almost all of my life. There has been only 3 times when I did not - the last two being among them.

      So what was that again?

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    15. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Ella Miller

      I'm curious to know why his view that Australia's foreign policy would be in Jakarta rather than Geneva.
      I certainly can't find anything difinitive relating to it.

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    16. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      Can't bully folks in Geneva? Maybe he meant the UN but last time I looked that was in New York. Could've been the EU but that'd be Brussels ... no I reckon what he meant was this:

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

      The idea being to turn the whole region here into some no-go zone for refugees and human decency.

      I'm still hankering for a pre-emptive strike myself ... a bit of shock and awe ... cold steel ... even scarier than Julie Bishop's stare.

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    17. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Good afternoon Peter

      I think the reference to Geneva is because the UNHCR is based in Geneva.

      Mind you, the PM's policies will probably get just as warm a welcome there as they will in Jakarta.

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    18. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Yep that's the one Mike ... that our whole approach to external relations will be based on Tony's Stop the Boats chant and demanding that the neighbours pitch in to help. Going well isn't it?

      The UNHCR has a nasty unco-operative attitude ... legal responsibility, duties of care, humane approaches, conventions and all that sort of thing. He already knows what the response in Geneva will be, what it has been for years - even under the last lot.

      Actually I reckon there'll be a swap deal on the table in Jakarta - we take a refugee - they buy a steer. Adds a whole new meaning to travelling steerage really. The Nats would love it.

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    19. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      Being aware of the dual sword of politics and muddied line between church and state, as far as Tony Abbotts goes, I had a tinkling he avoided the word United Nations rather using Geneva for those of us not too familiar with, [like me until just now] where the United Nations is, which in fact is in Geneva.
      It paints a clearer picture now for me at least, because the puzzle is made up of many here in Austraila with connnections overseas without going into who they are, but attached to this new prime…

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    20. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Seerage? Ha ha
      All those cattle-boats travelling full from OZ to Indonesia and returning empty to OZ. A few tents and we could bring back all those refugees in no time.
      Who mentioned putting the refugees on one of our under-utilised remote islands?
      Tasmania?

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    21. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      Lynne,
      See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations - its HQ is in New York, and it has other centres elsewhere, including Geneva.
      I think Rear Admiral Abbott mentioned Geneva because it has a large lake, and he maybe thinks it is full of boat people. Who knows? Maybe he thinks the Holy See (somewhat near to Geneva) is also full of holey boats. Who knows?

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    22. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Ella Miller

      No, Abbott is Murdoch's PM, not Australia's, as every single foreign government recognises.

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    23. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Daniel Boon

      It is truly sad that so many were sucked in by Abbott's three word slogans, bullying and divide and conquer tactics that they, together with those who gave up voting altogether in disgust at the charade, combined to put him into power. Pity too that Labor was sucked into policies championed by Abbott such as those driven by its pathological aversion to the deficit and to asylum seekers.

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    24. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      As a quick view, I can't recall what I googled but got Michael Di'Antonio of the Huffington Post Confronting the Vatican on the Rights of Children where it referred to... This week in Geneva the United Nations..... not my usual source

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    25. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      Look, we can't blame him re "Climate science is crap, etc.etc. it's those, them or him who advise him, I can't say all members of the Liberal Party would agree, as far as "Stop/ turn back the boats", he's in an awkward spot their publicly, because that's not the line coming from a higher authority and Kevin Rudd gave in there as PM after pressure from the Australian Bishops Conference.
      It's all politics, you'll see.

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    26. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      I think Lynne you would find that it is just Tony Abbott's view that Australia in having more and more ties with Asia in general and that Indonesia is our closest northern neighbour with a sizable population, Jakarta being its capital.
      It is also no secret amongst the economic community that we have this Asian century and despite the obstacles faced in trade of Asia generally having very low wages, we need to forge trade relationships with Asian countries and there is every logical reason to do that with the nearest populous country as much as with others.
      Obviously, trade and commerce development can be dependent on political and diplomatic relationships.
      It is not to say that European, the Americas or other trading relationships are to be ignored but they have been formed over many years of close relationships and if anything are more stable from a political basis.

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    27. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Greg North

      Yep ... gunboats don't really do Geneva well ...

      I look forward to any identifiable benefit to Orstarya coming out of this 'kowtowing' as Paul Bongiorno puts it. So far SBY has agreed to further chattery at a ministerial level ... Let's see how excited those eyewitness business spruikers feel about the response they had.

      Rather silly actually to bring a panel of hungry commercial interests along to watch you grovel. Maybe he'll just tell them to pass any comment through his office ... Gee this bloke's a dill.

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  2. Mike Stasse

    retired energy consultant

    He's out of his depth. End of story.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      So you may well wish Mike and I wonder just what approach you would be taking for the good of Australia and Australians.

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    2. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Greg North

      Here's an idea I had some time back...... set up a 'reservation' area. Size and location unknown right now, I don't have the knowledge and resources to sort it out, but we are hardly short of room...

      Obviously they'd need water and food to begin with, but I would tell them that they will in fact be 'on their own' in, say 18 months. Give them shovels and hoes and forks and hammers and solar panels and other thing they might need, and tell them they have to build themselves a self sufficient town/city and grow their own food. Stick it somewhere fairly isolated so 'escaping' is pointless, and it will keep them all busy and out of harm's way, and I'm sure cost Australia a whole lot less than the current system's costing us.......

      Just a concept of course, but bring clever minds together for a brain storming session, and I reckon we could really improve on the insane current situation...

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    3. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Well yes Mike, we could excise little portions of Australia and offer to fly them in so it'd not cost us anything at all because it'd be on the basis that all the money that would have gone to the people smugglers would offset flight and set-up costs.
      Just like we have Chinatowns and Little Italys etc. we could have a heap of the not so little places and once they were established we could even cut out the free flights and have the not so little places running their own immigration, we also probably having to have the Sunny places, the not so Sunny and the others and probably pay to keep them well apart, not that we would pay.

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    4. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Mike,

      Funnily enough, the Indonesians have a scheme just like this which they use to relocate (poor) people from their crowded islands to the less crowded ones.
      Some issues relocating Balinese peasants to Irian Jaya, but we could put Greg North in charge and he would thoughtfully handle all issues.
      Perhaps Rear Admiral Abbott could ask about it when he draws breath from haranguing SBY

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    5. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Sorry - not Balinese, Javanese peasants.

      I can't remember what the scheme was called - 20 years ago - "Internal Migration" in Bahasa Indonesia? Perhaps Ken could update.

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    6. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      That's it, Transmigrasi

      I was running a workshop for Indonesians about project management of land information systems. Very interesting to see how dynamic the Javanese are. They will make powerful enemies when RAA has finished bovver-booting his way through the china shop. Transmigrasi Australia. A two word slogan!

