Indonesia Spokesman Says Tony Abbott Could Be Inflaming Tensions On Purpose

Protesters drape pictures of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott during an anti-spying protest outside the Australian Embassy on November 26, 2013 in Jakarta. Getty Images

Relations between Australia and Indonesia are at a low point after a spying scandal and a disagreement over asylum seeker policy.

But a lot of that rhetoric is simply sabre rattling. There’s a national election in Indonesia this year, and politicians are making sure they appear tough.

Also, there have been a number of statements made by Indonesian military personnel that while strongly-worded, don’t actually indicate a change in the country’s defence posture.

Example: Yesterday, the country’s air force chief said he had planes that could reach Australia in one hour. Planes that have been parked at that base, with the same airspeed, well before the diplomatic back-and-forth began.

Here’s an interesting take though, from government spokesperson Agus Barnas who told Fairfax that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott may be inflaming relations on purpose.

”It may be [that Prime Minister Abbott is deliberately making inflammatory statements] because he’s tied to his campaign promises,” said Mr Agus, the spokesman for co-ordinating security minister Djoko Suyanto.

”Maybe he is also receiving big pressure domestically, but turning back boats is not the answer, because that only benefits one party, namely Australia.”

Abbott is receiving a lot of pressure in Australia to stop the boats, especially since he made it into such a huge election issue.

Since coming to power his government has stopped releasing a lot of information on boat arrivals, and generally kept a pretty tight lid on the situation for “operational reasons”.

Put it this way. If Indonesia is so angry with Australia that it won’t help prevent asylum seeker boats from leaving, well, that would be a pretty decent excuse. So this spokesman thinks, anyway.

There’s more here.

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