03 May 2012

Tony Abbott’s Australian immigration plan unpopular in Indonesia

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Leader of the Australian Opposition Tony Abbott's proposed harsh Australian immigration plan, to return asylum seeking boats to Indonesia, has proved unpopular in Indonesia.

Australian immigration

Tony Abbott's Australian immigration plans have not gone down well in Indonesia.

The Coalition's foreign affairs spokesperson, Julie Bishop, has travelled to Indonesia this week to discuss the opposition's proposed Australian immigration policies.

Tony Abbott has restated in recent weeks that if he is elected prime minister, he will make turning the boats back 'a core policy' of a Coalition government. While his proposals have been heavily criticised by governmental politicians as well as refugee advocates within Australia, the Coalition have also encountered difficulty with the Indonesians.

Ms Bishop arrived in Indonesia claiming that "as close neighbours, as leaders in the region, a strong and constructive relationship between Australia and Indonesia is essential."

However, her meeting with chairman of the Indonesian parliament, Taufik Kiemas, reportedly took place amid tensions and while Mr Kiemas refused to comment, his deputy expressed doubt about the proposal, a view echoed by other politicians in Indonesia.

"In my opinion [turning the boats back to Indonesia] is a view that's solely focused on Australia's perspective," said Hajriyanto Tohari, a member of the opposition's Golkar Party, "without considering Indonesia at all as the country that experiences the negatives impacts of the illegal immigrant issue."

Ms Bishop remained defiant that her discussions with Indonesian politicians ended well.

"We had a very robust discussion about a whole range of things. I also explained that we had concerns about the [human trafficking] syndicates here in Indonesia," she said.

"And I left the meeting very confident that I'd made our position clear and [Mr Kiemas] raised a whole number of issues with me that I believe that I'd answered."

Indonesia's foreign ministry has previously rejected Tony Abbott's plans with Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa labelling a plan to turn the boats back simply shifting 'the nature of the challenge from one end of the continuum to the other'.

Despite the apparent refusal to discuss such a strict policy, Ms Bishop maintained her determination to convince Indonesia of the merits of Mr Abbott's plan.

"This is an opportunity for me to explain what we're seeking to do. And we have worked very closely when in government in the past with Indonesia and we intend to do so again."


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