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Dangerous brinkmanship with Indonesia could have disastrous consequences

Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison are playing a dangerous game with Indonesia. Unless someone starts taking responsibility Australia could find itself in a mess, says former diplomat Bruce Haigh.

Australia has a problem. Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison have taken Australia down a path from which there are only two outcomes: further aggression and confrontation with Indonesia or retreat.

Retreat would amount to a domestic political defeat for Abbott and Morrison but lead to an improvement in relations with Indonesia. Further aggression would continue to undermine the relationship with Indonesia and might spread into the region.

Abbott has displayed and deployed characteristics at odds with his image as a conservative intellectual, and he appears not to care about nurturing the delicate relationship with Indonesia. The diplomatic subtleties and nuances required to maintain and build that relationship have been sacrificed to his flawed domestic agenda of turning back the boats.

Morrison has proven a willing attack dog. His anger and downright nastiness were on public display on Wednesday, in his defence of Australian navy personnel alleged to have burnt the hands of asylum seekers.

His failure to address the media on issues of national concern is an affront to Australian democracy. Operational requirements are said to be the basis for this, but that requirement has been allowed to slide when faced with allegations that test his veracity.

Morrison and the head of the taskforce overseeing so-called border security, Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell, took us for fools when they sold the line that Australian navy vessels had inadvertently crossed into Indonesia waters, and the Indonesians are right to question the honesty of that claim. It was also a slur against the navy and naval personnel, backed by Campbell.

The navy is in possession of some very sophisticated equipment to make sure vessels know exactly where they are at any moment in time, and the training of sea-going personnel, particularly navigators, is rigorous. Australian sailors are unlikely to be impressed with Morrison’s clumsy defence.

Morrison appears to be running the show,with Campbell put in the position to give Defence Force legitimacy to a crass political undertaking. It is Morrison’s head that pops up in the media to defend the less salubrious aspects of the illegal operation being run against asylum seekers when they become public knowledge in Australia from Indonesian sources.

In defending the navy from charges of torture, Morrison sought, in the crudest of terms, to demonise asylum seekers.”

In defending the navy from charges of torture, Morrison sought, in the crudest of terms, to demonise asylum seekers. It reminded me of when I listened to white South African politicians demonise black South Africans in order to deflect criticism from what apartheid was imposing.

Yesterday, Julie Bishop said the Australian government would co-operate with the Indonesian investigation into allegations that Australian navy personnel had engaged in acts of torture against asylum seekers under their protection. Until then Australia was in danger of tacitly accusing the Indonesian government of lying in terms of the information and allegations that have come out thus far. And in light of the public statements made so far in defence of naval personnel by Abbott, Morrison, Bishop and navy chief Ray Griggs prior to any findings of fact, how will they react to adverse findings?

Abbott recently said in Sri Lanka that under certain circumstances torture was justified. He has also said that he would accept the word of an Australian sailor over that of a person who sought to enter Australia illegally (he was referring to asylum seekers).

But sailors and soldiers under pressure can behave badly, particularly if leadership is weak or lacking. Griggs will not have forgotten the unedifying farce of the inquiries into the sinking of HMAS Voyager by HMAS Melbourne. He will be aware of issues of sexual harassment in the navy dating back 50 years and covered up until recent times, and he will be aware of conduct unbecoming on HMAS Ballarat last year.

Griggs hasn’t long to go in the job, so surely he should consider retiring with pride. He needs to find some moral courage. A starting point might be to assert himself over the operational use of his vessels before the Indonesians start firing at them.

The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, needs to place distance between himself and Abbott. Together with opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs Tanya Plibersek, he should visit Indonesia and seek to repair the damage being wrought by Morrison and Abbott. They might begin by addressing the issue of the joint processing of refugees.

Indonesia would genuinely welcome good relations with Australia, but despite their inane statements that all is well with the relationship, Abbott and Morison are doing everything to wreck it.

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  • 1
    Cheree Corbin
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Great article. Thanks

  • 2
    The Pav
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    The first 13 words of this article are probably the most accurate ever on Crikey

    Australia has a problem. Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison”

  • 3
    The Pedanticist
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Given that domestic GPS is accurate to within 3 meters, it’s difficult to give any credence to the statement that the RAN “strayed” across the border.

  • 4
    Steve777
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    When are the adults we were told about at the election coming to take charge?

