Business turns on Abbott’s Indo “machismo”


From the AFR, not that business interests are the be-all and end-all in foreign policy but when so little as actually at stake it seems pretty stupid to just throw money away:

Australian companies invested in Indonesia have become collateral damage in the spying row that continues to escalate between the two countries.

Such companies in Indonesia have privately expressed their frustration at Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s handling of the matter, saying his response carried too much “machismo and chest beating”.

One chief executive suggests a more conciliatory position by Abbott would have been to say that Australia and Indonesia shouldn’t allow people abusing small pieces of information, which Australia neither confirms or denies, to drive a wedge between countries that have far deeper relations.

..Any of those companies that had been wanting a project approved or contract signed by the Indonesia government will potentially be faced with delays. Some Australian executives in Jakarta say the delays as a punishment could be up to a month and by then hopefully the spying row will have dampened down.

There’s also concern for Australia’s live cattle trade with Indonesia, with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono calling in both his agricultural minister and foreign minister for meetings on Tuesday.


Houses and Holes


  1. Serious damage has been done. Even if Abbott does a total about face, and relations look to be on the mend again, the background thinking from our Indonesian neighbours will never again be as conciliatory.

    Will trade suffer? You betcha. And not just with Indonesia. There are 32 other Asian heads of state (not to mention their wives) unnerved at whats been revealed about Australian surveillance and the subsequent mishandling of events by Abbott.

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      Again, Australia needs Indonesia a lot more than Indonesia needs us.

      Surely it can’t be long until our Tony’s controllers tell him to pull his head in. Those nice Indonesians have been warning him for a couple of years about his attitude. Is he really that dim that he just doesn’t get it?

    • Nothing will change because these are operations carried out on behalf of the US. If business is worried business can bloody well pressure their paid marionettes to act with principles. It will never happen. On the other hand Singapore will start a trade war with Australia that will crush Australia politicians and their masters

      • “Nothing will change because these are operations carried out on behalf of the US”
        Mig There ypou might be onto something. It’s not as simple as is being made out here.

  2. I wonder if the Indos are demanding we apologise for what we do, and promise not to do it again, while they go on just pleasing themselves in Canberra.
    Revelations by us of what the Indos might be up to would be evewn more damaging one would guess.
    The idea that Abbott is dreaming all this stuff up by himself is just ludicrous. He’ll be getting advice from his Indo experts.

    It’s nuts to think that from a personal, political, and every other viewpoint that we can see, he shouldn’t have just thrown Rudd and Gillard under the bus. He hasn’t. So it’s logical to think there must be some ‘good’ reason for him not to have done so.

    • I don’t think it’s logical to conclude that. He didn’t throw them under the bus for Australian political expediency – capitulation to Jakarta does not play well here.


      • Not many thoughts mig that I can make sense of and I’m way out of my depth. I happen to think Abbott is not as stupid as HnH et al like to make out that he is. Nobody could be! So I keep trying to figure out what the game is. I listened carefully to abbotts words to the parliament yesterday. I recommend everyone else does. He READ the thing word for word so it was a carefully constructed piece written by somebody. I also note the Labor spokesmen (persons) stepping very carefully around this expressing ‘support for the government’ etc

        Also, I had a young friend (at one stage – I haven’t seen him for a few years) who worked for the govt (FA or ASIO I forget which) as an Indo ‘expert’ (L Plates if you like at the time.) Yet he was always off somewhere at some security meeting with the US, Indos, and others. He said virtually nothing as he was bound by the Act etc but it taught me that there is always a lot more going on than we see….like the proverbial duck on the water.

        As to ‘under the bus’ it would have been very easy and tempting to say ‘well it was all Labor’s fault’ and very regrettable etc. He didn’t. Does anyopne seriously think that he was incapable of thinking even that about the situation? He’s taking advice and doing some sort of holding operation while the background people are working pretty damned hard i’d reckon.

          • Ha ha we really do! (note to self go to pirate bay and download all available series of Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister)

          • Mining BoganMEMBER

            Better be quick. Once our Tony signs that TTP thingy illigal downloading will have the black ops guys throwing ropes over your place and bursting through the windows with stun grenades.

          • MB: I know dude!

            Some down the thread was mentioning something about real journalism. Wheres the goddam grilling over “that TPP thingy”?! Because its an absolute disgrace.

            Woohoo all seasons in one bundle, 2 Gigs down 4 to go 🙂

    • It’s logical to think that, but who ever said politics was logical?

      Tony Abbott listens to only two people – Peta Credlin and Tony Abbott, in that order.

    • While not as serious, there is a parallel between the current event and the US spy plane saga in 2001 when a Chinese plane and a US spy plane crashed mid air.

      Just like Abbott, G.W.Bush refused to apologize at first, but eventually Bush has to ‘eat crow’ and read whatever Colin Powell negotiated with the Chinese so the US crews can go home.

      Abbott, like Bush, had no foreign policy experience, and they both made mistakes. There is no point in Abbott apologizing for the incident until the text of the apology is finalized, but you can’t say “we won’t apologize” either. That is what got Bush into trouble as well. In the game of diplomacy, you never say no outright.

      This is all storm in a tea-cup. If Abbott maintain his refusal to apologize, John Kerry will give Abbott a stern phone call and set him straight.

  3. Why does the Aust govt always cower to Indonesia as the relationship isn’t as one sided as people make out. We provide them with + $500m in aid every year, in addition to supporting their tourism industry. Stopping the live animal export trade is no great loss.

    It’s interesting that the Indo’s are talking about stopping cooperation on people smuggling, terrorism etc. Are these areas they don’t really care about after all?

    Overall I think the Indo’s are far better at negotiating than the Aussies, this incident will probably be used to extract some sort of ‘fine’ out of the govt.

  4. Well that article was really informative. Not. Just who were these CEOs etc clamouring for an apology? Yep. The creative genius of journos.

    BTW former Australian ambassador to Indonesia 1997-2001 John McCarthy has advised Abbott’s response in neither confirming nor denying and definitely not apologising is the correct diplomatic and head of state position. He expects that behind the scenes assurances will be given that these particular intelligence activities were the responsibility of the previous Labor government and guarantees given that such activities will not be undertaken by the new government.

    • Well you say that but I don’t believe assurances will be accepted. It’s a new cold war – electromagnetic this time… Things will get a lot more invasive before they get better.

    • Ahhhhhhhh! 3d1k… That’s my opinion as well as per above reply to mig. Abbott is taking advice and stick,ing very close to the script written out for him by people close to teh situation…eminently sensible I’d have thought.

      • Only the loon pond could describe Abbott’s handling of this issue thus far as “sensible”. Total fuck up would be more appropriate.

        • The only loon pond in town at the moment is the media. Meddlesome ignorant and overreactive.
          That’s some weapons-grade irony, right there.

    • @3d1k

      In the same interview with ABC Radio, John McCarthy also said that while he doesn’t expect Abbott to apologise, the situation was politically damaging and he should have been on the front foot and on the phone to SBY ala Obama to Merkel making assurances.

      And with respect to this doozy: “He expects that behind the scenes assurances will be given that these particular intelligence activities were the responsibility of the previous Labor government.”

      He never said that. To even suggest that a diplomat of John McCarthy’s ilk would even suggest passing blame is laughable.

      Matters relating to intelligence activities transcend partisan politics. Abbott has at least been wise not to use this for political point scoring.

        • Hixtar
          Yesterday he read the statement to parliament word for word. It was written for hiom by the backroom people with the inside knowledge. Can they get it wrong? Sure! However it’s silly, and incorrect, to think Abbott is just firing off on his own.

          • Well Flawse, if you’re right and thatis the script that was written for him, it didn’t do him any favours.

          • General Disarray

            If that’s what his backroom people wrote with the benefit of inside knowledge we’re in a lot of trouble.

  5. Again, I find a lot of commentators in the media, especially, don’t get the core issue. Countries spy on each other – it is the reality. We bug each other’s embassies and even politicians. No surprises there. However, it is not considered good form to tap the personal communication devices of the head of state of a country and, when it is revealed, act like it is a normal thing to do.

    Again, I repeat the issue is not about spying on Indonesia. They do it to us, we do it to them, it’s all part of the normal intelligence activity of any self-respecting nation. Tapping their president’s personal phone – not a good idea. What would it really achieve? New intelligence that they could not get from elsewhere in the Indonesian government? Seriously?? Like SBY decides policy by himself and announces it without talking to anyone in his government? Or someone in defence wanted to be able to brag about doing it?

