Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is in damage control after the Prime Minister’s “unhelpful” attempt to save the Bali Nine drug smugglers.
Last week, Mr Abbott sparked a diplomatic row and social media backlash by implying that Indonesia should “reciprocate” $1 billion in aid by not killing Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, which was interpreted by Australia’s close neighbour as a ‘threat’.
When asked if the comments were unhelpful, the Foreign Minister told the ABC: “It was seen that way in Indonesia”.
“I spoke to the vice president to make it quite clear that the PM did not intend to link it in an unhelpful way,” Ms Bishop said.
Indonesia foreign affairs spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir had labelled the comments “threats” that “are not part of diplomatic language”.
“No one responds well to threats,” Mr Nasir said.
Hundreds of Indonesians hit back on social media, offering to repay the aid in small change.
Photos of coins flooded Twitter under the hashtags #CoinForAustralia and #KoinUntukAustralia, along with harsh comments.
— Harry Setyo (@otinggerrard) February 23, 2015
Ms Bishop defended the Prime Minister, saying he had been merely pointing out that Australia was a friend of Indonesia.
“We are there when Indonesia needed us. Vice President Kalla accepted that that’s the way the words should be taken.”
In the latest development, lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran are launching a last ditch review of the presidential rejection of their clemency pleas.
Ms Bishop said she did not want to say anything publicly which could affect the outcome of that appeal.
Australia continues to make appeals at every level of Indonesia’s government, she said.
– with AAP