  • 5
    drmick
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    I wonder, in his ignorance and arrogance, if he and Major Mistake & Rear Admiral Funnybusiness have run a “what if” scenario.
    There are a lot more Indonesians that there are Australians. 49% of the Australian population will gladly point out the immature angry fact free rubbish that have antagonised and dissed our new gracious Indonesian overlords, should the worst eventuate.

  • 6
    Malcolm Street
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    There was an interesting interview on ABC radio Canberra (666) this morning with an academic who reckoned the government is essentially pursuing (not his words) a crash through or crash strategy - they are going flat out to stop the boats no matter what and hope that they can do this within a matter of months and then worry about repairing the relationship with Indonesia. IOW their domestic political imperative of STOP THE BOATS has absolute priority over our relations with Indonesia!!!

    If true this is absolutely insane - as he said by pushing so hard for a purely Australian solution it’s making it far harder to find a *regional* solution which is necessary to get to the core of the problem.

    So if they haven’t stopped the boats after six months and Indonesia has had a gutful what then? Back to the ’60s with Confrontation round 2?

  • 7
    Malcolm Street
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    BTW - IMHO Tony Abbott is neither conservative nor an intellectual. He’s a doctrinaire Catholic reactionary, Cori Bernardi-lite.

  • 8
    JohnB
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Malcolm (2:18pm), thank you for drawing attention to two loose words that detract from an otherwise excellent, if worrisome, contribution.

  • 9
    roger
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Why has no one asked the Minister if, as is standard practise, video of the Navy operation was taken and whether or not he has seen it? It might likely go a long way to resolving what actually happened.

  • 10
    zut alors
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Abbott has displayed and deployed characteristics at odds with his image as a conservative intellectual…’

    Intellectual?! I’m not aware of such an image. Even my Liberal voting friends would never use the word in reference to Abbott.

    Otherwise the article is spot on.

  • 11
    Scott
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Get some sophistication people

    1. Biggest issue Australia has in regards to peopple smuggling is that the Indonesians were not policing their southern sea border (so the people smugglers were geting a free run into Australian territorial waters)

    2. Buy inadventently (on purpose) drifting across the border and then publising it, we now have the Indonesians putting naval resources in play down there, which will curtail the people smuggler’s free passage and make it harder for the boats to get into Australian territorial waters. Also will mean less boat people deaths as the Indonesians will be closer to the action when these boats get into trouble.

    3. All of this will help “Stop the boats” as well as reduce the drownings when dodgy boats start sinking in Indonesian waters. It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s deliberate policy. And working so far.

  • 12
    The Pav
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Dear Scott @ 11

    To swallow the line that you have just peddled doesn’t require sophistication but outrageous stupidity which probably would qualify it for Abbott/Morrison policy

    1) Of course the Indons are going to let people leave. It solves their problem plus they don’t really have a lawful basis to stop people going

    2) Having said that Australia absolutely respects Indonesia’s sovereignty for Abbott to countenance “inadvertent” incursions would make him a liar so maybe you are correct on that given his mendacity to date
    3) The policy has not stopped the boats. Its a seasonal thing. You have heard of cyclones haven’t you? Wait until the sailing season comes round. The boats will be back in force

    I haven’t even started to comment on how dump it would be to annoy a neighbor of 250M that will become a top 10 economy in the next few years. They don’t need a military means to take revenge us. Simple economic means will be readily available and Australia will suffer for generations .
    Given the inanity of your comment I would assume you are a LNP staffer which accounts for the equally stupid policy

  • 13
    Bill Hilliger
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Don’t worry as a last resort we will just have to employ deputy sheriff big Johnny Howard to sort out this storm in a teacup. Then again we have that US marine lot stationed at Darwin to sort it all out. Word of advice to the boss-eyed man and his boss, scoot morrison, don’t rely or employ our navy for direction as they get lost at sea and might take the troops to Madagascar instead of our Australian outpost Bali.

  • 14
    JMNO
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    I think the academic whom Malcom Street heard on the radio is right. I would think that Abbott hopes that he can go all out to do everything necessary to stop the boats as soon as possible and then work on re-establishing good relations with Indonesia. It may be possible in a superficial way but Indonesia will always be wary of a PM who is prepared to trash Australia’s relationship with Indonesia to meet a domestic policy objective. It suggest that we are fair weather friends

  • 15
    Gillh
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Its a total embarrassment. As if the Navy wouldn’t know exactly where they are - someone could get out their iphone if all the rest of the Navy’s equipment failed! Personally I value the relationship we have with Indonesia and don’t want to live with the consequence of this government’s brazen lack of respect for Indonesia’s sovereignty

  • 16
    Sir Dick
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Scott.
    Get real, you Abbott haters.
    Our current relationship with Indonesia is nothing like a disaster. If you want a disaster, consider the impact of banning the live cattle trade by which the Australian Government, without any consultation with Indonesia, denied a supply of animal protein to maybe 1 million Indonesians in the hinterlands of Java. That mattered a lot whereas a border infringement, which we ourselves flagged, has led only to a bit of ritualised posturing.
    Our interactions with Indonesia run very deep, not only in politics but in respect to our respective armed forces, our police forces, terrorist intelligence, our trade institutions.
    We do not have a disaster with Indonesia.
    We just have issues that matter deeply to us and we, politely but firmly, are dealing with them. The Indonesians are signalling displeasure in a measured way and that fair enough.
    After we have stopped the boats (and we will) with whole matter will go away.
    It is not a disaster.

  • 17
    CliffG
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Morrison has become increasingly Goebellian in his fanatical faux-war on victims of war and persecution, aided and abetted, however clumsily, by Abbott. Asylum seekers coming by boat have been vilified, demonised and now criminalised to an extent where it is becoming easy to treat them in the most abhorrent, inhumane ways with impunity, even disinterest. What lies ahead. Yellow stars and ovens?

  • 18
    Boerwar
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    It is clear that such video footage exists. Documents also exist. Bishop has promised to make video footage and documents available to Indonesian police.

    I imagine that the evidentiary value of these will be qualified to some extent because the discovery phase will be rudimentary at best, and we can regard it as a 100% certainty that anything untoward will be redacted by Navy. Secondly, the footage and the documents can only be assessed if those who took the videos and created the documents are available for questioning. Thirdly, the video footage and the documents will only really have value if Australian personnel who were alleged to have been in contact with the asylum seekers at the time the injuries were supposed to have been inflicted, are available for questioning by the Indonesian police. That will not happen.

    Here is a fairly safe bet: there will be NO footage of asylum seekers in the act of collecting large bruises and collecting substantial burns. The documents will show something like the injuries first being noticed by Australian personnel AFTER they had been created. They will also show Australian personnel TREATING the injuries.

    Redactions will also be made to delete anything that shows, hints or suggests that boats are being towed back to very near the Indonesian coast.

    We can but trust Abbott, Morrison and Bishop.

  • 19
    Sharkie
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    his image as a conservative intellectual,”
    To qualify as a “conservative intellectual” it seems all you have to do is spend 6 years mindlessly repeating the same three word slogans while running a mile from intelligent debate, or steadfastly ignoring the consequences of your actions?
    From 2007 onwards “conservative” and “intellectual” can only be regarded as a contradiction in terms. (And I’m not convinced the date doesn’t stretch much further into the past)

  • 20
    Scott
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    We have been annoying Indonesia for decades, Pav. Labor, Liberal, doesn’t matter whose in power. It’s how we roll. Just what happens when two historically, ethnically and culturally different countries live side by side. But no need to be scared about it. Indonesia has a lot of lose economically from bad relations with Australia as well (foreign tourism is a big part of their GDP and Australians make up 12% of those tourists). It will all blow over. Don’t forget, the Indonesian’s are milking this for their domestic purposes…standing up against the big bad Aussie always sells well with the public (it is an election year after all)
    Like everything, from business to marriage, it is always better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission. At least you are getting stuff done and who knows, you might get it right and look like a star.

  • 21
    Rubio Diego
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Everything that we were warned about Abbott and Morrison before the election are coming to pass.
    They really have no idea how to behave with our near neighbour. Would Abbott dare to talk to Obama or Cameron in the way he talks to the Indonesian President ?

    Abbott and Morrison are incapable of behaving in a manner that doesn’t include brinkmanship. After all they won the election behaving like this, so why won’t it work antagonizing our large near neighbour?