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    7. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      The program is called "transmigrasi and is still high on the agenda. It is a voluntary program designed to reduce overcrowding on Java (where 60% of Indonesia's population live) by getting people to move to the "outer Islands", Sumatra, Sulewesi, Nusa Tengarah Timur,Kalimantan with the promise of free land and financial support to get set up.
      It was badly disjointed by the tsunami. Most of the people killed and displaced on the west coast of Sumatra were transmigrasi.
      The biggest problem is that Javanese don't want to move around the corner, let alone the wilds of Sumatra.
      But that doesn't remove the threat of them coming all the way to Australia and invading us.

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    8. Paul Felix

      Builder

      In reply to Greg North

      I would elect retired middle class engineers as sheriffs and send them into Indonesia to abduct the rampaging people smugglers and jail them for eternity.
      Then I would have those self same experts, who clearly have never experienced life in the villages of developing countries, to pontificate about what an amazing PM we have now, the best we have ever had, with the best Ministry ever, who will solve the problems of Aus, the world, the solar system, in fact our whole galaxy.
      My only sadness is that because we have this totally perfect PM, Doctor Who has no role to play anymore. Best let the BBC know, they could run a new series, Doctor A Bit.
      My permission to moderate this out, my back is sore, I have worked since 6.30am and I'm grumpy.

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    9. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Paul Felix

      What out in the paddy fields again? Are you sure you're not one of those Indos?

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    10. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Greg North

      Murdoch's PM will be in a three week consultation, face to face consultation with his patron starting on Oct14, and he will be instructed as to what approach he will take for the good of Murdoch.
      As for the neighbours they all know that Abbott was elected by Murdoch for Murdoch.

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    11. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Greg North

      Yes, Little N'Worthia would be a hoot, get Murdoch to pay for that one.

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    12. Paul Felix

      Builder

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      It was what was proposed after WW2 for European Jewry, the location was the Kimberley.
      Never quite decided if it was a good or bad decision to forgo the golden land and choose Palestine.
      If we made that offer to Afghans now we would be overloaded with applications within weeks.
      For those who have never been there, Google central Afghanistan, and tell me that the Kimberly's would not seem like paradise.

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    13. Paul Felix

      Builder

      In reply to Greg North

      Goodness you have just described the history of Australia since invasion, right up to the Federation.
      Not only pay to keep them apart but use different rail gauges also.
      Then we could federate, develop an upper house based on mutual loathing and hey presto we are almost now.
      We could then invent fear of foreigners and introduce a rainbow Australia policy, which would over time morph into a psychotic terror of anyone we didn't quite understand, close our borders, and hey presto Abbottsville.
      This is not having a go at Greg North, just me having a bit of fun.
      Sadly though we, collectively, appear to have strayed from the very good analysis of a diplomatic challenge for both countries.

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    14. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Paul Felix

      Paul, already done.
      The Ghan Railway commemorates the Afghan camel trains that used to supply the north of Australia.
      And think how Gina could use them straight away at $2 / day without the need for expensive air-conditioned housing.

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    15. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      Just elevates the "South Timor" perspective in the minds of our near neighbours.
      And our Murdoch's Foreign Minister is actually the Minister of a Foreigner.
      Now the person who introduced the term "This Illegitimate Government" into common usage during the last term cannot complain if it accurately describes a government only elected on the support of Murdoch, which all of Australia's neighbouring governments know and understand.
      Definitely not representative of Australia.

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    16. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Lynne Newington

      Yep we've good a good track record of given away other folks' country.

      I wonder if these dolts know how pathetic and craven they look taking a team of business leaders there to whore the place about having done what they've done over the last two weeks.

      It adds offence to insult. Thick as two short planks.

      Not worth our going there unless there's a quid in it - that's how the Indonesians will see it ... and rightly so.

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  3. Tony Kevin

    Emeritus Fellow at Australian National University

    Thanks. It's not just Australia buying boats or paying for local information ashore that would violate Indonesian sovereignty. It's also patrolling just outside Indonesian territorial waters or contiguous zone, to intercept and destroy boats there, and to demand the Indonesians come out and collect at the 12 mile limit intercepted asylum-seekers from those 'unseaworthy' boats. I imagine the Indonesians would have a low tolerance of that practice if repeated . See my Saturday ABC AM interview, http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2013/s3858283.htm
    We still don't know if the second boat intercepted last week, by our Customs vessel Triton, had sent a distress cal. to Australian authorities. I hope this might be questioned in the MInister's media conference this week.

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    1. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to Tony Kevin

      I don't understand this idea of buying the boats. Why would Australia provide another income stream for people smugglers? Surely Abbot knows he can't buy all the boats in Indonesia. If he starts paying for wrecks, what is to stop the smugglers from getting another, better boat, (at our expense) and continuing their business? This policy is embarrassing simply because of the level of mindless stupidity behind it.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Tony Kevin

      " It's also patrolling just outside Indonesian territorial waters or contiguous zone, to intercept and destroy boats there, "
      And do you know that this happening Tony!
      Seems from all reports that the last boat managed to destroy itself in attempting to surf the offshore breakers.

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    3. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      It is not another income stream for the smugglers Janeen but an attempt to not have their prime tool available, re my own post:
      " " He can hope that the proposal to buy back asylum boats will not be mentioned at the talks, "
      It would probably be great if they were mentioned for it would give an opportunity to re-inforce the message that smugglers using ocean trip unseaworthy boats has become a death sentence for many people and it is not as fanciful as some people may think for say an old leaky Indonesian timber boat can be had for A$10,000 if not less, buying a thousand is 10M and a 100,000 would be 1B "
      Given the numbers dying at sea and the cost already to Australians, $1B could be something of a good buy.

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    4. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      Read any or all of the reports of the interception or seach and rescue operations you will see exactly the same pattern. Take this last incident.
      The vessel reported it was in trouble. It gave its GPS postion 25 miles from Java - 3 miles outside Indonesian territorial waters
      The [Australian] Rescue Co-ordination Centre notified the Indonesian authorities that they were coordinating the sea search and rescue.
      The closest help available were a merchant vessel and a "Border Protection Aircraft"
      Source - A statement byScott Morrison.

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    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      So!
      Of course there will be a regular approach where appropriate.
      There have also been reports that the boat was heading back to Indonesia and that it had not been sighted by aircraft nor a BP vessel amongst other information.

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    6. Alex Njoo

      Architect/academic (ret.)

      In reply to Tony Kevin

      Tony, why didn't the politically-challenged masses not know/understand the points you raised, when Abbott was crowing about stopping the boat?
      Are most of us stupid or have we been thoroughly brainwashed by Murdoch's Goebbels-style propaganda?

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    7. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      The question that you are so carefull avoiding is "What was the aircraft doing that put it so close to Indonesian waters?"
      There are quite a few reports like this. "We'll do searching, our units are the closest ,you stay out of the way"

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    8. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      " The question that you are so carefull avoiding is "What was the aircraft doing that put it so close to Indonesian waters?" "
      No avoidance Ken and seeing as a call was put out, I suppose the aircraft was looking for the boat!
      " There are quite a few reports like this. "We'll do searching, our units are the closest ,you stay out of the way" "
      If you reckon Ken and I suppose you have transcripts!

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    9. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Tony Kevin

      'Running foreign policy on domestic agendas is always risky business.' Well said, Adrian Vickers, and also exceedingly well argued on ABC Radio National's AM Program, Tony Kevin.

      The former remark exposes the irrationality - nay, the idiocy - of those now new to foreign policy, who, instead of consulting the Indonesian embassy on the dangers of an Indonesian backlash, have chosen to play this as a military operation; while the latter interview exposes our moral bankruptcy.

      Where, might one ask, is the voice of former Ambassador to Indonesia, Greg Moriarty, on this? And, if constrained by foreign policy boffins' codes of silence, why is it not possible to find out if the Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister were briefed on this prior to their foolhardy pre-election threat to pursue a foreign policy based on gunboat diplomacy?

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    10. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Tony Kevin

      Tony, if you intercept, board and destroy a boat in international waters, is this piracy?

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    11. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      " Tony, if you intercept, board and destroy a boat in international waters, is this piracy? "
      I think you're missing something here Robert and first thing is whether the boat has put out a distress call " Our boat is sinking, please come and get us etc. "
      So if a boat is in danger of sinking and unable to be repaired the appropriate thing to do by international law of the sea is to first rescue the people off the boat.
      Then you might ask whether you leave the boat floating to sink slowly and meanwhile…

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    12. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      Cluching for straws. The plane was the closest unit when the call went out
      HMAS Bathurst was the closest unit in the previuos boat sinking. What was it doing 40km off the Indoensian coast.

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    13. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Being rude Ken... being arrogant and intimidatory... extending our sphere of influence right up to the border which from memory of my seasickness period is 20 nautical miles. Warships right on their doorstep ... we're only there to help.

      I wonder how we'd be reacting if we had Indonesian naval vessels quietly cruising off Sydney Heads or Port Phillip ... just helping.

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    14. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Greg Moriaty was brought back to Canberra on September 19 to brief the National Security Committee of cabinet. Curious that no ministerial statement was made after the meeting.
      There is little doubt that the PM and Julie Bishop were briefed on their policy before the election. By SBY. I'll bet Greg Moriarty was there.
      They didn't need to consult the Indonesian Embassy. The ambassador told them in very blunt language.

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    15. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      They knew exactly what they were doing Ken ... but they've only got one tool in the kit ... a hammer.

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    16. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      With the frequency that people smugglers were operating boats at Ken and the number that call for rescues, you might just have to check total operational logs for aircraft and ships to know what their courses and positions were for.

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    17. Tony Kevin

      Emeritus Fellow at Australian National University

      In reply to Alex Njoo

      Thanks Alex, I have been writing on this topic for years. My book 'Reluctant Rescuers" ( published July 2012, see its website) had a chapter on problems in towback. I also analysed difficulties with it over the past year in articles in Eureka Street, Inside Story and here . I guess people who want to read my work will do so, using Google etc..

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    18. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg, you old FW you!

      If a boat is NOT sinking and is otherwise OK (after Rear Admiral Abbott's clever wheeze of buying up clapped out boats, the evil people smugglers will buy NON-Clapped out boats, sometimes called "seaworthy") then the action of our Navy in intercepting them in international waters is piracy UNLESS we intercept them for an altruistic reason - say, taking them on board, ferrying them somewhere, and considering their claims for asylum.

      You mention the actions we take to get rid of clapped out boats - burning them, taking them out to sea and scuttling them... Just how exactly will Major General Morrison dispose of the ones we buy in Indonesia.

      I suppose you could hide behind them as the Indonesian Navy arrives and let them blast them out of the way.

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    19. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      I didn't need the logs.
      The media reports we used to get gave enough information to see the pattern.
      Now where the bloody hell did they go?
      I guess I might need them in the future.
      What are the odds I could get them?

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    20. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      A couple of most ridiculous far fetched comments if ever there were, first of all one attempting whatever is being attempted re commentary rescue required calls and then some know all claiming to know of the routing of all ships and planes under border protection command because of media reports!

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    21. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      It's imperative we find some enemy to attack and if they come armed with ammunition like, say children they can chuck overboard as decoys; and if they can invade as with huge flotillas of leaky boats spread all over our northern waters threatening to outflank the brave defenders dispatched to protect our beloved homeland; and if these craft are chock full of militant marauders and their wives who are hell bent on getting a foothold on the continent and spreading out from there, then we truly have a dangerous force to confront.

      Go Tony. go!

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    22. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Aw heck ... I've just found myself agreeing with Vice Rear Air commander Morisson offering his er 'sympathy' for the dead asylum seekers and their families..." a chilling reminder of what can happen when you put your lives in the hands of criminals."

      Well yes indeed .. oh hang on he meant people smugglers.

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  4. Graham Smith

    Self Employed

    An excellent article. Thanks for the insights and concise historical context.

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  5. Julian Cribb

    Science communicator

    Oh, I don't know. The problem is easily solved by putting a blanket ban on its discussion and reporting in Australia. Would all of you who have read, commented, or even thought about this article kindly report to the Gulag?

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    1. Julian Cribb

      Science communicator

      In reply to Greg North

      For a chap with so many opinions, Greg, you sure have a lot of trouble explaining them.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Julian Cribb

      Perhaps you do not just like that there are facts and then ridiculous statements Julian, especially when yours are not based on fact.

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    3. Julian Cribb

      Science communicator

      In reply to Greg North

      Where are the facts in all your many comments? They are mostly unsubstantiated opinion. Your abuse of people who happen to hold different views is disgraceful.

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    4. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Julian Cribb

      I have given you a link for starters Julian and you talk of a Gulag!
      Where is the abuse?

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    5. Alex Njoo

      Architect/academic (ret.)

      In reply to Julian Cribb

      Spot on. I think the Greg Norths of this world would like to see people who remotely look like an 'asylum seeker/refugee' wear a blue (for sea/ocean) circle on their bodies for easy identification. My memory tells me that it's been 'successfully' done before.
      To paraphrase the Good Book, suffer the fools etc. Let's just move on and leave them wallowing in their own hateful vomit.

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  6. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    " On the vexed asylum seeker issue, Downer’s statement that Indonesian boats are breaching Australia’s sovereignty is simply not true under international law, as Professor Don Rothwell – one of Australia’s most highly regarded experts in the field – has pointed out. "
    International law according to Rothwell would seem to be based on
    " Likewise, intercepting vessels carrying asylum seekers beyond the limits of the 24-mile contiguous zone is not permissible under the law of the sea. "
    Aside from…

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    1. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      The claims by Downer that a bunch of ragged asylum seekers in a leaky boat could breach a nation' s sovereignty are farcial. Is Australia's "supreme, absolute, and uncontrollable power" so fragile? It usually takes another state to breach sovereignty.
      Read the ABC report carefully. The reporter is basing his claim on the report of one survivor who said that the "army drove the cars". No other media outlet had reported a similar claim.
      Even Tony Abbott wouldn't be dumb enough to bring up the "buying boats"' idea in an adult forum.
      If he follows usual form he will stick strictly to the script written by his office.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Anybody can claim something is farcical Ken.
      As I expect you would know, claiming asylum is a right even if some countries may question the process of moving through a number of countries.
      The author makes a claim about what Downer has alleged and his claim is based on where boats are intercepted, thus we are talking about people smugglers using boats from their country in a manner which avoids their own border control processes.
      It is not the first time that Indonesian military people have been involved with assisting people smugglers, there having been some already go to trial in Indonesia for exactly that action.

