Scott Morrison has warned Indonesia that “only Australia” will decide on the government’s potential relocation of its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.
But the Prime Minister also left the door open to a change of heart, noting that “no decision” had been made.
Mr Morrison’s comments followed the extraordinary intervention of Malcom Turnbull, who warned from Bali on Monday that the world’s largest Muslim nation, Indonesia, would be angered by the plan to move the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“Australia will always make our decisions on our foreign policy based on our interests and will do that as a sovereign nation,” the Prime Minister told reporters Tuesday.
“My views haven’t changed. We will follow a proper process before making any decision on this matter. I stress a decision has not been made on this matter. We will follow a proper process but let me stress, Australia decides what our foreign policy is and only Australia,” he added.
“We will listen to others, but Australia will always make decisions about our foreign policy on our terms and in our interests.”
Asked if Mr Turnbull’s comments had undermined him, the Prime Minister offered a one word answer: “No.”
Mr Turnbull delivered on predictions that the decision to send him to Bali to represent Australia was “pretty wild” by publicly rebuking the Mr Morrison’s Israeli embassy plan.
Mr Turnbull publicly contradicted the government after a meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Bali, where he was representing Australia at the personal request of the Prime Minister.
Emerging from talks with Mr Widodo, the former PM offered a thinly veiled rebuke to Mr Morrison’s flirtation with following the United States by moving the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv, warning it could prompt a “very negative reaction”.
“The [Indonesian] President expressed to me, as he has done to Prime Minister Morrison, the very serious concern held in Indonesia about the prospect of the Australian embassy in Israel being moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” Mr Turnbull told reporters Monday night.
Mr Turnbull was attending an oceans conference in Bali in place of Mr Morrison, who had a schedule conflict.
Mr Morrison first floated the idea of shifting the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem in the dying days of campaigning for the by-election in Mr Turnbull’s former seat of Wentworth, where more than 12 per cent of voters are Jewish.
It was revealed at Senate estimates last week that he did so without seeking the advice of senior Defence and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials.
Barnaby Joyce had previously urged against Mr Turnbull representing Australia in Bali in an official capacity, describing the idea as “pretty wild”.
“Now I’m on the backbench I can tell you the truth: it is a problem and there should have been a bit more thought put into this, I don’t think it’s the right move,” Mr Joyce said.
“I think he’s angry about losing his job, I don’t know, one can only presume some sulking. It’s something you’ve got to get over with.
“I suggest that probably gives us a very good reason not to send him to Bali.”
Mr Turnbull delivered on Mr Joyce’s predictions in spades, disclosing that Indonesia had raised concerns about Mr Morrison’s pet project.
“There is no question, were that [embassy] move to occur, it would be met with a very negative reaction in Indonesia. This is after all the largest Muslim-majority country in the world,” he said.
“We have to be very clear-eyed about that, and we have to take into account Australia’s national interests, and our interests in the region, when we consider a decision like this.”
Mr Morrison was reportedly already “done with” Mr Turnbull after his predecessor’s refusal to publicly endorse Liberal candidate Dave Sharma ahead of the Wentworth by-election.