Julia Gillard has suggested that Tony Abbott apologise to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.
Relations between Australia and Indonesia are at their lowest point in years after it was revealed in media reports that spies at the Defence Signals Directorate listened to Yudhoyono’s phone calls in 2009, when the Labor Party was in power.
The spying took place under Labor. But the the former prime minister suggested Abbott take similar steps as Barack Obama after it was revealed the National Security Agency tapped the German Chancellor’s phone.
The US president apologised to Angela Merkel, and said intelligence services would not directly target her phone again.
“If [Obama] had been aware he wouldn’t have authorised it, and he could certainly say for the future that it wouldn’t happen again,” Gillard said in the interview.
“And I think that that’s an appropriate response from Australia to Indonesia at this very difficult time.”
Yudhoyono has written to Abbott asking for an apology and an official explanation of why his phone was bugged, along with devices belonging to his wife, senior cabinet members and his close advisers.
Earlier, after the news broke, Abbott said he would not say sorry for Australian intelligence gathering, which was conducted to protect the country and its allies.
“On the one hand, Australians would rightly say to their government if there was a terrorist attack in Australia, ‘Why didn’t you know? Why didn’t you collect the intelligence? Why didn’t you stop it?’,” Gillard told Amanpour.
“But then people say I want my privacy and I don’t want the sense that phones are being tapped, well ultimately these two things don’t add up; in order to collect intelligence then there will be electronic surveillance.
“Do governments get it right all the time? Obviously not. Governments are made of human beings. Errors will be made, but you need checks and balances and oversight.”
Indonesia has suspended intelligence sharing, and halted military co-operation. This includes joint operations which target people smugglers.
There’s more at CNN.
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