    If nothing has happened to warrant even the littlest bit of contrition about this – at least the facade of contrition – then why would Angela Merkel get on the phone to Obama and demand an explanation for the Yanks tapping her phone? She knows that the Yanks listen in on German government workings; they undoubtedly do it back. But tapping her phone – as the head of the government – is considered beyond the pale, and rightly so. It would be akin to the BND tapping Obama’s personal phone – would that be considered acceptable by the Americans?

    If the Indonesians had tapped Tony Abbott’s phone – would all these commentators accept Indonesia not making any apology for it at all??

    There’s bravado and then there’s plain thick-headedness. I’m afraid the PM and some of the public commentators in the media haven’t yet demonstrated that they know the difference between the two.

    • Very thoughtful post ronfire.

      I can’t help but think that Malcolm Turnbull would have handled this in a more sensitive way.

      Those that speak of the $550million paid each year in assistance surely realise that this is insurance.

      Indonesia is the 4th most populous nation in the world with 250 million people.

      It is an extremely important relationship, one that many Australians of the future will depend upon for employment.I hope that hasn’t been jeopardised .

    • Great Comment. I would go one step further and state that purpose is surveillance not intelligence

  6. Two things:

    1- diplomacy is using language to find compromise and seek resolution. Abbott, like many Australian politicians finds using nuanced language nearly impossible and so his tone is aggressive and incompetent. A different culture requires a message in tone too.

    2- Barbara Tuchman in her book. ‘The March of Folly’ documents how gvts become stupid and blinded by their own group-think. It leads to poor decisions and Us vs Them mentality.

    Abbott cannot afford to make those mistakes but by all seen so far, he is not able to see Australia as it is seen abroad.

      • Agreed. Then afterwards saying, “Let me help you find that nasty person who threw a rock at you.”

        And while we’re talking about Abbott’s chest-beating, I can’t help but add my favourite Abbott quote.

        I’m so proud that he wasn’t interested in getting in to a testosterone contest with a pregnant woman.

        “LEIGH SALES: What do you see as the loaded language when I’m basically quoting what the Indonesian Government has said?

        TONY ABBOTT: No, no, you said that we had somehow buckled. I mean, you’re trying to turn this into a testosterone contest. Well, I’m not interested in a testosterone contest; I’m interested in stopping the boats.”

      • Love it! Self referential self deprecating humour from Abbott. Straight over the heads of most ABC viewers I reckon.

  7. Apparently when tony was told of the withdrawal of the indonesian ambassador he uttered “You mean Ketut’s Kaput”

    • Surely you are not implyiong he has a sense of humour? You should delete the comment. It’s against the spirit of MB!

  8. Could it all be an elaborate Kabuki, intended to shore up the moderate elements of Indonesia’s political scene before their upcoming elections?

    SBY’s allies don’t want to see a military-aligned President, and the Aus political elite really don’t want it, so Abbott is providing the moderates with a reason to do a bit of flag waving.

    Labor know the score, and would have had to take the same line, so are playing along.

    • That’s another thought that crossed my mind too Arch. It’s pretty obvious there is more to this than meets the eye (JMO FWIW)

      Abbott then gets a bit more help with ‘Stop the boats’ which kind of fits in with the Leigh Sales comment

  9. SBY – no more cooperation with Australia to deter people smuggling.

    Congratulations ABC/Guardian and the rest. Ya got what ya wanted. Well done. Ideology over deaths at sea.

    • Congratulations ABC/Guardian and the rest. Ya got what ya wanted. Well done. Ideology over deaths at sea.

      In other words, journalists shouldn’t do their job and practice self-censorship because Abbott has a congenital foot in the mouth disease.

      Why don’t you move over to North Korea instead?

      • It has been reported that Guardian had this information mid year but release would have jeopardised Labor’s re-election chances further. The ideologues at ABC/Guardian have been extremely selective with the timing of the release – if you follow the course of events you may well find that suggestions the Stop the Boats policy may be impacted first came from them – this policy has always been an anathema to the left and tonight they will sip their mojitos and slurp their Ssb’s relishing their success.

        As to the boats – didn’t someone once brush off disastrer ‘accidents happen’?

        • General Disarray

          And when was this information confirmed? Also, you seem to have glossed over the part where Abbott put his foot in it and outraged the Indonesians.

          • MineBot, journalists reveal inconvenient information all the time. News Corp journos spent the last six years doing everything possible to undermine the previous government.

            Its how Abbott dealt with it that’s the problem. He handled it very poorly. He could have simply blamed it on the previous government, apologized, and promised not to do it again, much as Obama did with Merkel.

            Why he didn’t do this is beyond my comprehension.

