New Australian FM Firm on Indonesia Refugee Plans

Rescuers assist survivors arriving on fishing boat at the wharf of Cidaun, West Java on July 24, 2013 after an Australia-bound boat carrying asylum-seekers sank off the Indonesian coast, leaving at least nine dead as 189 were saved. According to authorities the asylum seekers were mostly from Iraq, Iran and Sri Lanka.  (AFP Photo).

Rescuers assist survivors off of a fishing boat at a wharf in Cidaun, West Java on July 24, after an Australia-bound boat carrying asylum-seekers sank off the Indonesian coast, leaving at least nine dead. (AFP Photo).

Australia’s incoming foreign minister Julie Bishop said Sunday that the new conservative government would work with Indonesia “where we need to” but it was not seeking permission to implement controversial refugee policies.

Bishop, prime minister-elect Tony Abbott’s nominee for top diplomat, said Australia respected Indonesia’s sovereignty but it would forge ahead with sensitive plans to combat people-smuggling that were met with a cool response in the Southeast Asian nation during the election campaign.

Abbott plans to tow back asylum-seeker boats from Indonesia in a military response codenamed Operation Sovereign Borders, while buying up fishing boats to keep them from the hands of people-smugglers, embedding Australian police in villages and paying locals for intelligence.

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said Jakarta would reject the plans as not in the spirit of partnership between the two countries last week, adding that the issue would be a top priority for talks with Abbott ahead of next month’s APEC summit.

But Bishop insisted that the policies would be implemented in a television interview on Sunday.

“Over the next few days and weeks we will be working cooperatively with Indonesia. But I point out we’re not seeking Indonesia’s permission to implement our policies, we’re seeking their understanding,” Bishop told Meet the Press.

“We will work cooperatively with Indonesia, where we need to,” she added.

Bishop said Australia respected Indonesian sovereignty and defended on-the-ground intelligence operations and payment of bounties.

“The IOM [International Organization for Migration] is already operating in Indonesia collecting intelligence. And the idea of financial rewards, for example, for information, is hardly novel. The United States has been doing it for decades,” she said.

“We have policies that we wish to implement as soon as we’re sworn in, and we will be working with Indonesia through a series of bilateral meetings and broader meetings that will occur as soon as I’m sworn in,” added Bishop.

Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition ended six years of center-left Labor rule with an emphatic election win last weekend. A “Stop the Boats” plan was a central plank of his campaign strategy.

Asylum-seekers arriving in Australia on unseaworthy, overcrowded vessels from Indonesia are a sensitive political issue, despite their relatively small numbers by global standards, with both Abbott and Labor incumbent Kevin Rudd making hardline promises in a bid to win votes.

Along with his Indonesian activities Abbott plans to put all asylum-seekers arriving by boat — including those already in Australia awaiting processing — onto temporary three-year visas and strip them of appeal, family reunion or permanent residency rights as well as access to legal assistance. They will be forced onto work-for-welfare programs.

Agence France-Presse

  • JohnnyCool

    Good on Indonesia for telling Abbott and Bishop where to get off in no uncertain terms.

    Those two idiots are sending mixed messages already. They’re both incompetent fools and the fun is only in the beginning stages.

    • N8

      Agreed, with rhetoric like that coming out from Bishop and Abbott ahead of APEC, along with the promised cuts of about $1 billion from Australia’s aid budget to Indonesia I can just imagine how well they’ll be received next month.

    • Good,Bad and Ugly

      And your solution is….?

  • Peter Griffin

    As always Indonesia will say one thing and do another… If any money is on offer they will take that and have a change of mind.

  • lanun

    I prefer Abbott to come down hard on refugees to stop the sufferings and Indonesia on the other hand must come down hard for any unauthorized boats be it leaving to Australia or coming from Australia for Papua campaign. Enough this do gooders n big shoulders human right craps.

  • Pelan2

    Stop talking Marty you don’t make any sense. “Spirit of Partnership” my a**..

  • Pelan2

    Would suggest Aussies overfly Indonesia and go to Spore/Malaysia/Thailand/Vietnam and Philippines. I am sure these countries would give you a better reception than what you get here..

    • lanun

      They have over flown Indonesia and they don’t like what they find to support two regimes where no freedom to their citizens to say in running their governments. Guess they are back to Indonesia and Thailand lands of free n enjoyable. Who wants to be in a place where no or forget to flush a toilet gets u a “reward”. What a spooky.

      • Pelan2

        Bollocks as usual..

  • Legowo

    Immigration and foreign policy is always a complicated one, no black and white nor a clear rigid line. Perhaps we should ask our children how to deal with it because they have an amazing ability to simplify complex issue and offer a simple honest solution. If only our politician are as honest as our children.

  • Deddy K.

    Interesting, right off the bat the New Australian Government hopes to alienate and create tension against Indonesia. If I read correctly Australia wishes to inform Indonesia of their activities through meetings and other what Indonesians call socialization programs, but doesn’t care about Indonesia feelings or wish for any compromise regarding the system they wish to implement, including putting their police on Indonesia Soil, whether they like it or not. This is including a pay for information program that will undoubtably put the fishermen in the debts of the Australians (which may have long term negative effect on the fishing industry in Indonesia). Add to that, any Indonesian owned boat they find will be bought by them to I’ll seem be scraped.
    Ya this is going to work well in Indonesian – Australian relations. I suppose the Indonesian Government Officials aren’t allowed to hog the idiot tree. They must share it’s fruits.

  • Dazeddazza

    So Johnny, I gather you believe that Gillard/Rudd and cronies did a good job with the illegals? In my opinion you are way off track, and I believe that this new government will be able to work with the Indonesians and bring this disgraceful era of poor governance to an end. Lets save the “incompetent” rhetoric for a while, we will see results soon, and not after only 1 week of change of government.

  • lanun

    Improve trades and make it highest priority n fast , Cut or cancel all together aid to Indonesia and I am very sure Jakarta can manage without it just nice. The only whingers and whiners are those unqualified NGO that known as tax evaders. ATO and dirjen pajak must act and investigate these clowns and their affiliations and associations.

    • simsin

      Ya, right.. Even though I disagree with Australian’s approach, I have to say that we really need to do something about it. As for you Ianun, I still recall the minister who told Singapore that only substantial donation will be considered. May be you think that Australia’s aids to indonesia is too little?