Tony Abbott’s apparent timidity over promoting his own asylum seeker policy to the Indonesians might seem pretty irrelevant, but it has appeared as front page news. And that is because it is indeed important now, if it wasn’t initially. Supporters and opponents of the Opposition Leader have become excited by it.
Let’s not be confused: Tony Abbott did not raise or discuss his tow-back-the-boats policy with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono when they met in Jakarta two nights ago.
The Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa says it wasn’t discussed at that meeting; the Australian shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison says it wasn’t discussed at that meeting. Suggestions otherwise are simply not true. Anonymous sources were not needed to clear up the matter.
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In the wake of horror people always want to talk about lessons learned. It’s a way of finding some sort of meaning, I suppose, although it often seems like a desperate longing for hope.
You could say after Bali we learned about how we cope with tragedy (with kindness, strength and integrity, mostly). We learned how to forge a new and deeper relationship with Indonesia. On a practical level, those incredible people on the ground helping learned about how to treat burns, how to catalogue the dead, how to go on doing their jobs despite the horror.
We learned about the amazing people who survived, and the heartbreak of those left behind.
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One of the nicest blokes I have ever met is an Indonesian journalist called Agus Diatmika with whom I did a six-month newspaper exchange in Jakarta in 1994. Agus was born in Kuta Beach, Bali, in 1964, when it was a tiny fishing village attracting nothing in the way of tourism.
The Indonesians love creating comical acronyms. They say the name of their national airline Garuda stands for “Good And Reliable Under Dutch Administration”. In a similar vein Agus explained that, in Indonesian, Kuta stands for “Kampung Untuk Turis Australi” – “Village For Australian Tourists”.
When he made the gag I became somewhat apologetic about the fact that his little slice of paradise had been overrun by us all, and asked whether he felt that tourism and, in particular, Australian tourism had ruined places like Kuta and Sanur. Hell no, he replied firmly. Tourism was the best thing that happened to Bali, lifting the standard of living to levels unseen elsewhere across the archipelago.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono knew exactly what he wanted from Australia yesterday down to the precise numbers, and the diplomatic odds are that what he didn’t get in Darwin he will some time later.
You have to know what you want and be smart enough to get it if you want to run an archipelago of 240 million people. Probably smarter than someone - anyone - needs to be to manage a continent of 22 million.
Yesterday for example, the President wanted the release of 54 minors detained for being part of alleged people smuggler crews bringing paying asylum seekers to Australia. If they were not set free, he said in open warning, there could be trouble back home, which “no doubt will will not be beneficial for Indonesia nor Australia”.
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Miniskirts will be declared pornography and Indonesia will ban them as a politician says “provocative clothing” made men “do things”.
Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali will ensure tough new anti-porn laws will include criteria such as “a skirt above the knee”, The Jakarta Post reports.
Meanwhile, Parliamentary speaker Marzuki Alie is drafting rules banning miniskirts in Parliament because “there have been a lot of rape cases and other immoral acts recently and this is because women aren’t wearing appropriate clothes”.
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Australia is a proud and beautiful country. The people are warm, progressive, well-educated and known across the globe for their outstanding hospitality. It is no wonder that Australia ranks No 2 on the global human development index.
This is why the world watched in shock last year when we became aware of the horrific circumstances that Australia’s live export industry was willing to supply animals to Indonesia.
While Animals Australia’s investigation and the subsequent award-winning ABC Four Corners program generated outrage across Australia, the images of Australian cattle being eye-gouged, kicked, whipped and tortured created a similar outpouring of rage across the globe. The vision that we had of Australia as an ethical and forward-thinking nation changed in that moment.
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Happy Valentine’s Day. May your day be free from cutesy little devil horns and squealing flower recipients and (most of all) from pitying stares.
*Insert more appropriately acerbic and cynical commentary on Valentine’s Day here.*
While you’re audibly sneering at the hysterically happy young lass whose heart-shaped balloon is bumping against the ceiling, spare a thought for young lovers in Aceh, where Muslim leaders have banned Valentine’s Day.
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Lucy Daniel is the Advocacy and Policy Officer at CBM Australia, a development organisation working with people with disabilities in the world’s poorest places.
It could be the plot of a great Hollywood movie. A political drama. With George Clooney or Matt Damon as male lead. And a young, feisty, female journalist who gets caught up in it all.
The opening scene pans to a meeting room, high up in skyscraper land, with a marble round table, iced water jugs and leaders of a big global development Bank.
“Gentlemen, you should be proud,” says the silver fox, “This policy forges the path to education for the poorest of the poor.” Clapping and shaking hands all around.
There has been plenty of diplomatic semantics around the American presence in Darwin but many including the Chinese are still not satisfied. The United States has long wanted a permanent military base in northern Australia.
