Abbott: ‘All governments gather information’
Tony Abbott all but concedes that media reports claiming Australia has spied on the Indonesian leadership are true.
PT1M55S http://www.smh.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2xqqb 620 349 November 18, 2013 – 3:52PM
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Indonesia should make an example of spying nations like Australia and United States and expel its diplomats, a prominent Indonesian foreign affairs law expert has said, as Prime Minister Tony Abbott again refused to be drawn on the issue.
International law expert from the University of Indonesia’s School of Law, Hikmahanto Juwana said Indonesia was seen as susceptible to wire tapping and should take a firm stance against spying foreign agencies, it was reported in The Jakarta Post.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he will not say anything to jeopardise the relationship with Indonesia. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
The spying row with Indonesia escalated after the country recalled its ambassador to Australia amid fury in Jakarta over revelations that Australian spies tried to tap the phones of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife.
Mr Abbott on Tuesday maintained the line that Australian governments do not comment on intelligence matters.
”I don’t propose to change that practice,” Mr Abbott told Canberra reporters.
Tony Abbott with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at APEC recently. The relationship between the two countries has deteriorated over claims of spying. Photo: AFP
But he admitted that ”obviously today may not be the best day” in the Australian-Indonesia relationship, but he described it as good and strong.
”It’s in no one’s interests to do anything or to say anything that would jeopardise that relationship, and certainly I’m not going to,” he said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said: ”Our relationship with Indonesia is one of the most important relationships Australia has with any other country. I and Australians expect Prime Minister Abbott do everything he can to keep our relationship with Indonesia strong.”
When asked whether that should include an apology, he said: ”I expect our Prime Minister to represent Australia’s interests positively and constructively overseas.”
Former foreign minister Bob Carr also weighed in on Tuesday describing the diplomatic row between Australia and Indonesia as ”catastrophic” and called on the Abbott government to apologise immediately, saying Indonesia feels it is being treated with contempt by Australia.
Senior federal Labor MP Chris Bowen has refused to say whether he knew Australian intelligence agencies were spying on top Indonesian officials under the Rudd government. It would be highly irresponsible for me to do so,” he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
”It’s an important priority for Mr Abbott and the foreign minister to be dealing with this and to make sure this relation is on an even keel,” Mr Bowen said.
Labor MP Michael Danby said relations with Indonesia had been damaged. ”We have worked very hard during the Tsunami and the Asian financial crisis to keep good relations with them,” he said.
”I think the government has overplayed its pushing of Indonesia on the boat people issue. If we hadn’t got that on top of this, things might be easier … but my experience of Indonesia is that the people are so interested in Australia and so friendly that we’ll get through this, but the Australian government has got some problems.”
As anger grows in Indonesia over the spying allegations, Mr Hikmahanto urged stronger action from the country’s leaders.
”The President must immediately instruct the foreign affairs minister to order two or three US and Australian diplomats to leave Indonesia,” Mr Hikmahanto told Antara news agency.
Mr Hikmahanto said Mr Yudhoyono should express his country’s anger at the spying operation and also get angry about the embarrassment caused by fugitive former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.
Mr Snowden revealed that the Australian intelligence agency had bugged phone calls of several high-ranking Indonesian officials. He disclosed officials’ names and the brands of cell phones they used.
”Indonesia is now perceived as a country that is very prone to wiretapping operations and that is easy to be ashamed of. This is because no serious action is taken by the government,” Mr Hikmahanto said.
Mr Carr questioned whether any worthwhile intelligence could be gained from tapping the phones of Mr Yudhoyono and other senior officials.
”This is nothing short of catastrophic,” Mr Carr told ABC radio.
He criticised the wording and tone of Mr Abbott’s dismissal of the spying claims in parliament on Monday.
”The tone was too dismissive by far to have been helpful,” Mr Carr said.
Mr Carr said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop needed to find the appropriate words to apologise.
Deakin University Indonesian politics expert Damien Kingsbury said the Indonesian-Australian relationship was ”certainly” in crisis as a result of the spying revelations and agreed with Mr Carr that Ms Bishop should have apologised to the Indonesians.
”It’s disastrous,” Professor Kingsbury told ABC radio on Tuesday. ”The current situation is just a catastrophe given that only, six months ago the relationship was probably in the best condition it’s ever been.”
Asked whether there was any way the Abbott government could have prevented the deterioration in the relationship, Professor Kingsbury said that Ms Bishop should have immediately apologised when the revelations first emerged about Australia using its Indonesian embassies for spying.
Ms Bishop should have assured Indonesia that Australia was immediately reviewing all intelligence gathering activities and would ”commit to not engaging in activities which would cause offence to the Indonesian government or impinge on its sovereignty”, Professor Kingsbury added.
”The fact Ms Bishop hasn’t said this, I think, has left Australia wide open.”
Fairfax reports that Ms Bishop said in New Delhi that she was aware of the concerns of Indonesian government.
Foreign minister Marty Natalegawa has been trying to call Ms Bishop, but she would not confirm whether she had spoken to him.
”I certainly take on board the concerns expressed by the Indonesian government. We note their deep concerns but . . . it is not practice for the Australian government to comment on intelligence matters and I intend to maintain that practice and that principle,” Ms Bishop said.
She said she would not offer a ”running commentary” on the diplomatic row.
Greens senator Scott Ludlam said an ”out-of-control” surveillance culture had permeated Australian and US intelligence agencies.
”You’re not meant to breach the laws of the land in which you’re operating,” Greens senator Scott Ludlam told ABC radio on Tuesday.
He accepted there was a case to operate surveillance operations against terrorist networks but not hacking the phone of a friendly regional leader.
”Australia has been caught out in this instance in conduct that’s quite unacceptable,” Senator Ludlam said.
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie, a former intelligence analyst, said Indonesia’s denial that it spied on Australia was a ”fantastic proposition”.
”They knew we were spying in and on them, we know they’re spying in and on us,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.
Mr Wilkie described as ”theatre for public consumption” a certain amount of what was going on now between Jakarta and Australia.
Independent senator Nick Xenophon said the government would have to address the spying claims to break the diplomatic impasse.
Australia needed Indonesia’s friendship and co-operation on a range of issues including people smuggling, he said.
”I would have thought the government needs to distance itself from any actions of a previous government,” he said.
with AAP and Jonathan Swan