Compare this with Abbott. Prior to the 2013 election, Abbott campaigned on his ‘Stop the Boats’ platform, which already put him in a tricky position in terms of negotiation. This policy required him, post-election, to work closely with the Indonesian government in order to get them onside with buybacks and tow-backs of refugee boats. On top of this, Snowden’s leaks revealed that (back in 2009) Australia was spying on senior members of that same Indonesian government in order to gain a diplomatic advantage. Abbott wasn’t a part of the government at the time, nor the agency responsible, but the revelation of these details has made it very difficult for Abbott to maintain his characteristic zealous over confidence in negotiation (termed ‘megaphone diplomacy’ by the Opposition). It also gave the Indonesian government a stronger negotiating position. Abbott needs to work with them
in order to carry out his policies, yet they have just been given further reason to mistrust him. These may not be lasting issues for the new government, especially if it softens its voice and starts speaking in fewer platitudes. From some angles it is almost admirable that Abbott is so persistently opposed to the actions of people smugglers. These people encourage desperate people to make the hazardous journey from Indonesia to Australia. This should be an initial point of commonality with the Indonesian government.
Australia following the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. In other words, Howard started off with a difficult diplomatic approach to Indonesia, resulting from a combination of hard-line policy and politically inopportune whistleblowing. It took time, diplomatic effort, and one of the deadliest natural disasters in recorded history, but he managed to calm things enough to get Australia into a more tenable position.
‘You certainly ought to be prepared to give the Australian navy the benefit of the doubt.’
However, the issue has been mishandled (to the detriment of those being smuggled) arguably since the Pacific Solution was introduced in 2001 (according to the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission, the Indonesian government, Human Rights Watch, the National Council of Churches, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, and Amnesty International, among others). In November 2013, the ABC broadcast allegations by asylum
seekers that they had been forced by members of the Royal Australian Navy to hold onto the pipes of a hot boat engine, causing severe burns to their hands. These claims were criticised for their presentation at the time, with ABC’s own Media Watch amongst those taking issue. Over the following months, more evidence came to light. Refugee Yousif Ibrahim Fasher claims, for example, to have been present as a translator throughout the dispute. The incident as a whole remains foggy. But even if the allegations broadcast in November do prove untrue, they certainly come within a context of more definable human rights abuses. Abbott could easily use these and other complaints to turn around (pardon the pun) Australia’s approach to those seeking shelter, working alongside the Indonesian government to find a solution that will work for Australians, Indonesians, and refugees alike.
Tony Abbott: domestic goddess But sadly, a major problem for Tony Abbott in his opening months has been his handling of international affairs. On the campaign trail, he shared his unique insight into the Syrian Uprising: ‘it’s not goodies versus baddies – it’s baddies versus baddies’. As of September 2013 (i.e. the time of that statement),
INSIDE: Face-blindness, Defence Force at universities, Abbott and the ABC, CFS, Beyonce, Biscuits.