Coalition denies rift with Indonesia
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Parliamentary Secretary Josh Frydenberg defend the government's asylum policy despite criticism from IndonesiaPT2M41S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2udpu 620 349 September 25, 2013
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Could it have been a case of lost in translation when Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop met with her Indonesian counterpart Dr Marty Natalegawa in New York on Monday – or simply falling on deaf ears?
As far as Ms Bishop is concerned her meeting earlier this week with Indonesia's Foreign Affairs Minister to discuss the Coalition's controversial asylum-seeker policy was "very cordial", "positive and very productive".
Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop meets with her Indonesian counterpart, Marty Natalegawa, in New York on Monday.
Yet Dr Natalegawa clearly saw – and heard - it differently, and said he warned the Australian minister against implementing the policy, which he strongly rejects.
Fairfax Media has previously confirmed that the Coalition's plans to turn around asylum boats was unpopular with the Indonesian government.
"We have reiterated that Indonesia cannot accept any Australian policy that would, in nature, violate Indonesia's sovereignty," Dr Natalegawa told Indonesia news agency Antara News following the New York meeting.
''I think, the message has been conveyed loud and clear and has been understood well," Dr Natalegawa added.
But the message it seems was not heard by Ms Bishop who told Australian media 24 hours after the meeting in New York that they were in agreement to put an end to people smuggling.
"I put to Foreign Minister Natalegawa that Australia will be making changes to the laws in Australia so that we take away the product that the people smugglers are currently selling and that is permanent residency in Australia."
Asked on three occasions to respond to reports that Dr Natalegawa warned Australia not to introduce such a policy, Ms Bishop refused to answer, instead she repeatedly described the meeting as "positive and productive".
"I'm not going into the operational details of our policy but I had a very broad ranging discussion with Mr Natalegawa and I'm confident we will be able to implement our policies."
Asked to respond to media reports he was not happy with the outcome of the meeting, Ms Bishop said: "There can be some misunderstanding as to what our policy is and it is certainly not to in any way show disrespect for Indonesian sovereignty and for anyone to think that that was our policy that would be a mistake.
"Our policy respects Indonesia's sovereignty, respects Indonesia's territorial borders, just as Indonesia respects ours."
She denied there was any tension between the two at the meeting.
"We spoke very warmly. We know each other well."
She said the discussions would need to continue when she travels to Jakarta later this month with Prime Minister Tony Abbott who will also hold talks with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
During her second day in New York for the United Nations Leaders' Week, Ms Bishop attended the General Debate of the 68th Session of the United Nations General Assembly where President Barack Obama spoke strongly on Syria's chemical weapons policy.
She also met with her counterparts from France and Russia.
Ms Bishop said she attended a "delightful" function hosted by President Obama and the First Lady.
"I had my photograph taken with them," she beamed.
"He was very warm. He congratulated me, and spoke in very affectionate terms about Australia.
"President Obama said he looked forward to Tony Abbott visiting the United States and I'll certainly pass that back to the Prime Minister."