News / Asia

    Australia Seeks to Mend Ties after Indonesia Spying Scandal

    FILE - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (L) walks beside Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Sept. 30, 2013.
    FILE - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott (L) walks beside Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Sept. 30, 2013.
    Phil Mercer
    Relations between Australia and Indonesia have soured in recent weeks over revelations that Australian spies tapped the phones of the Indonesian president and other top officials. This week, however, tensions started to ease with a flurry of diplomatic activity.
     
    The row has affected cooperation over asylum seekers, trade, military cooperation and other issues and was kicked off when documents were released showing that Australia had spied on the Indonesian president, his wife and senior ministers. The scandal prompted Jakarta to suspend military and other cooperation, including efforts to combat trafficking gangs that ferry asylum seekers to Australia’s northern waters.
     
    In a letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has reportedly promised to restore damaged relations.
     
    Abbott’s letter has yet to be made public, but the Indonesian leader says it is an attempt to defuse the spying controversy.
     
    “The commitment of the Prime Minister of Australia [is] that Australia will never do anything in the future that will bring disadvantage and disturb Indonesia,” said Yudhoyono.
     
    The president also said that both countries will now devise a code of ethics to ensure relations are never destabilized in such a way again.
     
    “I will assign the minister of foreign affairs or a special envoy to further and seriously discuss sensitive issues, including the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and Australia after the tapping. For me, it's a requirement and a stepping stone,” continued Yudhoyono.
     
    It is not known if Abbott has apologized to the Indonesians. The Australian Prime Minister’s initial refusal to explain why Canberra monitored the phones of senior officials prompted a furious reaction in Jakarta. There were noisy demonstrations held outside the Australian Embassy by nationalist groups.
     
    Prime Minister Abbott has welcomed Indonesia’s attempts to broker a truce.
     
    “What the president is proposing is that trusted envoys should meet in the next few days to resolve any outstanding issues in the relationship. I think that's a good way forward and I'm going to reflect on the statement over the next day or so and then we'll be responding more fully,” said Abbott.
     
    Until the new code of ethics is formalized, bilateral cooperation on intelligence matters and people smuggling will remain suspended.
     
    The Australian leader hopes the controversy will soon end.
     
    “Obviously I want this to be resolved as quickly as possible. But I want it to be resolved on a strong and lasting basis. This has been a stressful week or so. In all relationships there are difficulties,” Abbott continued.
     
    Despite Australia’s efforts to sooth tensions with its giant Muslim neighbor to the north, there are concerns that trade may suffer because of the spying scandal.
     
    Brian Scott, the Acting Chief Executive of the Northern Territory Livestock Exporters Association, said that the recent controversy is worrying Australia’s beef industry.
     
    “We would all be very naïve if we thought sovereign governments didn't gather information about each other. However with that said, our industry is the most significant partner with Indonesia with respect of trade between our two countries,” said Scott

    “Further, we would sincerely hope that for the benefits of the Indonesian population, and our northern cattle producers, that the situation does not impact on our trade in the short term,” he continued.
     
    Trade between the two Asia-Pacific partners is worth around $11 billion each year.
     
    Analysts believe that the phone-tapping row could damage commercial ties.
     
    Tim Harcourt from the Australian School of Business at the University of New South Wales believes short-term mistrust will eventually give way to longer-term harmony.
     
    “For the most part though, I think Indonesia wants food security, wants our financial services, it wants our technology, it wants access to our education institutions. So in the long run they'll want a good steady relationship with Australia. But yeah, they will be a little bit reluctant at the moment to fast track any trade or bilateral investment deals,” said Harcourt.
     
    The spying controversy is the most serious threat to bilateral ties since Canberra supported the secession of East Timor from Indonesia in the late 1990s.
     
    Experts say that military cooperation and joint efforts to stem a steady flow of asylum seekers leaving the Indonesia islands by boat between Jakarta and Canberra could resume within a month or two.

    You May Like

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora