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Opening art shows together: it's what good neighbours do

Under The Flag

Soft diplomacy: Tony Abbott casts his eye over one of the treasures in Bali: Island of the Gods, after he opened the exhibition at the National Gallery.

Soft diplomacy: Tony Abbott casts his eye over one of the treasures in Bali: Island of the Gods, after he opened the exhibition at the National Gallery. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

Relations with our Indonesian neighbours have been a touch awkward of late, ever since the Australian government got busted committing the international espionage equivalent of eavesdropping over the back fence.

Actually, a more adequate metaphor would be ''creeping into the neighbours' house while its occupants slept and setting up intrusive secret surveillance devices'', but nobody likes a pedant.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott did not publicly apologise for the Presidential phone-tapping faux pas (or reports thereof), and the Indonesians withdrew their ambassador as an expression of their pique.

Ambassador Nadjib Riphat Kesoema has since returned, and on Wednesday the Prime Minister achieved something of a soft diplomatic coup when he stood next to ambassador Kesoema (who joked about his six-month enforced holiday) and opened an exhibition of Balinese treasures at the National Gallery of Australia.

Also present was gallery director Ron Radford, who accompanied Mr Abbott on his recent trade-whispering trip to China, and who is a long-time lover of Asian art and himself a master in the art of cultural diplomacy.

This was the first time Mr Abbott had been to the gallery in his official capacity as Prime Minister. His reputation is more action man than culture buff, but he coped well. At no stage did he try to ride any of the exhibits or inspect their teeth.

In fact, he spoke some pretty words about how art is the ''thoughtful reflection of our human experience''.

''It's so right that in this place we display and honour the art of our most important neighbour,'' he told the crowd of gallery friends and Indonesian dignitaries.

Just across the way, in Canberra's second-most-famous monument to brutalist architecture, the High Court was in the process of rejecting a legal challenge to the Manus Island detention centre that could have resulted in its closure.

Asylum seekers are another historical source of discomfort between Australia and Indonesia, but the Prime Minister handled questions on the subject artfully.

''I'm very pleased that we are approaching six months without any successful people smuggling ventures to Australia,'' he said after the gallery show.

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17 comments

  • "''I'm very pleased that we are approaching six months without any successful people smuggling ventures to Australia,'' he said after the gallery show."

    This is code for "I am very pleased that for 6 months, I have spent billions of dollars to ensure that I don't do what I am required by law to do. I am very pleased that for 6 months I have poured petrol on the fires of racism and xenophobia and maintained the fiction that I am somehow the champion of our threatened borders. I am so very pleased that for 6 months, I have treated the Australian people with contempt and have received their applause because of it. I am so pleased that for 6 months, I have unilaterally attacked the right to flee persecution, and I am so pleased that human rights and safety have been so significantly damaged because of me."

    Tony, you have received your reward in full.

    Commenter
    Ross
    Location
    MALLABULA
    Date and time
    June 19, 2014, 7:32AM
    • Could not have put the truth better myself Ross .
      Now watch all the LNP propaganda spreaders come out from under the damp rocks and start spreading their version of the truth.

      Commenter
      srg
      Location
      nambucca heads
      Date and time
      June 19, 2014, 7:46AM
    • +1

      Commenter
      Oneeye
      Location
      Carrum
      Date and time
      June 19, 2014, 7:52AM
    • And he has saved us from Billions in reducing the numbers who require processing upon entry to this country. The sooner, TA can do a deal with Cambodia, the better. Ross, how about the refugees who can't afford a boat trip. Should they be treated equal to those that can? Why demand the Australia give advantage to the wealthier and better off refugee? 13750 spots only, who should get them? An increase in the number of spots is about the only thing we agree on Ross.

      Commenter
      Kingstondude
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      June 19, 2014, 8:22AM
    • Mate, go for a walk on the beach, you need a break.

      Commenter
      mj
      Date and time
      June 19, 2014, 8:27AM
    • Ross,
      A bit early in the morning for self flagellation isn't it?
      The sooner they stop destroying their indentity papers and start trusting us the sooner we will do what's right in return. And this is coming from the son of a an Italian migrant family who arrived in the 50's and copped every bit of stereotypical racist abuse which could be doled out at the time.

      Commenter
      Mckenzie
      Date and time
      June 19, 2014, 9:19AM
    • mckenzie -

      red herring mate

      a. No where do I flagellate myself

      b. If these people had their identities tattooed on their foreheads, or inserted in the neck on mcrochips, it would make not a second of difference to processing times.

      The point of detention is to delay, dehumanise, demolarise, deter, and demonise.

      Commenter
      Ross
      Location
      MALLABULA
      Date and time
      June 19, 2014, 1:06PM
    • kingstondude - that stupid argument of yours has been answered so many times by so many people, it is time you dropped it.

      The answer is - because they are here.

      They have come here as instructed by international law.

      Is there any of that that you still don't understand.

      Commenter
      Ross
      Location
      MALLABULA
      Date and time
      June 19, 2014, 1:07PM
    • Ross, they are abusing a UN Convention than no country actually complies with. But you keep insisting on your preference that Australia should fill it's refugee quota with those that can afford a boat trip. Leave those in camps behind eh?

      Commenter
      Kingstondude
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      June 19, 2014, 2:20PM
    • kingstondude - I have never insisted on any such thing, as you well know.

      a. I would be happy for the humanitarian intake to be increased.
      b. I would be happy if boat arrivals impacted other forms of migration, like business migration, rather than only on humanitarian visas.
      c. It is the LNP and ALP who determine that a humanitarian visa should be scrapped for every boat arrival - a policy that I think is unreasonable and vocally oppose.

      So you are wrong again.

      Commenter
      Ross
      Location
      MALLABULA
      Date and time
      June 19, 2014, 2:40PM

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