          • General Disarray

            Australia should not be expected to apologise…

            That’s the little nugget that did all the damage.

          • I disagree with 3d this is not a national security matter because how can bugging the wife of someone as innocuous (in the scheme of things) be national security. Bare minimum you express sympathy and horror and announce an immediate inquiry – but that would rational foreign relations wouldn’t it? Let’s face what cards does Abbott hold re Indonesia? Not a one. The capitulation will no doubt come

          • And you think that’s national security? What the hell is Canbarra going to do with that info? This has gone on for a very long time if your man at court gets caught you disavow them apologise. Simple.

        • Did they bug the phones of journalists to find out this conspiracy about not jeopardising Labor’s re-election chances? That would be a bigger scandal!!

          Hang on a minute.. Labor’s re-election chances further??? Is that you, Kev? I though he was the only one who thought Labor had a chance.. LOL

      • “Congratulations ABC/Guardian and the rest. Ya got what ya wanted. Well done. Ideology over deaths at sea”.

        What a bizarre comment. Have you lost all connection with reality?

        • There will be more deaths at sea as a result of non-cooperation (don’t worry it’ll never make the papers here so your sentimentality won’t be impinged) that is guaranteed – the tying it to a press campaign clearly aimed at the Liberal government – I mean why not start with housing THE ACTUAL ISSUE but no that’s not journalism apparently – doesn’t seem so out of touch with reality. A stretch perhaps, almost certainly, but unreal? Not sure.

          Do you seriously believe that media is not motivated to assert itself over th government like any other mega-industry? Which ever government, from whatever side? The purpose is weaken the government in the eyes of the electoral and control the individuals by playing the good cop — talk to us we’ll make the public like you!

          Its all horrible but your partisanship reeks I’m afraid Lorax, I enjoy your less partisan thoughts though, you are otherwise a clear and concise thinker…

          • All Abbott had to do was say the spying happened when Labor was in power, we apologise, and it wont happen again. End of story.

            I cannot begin to understand why he didn’t do that. Its a diplomatic fuck up of epic proportions and completely indefensible.

          • Couldn’t agree more with you there, which kind of supports my earlier observation ha ha 🙂

            I personally believe the US is telling Abbott exactly what to do I don’t think Abbott has the guts to play big-boy Geopolitics – I could be wrong he is a bit egomanical, but he strikes as more of the pose with the fire truck for aussies kind of guy?

          • Gentlemen and Lorax I’m intrigued: a senior experienced US diplomatic official, a former Australian ambassador to Indonesia and even Shorten all agree that the neither confirm nor deny accepted diplomatic practice is the correct course of action. To apologise for spying is to confirm.

            Why do you feel that Abbott should break precedent and apologise when governments routinely do not comment on intelligence matters?

          • 3d:why? because you’re asking me to accept the bs from a US hypocrite, the tool of a US hypocrite and a tool.

            Did the US accept neither confirm nor deny re Snowden or Iranian nuclear facilities? F&#@*ing hypocrites

          • You might think surveillance is innocuous I think its abhorrent and we have personal difference there I suppose.

            But let me put the scenario like this: “The ABC and Guardian have revealed leaked documents showing that the Labor party had attempted to listen in on the personal phone call of Gina Rheinhard,Twiggy Forrest and the head offices of BHPBilliton and Rio Tinto, their wives and business associates on at least on occasion…”

            Still no big deal? Still no reason to apologise, or confirm nor deny?

            I noticed your comments disappeared, for a second there I thought I was arguing with myself (wouldn’t be the first time)

    • I don’t think the blame lies only where you put it (I mean who was actually doing the invasive monitoring FFS) but I second your sentiment especially the deaths at sea aspect!

    • Congratulations ABC/Guardian and the rest. Ya got what ya wanted. Well done. Ideology over deaths at sea.
      Indeed, the last thing we want is deaths at see, where we can see them.

      Far better to have them die back in the countries they’re fleeing, where they can be comfortably out of sight and out of mind.

      Abbot fully embraces this disgusting attitude, hence his recent decision to give Sri Lanka some military assets to help reduce how many escape its human rights violations.

      • Exactly Drsmithy! I never for a second imagined 3d’s concern genuine but the point is none-the-less true – more death at sea – and your assessment is I believe correct.

  10. Aren’t they trying to prosecute a few people in England for listening in to private telephone conversations.

    Looks like we should prosecute a few here as well.