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Abbott boat policy to respect Indonesia

19 September 2013, 17:00

Sydney - Prime Minister Tony Abbott insisted on Thursday that he respected Indonesia's sovereignty, as an influential Indonesian politician condemned his new government's policy on asylum seekers arriving by sea.

Tantowi Yahya, a member of the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Commission, said on Australian television on Wednesday night that Abbott's plan to turn refugee boats back to Indonesia was "illegal" and "offensive" and could jeopardise good relations between the two countries.

Abbott's plan to stop boats loaded with asylum seekers sailing to Australia from Indonesia includes turning them back if possible, buying fishing boats before people smugglers can use them, and paying Indonesians to spy on people-smuggling operations.

The plan has provoked considerable criticism from leading Indonesian politicians.

Speaking in Sydney, Abbott told reporters he "absolutely, totally" respected Indonesia sovereignty.

"My argument is with people smugglers, and my point to people smugglers is: the game is up," he said.

Abbott will travel to Jakarta on 30 September to meet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhojono and his boat policy will be top of the agenda.

Media reports say Abbott is expected to appoint a former commander of Australian forces in Afghanistan, General Angus Campbell, as head of a new task force charged with stopping the refugee boats.

Meanwhile the new conservative government continued it’s dismantling of the previous Labor government's climate change measures Thursday by scrapping the Climate Commission.

The commission advised the government and public on the impact of climate change. Environment Minister Greg Hunt said closing the commission was part of the government's streamlining of operations.



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