News National Canberra steers clear of troubled Indonesian waters
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Canberra steers clear of troubled Indonesian waters

Labor helps keep the politics out of the Indonesian spying scandal, but keeps the heat on over asylum seeker boats.
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One way to keep the worsening diplomatic row with Indonesia of the day outside the heat and havoc of question time is to deal with it beforehand.

And so Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten fell over themselves to keep the politics out of the furore over Australia’s spying on Indonesia as they made brief pre-question time statements to parliament on Tuesday.

They didn’t say so, of course, but they seemed almost to be saying that listening in on Indonesia’s (or anyone else’s) leaders is okay, provided no one talks about it in public.

The brief outbreak of bipartisanship ensured Labor kept off the issue in question time.

It was raised only by Bob Katter, whose turn it was to take the crossbench’s quota of a question a day.

He failed to provoke the prime minister into indiscretion or revelation despite starting by telling him he’d be appalled if the Indonesians spied on his wife.

If spying is more or less out of bounds, boats – a not unrelated matter – certainly aren’t.

Unusually, Richard Marles took the first four opposition questions, all directed at Scott Morrison.

The immigration minister was as stolid as ever in refusing to talk about asylum seeker boat operations, but showed a growing willingness to fight back.

He accused Labor of campaigning on the people smugglers’ “right to know” and of wanting the government to hand over the PIN to Operation Sovereign Borders to the smugglers.

Joe Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull contributed what are becoming almost daily cameos.

“You guys are geniuses,” the treasurer gloated as he accused Labor of spending money that didn’t exist from the mining tax.

He stayed on the budget horror theme with “Every cupboard we open on the budget there are some spiders put there by Labor”.

Hockey’s been on about spiders a lot lately; he must be an arachnophobe.

Turnbull did a grand job orchestrating the vast government ranks into cheers and applause as he turned his savage wit on the woeful NBN roll-out and take-up records in the Northern Territory.

If he tires of politics, a future as a circus ringmaster surely awaits.

Beside Hockey and Turnbull, Abbott seems almost dour.

But he can be wounding in his relatively understated way and he finished the session with a jab: “We will fully honour our election commitments.

“I know Labor, which never honours any election commitments, is flabbergasted at that.”

SBY Twitter attack

Earlier, Indonesian president launched a strong attack on Australia’s spying activities on public stance on them since they were revealed.

In a series of strongly worded tweets, Mr Yudhoyon criticised “Australia’s hurtful action” and said the recall of the Indonesian ambassador was “stern diplomatic action”.

The statements come after Indonesia’s ambassador in Canberra was ordered yesterday to leave for Jakarta immediately, following claims Australia had tapped the phone of the president. Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa announced late yesterday that the ambassador would be recalled.

“It’s nothing less than an unfriendly act,” Dr Natalegawa said of the spying claims.

The president’s foreign affairs spokesman, Teuku Faizasyah, has called for an explanation.

“The Australian government urgently needs to clarify on this news to avoid further damage,” he said.

“The damage has been done and now trust must be rebuilt.”

Following the recall, the Indonesian president turned to social media to express his views on the revelations:

“Foreign Minister and other government minister will also involve to conduct an effective diplomacy, while we wait clarification from US and Australia.”

“We are also reviewing the bilateral cooperation because of Australia’s hurtful action.”