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Crikey Says

Jun 4, 2014

Crikey says: Danger on the high seas as Abbott meets SBY

Could Obama’s climate sell work here? Victoria’s parliamentary crisis explained. Text of tonight’s ABC apology to Chris Kenny. ASIC to scale back surveillance. Strong GDP a boon for business. Kerry Stokes and Lachlan Murdoch do lunch in Sydney. And Australia a country for old men?

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When Tony Abbott meets with the Indonesian President today, he’d better be ready for a frank discussion.

It’s no secret that the relationship has been strained in the wake of last year’s phone-tapping scandal, but Indonesia’s Foreign Minister has recently made further extraordinary allegations about Australia’s actions under Operation Sovereign Borders.

In an interview with SBS TV last month, Marty Natalegawa claimed that Australian navy personnel have not once picked up the phone to give a heads-up to their Indonesian counterparts when they have towed refugee boats back towards Indonesia. Controversy erupted earlier this year over revelations that the navy had made several incursions into Indonesian waters, and Australia apologised at the time.

“We were often somewhat caught by surprise, to be honest,” Natalegawa said. “This is certainly not something that we really … appreciate.” Not appreciated, and not particularly wise, given the Indonesian armed forces have not been known for their restraint.

Warning that the situation on the high seas could easily “get out of hand”, the Foreign Minister called for an end to the communication stand-off. Today’s leaders’ meeting is the first indication that Abbott is willing to take a step back from his aggressive posturing on border security and start a conversation.

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