News / Asia

Indonesia, Australia Mend Ties After Surveillance Scandal

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, left, talks with her Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa after their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 5 2013.Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, left, talks with her Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa after their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 5 2013.
x
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, left, talks with her Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa after their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 5 2013.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, left, talks with her Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa after their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Dec. 5 2013.
Australia has accepted Indonesia’s roadmap for an intelligence “code of conduct,” allaying some uncertainty about how far it was willing to go to make amends for eavesdropping on the Indonesian president through his cell phone.
 
Despite the fact that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott initially declined to apologize for the spying and commit to a code of conduct, Julie Bishop, the country’s foreign minister agreed to Indonesia’s conditions during a visit to Jakarta on Thursday. Specifically, she said Australia would cooperate with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on his six-point plan to rebuild trust between their two countries.
 
“We regret the hurt caused to President Yudhoyono and to the Indonesian people,” Bishop said during her one-day visit, which itself was the first of the six steps.
 
The other steps involve drafting the code of conduct and evaluating its success. In the meantime, Canberra and Jakarta will put a “hotline” in place to improve communication.
 
The two otherwise friendly nations got entangled in the diplomatic spat last month, when the phone tapping came to light through documents released by Edward Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor. The revelations widened the global scope of Snowden’s leaks, which had already alleged the United States conducted surveillance operations in France and Germany. Now, the six-point plan begins a test of whether Snowden’s disclosures will change the way governments gather intelligence on both their friends and enemies.
 
“I suspect that the matter will quietly fall away, presuming Australia's government doesn't do anything to make it worse in the coming months,” said Elisabeth Kramer, a candidate in the Department of Indonesian Studies at the University of Sydney.
 
She reflected a general belief that it is inevitable that things will return to normal, with both Australia and Indonesia emerging largely unscathed. That would suggest that, despite the uproar that follows news of espionage, the scolding is brief and the fallout can be contained.

Questions linger
 
Which is not to say damage has been minimal. In response to the spying, Indonesia has refused cooperation on areas key to Australian interests, including terrorism and boat refugees. Here in the Indonesian capital, citizens took to the streets to burn pictures of Abbott, pelt eggs at the Australian embassy, and brandish signs reading, "Go to hell Australia."
 
“I don’t know why Australia did that to us,” said Veni Juniarti, a young accountant from Bandung, 160 kilometers southeast of Jakarta. She was “shocked” by the spying but looks forward to good relations with Australia. “We should go back to the way things were before, I hope.”
 
As Canberra refocuses on the “Asian Century,” Dave McRae, a specialist in Australia-Indonesia relations at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, said Indonesia has been important in supporting Australia’s involvement in regional cooperation, such as the East Asia summit. He said that factors into the process of winding down this row between the two large democracies.
 
“Certainly there are broader economic and strategic considerations at play,” McRae said.
 
Indonesian politicians of all stripes have burnished their nationalist credentials ahead of a 2014 election by wagging their fingers at Australia. That’s especially true for Yudhoyono, whose detractors call him a lame duck who cozies up to westerners. Cynics say the outrage was feigned for political gain because Indonesians already know they’re monitored.
 
McRae didn’t say whether Yudhoyono was genuinely insulted by Australia’s spying, but “whatever the president’s personal feelings, he also had a public audience to address.”
 
Bishop’s visit seemed to be good for that public audience, and for mending ties between Indonesia and Australia, which looks increasingly likely. As Kramer put it, “Our governments get over things pretty quickly.”

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs