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Australian military set to enter asylum seeker fold
Jim Middleton speaks with senior adviser to Indonesian Vice-President Boediono Dewi, Fortuna Anwar in Jakarta about how Australia's Prime Minister-elect should approach the subject of asylum seekers when he visits the Indonesian capital this month.


Ms Fortuna Anwar also says Tony Abbott's policy of turning back and buying asylum seeker boats won't work.
Transcript
JIM MIDDLETON, PRESENTER: Australia's new Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, would undoubtedly like to focus on his domestic agenda, but the speed with which he is implementing his radical overhaul of asylum seeker policy has been matched by unusually sharp, and persistent, opposition in Jakarta.

Mr Abbott has already spoken to president Yudhoyono, and is now due to meet him before the end of the month.

They'll have a lot of work to do, with the official attitude in Jakarta reflected by Dewi Fortuna Anwar, a senior adviser to Indonesian vice-president Boediono, among other prominent policy makers.

Dewi Fortuna Anwar, welcome to the program.

DEWI FORTUNA ANWAR, SENIOR ADVISER TO INDONESIAN VICE-PRESIDENT: Well it's nice to be talking to you again, Jim.

JIM MIDDLETON: Just how difficult an issue is the question of asylum seekers going to be manage, given the strong statements that have been made on the subject both in Indonesia and in Australia?

DEWI FORTUNA ANWAR: Well I think, Jim, that the two countries have to deal with their relations in a more sustainable manner. I think what should be avoided is abrupt departure from previous policy, because I think that we have all agreed that the asylum seekers are not just bilateral problems, in Indonesia and Australia, they should be dealt through a regional process. We already have a Bali process to manage that.

So we hope that whatever election promises that the new Government in Australia have made, they will keep that in mind.

JIM MIDDLETON: The new Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, says the Abbott Government is not seeking Indonesia's permission to implement its asylum seeker policies, but its understanding. How's that going to go down in Jakarta?

DEWI FORTUNA ANWAR: Well, clearly Indonesia respects Australian sovereignty, and whatever it does internally, that that does not affect neighbouring countries, it's up in Australia.

So as far as the policies go, as long as they do not really have direct ramifications to Indonesia, that's OK. But any policies that would impinge directly on Indonesia's national interest, Indonesia's national security, such as, for example, if it affects our maritime security, I think Jakarta will clearly take a very close look at it.

JIM MIDDLETON: There are three key elements to Tony Abbott's policy. Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has already rejected two of them - that is paying Indonesian villagers to identify people smugglers and buying boats that people smugglers may wish to use. Is there a way, do you think, that Indonesia and Australia could come to terms on the third leg of that policy; that is, turning back boats to Indonesia?

DEWI FORTUNA ANWAR: Regardless of whether Australia turns them back to Indonesia, the first opportunity they will probably to try to find another way to go to Australia. So I think that that's not going to be a final solution.

In fact, the longer we process them in Indonesia through open the international migration organisation process and so on; it is a long process and many of them just try to find the back doors to go to Australia. And just turning them back to Indonesia I think is not going to easily solve the problem.

JIM MIDDLETON: Why does Indonesia feel these policies harm the spirit of partnership between Indonesia and Australia, as Dr Marty told members of the Indonesian parliament?

DEWI FORTUNA ANWAR: Put it this way, that we have worked closely with the Australian government, and Canberra and Jakarta have always tried to consult with each other very, very closely. No policies have been made regarding the issue of illegal migrants could have worked without direct consultations between the two countries.

So if there were to be a new policy to be introduced that was unilateral in nature, that do not really come about through prior consultations, it would be very difficult to sell. And if that policy's come about simply as a political campaign within Australia, against the previous government, which Indonesia is being used as a whipping board, I don't think that will go down very well in Jakarta.

JIM MIDDLETON: Dr Marty's remarks were very firm. Is that the tone Indonesia's likely to adopt when Tony Abbott meets president Yudhoyono or were they intended for domestic consumption?

DEWI FORTUNA ANWAR: I don't think it's simply for domestic consumption, because in Indonesia, the illegal migrant issue is not really much a domestic issue. There is no other political party taking a different line from this, no other pressure groups trying to take a different line. So this is very much a united, consensus position in Indonesia, whether it's from the government or from Parliament.

We in Indonesia have huge problems. The illegal migrant issues are just adding to domestic problems that we have. And we certainly do not want this issue to become a new problem, especially in relation with our bilateral relations with Australia or with other neighbouring countries.

JIM MIDDLETON: Mr Abbott has said that in some ways the relationship with Indonesia is Australia's most important. What does he need to do to show that he means what he says?

DEWI FORTUNA ANWAR: There are so many things going on between Indonesia and Australia, there are so many common, converging interests: economy interests, political security interests and the interest of having deeper, closer relations between our people. And it is, I think, unfair if every articles and news headlines being made about Indonesia in Australia are simply related to the illegal migrants issue, because that really reduces the relationship into a very narrow spectrum. And I think the Government, the Abbott Government, would be doing a disservice to the broader interests of Australia when dealing with its closest and big neighbour.

JIM MIDDLETON: Dewi Fortuna Anwar, thank you very much.

DEWI FORTUNA ANWAR: Thank you, Jim.
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