Indonesia’s refusal to accept asylum boats ‘very frustrating’: Scott Morrison

Asylum seekers arrive on Christmas Island after Indonesia refused to allow them to return. Photo: Sharon Tisdale Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has expressed frustration that Indonesia hasn’t accepted Australia’s requests to take back boats. Photo: Brendan Esposito
Nanjing Night Net

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Indonesia’s refusal to accept the return of asylum seeker boats is “very frustrating”, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has said, in what appears to be a swipe at Australia’s northern neighbours.

Mr Morrison said in Sydney on Monday there was “no real rhyme or reason” why Indonesian authorities had not taken stricken asylum seekers back to their shores after a three-day impasse late last week.

The stand-off over the Coalition’s hardline asylum seeker policies has exacerbated tensions with Jakarta over the past week, with Indonesian officials publicly goading the Abbott government.

In a rare move, given the secrecy surrounding the Coalition’s border security regime, Mr Morrison revealed that Indonesia had rejected two of the government’s four requests to accept asylum seekers Australia had picked up in Indonesia’s search and rescue region.

Mr Morrison’s account differs, however, from a story in The Jakarta Post on Saturday, which reported that Agus Barnas, spokesman for the Indonesian co-ordinating Minister for Legal, Political and Security Affairs, said his country had declined to receive three out of six Australian requests for transfers since September.

Mr Morrison said the government was succeeding in stopping the boats, but the situation with rescues and returns was “very frustrating”.

“There’s no real rhyme or reason to it necessarily,” Mr Morrison told 2GB radio on Monday. “On this occasion [Indonesia] declined; on another occasions they accepted.”

The Opposition Leader in the Senate, Penny Wong, said it was “absurd” that Australians should have to read Indonesian newspapers to learn what their government was doing to stop asylum seeker boats.

“Australians are looking to the Jakarta Post to get information about what their government is doing,” Senator Wong told ABC radio on Monday.

“It says something very, very telling about this Prime Minister and this government. They are a government that doesn’t want to tell Australians what they are doing.”

Senator Wong said Labor would look at all the “tools of accountability”, including a Greens bill, to pressure the government to release information about its asylum seeker policies.

Labor MP Andrew Leigh told Fairfax Media on Monday that Indonesia should be treated with respect.

“They are the fourth largest population size in the world. A very important relationship for Australia being dealt tremendous blows by the to-ing and fro-ing, the back and forth that is this government’s asylum seeker policies,” he said.

“It appears now that the reason that he [Scott Morrison] wants a general to stand next to him, is so he can shield behind that general and refuse to answer questions.”

But Mr Morrison says the debate amounts to “hyperventilating” by the government’s opponents.

“What they won’t acknowledge is that we are succeeding – 75 per cent down on arrivals of illegal boats since Operation Sovereign Borders commenced.”

The minister says it is also frustrating that Indonesia has no significant search and rescue services based on their southern coastline.

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