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    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg,

      Have you actually spent any time at all in Indonesia - outside of a couple of weeks in the splenidi insulated environment of a Bali resort?

      It's just that you speak with the arrogant smugness of one who thinks the world works like here, that they should just do what we say is the right thing and should know their place. Imperious - that's the word I'm after.

      London - or at least the Thames Valley I'd reckon.

      You really have gotta get out more before you start telling the world what they should be doing.

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    4. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I've been to various parts of Asia and Indonesia on several occasions Peter but give Bali a wide berth.

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    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Certainly a lot more people in Asian countries than Australia, villagers and even some city folk living a hand to mouth kind of existence though I do tend to steer clear of cities, they bad enough here too.
      Also have never gone out of my way to look at the greater allegedly corrupt side though I can understand with increasing mouths to feed and it harder to catch fish because of over fishing there could be quite a few fishermen if offered a good price to take some people on a trip, they might jump at it as a retirement nest egg of sorts.
      But that's just the outworkings and the little bloke and still does not make it OK.

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  7. Chek Ling

    retired engineer

    It seems to me that until we have a bipartisan approach to the boat people issue we will always be vulnerable to living out the remains of the White Australia dream through the political jousts to demonstrate which side is the better at "keeping us save" from the invading hordes from... (Brisbane had its own Night of Broken Glass in 5 May 1888 soon after the declaration of the unprecedented victory by the Opposition Leader who campaigned exclusively on the total and immediate exclusion of the Chinese…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Chek Ling

      1.25 centuries ago and it is still so painful Chek!, cut yourself on some of that glass in another life did you and still reminisce rather than accept the multiculturalism of Australia.
      " since we recently through the Shapelle Corby case told them through our Alan Joneses and our dailies that we don't trust or like them. "
      Those in the media run all sorts of circuses Chek, the Corby circus being one I would have referred to as the Cringe and I certainly do not include myself in the " we " and there…

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    2. wilma western

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Chek Ling

      Thankyou Chek Ling. I hope for this too. I have posted below that the new ALP leader could take up the challenge to seek a bipartisan and more humane multilateral policy.

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    3. Peter Hindrup

      consultant

      In reply to Chek Ling

      That is what neither party wants. Whatever will divide the nation must be kept.

      Then there is nothing Indonesia can do, the problem/s originate with the destruction of these peoples, these refugees societies, and it is Australia that joined in the destruction so enthusiastically. The coalition of the willing.
      Taking refugees may well be no more than a fraction of the cost Australia is called upon to pay.
      Across the globe, the can expect little sympathy

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    4. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Peter Hindrup

      Morning Peter,

      I'd suggest we do in fact have a bipartisan policy on this issue ... the only differences being the colour schemes for the camps. Both are committed to 'stopping the boats' to 'deciding who will come and the circumstances in which they come', to protecting our borders taking precedence over our international agreements and domestic laws... a dutch auction of amoral poll chasing.

      And even the Greens have taken refuge in moral pronouncements rather than proposing concrete policy options.

      There are concrete, proven humane approaches that have been presented repeatedly by the likes of John Menadue. But no one - from the best to the worst - seems ready to take up the challenge of shifting the public debate.

      We live in the hideous shadow of Pauline Hanson.

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    5. Roma Guerin

      Pensioner

      In reply to Chek Ling

      Thank you Chek Ling for reminding us of our horrific treatment of the Chinese people, as explained in historical context by Eric Rolls in "Flowers & the Wide Sea". It is, or should be, a source of great shame to all Australians, but I fear that I am preaching to the converted.

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    6. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      In over two years following this issue I believe Chek Ling is much closer to the truth than you are.
      You only have to scroll through the online comments on stories about Muslims. asylum seekers or Indonesiasn and you will collect endless examples of denegration, abuse and stereotyping without any basis in fact. The honest ones make straight out statements. Others use snide remarks and innuendo.
      This is the modern form of White Australia and both parties have tapped into it for their asylum seekers policy.
      You are guilty of it, evidenced by this sly reference to Marty Natalegawa from another Conversation
      "Well so much for Attachatta or whatever that Indonesian bloke's name in NY is"
      You contempt for Indonesians is written all over it.


      e Evi

      Well so much for Attachatta or whatever that Indonesian bloke's name in NY is

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    7. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      How many different names do you see getting used for international politicians and our own Ken, even Tony Abbott.
      Remember Dinner Jacket for the former Iranian Pres and then there was Poodle Blair and whatever for George and John.
      So I couldn't be bothered to go and see what the FMs name was and yet I didn't refer to Indonesians as you did yourself and I see you are not putting that up again, a little racist was it!
      You do seem too happy to ignore Australia's multiculturalism and that we do take refugees from many different countries including from countries where Islam is the predominant religion and we also have a general immigration program that has many people coming from many different countries and of different religions, our skilled visa program being all about education/skills, experience and ability with the english language and nothing about country for which a passport is held nor religion.
      You might think others are sly Ken but I call a spade a spade.

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    8. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      As you are very well aware the expression I used "Your attitude to the little brown people of the north is clearly on show." was used sacastically to highlight your complete contempt for Indonesians.
      Like a lot of people who get pinged on this question you resort to "But other people say it.." and "But some of my best friends are...(fill in the blanks" defence .
      Doesn't fly.

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    9. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      All it highlighted Ken was your use of derogatory language to people of another country and that certainly does not fly with me.

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    10. Chek Ling

      retired engineer

      In reply to Greg North

      No, Greg. I have no need to appropriate the pains of others. The past is useful if it sheds like on what we are doing now. I was hoping you would get my point this time. Perhaps you are in a hurry.

      The main thing that comes across from reading your replies to me is that you "wash your hands" all too often.

      Any way the point I hope to make is that as a nation we seem to be afflicted by more or less the same mentality since the early settlers dreamed of a the White Australia, especially the…

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    11. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Chek Ling

      But that wouldn't be in "South Timor Tony's" DNA.
      And the Indonesians will not forget that East Timor episode in a hurry.

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    12. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Chek Ling

      I'm not so sure that the approach on asylum seekers is not already bipartisan. Both parties agree that the refugees should be treated as criminals and incarcerated incommunicado if possible and for an indefinite amount of time. That in my book is torture.

      Where the two parties definitely do not have a bipartisan approach is their acceptance of anything the other party wishes to enact even if they agree on principles and intended outcomes (which they won't admit to).

      I reckon if the rest of the world knew more of what goes on here we would be the its laughing stock and the butt of many a joke.

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    13. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Chek Ling

      " No, Greg. I have no need to appropriate the pains of others. The past is useful if it sheds like on what we are doing now. "
      I agree Chek that there is much that has happened in Australia that nobody should feel too proud of if they were involved, Australia likely not alone in that when it comes to countries that have been developed through the involvement of European settlement.
      We can also use the past of not just Australia to gauge what we do now and one of the reasons that we have by and…

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    14. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      I posted elsewhere Ian that you have little appreciation for Australia's humanitarian visa program which includes refugee sponsored resettlements.
      Do yourself a favour and have a read of the Immi dept. web site.

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    15. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Greg North

      So you're an illegal Greg ... OK we'll have you and your entire extended family off to Xmas Island in 48 hours... thanks for your co-operation.

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  8. Alex Njoo

    Architect/academic (ret.)

    Earlier images of Tony Abbott's first meeting with the Indonesian president shows, by the respective body language, how the latter looked uncomfortable in the face of an uncouth Aussie matey approach.
    In keeping of Our Tone's national sovereign stance, we should all adopt the Tony Abbott walk; slow, slow, swagger, swagger, slow, slow. I'd bet that that'll get us anywhere on the world stage.

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    1. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Alex Njoo

      It's just that Rear Admiral Abbott's walk reminds Indonesians of their Orang Utans ("men of the forest") and he is wondering whether a bunch of bananas might be needed quickly.
      Maybe RAA's hi viz bright orange jackets are a subconscious link to his fellow Orangs.

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  9. john tons

    retired redundant

    Downer's intervention may make Abbott's task even more difficult if not impossible. One only has to reflect on the way Downer 'negotiated' the Timor Gap Treaty with East Timor. East Timor sought international arbitration, had it succeeded then much of the oil and gas reserves would most likely have been judged as being in East Timor waters - instead Downer's bullying tactics meant that the East Timorese lost those oil and gas reserves - the royalties from which would have enabled it to get well and truly on its feat.
    Downer made no apology for this - Australia plays by the rules when it suits the national interest. Downer foreign policy remains characterised by a neo colonialist tinge - if that is the approach perceived in Jakarta then Abbott has no chance.

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    1. Michael Field

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to john tons

      The big risk with the inaccurate and intemperate remarks of Downer is that Indonesians will conclude that he is saying what the government 'really' thinks. I wonder when our foreign policy became quite so immature?
      Howard was skillful in some ways although maybe that was just because he was trying to make up for the appalling 'deputy sherriff' gaffe - and let's not mention the disastrous union with George W. Rudd was a huge disappointment if you expected someone with his FP experience to know how to act in our national interest. Gillard started with a childish declaration that she didn't like dealing with foreign matters and then had to try and claw back a bit of cred. Tony is looking like a complete klutz. Let's hope he learns quickly, before he causes us long term damage.

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  10. wilma western

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    This is the sort of information we need, rather than the speculation about whether Abbott's visit to Indonesia will be a "success" or an "embarrassment." The discussion of the importance of "sovereignty" in Indonesian political history is significant.

    It was noticeable that media commentators on the ABC's "Insiders" for example were not rushing in to claim that Abbott's Indonesian visit will see political setbacks for him , because he would use bargaining over beef etc to get around the clash…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to wilma western

      " It is surely clear that a lasting and more humane approach to the asylum seeker question must involve regional agreements, willingness by Australia to accept a significantly larger number of refugees via the humanitarian immigration intake and active cooperation by the "transit" countries in our neighbourhood. "
      Wilma, perhaps you have heard of the UNHCR which operate globvally and so that by virtue of many different locations means regional.
      Regional agreements could be all well and good as…

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    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Greg North

      That what you reckon Greg ... let's get up there and show those Indonesians a thing or two about their responsibilities...how about a pre-emptive strike on Jakarta ... a shot across their bow.

      You fellas reckon there's nothing that can't be fixed by bluster and hectoring. Good luck with that.

      There is no problem that doesn't have a simple solution ... always the same solution ... do what we say. A simple solution that is invariably wrong.

      Breathtaking arrogance backed with encyclopedic ignorance.

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    3. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Looks as though bluster and hectoring is yours Peter with not a thought for what the UNHCR do is it?

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    4. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, google "Fractal Wrongness" . - FW for short. Good for quick summary of certain people as well. "Ah Greg, FW" saves so much time.

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    5. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Robert Molyneux

      Thanks for that Robert ... funny and tragically so true ....error amplified by iteration ... and all based on initial conditions ... perfect really

      For those with slower fingers:
      The state of being wrong at every conceivable scale of resolution. That is, from a distance, a fractally wrong person's worldview is incorrect; and furthermore, if you zoom in on any small part of that person's worldview, that part is just as wrong as the whole worldview.

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  11. Peter Ormonde

    Farmer

    In my long lost yoof I had a rather deranged landlord who was obsessed with thrift. He did his own maintenance on the crumbing slum we rented.

    There was no problem that could not be fixed with a hammer and enough brute force. His efforts at fixing a broken window with a few well placed blows were an image I never thought I'd see again. Till this.

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    1. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Speaking of lack of subtlety - this comment refers to a Conversation now closed, not before time I might add. The one that dared to mention 'IPCC' - I mentioned it but not sure if I got away with it. However, the closure left me with no opportunity to fix a mistake (I must remind myself that not all snarky people are far-right wingnuts) I know you will understand.

      :)

      I guess I have done a bit of an 'Abbott' flying off fully loaded but indiscriminate of target.

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  12. Emilie Choukry

    artist

    Thanks @George_Roberts on TWITTER

    George Roberts

    Today's Jakarta Globe headline urges @TonyAbbottMHR to focus on human rights of asylum seekers quoting VP's advisor. pic.twitter.com/wkrRCVNRHd

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  13. Rene Oldenburger

    Haven't got one

    The Howard/LNP policy did work and it stopped not just the boats, it also stopped people from dying.

    Rudd/ALP changed that policy and people started dying in large numbers

    Abbott/NLP want to stop the boats and want to stop people dying.

    And what do we see, quite a few people criticising Abbott/LNP which is not out of concern for the safety of others, including children, but out of their own selfish ideological point of view.

    Suppose the left have a rather guilty conscience on this issue.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      Oh so true Rene and I doubt whether they would even admit it if we put it in braille for them.

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    2. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Greg North

      I got no time for these pseudo intellectual chardonnay sipping dwarfs

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    3. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Daniel Boon

      Probably because I wouldn't have a clue who or what Khardonney is

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    4. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Daniel Boon

      Never seen one episode of that show

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    5. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Daniel Boon

      And that is suppose to mean anything?

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    6. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      Rather a chardonnay sipping dwarfs than an intellectual and moral dwarf. Greg? Rene?

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    7. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Last thing these lefties can claim is to have any morals on this subject

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    8. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      Never have any morals not ever these lefties what with marrying sheep and divorce and single parenting and everything innit Rene?

