Tony Abbott defends silence on asylum boats
Prime Minister tells 2GB radio listeners that less government talk over asylum boats helps the process of stopping them.PT0M21S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-30jca 620 349 January 9, 2014
The head of Indonesia's military says he reached a private agreement with the Chief of the Australian Defence Force to accept boat turn-backs as a way to defuse the diplomatic row over the policy.
General Moeldoko said late on Tuesday that boat turn-backs by Australia were ''justifiable'' as he had spoken to Australia's military commander on the issue - apparently referring to Chief of the Defence Force General David Hurley.
''He told me that Indonesia should understand if Australia drove back undocumented migrants attempting to enter the country using Indonesian boats or if any Indonesians were found aboard,'' General Moeldoko said. ''I have agreed. Therefore, we don't need to feel offended.''
The comments, reported in The Jakarta Post, have been confirmed by Fairfax Media, with Indonesian military spokesman Colonel Bernardus Robert saying the two military chiefs had spoken about two weeks ago.
''The reason is that we understand that the boats were Indonesian boats, the crew were Indonesians but the passengers were foreigners.
''The [Australian] commander called the [Indonesian] commander and they spoke about it. The [Indonesian] commander thought it was a positive attitude, a good ethic for the Australian commander to inform us about their policy.''
Fairfax Media was seeking comment from Defence about any such conversation and was awaiting a response on Wednesday night.
The remarks, which suggest Canberra and Jakarta have sidestepped the diplomatic standoff over the policy by keeping discussion at a military level, followed claims by Indonesian police that Australia had turned back two asylum-seeker boats in recent weeks.
They also came as it emerged the Abbott government planned to escalate the turn-back policy with the purchase of up to 16 hard-hulled lifeboats on which asylum-seekers could be sent back to Indonesia if their own vessels were unseaworthy.
Three asylum seekers who were on a boat reported to have been turned back this week said they had been mistreated by Australian border protection personnel.
Abdullah Ahmed from Eritrea told Fairfax Media he was kicked on his left thigh. Bashka Ibrahim Nooris and Ahmed Ali Noor, from Somalia, said they had been made to put their hands on the boat's muffler, which was hot.
Rote Island police chief Hidayat told Fairfax Media said: ''We did see burn injuries on their palm.''
Mr Morrison rejected the claims, saying: ''All personnel involved in the border protection operations … conduct their roles with the highest level of professionalism, integrity and personal courage in extremely trying and challenging circumstances.''