Rudd’s Indonesia visit to look again at asylum issue


Kevin Rudd will take the opportunity of a visit to Indonesia next week to look afresh at how to deal with the rising number of asylum seekers.

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The visit was planned under Julia Gillard’s prime ministership but Indonesia welcomed the idea of Mr Rudd stepping in instead.

”From the Indonesian side, he’s most welcome,” said the ambassador to Australia, Riphat Kesoema, shortly before the leadership ballot. But he emphasised that stemming the flow of asylum-seeker boats should ”not only put fences between Indonesia and Australia but also put fences across the region”.

In other words, a regional solution was needed, not just a bilateral one. ”By maximising the Bali process, perhaps we can find a good solution. The Bali process is very important to us.”

Mr Riphat promised to act against an Indonesia-based people smuggler, Freddy Ambon – whose activities were revealed by Fairfax. Ambon and his conspirators were responsible for the boat that capsized off Christmas Island last year, drowning 96 people.

”These people give a very bad impression of the rule of law in Indonesia,” Mr Riphat said. ”We try very hard. I will ask Jakarta to do something about these people using every level of government and law enforcement.”

Mr Rudd is expected to meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and discuss a range of issues.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison left for Jakarta on Thursday night to study Indonesia’s operations for managing asylum seekers. He said he was not meeting Indonesian politicians and it was not a political visit.

”I’m meeting the whole range of police, rescue and coast guard agencies. It’s very much about continuing to be across the details of operations.”

Mr Riphat was reported last month as apparently criticising Coalition policy to send boats back to Indonesia.

Mr Rudd quoted him in Parliament on Thursday to claim that the Coalition policy was not workable and urged Opposition Leader Tony Abbott to produce ”policies that will work” rather than ”slogans which sound good”.

But Mr Morrison said his policy had been misunderstood.

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”Our turn-back policy does not involve any breach of Indonesia’s sea borders. Our policy is to focus on regional solutions, to stop people getting to Indonesia and Malaysia, to stop the planes to stop the boats.”

Mr Riphat said Indonesia’s government had not yet recovered from the crisis caused by Australia’s emergency ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia in 2011.

”In the Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Agriculture, it’s still a bad memory. But there is no hard feeling in Indonesia.”

The ban, since relaxed, was announced by the Gillard government unilaterally and without any notice to Indonesia, cutting off a mainstay of the national meat supply






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