‘Australia should not be expected to apologise’
Tony Abbott says he regrets any embarrassment caused by revelations Australia has spied on the Indonesian leadership, but tells parliament he won’t apologise..
PT7M25S http://www.smh.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2xsiu 620 349 November 19, 2013 – 2:43PM
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Tony Abbott’s parliamentary response to phone tapping revelations has not satisfied Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his spokesman said last night, adding that the Indonesians were waiting for an official response from the Australian Prime Minister.
The comments from the most senior levels of the Indonesian administration suggest Mr Abbott has not spoken by phone to Mr Yudhoyono since the latest crisis began on Monday.
Sticking to his guns: Prime Minister Tony Abbott Photo: Andrew Meares
Dr Yudhoyono’s foreign affairs adviser, Teuku Faizasyah, said that when Mr Abbott was addressing the Australian Parliament, he was “addressing the domestic audience”.
“Well, we still need an official explanation … a formal response,” Mr Faiza said.
“It’s not advisable to maintain the status quo of not confirming or denying … these tapping incidents in the past. So we are waiting. At stake is the strategic relationship that we have established.”
Asked what kinds of co-operation was at stake, Mr Faiza said: “Many”.
Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa amplified the comments, saying: “We need Australia’s explanation, and it is Australia who should solve the problem.
“We are reviewing our co-operation with Australia in general, and we are doing the evaluation day by day, and we are waiting for our ambassador to arrive because we want to hear from him. Now it’s not business as usual.”
Mr Abbott has refused to apologise for the Rudd government spying on Mr Yudhoyono, despite an escalating feud with Jakarta.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten echoed Mr Abbott’s desire to build Australia’s relationship with Indonesia, however he indicated the Coalition government should follow the example of US President Barack Obama, who directly apologised to world leaders over evidence of phone hacking.
“Every government gathers information and … every government knows that every other government gathers information,” Mr Abbott said in a speech in Parliament on Tuesday.
“Australia should not be expected to apologise for the steps we take to protect our country now or in the past.”
Nor should foreign governments “be expected to apologise for the similar steps that they have taken,” the Prime Minister added, repeating his earlier comments that Australia’s spying was done to “help our friends and allies, not to harm them”.
Mr Abbott’s statement followed a series of angry tweets from the Indonesia President overnight and on Tuesday, in which he attacked Mr Abbott’s public remarks over the spying scandal as showing insufficient remorse, continuing Jakarta’s display of outrage in response to revelations on Monday that his personal mobile phone and those of his close circle had been targeted by Australian spies.
The President’s tweets, initially all in Indonesian and all signed *SBY*, signifying they were from him personally, defended his handling of the situation as some in Indonesia accused him of going soft on Western powers.
He then later tweeted comments in English, with a pointed attack on Mr Abbott: “I also regret the statement of Australian Prime Minister that belittled this tapping matter on Indonesia, without any remorse. *SBY*”
Other tweets in English said the actions from the US and Australia had “certainly damaged the strategic partnerships with Indonesia, as fellow democracies” and said as a consequence of this “hurtful action” he would review “a number of bilateral cooperation agenda”.
After withdrawing the Indonesian ambassador from Australia, the President demanded an “official response” from Australia, “one that can be understood by the public, on the tapping on Indonesia”. He also re-tweeted his decision to withdraw Indonesia’s ambassador to Australia as a “firm diplomatic response”.
“Foreign Minister & gov. officials have taken effective diplomatic measures, while demanding clarification from the US & Australia. *SBY*”
Mr Abbott said in Parliament on Tuesday he considered Indonesia to be Australia’s “most important single relationship” and that he regarded the Indonesian President as “one of the very best friends that we have anywhere in the world”.
“I sincerely regret any embarrassment that recent media reports have caused [the Indonesian President],” Mr Abbott added.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor supported the government in “rebuilding” the relationship with Indonesia, but urged Mr Abbott to act swiftly.
Mr Shorten suggested the Prime Minister learn from US President Barack Obama, who apologised to German Chancellor Angela Merkel after it was revealed that American spies had bugged her phone calls.
With David Wroe, Michael Bachelard and James Robertson