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    9. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      More than enough children died because of the changed policy by the ALP, no excuse.

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    10. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      No Rene children drown at sea taking risky boat trips because we don't do any offshore processing close to home .. we should be flying them in on QANTAS like a humane civilised country we once were ... you know the sort of country that ends up with folks named Oldenburger or Ormonde in it ...

      We call them queue-jumpers when there is no queue. We stick 'em behind razor wire with charge or evidence forever based on a vague 'feeling' by some anonymous ASIO desk jockey, we deny them medical care…

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    11. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      No Peter, these children drowned because the ALP changed a policy that worked and of course the ALP will never take ownership of that fact.

      And yes they literally are queue jumpers, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are just patiently waiting for years in UN refugee camps the world over - and it is they who should get preference

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    12. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      I have been waiting for this one to surface.
      There are not hundreds of thousands who are waiting, patiently or otherwiset, and there is no queue. They are myths designed to boost our egos and at the same time demonise asylum seekers.
      Who says so? The Department of Immigration and Citizenship says so.
      In 2011, I asked the question ‘How many applications does DIAC get worldwide for Humanitarian visas’. They answered: “47,122 applications were received in 2009–10, with 9, 236 visas granted” That…

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    13. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      How many years waiting??? Read up Rene. When is that no longer a queue? How much processing happens on Manus Island? How many DIAC officals are working in Africa or Pakistan these days?

      I blame Labor, I blame Tony Abbot - I blame you and people like you ... folks who pretend to be humane and compassionate but are really selfish, uncaring and hypocritical.

      Enough.

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    14. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      And you create your own myths with figures Ken for yes, whilst there can be in order of about 50,000 applications annually you will find that only 6000 resettlement visas are granted annually ( that may change ) for that is the quota and it is nothing to do with 44,000 of 50,000 not meeting requirements but being surplus to the quota, ie. legal requirements.
      Then over and above the refugee resettlement visas there are what are referred to as the Special Humanitarian visas and they have in the past allowed organisations and individuals to sponsor people from various areas on the planet, be they in camps or not.
      I say in the past, for whereas they have been running at about 7500 annually, that number has more and more been used up in granting visas to clients of people smugglers, they effectively taking places available whether you like it or not.
      Go and have a look at the Immi dept figures yourself to appraise yourself a bit more rather than attempt vaporising.

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    15. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      You have gone down another rabbit hole.
      You are confirming all the statistics I have quoted and used them to create a large blurb countering an argument I never even came close to making.
      I illustrated with DIAC's own words that the 'hordes waitng to come in' and the 'queue jumper' stories are myths.Nothing more nothing less.
      You're losing it old son - get a grip.

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    16. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      The numbers clearly rose under the previous Australian regime in result to both push and pull factors.

      I am looking for a time when the majority of Australia's humanitarian intake are provided by the UN and not people smugglers.

      Looks like the Indonesians don't mind too much. I wonder what Abbott has offered them, approval for the beef land deal they wanted?

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  14. Tony Kevin

    Emeritus Fellow at Australian National University

    A lively correspondence thread. Let me comment on a few points.

    Q. Is it piracy to intercept a boat in international waters and burn it? A - if a distress call is made to Aust authorities, it's correct to offer to board and inspect the boat's seaworthiness and if it is found unsafe, to take the passengers on board and take them to the nearest available safe haven, and burn the boat so it does not present navigation hazards. ,If no distress call was made it becomes a grey area. Boats have a…

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    1. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Tony Kevin

      Kevin

      Thank you for your well informed comment - getting like hens' teeth lately.

      I would rather not be in Abbott's shoes - maybe he will take time to understand the Indonesian view, or maybe not. Will we ever know?

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    2. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Tony Kevin

      Excellent summary of the position.
      I would depart from you only in one small but vital detail. In some long discussions with admiralty lawyers they impressed upon me that in international waters, in the absence of a distress call, the attitude of the Master of the boat was crucial. If he objected to being boarded and towed and could prove it was piracy no matter what the naval commander thought.
      I would imagine that one of Indonesia's options would be to make a complaint against Australia under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
      Indonesia has a very powerful and competent team in this area. They have recently completed a successful negotiation to have their claim as an archipelagic state recognised under this Convention.

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    3. Daniel Boon

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      'Abbott considering other people's point of view ....'
      hilarious ... (you are such a wag Dianna)

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    4. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      From my rusty memory of such matters I'm pretty certain it's not on to be burning a boat if it's overcrowded but seaworthy either ... but responding to emergency calls is a duty under maritime law ... failure to respond will get you keelhauled. So if they ask for help we are obliged to assist - what we do with them once on an Australian vessel is actually up to Indonesian authorities but the general practice is to get them to the nearest port - eg Tampa.

      Trouble is, if you read the Australian legislation regarding irregular arrivals (s 232 of the Immigration Act 1958) you'll see the legal defences set out for skippers bringing refugees into Australian waters ... one of those being that the boat is disabled and the crew or passengers at risk ... a powerful incentive to scuttle the vessel really.

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    5. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Daniel Boon

      Daniel

      This is one of those 'funny because it's true' comments.

      I think I am merely a wit in my own mind.

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    6. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Daniel Boon

      Did I mean 'funny because it's true'?

      I really haven't been the same since 7/9/13, the only time I can remember this level of ennui was 2/3/96. The years fly by, nothing changes.

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    7. Tony Kevin

      Emeritus Fellow at Australian National University

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Thanks Ken, point well taken. Perhaps it's fortunate for OSB that by the time one of our frigates goes in for a close look at these boats to check their safety, the 'Master" has usually departed on a fast launch back to Indonesia, leaving one or two clueless youths to deal with our frigate. These are essentially rogue boats.

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    8. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Tony Kevin

      There are certainly grey areas Tony and I agree with what you have stated re rescues, it being much as I had posted earlier when one of the many bitter ALP supporters here spoke of piracy in ignorance of distress calls.
      I also stated that it would be the responsible response of the Australian services ( and for that matter it would the expected response of any services with the capacity ) to ensure that no shipping hazard was left drifting.
      Tony Abbott certainly has a task before him and no less…

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    9. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Tony Kevin

      " These are essentially rogue boats. "
      Don't know about boats being able to be rogue though I suppose we could apply that to inferior craft but there are plenty of rogue operators about up that way it seems and all the way back to other countries.
      When you add in the military and now it seems even some in the government allegedly stating there should be support for asylum seekers to reach Australia, we have a real roguish sitation and perhaps even a few scoundrels about too.

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    10. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Greg North

      Now you're getting the hang of it Mr North ... these folks have been trading since your lot was juggling rocks at Stonehenge and long before actually.

      So now realising that Indonesia - with a sea border at least twice the size of Orstraya's, with an 'entrepeneurial' public sector under minimal central or local control, with a coastline that abounds with tiny isolated bays, inlets and entry points, unlike our own where we are really only talking about the NW fringe ... what do we tell these upstart coolies to do to solve our problems for us?

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  15. Charles Kwong

    Consultant

    Interesting article indeed. Coming from ANU myself, I can understand where the influence on Natalegawa came from in shaping him. Hopefully his apparent indiscretion would mellow as he matures. Breaking diplomatic protocol may come back to haunt him or his country one day.

    Leaders have historically looked to an external enemy in order to combat domestic political strife, like arousing nationalism or entering an external war. Abbott has used the boat issue and won. Rudd tried when asked about…

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  16. Pat Moore

    gardener

    It is utterly disgusting how every Australian government has for so long deserted West Papua. Turned a blind eye because they haven't got the moral fortitude to stand up to their empire masters. And on top of that funded the military hit squads murdering people there who have been fighting since 1970 for their sovereignty under their Morning Star. And not one person mentions the story this weekend of some West Papuans tricked into a PNG destination instead of asylum here. What was that about…

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    1. Dianna Arthur
      Dianna Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Pat Moore

      Pat, stop it, for my sake and the sake of others who can longer handle the truth.

      All that truthiness in a single post - saying the unsayable. Papua New Guinea is a lovely place to send the dispossessed - we must maintain that fiction, else when Abbott reanimates the Rudd Solution, on the heels of his visit to Indonesia, all the chardy sippers will begin to moan and cry that a far safer solution is for refugees to be rescued and brought to Australia for assessment, then provided opportunities to start new lives after years of living in fear (plus it would be cheaper). Can't have any more of that limp-wristed elitist bleating.

      Australia is open, wide open. Live with it.

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    2. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Why send people anywhere?

      Close down the camps, these people aren't facing persecution in Indonesia and apparently they are welcome there (no visa's required).

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  17. Michael Hay

    retired

    Is it not time that Australia sponsored a discussion on this world-wide problem in that world-wide forum, the UNO ? It is not merely a local matter between a few countries in S,E.Asia - it ranges from Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Indonesia, Malaysia, PNG and Australia.

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Michael Hay

      Not mention Africa, Latin America and the drift west from within the EU ... and yes it is long past high time - but Orstraya has no credibility on this matter - particularly now - despite our heading up the Security Council for a bit. If this lot organised such a conference the whole aim would be to scrap the UN convention and subsidise the global price of razor wire.

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    2. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      "but Orstraya has no credibility "

      How many countries in our region actually have an open border policies to refugees? I would suggest that none too.

      Good luck getting such a change through the UN.

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    3. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Michael Hay

      Michael, do you mean some sort of "regional agreement" - us and Asia, expanded to us and the world?

      I think that is what the UN conventions and the UNHCR are about.

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  18. David Elson

    logged in via Facebook

    I think Abbott does have some wiggle room.

    Clearly the buy the boats back policy, and the bribing of local villagers for intelligence on people smugglers were poorly thought out and I think after today's meetings with Indonesia likely to be dumped.

    As for "towing" back the boats, or what has occurred twice recently, returning boats to Indonesian Search & Rescue does now appear to be possible which is suggestive of cooperation between Indonesian and Australian Authorities, however it will be interesting to see if this cooperative approach lasts after the scheduled meeting between Indon/Aus Governments.

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    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to David Elson

      Why shouldn't the Indonesians just freeze out what they know to be an "illegitimate" Murdoch elected government.
      It would be sensible way to deal with known thieves and liars.

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    2. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to James Hill

      Far too polite they are James. There'll be massive smiles and wide grins and lots of yessing... and then they'll get on with the incomprehensibly impossible task of running their own chaotic country... and we will have failed to move a single grain of sand.

      Orstraya really has a bad case narcissistic personality disorder ... we think it's all about us and we'll throw a tantrum until everyone realises how very very important we are.

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    3. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to David Elson

      Indonesia has always activley cooperated with Australia on search and rescue operations.
      Remember the Oceanic Viking?
      But their patience is wearing thin when they suspect that Australia starts to manipulate their cooperation in order to return asylum seekers.
      Note the testy comments by the Indonesian search and rescue official when HMAS Bathurst picked up surivivors, burnt the boat and asked permission to rerun them to Indonesia.
      Anyway you won't have to wait long to see Big Tony's solution.

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    4. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      I'm thinking he'll be banging one of his size 10s on the table Kruschev style... maybe holding his breath till he turns blue... or hurling himself to the floor bawling and pounding his fists.

      But really down deep where it counts we knowTony just wants to round on SBY and throw a solid right hook.

      It's diplomacy Jim but not as we know it.

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    5. Ian Rudd

      Retired accountant

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Australia doesn't want refugees it seems. Does Indonesia, Jordan, Turkey or anywhere else? I don't think so but they all accommodate far more of them than we are asked to do.

      Like with climate change we do our utmost to do as little of our fair share as we can get away with. That means some other country(ies) have to make up for shortfall.

      Good on ya Ausraalia we sure outsmarted those suckers this time, heh... heh.

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    6. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I was just listening to Mr. Abbott's speech in Jakarta and I was gobsmacked.
      I am old enough to remember the Liberal attack dogs (I can't remember whether TA was among them) going after Paul Keating mercilessly for addressing President Suharto as "Father"
      Lo and behold, Mr Abbott adressed SBY as "Bapak President" not once but twice.
      He has gone and thrown away his best weapon. How can he thow a right hook at "Father".
      I also noticed he referred constantly to "people smuggling" and not once to "asylum seekers" or even "illegal immigrants".
      Does this foreshadow a new line. We will now target people smuggling not asyulm seeking. Send back the people smugglers to Indonesia but leave the asylum seekers here.

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    7. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      You do not seem to understand the UNHCR operations Ian for in mentioning Jordan and Turkey you could also mention a number of other countries in the region where the UNHCR have set up refugee camps and the UNHCR set them up as close as possible to where they have come from, most refugees wanting to return to their home countries ASAP, some millions from Pakistan having referred to Afghanistan in recent years for example,
      The people in those refugee camps are not being granted permanent residency and people resettled to other countries end up in places like Australia, Australia btw being up around the top as far as resettlements being offered.
      So yes Ian, good on Australia, even if resettlement successes make it questionable as a practice.

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    8. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      " Does this foreshadow a new line. We will now target people smuggling not asyulm seeking. Send back the people smugglers to Indonesia but leave the asylum seekers here. "
      You likely shut your ears when SBY was mentioning that both countries have a problem with people smuggling did you!
      So sad for you Tony and SBY disappointed you.

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    9. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      Actually I am waiting to see the Indonesian version to see exactly what he said.
      If he used the term "menyelundupkan orang", people smuggling, this could mean that a compromise policy is being worked out which buries 'turn back the boats' and concentrates policy on the smugglers and does not punish the asylum seekers.
      If he used "perdagangan manusia" or "pendagangan orang" human or people trafficing, then he was taking to a domestic audience as Abbot was talking to a domestic audience and this may herald a difference of opinion.
      You see I was listening but it is a bit more complex than the simple slogan driven narrative that you like.

