What they said

The news from Jakarta that Indonesia is stepping up its military presence in the region has by now been widely reported. Some key – and frightening – messages in those reports include:

“The greatest threat will obviously be from Australia”

Australia’s “tow-back” policy may soon ignite conflict.

“Now that we have three frigates on the border, a clash could be imminent as our Navy will prevent the towing back”

It’s all because of Abbott’s “tow back” policy! Pathetic, really.

It is interesting to look at what both Kevin Rudd and Julie Bishop had to say about the Australia/Indonesia relationship in June last year. Rudd, a former Foreign Minister, had just won back the prime ministership and Bishop was Shadow Foreign Minister. Here’s a recap:

KEVIN RUDD: I’m very concerned about whether, if Mr Abbott were to become prime minister and continues that rhetoric and that posture and actually tries to translate it into reality, I really wonder whether he’s trying to risk some sort of conflict with Indonesia.

What I’m talking about is diplomatic conflict, but I’m always wary about where diplomatic conflicts go. Konfrontasi with Indonesia evolved over a set of words and turned into something else. Let’s just, let’s just call it for what it is.

If the ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia in Australia says that the policy of the government of Indonesia is not one which would faintly support the policy put forward by Mr Abbott, and secondly if Mr Abbott as prime minister then seeks to do that, you end up with a pretty robust diplomatic conflict and I become a little uncertain as to where that heads.

I’m not suggesting that Mr Abbott would intentionally head in that direction at all. But I’m saying very clearly that you have a policy collision here between what he says and what the government of Indonesia says.

You’ve got to ask this question; so what happens on day one when field marshal Tony puts out the order to the captain of the Australian naval frigate X to turn back a bunch of boats? And you’ve got naval frigate from the Indonesian navy on the other side of the equation.

JULIE BISHOP: Kevin Rudd has revealed the ugly tactics that he intends to use in his new government, and that is to make absurd and wild claims that the Coalition would trigger a conflict with Indonesia over people smuggling.

It is utterly irresponsible and reckless for the Prime Minister of this country to try and use our bilateral relationship with Indonesia for base domestic political purposes. He tries to suggest there’s going to be a conflict with Indonesia under a Coalition government? It’s outrageous and it should be utterly and absolutely condemned.

Guess which one’s the idiot?


Image courtesy of Margaret Morgan.