Prime Minister Tony Abbott appears headed for a diplomatic storm when he visits Indonesia amid growing anger in Jakarta over key measures of his asylum-seeker policy.
Mahfudz Siddiq, the head of Indonesia’s parliamentary commission for foreign affairs, has joined a junior member of the same in committee in warning that Mr Abbott’s asylum-seeker policy could damage relations between Canberra and Jakarta.
Indonesia has also slammed the coalition’s scheme to buy boats from fishermen - aimed at preventing them from falling into the hands of people smugglers - as well as a plan to pay villagers for information about people-smuggling operations.
Mr Siddiq, who is also a member of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s ruling coalition, has urged Mr Abbott to consider the regional ramifications of the measures.
“They should be more careful when it comes to another country’s sovereignty,” Mr Siddiq said.
“This issue is regional issue and it’s not something that the new elected prime minister and new foreign minister can solve by themselves. I’m worried that this issue would damage the Indonesia-Australia bilateral relationship which has been going on strong and productive so far.”
The comments come after Tantowi Yahya, a member of the same foreign affairs commission, made similar warnings while describing the plan to turn boats around as “illegal”.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has also been strident in his objections to some of Mr Abbott’s plans, saying last week Jakarta would “reject his policy on asylum seekers and any other policy that harms the spirit of partnership”.
But Mr Abbott today insisted Indonesia’s sovereignty would be respected, and that he was confident the coalition would be able to work effectively with Indonesia.
“I have no argument with anyone in the Indonesian establishment or parliament,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“My argument is with people smugglers and my point to the people smugglers is ‘the game is up’.”
The developing diplomatic storm cames as it emerged Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia Greg Moriarty had been called to Canberra to brief the National Security Committee of cabinet on the issue of asylum seekers.Mr Abbott will travel to Jakarta for a bilateral visit on September 30, and will also attend the APEC meeting in Bali in October.