  • 22
    Pete Simpkins
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

    Refugee advocates are always claiming the monsoon season is the reason for the reduction in boats. I guess we won’t know till the season is over, but the ABC reported today that there were fewer boats in the last month than at any other time in recent years, including over similar monsoon seasons. The message of ‘no settlement in Australia’ is a powerful disincentive as it removes the product, and as this message is absorbed by potential boat arrivals, it’s utterly logical to expect them not to waste the huge sums they’re charged to get on a boat. Whether you agree with it or not, the Liberal policy seems to be preventing boat arrivals.

  • 23
    klewso
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Is this going to add to Campbell’s pension?

  • 24
    Lee Miller
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    We are all likely to “die of shame” before this mob is done with us. Let alone embarrassment.

  • 25
    CML
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    @ Pete Simpkins - I would remind you that, ‘The message of no settlement in Australia’, was introduced by PM Kevin Rudd several weeks before the federal election, around July/August, 2013.
    ‘Stopping the boats’ has nothing, NOTHING, to do with the rAbbott and his fascist mate, Morriscum. The slowdown, now stopping, of the boats started from that time. However, we still have the end of the monsoon season to come around April, so let’s see how cocky that motley crew are then!

  • 26
    Boerwar
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Sir Dick
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Scott.
    Get real, you Abbott haters.

    I don’t hate him. I despise his behaviour.

    Our current relationship with Indonesia is nothing like a disaster.

    Who said it was a disaster?

    It would be true to say that the bilateral relationship is at its lowest ebb since Timor. It would also be true to say that it is getting worse by the week. It would also be true that this is the first time since the days of Sukarno that Indonesia is openly restructuring its military into ready response groups involving warplanes and warships and nominating Australia as the most likely target. It is also the first time in half a century that Indonesia is openly advising all and sundry that Indonesian strike aircraft can reach Australia. It is also reasonably, according to Australian businessmen, that little or no new business is being done by Australians in Indonesia. It is also highly likely that the recent trend of improvement in positive attitudes by the Indonesian population more generally has been reversed by the actions of the Abbott Government.

    All this with an Australian-friendly president.

    If you want a disaster, consider the impact of banning the live cattle trade by which the Australian Government, without any consultation with Indonesia, denied a supply of animal protein to maybe 1 million Indonesians in the hinterlands of Java. That mattered a lot…

    It is a pity that the live trade industry did not self-manage and self-regulate its end-to-end supply chain. Industry risk management was obviously atrocious. There was no way any government (except subsequently the Abbott Government which freely continues to send Australian animals into terrible conditions) was going to continue to send live cattle into absolutely atrocious conditions of cruelty. The industry had no idea where Australian cattle were going or into what conditions. The Labor Government to its credit, came to the aid of the industry and insisted on industry standards which included end-to-end tracking of Australian livestock. Here is a hint for you: if the RSPCA gets upset at the serial cruelties being inflicted to Australian livestock under the aegis of Joyce, then the political game is over. The RSPCA will kill it off.

    That said, it is true that the sudden ban created severe diplomatic damage. However the Indonesian ambassador was not recalled then. At all. The currend Indonesian ambassador has been back in Indonesia for two months now… a clear signal of the degree of relationship rot that the Abbott Government has infliced.

    .. whereas a border infringement, which we ourselves flagged, has led only to a bit of ritualised posturing.

    There were several border infringements by several ships.

    There are standing policies (boat buyback and paying Indonesians to spy on Indonesias in Indonesia). There was the absolutely incompetent response to the spying allegations. You remember Abbott explained that it was for Indonesia’s own good. There was Bishop’s serial misrepresentations of the content of her meetings with Natalegawa. He responded by releasing a transcript which demonstrated that she was lying.

    As for the ‘ritualised posturings’, these now include the distinct possibility that some airhead naval commander from either side takes a pot shot at, or rams, his opposite number.

    Our interactions with Indonesia run very deep, not only in politics but in respect to our respective armed forces, our police forces, terrorist intelligence, our trade institutions.

    They are actually quite shallow. Our trade is a fraction of what it could be an it should be. Almost no-one in Australia completes Year 12 Indonesian any more. Our military cooperation is at a dead halt since SBY stopped it. Intelligence cooperation has also beens stalled pending the agreement that Bishop is supposed to be negotiating with Natalegawa. New business developments have come to a halt. The Indonesians would be well aware of the islamophobes that Abbott has in his Party Room and the islamophobes he hangs out with in the MSM.

    We do not have a disaster with Indonesia.

    Repeating this strawman does not make it any less silly than the first time it was put up.

    We just have issues that matter deeply to us and we, politely but firmly, are dealing with them.

    There is absolutely no politeness at all about the public utterances that Abbott, Morrison and Bishop have directed at the Indonesians. Many of them can best be characterised as being patronising, arrogant and ignorant -which is certainly the way the Indonesians perceive them. SBY has written that he feels ‘betrayed’ by Abbott.

    The Indonesians are signalling displeasure in a measured way and that fair enough.

    So, they did not shoot when foreign warships entered their territory without authorization? Next time we might just not be so lucky.

    After we have stopped the boats (and we will) with whole matter will go away.

    You seem to have a total ignorance of the history, current status, and possible future consequences of the current pattern of behaviour of the Abbott Government. ‘The whole matter will go away’… all by itself, hey?

    It is not a disaster.

    This is the third time you have erected this strawman. It still isn’t working.

  • 27
    klewso
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    Abbott and this mob deserve no more and no less, the latitude and credit afforded Rudd and Gillard.

  • 28
    drmick
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Spot on Klewso. Worst Prime Minister ever. Worst Government ever. L ies li es and more lie s. When can we get rid of this disgraceful farce parading as “adults”.

  • 29
    Jimmyhaz
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    Why is reducing boat arrivals something that we should be aiming for?

  • 30
    Matthew of Canberra
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    Agree with most of the criticisms, but it tends to paint Indonesia as a bit … well, simple.

    Indonesia is a real country too. It doesn’t want confrontation any more than we do. They also don’t want the boat problem any more than we (officially) do. They also have people on the “front lines” and have no interest in letting things get out of hand. We’re not going to see any serious or lasting conflict, because neither party wants it. But sure, Indonesia is a democracy as well and its politicians will also need to front cameras from time to time and wave the flag.

    Whether any of this is good for asylum seekers is a different question.

  • 31
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Friday, 24 January 2014 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    So how long has this Biggles-style bullshit been going on now?
    Isn’t it all getting a bit old?

  • 32
    David Hand
    Posted Saturday, 25 January 2014 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    Only an article like this and the ABC takes seriously any notion the Australian navy personnel tortured boat people. And the ABC is beginning to lower its rhetoric so you’re getting isolated Bruce.

    The idea that Abbott has stuffed up Australia’s relationship with Indonesia is leftie whistling in the dark. The ABC, with its shameful exposure of the intelligence leaks via Snowdon and now these ultra light-weight accusations of torture, has done far more damage than the Abbott government.

  • 33
    Liamj
    Posted Saturday, 25 January 2014 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Morrison & Abbott being stupidly aggressive and deceitful is unsurprising, thanks Indonesia for not taking them too seriously.

    What is surprising is that navy sailors are still willing to let Morrison and his uniformed prop speak for them. As if reputation for sexual predation isn’t enough, now can add outrageous incompetence and officially sanctioned torture to their brand.. wonder what that’ll do to # & quality of recruits?

  • 34
    Hamis Hill
    Posted Saturday, 25 January 2014 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    It all has to be the ABC’s fault, because, you know, conservatives are infallible.
    (You can almost see the worms roiling behind their eyes).
    This desperate, this soon into government.
    At this rate of erosion, there will not be much credibility left at all in three years time.
    Will the “real” Liberals please grow a backbone before it is too late?
    Your country needs you!

  • 35
    Rena Zurawel
    Posted Saturday, 25 January 2014 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    Sir Dick
    Unlike some AUstralian commentators - Indonesian government clearly see the diference between the cattle and human problem.

  • 36
    drmick
    Posted Saturday, 25 January 2014 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    Why do you feed the trolls. Intelligent debate is an oxymoron with an employee of the murdochracy and is not the intent of the troll.
    Even the AIDS virus dies after it leaves the host. Do not feed the troll virus.

  • 37
    Ken Lambert
    Posted Sunday, 26 January 2014 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    More soft left claptrap from Haigh.

    I don’t recall Indonesia’s actions in East Timor as being delicate nor moreso our proper actions there by John Howard.

    Remember that Keating brown nosed Suharto with his big picture romance and Howard was left to deal with the consequences.

    The Indonesians have their noses out of joint because their corrupt officials are losing their nice little earner from the smuggling trade.

