News National Indonesia’s two main problems

Indonesia’s two main problems

Marty Natalegawa.
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

Indonesia’s foreign minister says Australia’s approach to asylum seekers will remain a sticking point in the relationship even if a code of conduct on intelligence can be reached.

Marty Natalegawa says the draft code before Australia is a simple document of no more than one page.

He says President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Tony Abbott may choose not to discuss it when they meet for the first time in many months on Wednesday.

An Australian life-boat washed up on an Indonesian beach.
An Australian life-boat washed up on an Indonesian beach.

But he has told the foreign affairs committee of Indonesia’s parliament that Jakarta has dual problems with Australia – the spy row, and the boats policy.

“For us, for Indonesia, these two problems must be managed before we can see some sort of normalisation,” Dr Natalegawa said.

“And it’s clear … the cause of this problem is Australia.”

The minister said the cause of asylum seekers should “unify” the neighbouring countries, but instead the boat turn-back policy means it has become “the issue that separates Indonesia and Australia”.

Suaka, an advocacy group for asylum seekers formed by Indonesian lawyers, is also calling on Yudhoyono to raise asylum seeker welfare with Mr Abbott.

Spokesman Febionesta told AAP the Abbott government’s budget commitment to help Indonesia manage the 10,000 asylum seekers and refugees who want resettlement in Australia was welcome.

And it’s clear … the cause of this problem is Australia.

But he says it’s vital the money is spent on making life better for people while they wait it out in Indonesia, not in detention centres.

“That aid should be allocated to improving living conditions for asylum seekers and refugees, for education, health, opportunities to work and so on,” he said.

Kickstarting relations

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Meanwhile, the nation’s have expressed their strong wishes to reconnect on the eve of a reunion meeting that could be sealed with a code of conduct within weeks.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will meet in Batam, Indonesia, on Wednesday, for their first face-to-face exchange since November’s revelations Australia had eavesdropped on the phone calls of the president’s wife and others.

A meeting scheduled for last month fell through at the last minute when it was widely understood Mr Abbott cancelled as Australia was engaged in the diplomatically sensitive task of turning back an asylum-seeker boat.

But President Yudhoyono’s desire to overcome both these issues are made pressing by the fact he leaves office in October.

His office says a code of conduct, a document on which Indonesia has insisted to guide the future relationship, is a high priority.

But whether the leaders discuss this on Wednesday is unclear, as Indonesia is setting a relaxed tone for the discussion and dinner.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa says the code is a one-page document with a basic commitment not to spy on Indonesia.