Tony Abbott has taken a spontaneous trip to Indonesia in an effort to mend ongoing problems between the two nations.
CANBERRA — Australia and Indonesia are beginning to move towards mending the ill-fated relationship between their nations, as the Indonesian President’s time in office comes to an end. The Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, took a short diversion to visit the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, on the island of Batam, whilst en route to a major international tour to France, Canada and the United States.
Why would the two nations need to ‘mend’ their relationship in the first place? It all began with the hostile introduction of the new Australian Federal Government’s controversial ‘Turn Back the Boats’ policy, in which the Australian Navy would turn back Australia-bound asylum seekers into Indonesian waters. Indonesian Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa, said in relation to the policy, “Such a policy would constitute a unilateral type of measure that we do not support”.
Relations took another turn for the worst when allegations released by US whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed that the Australian Government had spied on Mr. Yudhoyono in 2009 and tapped the phone of his wife on numerous occasions. This led to a suspension of cooperation in news relating to asylum seekers and people smugglers.
Following recent talks, Mr. Abbott says there have been “a couple of issues” between the two countries. He added, “I am confident that they are well on the way to resolution, satisfactory and successful resolution”.
These comments come as news emerges that journalists were allowed to listen to a phone call between the two leaders which has been viewed by the public as an apparent protocol breach. Mr. Abbott has brushed aside the incident, labelling it an accident on Indonesia’s behalf.
With the Indonesian relationship being a major advantage to the Australian economy, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are preparing a list of criteria that would set out rules and limit intelligence activities involving both Australia and Indonesia. The Indonesian Government says they are likely to sign the agreement by August this year.
July is set to be the month where Indonesians head to the polls and elect a new president to supersede Mr. Yodhoyono. The two main front-runners, Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto, both vow to run clean Presidential election campaigns.
Hugh White, an expert in Australasian relations, believes that relations will begin to improve in the near future after next month’s Presidential elections. Mr. Abbott is expected to meet the new President in October after he has been sworn in, in order to continue to mend relations.
– Lockie Gatehouse, Correspondent (Oceania)
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