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    10. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Greg North

      And what would that problem be that SBY has with folks moving through his country? .... the only problem will be if they get jammed up and cannot move onward... and even then such tiny numbers are utterly insignioficant in the throbbing pile of humanity that is Indonesia.

      Of course the official line from Indonesia wil be all smiles and sympathy and mutual interest - and nothing will change. They will just keep being nice until they find a government they can work with.

      Indonesia doesn't have a problem - Australia does and the problem is here not over there.

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    11. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      " And what would that problem be that SBY "
      I am not his mind reader so you could always get in contact with him.

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    12. David Elson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      We are already seeing these in action now.... An action man indeed (words of the SMH).

      So now that the people smuggling "irritant" has dismissed where to now for relations between Australia and Indonesia?

      From PM Abbott on ABC 24 this morn:

      "There have been times, I'm sorry to say, when Australia must have tried your patience: when we 'put the sugar on the table' for people-smugglers; or cancelled the live cattle trade in panic at a TV program. There have been times when all sides of Australian politics should have said less and done more. I am confident that these will soon seem like out-of-character aberrations and that the relationship will once more be one of no surprises, based on mutual trust, dependability and absolute respect for each other's sovereignty under the Lombok Treaty."

      No where to go but up?

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  19. James Hill

    Industrial Designer

    So "South Timor Tony" is not going to encounter any payback for the East Timor intervention by Howard?
    The Indonesians have every right to be sensitive to that particular religious xenophobia which permeates the Abbott asylum seeker policies.
    As payback, Indonesians could ensure that The Murdoch Government doesn't last very long at all.
    After all, if foreigners like Murdoch get to choose the Australian Government why should other foreigners hold back?

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  20. Ken Alderton

    PhD student, former CEO

    Hypocritical statement of the year.
    Scott Morrison in his weeky feeding the chooks meeting on asylum seekers. In relation to the most recent boat to sink Mr Morrison said
    "I want to pass on my condolences and those of the Government - and sympathies - to all those affected by this terrible tragedy," .

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    1. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Ken,

      "I want to pass on my condolences and those of the Government - and sympathies - to all those affected by this terrible tragedy,"

      He was only thinking of himself.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      That is for anyone to make their own judgement and also of people who would make light of such a tragic event, that being so sickening and I imagine some people with their little brown men of the north comment can only be so low and sick not to realise just how sick they are.

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    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Greg North

      Yep that's right Greg ... let's get all moral and wring our hands with empathy and concern ... what a pity they didn't get to Australian waters where we could throw them in camps behind razor wire without charge of evidence and drive them slowly but surely insane.

      Yep I can tell that deep down inside you're just falling apart... just like vice rear air commodore Morisson and the rest of them.

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    4. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      Not my words. Scottie Morrison said it. I just reported it. Do you really think that he meant it?
      Before you answer, remember that this was the bloke who urged his colleagues to play the Muslim hate card in Sydney for political advantage and complained about sending relatives to Christmas Island to attend the funerals of people who had died at sea.
      Even P. Ruddock felt this was a bit off.

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    5. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Don't talk about that socialist sook Ruddock - he was the sort of wimp who'd have that Andrew Metcalfe (an obvious agent of global people smuggling) as his chief of staff before transplanting him in to head up DIAC.

      No room for Ruddocks ... hateful enough for the Howard years, but nowhere near enough loathing and venom for the reserve team we have today.

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    6. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Shows how far Morrison was prepared to go - way beyond P. Ruddock
      Shows how far he is prepared to go now and he is Generalissimo in charge of asyulm seekers and refugees.

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    7. Robert Molyneux

      Citizen

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Lets be consistent.
      The titles are:
      - Rear Admiral Abbott (as explained some time ago)
      - Major General Morrison (MGM - makers of fantasy movies, but I digress)
      I claim copyright, but anyone can use them

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    8. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      " Not my words. Scottie Morrison said it. I just reported it. "
      And you added to it, enough said.

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    9. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      I added the words to save your blushes. Looks like I succeeded

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    10. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      For supposedly a PhD student Ken, I'm not too sure what it is you're supposed to be learning but it seems to do little good in whatever path you follow, like referring to some people you reckon is sarcasm and now you talk again of saving blushes, all just rather weird and yes, you do succeed in giving that image.

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    11. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      Supposed? You are free to check it out. It is a matter of public record.
      I notice you took my advice and didn't tell the world you thought Morrison meant every word in his statement.
      My mother taught me not to drop people in it and constantly said "Ken, spare them their blushes" I always thought it was a great line.
      The rest I don't understand.

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  21. Edmund Esterbauer

    logged in via Twitter

    Abbott's referral to refugees as "an irritant" and his failure to make an announcement or comment on the latest boat tragedy shows his lack of compassion for people. His requirement that LNP ministers seek his permission to speak to the media presumably due to their lack of competence indicates an already incompetent cowering government. The LNP sabre-rattling jackboot approach to Indonesia must be of concern in the entire region. LNP secrecy about the deployment of the military against unarmed civilian…

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    1. Lynne Newington
      Lynne Newington is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Researcher

      In reply to Edmund Esterbauer

      .....and concluding with addition to my reply to Peter O. Abbott 's referral to refugees as an "irritant", will take on a new meaning in line with Pope Francis's recent statement to countries treating refugees as "pawns" and the gag definately imposed will no longer be neccessary..but definately with no mention of the United Nations.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Edmund Esterbauer

      You should get your comments more accurate too Edmund for it was nothing like refugees being referred to as an irritant and there is no sabre rattling jackboot approach.

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    3. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Edmund Esterbauer

      Edmund,

      You said: "his failure to make an announcement or comment on the latest boat tragedy shows his lack of compassion for people. "

      That boat sank 50 metres from shore, in Indonesia. It was certainly a tragedy, but what does it have to do with Mr Abbott?

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  22. Lee Emmett

    Guest House Manager

    I do hope we get both sides of the full exchange between Tony Abbott and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. It could prove to be as fascinating as the contrasting reports of the meeting between foreign ministers Marty Natalegawa and Julie Bishop.

    It will also be interesting to see if Tony Abbott will come up with wiser words to make up for what can only be described as insults to Indonesia (such as suggesting that the government policy would see Australian personnel despatched to find 'people smugglers…

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    1. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Lee Emmett

      The only news we'll ever hear again - about anything at all - will be read by some old vice brigadier rear admiral air commodore. Getting more like North Korea day by day.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Lee Emmett

      " I do hope we get both sides of the full exchange between Tony Abbott and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. "
      Some wishful hoping on your part Lee and I would have expected that someone so consistently posting about politics would know that is not the way of international political diplomacy unless of course as a FM you want to leak info into the media.
      It could just be your mind that will see anything that Tony Abbott says as an insult but then you may just have delicate senses and meanwhile he and his…

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    3. Peter Ormonde

      Farmer

      In reply to Greg North

      "....part of law and order for any country is determining who is allowed to live here."

      Strewth I wonder what happened? Who let these old fellas scrape in?

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