INDONESIA could wreak havoc on Australia by relaxing people-smuggling controls if bilateral relations aren’t repaired soon, Labor has warned.
Manager of opposition business Tony Burke said the importance of Indonesian cooperation to stopping asylum boats could not be over-estimated, and any prolonged diplomatic freeze would cause serious problems for Australia.
He said its decision to stop giving Iranians visas on arrival had been particularly important.
“The Indonesian cooperation there has been highly, highly significant,” Mr Burke told Sky News.
“It’s something that builds over time, it’s cumulative. It’s not just like you can turn it on and off. If you lose the cooperation there it’s not like the day cooperation resumes it’s from right back where we were.
“This is very significant and one of the reasons why it’s important for this to be resolved.”
Indonesia’s decision to halt military cooperation and joint sea patrols will have virtually no effect, but any move to suspend police cooperation would be disastrous, experts say.
Speaking in the United States after a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop declined to say whether Australia had registered its displeasure with the US over the leaking of National Security Agency documents by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
“We do not discuss intelligence matters, certainly not allegations,” she said.
The Snowden documents revealed the Defence Signals Directorate tapped the mobile phone of President Yudhoyono, his wife and those of cabinet colleagues and close advisers in August 2009.
Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek insisted Labor was committed to helping the government restore the relationship with Indonesia.
But she would not say whether the Prime Minister should pick up the phone and talk to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a move suggested by Labor leader Bill Shorten.
“I’m not trying to start dictating what the government should do,” she said.
Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne said he was confused by Labor’s position.
On the one hand, he said, the opposition was saying it supported everything the government was doing to repair the relationship.
“On the other hand, they’re still trying to play politics on foreign policy,” Mr Pyne said.