June 14, 2013
Indonesia’s vice-president has rejected the Opposition’s plan to tow asylum seeker boats back to Indonesia.
A key part of the Coalition’s proposed plan to stop asylum seeker boats is to tow them back to Indonesia, when it is safe to do so.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has promised to stop the flow of asylum seeker boats in his first term as prime minister if the Coalition wins government in September.
In an interview with ABC’s Newsline program, vice-president Boediono said Indonesia would not accept boats sent back to its ports.
Dr Boediono said he did not know why Australian politicians still considered it an option.
“We have made our position quite clear. We would certainly be willing to co-operate in whatever [else] – given this basic position,” he told Newsline.
He also said the relationship between Australia and Indonesia needs to be built on respect.
“[The] most important thing for two next door neighbours would be trust. That is key, mutual understanding, mutual respect,” he said.
Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison today refused to outline how the policy would work but said a Coalition government, if elected, would not violate the “territorial integrity” of Indonesia’s waters.
“I’m not prepared to give heads-up to people smugglers about the operational parameters of these matters,” he said.
“I welcome the comments by the Indonesian vice president and the warmness with which he spoke about cooperating with Australia. I think that’s exactly the attitude and the approach that will be taken and we are very confident … we can work together with Indonesia.
“We would similarly ensure that the territorial integrity of our sea border was not compromised and, frankly, that is one of the reasons [the Coaltion] will be taking such a strong position on border protection if we are elected.”
Coalition ‘confident’ it can gain Indonesia’s support
Last month Indonesia’s Ambassador to Australia, Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, became the first official to publicly declare Indonesia would be unlikely to co-operate with the plan.
The country’s foreign minster Marty Natelegawa has also dismissed the policy as unfair.
But the Coalition insists the two governments can still work side-by-side.
“I’m confident that we’ll be able to work with the Indonesian government should we get into government,” said the Opposition’s Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop.
“It is an inescapable fact that the majority of boats coming to our shores are Indonesian boats.
“Those boats can be returned to their home ports.”
There are currently 10,000 asylum seekers and United Nations recognised refugees in Indonesia, but the country is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention.
Australia aimed to resettle 600 of the recognised refugees who are waiting in Indonesia this financial year.