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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.