Rightly, much is being made of how Operation Sovereign Borders is rapidly transforming Australia’s political relationship with Indonesia. It is a disaster.
Yet the global media is also shaping how these policies are delivered to other countries, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Daily Times (Pakistan):
Australia asylum policy ‘draconian’: rights group
Australia has damaged its human rights record by persistently undercutting refugee protections, including a “draconian” policy to send asylum-seekers to Pacific island camps, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.
The Bangkok Post (Thailand):
Indonesia demands Australia suspend boatpeople operation
Indonesia on Friday demanded Australia suspend its military-led operation to halt the flow of asylum-seekers in a furious response after Canberra apologised for intrusions by its navy into Indonesian waters.
Australia apologizes for breaching Indonesian waters
Immigration Minister of Australia Scott Morrison said Friday that the Australian government has apologized to Indonesia after Australian vessels under the border protection policy had “inadvertently” breached Indonesian territorial waters “on several occasions”.
The China Post (Taiwan):
Aussie PM defends secrecy over border protection
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott defended his government’s secrecy over its border protection policy Thursday after reports that boats had been turned back to Indonesia and asylum-seekers mistreated.
Each of these articles highlights how perceptions of Australia and the Abbott government are being shaped through the lens of Operation Sovereign Borders. In a year where Australia hosts the G20 and seeks to ramp up regional trade agreements, Operation Sovereign Borders is threatening to overshadow vital political and economic fora.
Now we hear via the SMH that “Indonesians think Prime Minister Tony Abbott is inflaming tensions for political gain over asylum seekers”. The most important quotes come from Mr Agus Barnas, spokesperson for the co-ordinating security minister, Djoko Suyanto:
“It may be [that Prime Minister Abbott is deliberately making inflammatory statements] because he’s tied to his campaign promises,”
“Maybe he is also receiving big pressure domestically, but turning back boats is not the answer, because that only benefits one party, namely Australia.”
”Just stop sending boats back … just focus on the road map [developed after the spying scandal] and stop producing statements that can worsen the situation”.
The Abbott government needs to find a way out of this mess as soon as possible. Given the ALP left government with a set of asylum seeker policies that had effectively ‘solved’ the number of boats embarking for Australia, Operation Sovereign Borders is an aggressive political attempt signalling to the worst aspects of Australia.