    Pandering to a corrupt Indonesian Government will bring us more grief and future problems.

  • 38
    klewso
    Posted Sunday, 26 January 2014 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Unfortunately for Conservatism, “Born to Rule” does not mean the same as “Born to Con-troll” - no matter how Murdoch and his mind-sets would like to think it does.

  • 39
    Sir Dick
    Posted Sunday, 26 January 2014 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Thank you Boerwar for your truly epic response to my musings.
    I disagree with most of what you said but you clearly have the intelligence to argue rationally, to articulate your position, to deal with issues rather than personalities and to present a case I can respect (if not agree with).

    It was Sarah Hanson Young, speaking on ABC News, who called the situation with Indonesia a disaster. (May I break my own rule about personal comments and say that I can really, really do without that lady appearing night after night on the ABC News, giving vent to her opinions).

    I was Export Manager in a BHP related company some years ago and visited Indonesia many times on business. From my experience, I simply do not buy the current hysteria - I think our ties are very strong and the present “crisis” will blow over. I think talk of focussing radar and scrambling fighters is political posturing and the notion that Indonesian warships might start shooting at us is absurd. You obviously don’t agree and that’s fair enough.

    I am now a cattle farmer and I think the principles of human cattle management, namely calmness and control, have been around for 10,0000 years and are much the same throughout the world. I do not believe the images of cattle mistreatment in provincial Indonesian abattoirs shown by the ABC reflects “normal” process - the appalling images were obviously the result of a breakdown in process. The workers in those abattoirs were in great danger and that alone convinces me that 900,000 head of cattle a year are not being handled that way. A process like that is totally unsustainable. Bad stuff sometimes happens (I have been head-butted out of my own yards), but that does not mean the process aberrations we saw in those videos are normal.
    The banning of the live cattle trade put hundreds of thousands of Indonesian farmers and workers out of work because the Australian cattle leaving Australia are in “store” condition and are fattened in the Indonesian hinterland. We denied a million Indonesians in the hinterland access to animal protein (they are too far inland for a fish diet and there is no processed meat because there is no refrigeration - that’s why there are hundreds of small abattoirs since the meat of the slaughtered animals must be consumed within 3 days). You are absolutely right that the Australian cattle industry needed to do much more than it was doing.
    But I repeat my assertion that the banning of the live cattle trade was a disaster for Indonesia and that, by comparison, a few border incursions at sea are of minor consequence. I have reread your views and I do see your point but I disagree with the intensity of your position.

    Tony Abbot has been unfailingly polite in his diplomacy. He has been calm and dignified. So has SBY. I agree both Morrison and Natalegawa have lifted the rhetoric at times but, on the whole, our diplomatic interactions have been measured. I say again that we are politely but firmly putting our position and our resolve in front of the Indonesians - they are politely but firmly expressing their displeasure. I do not think the sky is going to fall in and I do think we will stop the boats, after which all this will blow over. Your view is different and that OK with me.

    Thank you once again, Boerwar, for your truly stimulating response.

  • 40
    drmick
    Posted Sunday, 26 January 2014 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Check this for irony. Who would be the last person you would expect to be handing out citizenship certificates on Australia Day?
    Well the scrotum was scheduled to do the deed in the upper blue mountains. Unbluddybelievable. What did we do wrong? It would be like getting the Milat family to run the information booth at the local backpackers.

  • 41
    klewso
    Posted Sunday, 26 January 2014 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Adam Goodes “Australian of the Year” acceptance speech, pointing out the dangers of intemperate language and vilification - and behind him (for photo-ops) is “The Barking Cavaleer”, #1 Guest Speaker at that “Ditch the Bitch Rally” in March 2011, not far away from where this presentation was made?

  • 42
    Danno of Arabia
    Posted Sunday, 26 January 2014 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Well Sir Dick, we will see in August this year if Indonesia get a guernsey to our bi-annual war games in Darwin. (Operation Pitch Black).

    Funny thing is that they joined us last time in 2012, just after the “disaster’ of banning live cattle exports. I am not so sure that they will be too keen to join in now. But you know, this is just a storm in a tea cup compared to some fresh steaks.

  • 43
    Ken Lambert
    Posted Monday, 27 January 2014 at 12:12 am | Permalink

    ir Dick,

    They do mock outrage and we do mock shock.

    An excellent appraisal. The cattle ban was much more damaging to real relations and the insult was worse because of ignorance and stupidity of the Gillard Govt’s craven attachment to the Greens.

  • 44
    Newcastlegirl
    Posted Monday, 27 January 2014 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    This whole situation has been badly mishandled, this may impress Liberal voters, I have no idea as they don’t seem to think with much reason, but its not impressing anyone else. I can see this escalating into conflict if this continues. And that is the last thing any sensible Australian wants. Scott Morrison is a very unattractive man, I am not talking about looks, his whole demeanor is aggressive and hostile, and that in itself will probably further conflict and Abbott is just a fool and that is dangerous

  • 45
    John64
    Posted Monday, 27 January 2014 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    only two outcomes: further aggression and confrontation with Indonesia or retreat.”

    You left out the third one: Indonesia backs down on its rhetoric.

    flawed domestic agenda of turning back the boats”

    Not sure how you can say it’s flawed. After being told for years that “boats can’t be turned back”… surprise, surprise, boats ARE being turned back.
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/policy/fishing-boat-was-intercepted-refuelled-repaired-and-steered-back-asylum-seeker/story-fn9hm1gu-1226809036471#mm-premium
    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australia-forces-asylum-seeker-boat-back-to-indonesia-20140107-30ea4.html

    His failure to address the media on issues of national concern is an affront to Australian democracy”

    This is only a failure to people who /don’t want/ boats turned back, which last I checked, was everyone who voted Green at the last election (given Labor were promising to be just as tough).

    You may have been asleep at the time but last year we had en election. Tony Abbott said “You vote for me, and I turn the boats back”.

    And then he won the election.

    And then he turned the boats back.

    That’s Democracy. Not your narrowed interpretation of it.

    Lieutenant-General Angus Campbell, took us for fools when they sold the line that Australian navy vessels had inadvertently crossed into Indonesia waters”

    I always smile with amusement whenever someone who has never been in command of a Navy vessel, is happy to tell us all how easy it is.

    Next thing you know, you’ll be telling us that a modern Navy vessel would never shoot down a commercial airliner by mistaking it for a fighter jet. You know, because of advanced equipment and such.

    Iran Air Flight 655 must’ve been deliberate, aye?

    illegal operation being run against asylum seekers”

    Now you’re being just as bad as all those people who call asylum seekers “illegal immigrants”! If this is illegal, take it to court.

    But sailors and soldiers under pressure can behave badly”

    Woah, wait a minute. Is this from the same guy who just a few paragraphs earlier was complaining about the “slur against navy and naval personnel”?

    Griggs will not have forgotten the unedifying farce of the inquiries into the sinking of HMAS Voyager by HMAS Melbourne”

    Yeap. That one must’ve been deliberate too. I mean after-all, the Navy “is in possession of some very sophisticated equipment to make sure vessels know exactly where they are at any moment in time, and the training of sea-going personnel, particularly navigators, is rigorous.”

    So how in heck do you hit one big boat with another one then?

    before the Indonesians start firing at them”

    The Indonesians won’t fire at them for 2 reasons:

    1. They’d have to have boats in the region.

    2. It would be stupid.

    Remember: It’s Indonesian vessels (with Indonesian crew) that are crossing into Australian waters here that’s causing the problem in the first place.

  • 46
    Sir Dick
    Posted Monday, 27 January 2014 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    Dear Newcastlegirl
    Can I gently suggest that you focus more on the policies and less on the personalities in all this.
    The hostile, aggressive and unattractive Scott Morrison is stopping the boats. No-one has drowned on his watch and almost no people are heading into our concentration camps.
    The nice, passive, helpless Chris Bowen and Tony Burke presided over the drowning of 1200 souls and the locking up of 30,000 people in truly awful conditions.
    The poor, conflicted Indonesians were not able to save a single soul on the high seas and left Australia to do it

  • 47
    Ken Lambert
    Posted Monday, 27 January 2014 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    Newcastlegirl

    OK so Scott and Tony have nothing on little Marty with the pencil mo, nor the plump but cuddly Bam Bam.

    Only the Indonesians can escalate this situation by trying to force asylum boats past our Navy.

    In effect the Indonesian Govt would become an active partner of criminal people smugglers rather than a taker of bribes to look the other way as it does now.

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