100 days in photographs
The first 100 days of the Abbott government seen through the lens of Fairfax Canberra photographers Andrew Meares and Alex Ellinghausen.PT3M44S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2zfnj 620 349 December 15, 2013
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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has bluntly urged an ''unhelpful'' Indonesian government to move on from the spying row and resume co-operation on people-smuggling, admitting for the first time that the stand-off over espionage had damaged efforts to stem boat arrivals.
''There's no doubt that the suspension of co-operation by the Indonesian authorities has been unhelpful,'' he said at a news conference marking 100 days of the new government. ''And given that people-smuggling is a crime in Indonesia, just as it's a crime in Australia, I think it's high time that that co-operation was resumed.''
"There's no doubt that the suspension of co-operation by the Indonesian authorities has been unhelpful": Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: AFR
Last month, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he was suspending military and people-smuggling co-operation with Australia in response to revelations that Australia's electronic spying agency targeted his personal mobile phone, along with that of his wife and inner circle.
Indonesian authorities have gone as far in recent weeks as to suggest they will not attempt to stop asylum-seeker vessels leaving their shores for Australia.
Fairfax Media reported last week that people smugglers were using the deterioration in relations over the spying affair to lure customers.
An agent for a prominent people smuggler specifically referred to the deteriorating relations between Mr Abbott and Dr Yudhoyono in his pitch, in a secretly recorded conversation with a prospective customer, obtained by Fairfax Media.
The arrival of another asylum-seeker boat on Friday - reported to be carrying about 70 people - brought to seven the number of boats since Jakarta announced the downgrading of relations on November 20.
On Monday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott blamed a recent rise in boat arrivals on Indonesia's suspension of co-operation over people smugglers.
"We are certainly being as good a friend as we humanly can to Indonesia," he told ABC's Radio National.
"I think it would be the act of a good friend to swiftly resume anti-people smuggling co-operation."
Mr Abbott said he hoped that co-operation would resume "well before" July next year, when President Yudhoyono's term ends.
"I think one of the reasons why there’s been an uptick in boats over the last couple of weeks has been because of this suspension."
Also on Sunday, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison's spokesman said the minister was getting weekly briefings on progress in resettling interpreters and other locals who have been working with Australian troops in Afghanistan. The comments came after Fairfax Media revealed that one interpreter had been killed in a suspected revenge attack by the Taliban.
''The minister requested and has been receiving weekly updates on the progress of this program,'' the spokesman said. ''It is being closely monitored to ensure … we help those and their families who risked their lives to aid our Diggers.''
with Judith Ireland