But they are not stupid.
So when Australian officials conveyed that a fixed establishment would not be politically palatable here they saved us the embarrassment of having to say no in a high-level bilateral meeting if the request was made.
The ugly Australian is alive and well and holidaying in South East Asia.
Right now he or she is probably bashing someone, taking drugs, or stealing stuff.
Of course, it’s never their fault. It’s always the “harsh” or “draconian” laws of the country in which the crime is committed, which is inevitably described as “primitive”.
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When the Reverend Seth Kaper-Dale took over the running of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, he didn’t realise that most of his Indonesian Christian congregation was living illegally in the United States.
Now, after almost a decade of battles, a deadline is pressing hard on 73 members of his church, who are being told to go back to Indonesia.
This may seem like an old story; and one that is happening far from Australia. And it is, on both counts. But these Indonesians, living in fear in New Jersey, still somehow seem to me like Australia’s neighbours.
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The Indonesian courts have, to an extent, belied their reputation for handing down extreme sentences. They have sentenced the 14-year-old Central Coast boy to two months in prison; of which he has already served about seven weeks.
The courts also showed their softer side earlier this year when they reduced Abu Bakar Bashir’s sentence on humanitarian grounds.
But Australians are still on death row for drug smuggling.
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The family of the 14 year old Australian boy detained in Bali has allegedly sought a TV deal through the boy’s Australian agent. This news has not been received favourably by Indonesian authorities, and both Nine and Seven are strongly denying any such deal. But as Punch contributor Steve Williams suggests, deals have been done before and probably will be again…
Dear Mr Big Fat TV Executive,
May I be the first to congratulate you on your rumoured signing of the latest Australian arrested overseas to become the new face of Your Network, even though no one has ever seen the person’s face.
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Life can be very cruel sometimes, particularly when it comes to middle class white people and their admirable struggle to find somewhere exotic and worldly where they can just relax while enjoying some budget cocktails and the occasional Unique Cultural Experience™. Poor Carolyn Webb learned that the hard way this week when The Age published her thoughtful, well considered and entirely well researched travel piece on Bali, a place she’s never wanted to go to.
You know how it is. You work tirelessly all year round, saving enough pennies so you can board a budget airline to one of the cheap, tropical paradises dotted around Australia in the hope that you can just let it all hang out, catch some rays and for one brief moment forget how hard it is back home with a stable economy propping up your solid income.
Of course, you don’t want to go to one of those shitholes like Bali or Thailand, because you know from fourth hand anecdotal experience that other people have been there and hated it, plus got bum sick in the first three days because the natives didn’t bother posting signs reminding them not to drink the tap water. Rude.
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There is something enticing about the idea of life in the foreign service, with the promise of exotic travel, dealings and double-dealings with diplomats from the dodgiest regimes, cocktails on the lawn at lavish ambassadorial residences.
We have been reminded this week, however, that a very large part of the role of the foreign service is to lend a helping hand to ratbags who get themselves into strife overseas, and believe that it’s the job of the Government to get them out of trouble.
You would imagine that any Australian diplomat posted to a place such as Phuket would spend most of their time arranging ambulances for guys called Wazza who ploughed their Vespa into the back of a tuktuk after 14 bottles of Singha, safe in the knowledge that our Government can save them from their own stupidity.
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This week a 14-year-old boy became the youngest Australian ever to face drug charges in Indonesia after being arrested for allegedly possessing 6.9 grams of marijuana.
It’s believed he bought the drugs because he felt sorry for a man who claimed he hadn’t eaten for a day and needed money. (Note to other overseas-bound teens: by all means give generously; under no circumstances accept the drugs.)
The boy had apparently just received a massage in the popular tourist hub of Kuta and was on his way back to the family’s resort when arrested.
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On the dirty, sweaty streets of South East Asia, you will be offered rickshaw rides and marijuana, ecstasy, or heroin; sex and sunglasses; young boys, young girls, and crappy jewellery; novelty lighters and nudie pics, and a range of other stuff you may or may not want.
In Asia, you are rich. The rupiah, dong, and baht overflow from your wallet, and you wade through districts of poverty, where the amount you’ve just spent on a night in a villa with a candelit pool is more than someone’s monthly wage. You are rich, and you can buy almost anything imaginable.
Even as a 14-year-old, in Bali for the first time – overseas for the first time - I was rich, and the locals knew it; they wanted to bargain, to barter, to plait my hair. Wanted to overcharge me for water, to shortchange me on fake cassette tapes (Google them, kiddies), and to sell me drugs.
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Please allow me to reply to Geoff Russell’s specific claims about Kosher slaughter in “You won’t be stunned to hear that slaughter is brutal”.
He says, “There is no shortage of scientific proof that religious (Halal or Kosher) slaughter involves more suffering than proper stunning.”
Actually, Geoff, in the case of Kosher slaughter there is NO such proof. On the contrary, there is strong scientific evidence that Kosher killing is humane and does not cause the animal distress or undue pain.
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It’s not quite as convincing as Azaria’s jacket being found near a known ‘dingo lair’, but news reports that a Brisbane baggage handler was spotted stashing his stash in a bag at the airport will give Schapelle Corby’s supporters hope.
Channel Nine news tonight brought us ‘Sue’, who says back in 2004 she was dating a baggage handler. He told her a fellow worker was surprised by a supervisor while lugging around a massive bag of weed, and he quickly hid it inside a passenger’s bag.
Queenslander Corby is still in Indonesia’s Kerobokan Prison – depressed and pleading for clemency - after police discovered more than 4kg of marijuana inside her boogie board cover on her arrival in Bali in 2004.
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At our last caucus meeting, I sensed that many of you were concerned about the inappropriate animal welfare outcomes recently shown on the Four Corners program and dissatisfied with my proposed inquiry. By the way, I still have that shoe if someone wants to claim it and my doctor informs me that the bruising will be gone within a week.
I am seeking supply chain assurances of the welfare of cattle - which must be guaranteed for each head of cattle, and for their hooves as well. We do not want to simply protect specific parts of the cattle, but the whole of each cattle because, after all, each cattle is an individual with unique needs, desires, and aspirations, much like any other hard working Australian.
I now realise animal -appropriate welfare is non-negotiable.
So radical Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir will spend the next 15 years eating porridge, or bubur as rice porridge is known in Indonesia. It is not long enough. The only thing softer than bubur is his sentence.
In the mid 2000s, Bashir served 26 months of a 30 month sentence for being part of an “evil conspiracy” behind the Bali Bombings. Many felt he should have been put away for life then.
Bashir has just been found “legally and convincingly guilty” of planning and motivating others to commit terrorism, and of using violence or the threat of violence to create fear. Well, how does all that warrant a meagre 15 years when Schappelle Corby copped 20 for her boogie board bag full of dope?
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According to Bob Katter on ABC’s Q&A last Monday night, stopping the live export of cattle to Indonesia would add three million people to the 80 million Indonesians who currently go to bed hungry. According to Katter, stopping the trade was cutting off the protein food supply to three million people. Nobody disputed this.
Katter blamed Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) for not fixing the cruelty problem. He asserted that the cattle producers who had phoned and abused him didn’t know their animals were being treated this way.
It’s a pity we don’t have the equivalent of a driving test for politicians. Something to verify that they have basic numeracy skills before they can stand for Parliament. I’m not too concerned about literasy, what harm duz a few misspelled wurds do anyway? But get the numbers wrong and all kinds of stupid decisions are made.
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After a maelstrom of mainstream media coverage and social media activism, the federal government has temporarily suspended the export of live cattle to Indonesia. The move follows the ABC’s documentary program Four Corners’ recent exposé of the live export trade in which shocking video footage obtained by Lyn White, director of Animals Australia, revealed cows being tortured to death in a slow and agonising manner.
The distressing images, which depicted barbaric practices that included whipping the cattle, gouging their eyes and slashing their tendons, raised the ire of so many people across the country that Animals Australia’s website collapsed from the sheer volume of traffic on the night the program screened.
Social media networks Facebook and Twitter quickly became campaign tools utilised by meat-eaters and vegans alike who united in protesting the horrendous cruelty inflicted on Australian cattle: within a week, more than 200,000 people had signed lobby group GetUp’s petition calling on the Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig to ban the export of live cattle to Indonesia and phase out the live export trade all together within three years, and independent MPs and the Greens introduced private members bills to ban all live exports to the country.
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I’m in a chopper flying low over the cattle yards of one of the biggest live exporters in the country. This cattle station is almost the size of a small European country. We’ve spent the day constructing new cattle yards about an hour’s dusty drive from the homestead - in one of the ‘near paddocks’.
It’s a long way from somewhere in the Top End, Northern Territory. The cattle here are tough. Brahman cross shorthorn. Their sweet faces and floppy ears belie their true grit; surviving on red-brown grass in 45 degree heat and semi-wild conditions.
These are the same breed of cattle shown in the vision aired on Four Corners on Monday night. Intelligent beasts being flayed and tortured - sickening images. Now we’ve all been whipped into a frenzy over it. We want to lash out. Like an animal running blindly with emotion we are bound to trip over. Banning the live meat exports to Indonesia makes as much sense as Chicago’s Prohibition laws: good intentions but disastrous results.
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Clover Moo here, reporting from the shady corner of the paddock. It’s been tough times for us cows. Yep, a real cattle dog of a week.
As if this year hasn’t been distressing enough with the supermarkets flogging my precious milk for $1 a litre, along come these revelations of brutality at Indonesian slaughterhouses.
I’ve known about this for years, of course. The rumours have been on the bovine grapevine for ages. Now the rumours are confirmed. We are being slaughtered like…like… like animals!
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It’s hard to know what the live animal export industry is more concerned about.
The fact that Australian animals are being tortured in Indonesia, or the fact that Australians now know that Australian animals are being tortured in Indonesia.
I have long been opposed to the live animal export industry.
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This story was written before I had seen the Four Corners special ‘A bloody business’. I had the intention of opening with a description of some of the footage shown in that program. Footage showing scenes of horrific cruelty in Indonesian slaughter houses. But I can’t do that. It was simply too horrible.
All I could think of was my student days studying the history of Germany during the 1930s and the rise of Nazism. The acquiescence that allowed the Holocaust to happen was on display during interviews with Australian cattle producers who were appalled by the slaughter conditions while perfectly happy to bank the money. These human scum, and in particular Meat and Livestock Corporation CEO Cameron Hall, rank among the worst excuses for human beings on the planet.
Rest assured, the remainder of this story will perhaps shock but there will be no graphic descriptions of cruelty.
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Public money should not be spent on promoting religion.
We don’t need religious school chaplains. State schools should be well and truly secular. Religion is a choice, not an educational need. Taxpayers should not foot the bill for others to indulge their beliefs.
Except in Indonesia.
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Bali has moved on from the bomb: Indonesians don’t really dwell on disasters.
In the eight years since the tragedy, the Sari Club site has become ground zero for a different sort of terror - that of extreme ugliness.
The memorial built there in 2005 in the Gianyar Gothique style is surrounded by girly bars of the Bangkok type and, on most days, by lots of yobs in Bir Bintang T-shirts brandishing stubbies. A community park anywhere in downtown Kuta would be a godsend.
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With foreign policy barely rating a mention in the election campaign, the strongest indication we will have of the eventual winner’s view on the world is where they decide to go first.
Like most elections this campaign wasn’t fought on foreign policy.
Even with the tragic deaths of three soldiers in Afghanistan it was a passing topic. Tony Abbott did promise to dump Australia’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council and appoint a Minister for International Development. But the closest we got to a genuine debate on our place in the world was one about which island country to our north to send asylum seekers.
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People often say that without God there would be no atheists. Presumably that’s meant to be some pithy truism that shows no one exists without God.
To an atheist, that’s about as meaningless, smug and lazy as saying that without Bigfoot, Sasquatch-deniers would not exist.
Swathes of people seem to put atheism in the ‘unthinkable’ category. It is a position they cannot empathise with at all – the most similar attitude that comes to mind is homophobia.
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New Guinea, geographically as well as historically, is Australia’s closest relative. Separated from the mainland during the last glacial period, the waters filled-in what now separates them: 150km of the Torres Strait.
Despite being endowed with enviable mineral stores, economic and political exploitation has left New Guinea housing many of the poorest people on earth – particularly in the western half of West Papua.
Amidst a program toward independence from the Dutch, the international community neglected West Papua in order to realise a business deal between U.S. mining company Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (“Freeport”) and Soeharto – at the time an Indonesian army general.
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I’m going, for the first time, to somewhere with sharia law. Alcohol is illegal, adulterers can be stoned, public floggings occur, and I’ll have to wear a jilbab (headscarf) and ankle-length skirts.
This isn’t the Middle East, it’s not Saudi Arabia or Iran - it’s our close neighbour, Indonesia. Specifically, it’s Aceh, that beleaguered Indonesian province still recovering from the Boxing Day tsunami.
Sharia law can mean all sorts of things. Muslims believe it is God’s law, as derived from the teachings of the Koran and the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed.
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AUSTRALIA needs to overhaul its travel warning system or end up looking like the boy who cried wolf.
We found out last week that 567,000 Australians visited our neighbour Indonesia last year.
This means more than half a million Australians either didn’t know about - or, more likely, happily ignored - the Australian Government’s travel warnings when they flew off to Bali for a week of sun, surf, beer, braiding, tattoos and tummy upsets.
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The Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is due to visit Australia in early March and will be addressing both houses of Parliament.
It’s not that common to have a foreign leader address the Australian Parliament but it will be repeated later in March when the US President Barack Obama is expected to do the same.
Australia-Indonesia relations are always complex. At the leadership and government level they remain strong as the Howard Government had left them, despite frustrations in official Indonesian ranks over the Rudd Government’s handling of the Oceanic Viking saga and the ongoing issue of the Sri Lankan asylum seekers that remain in limbo off a West Java port.
Marty Natalegawa is a consummate diplomat. The Indonesian Foreign Minister is also his country’s former representative to the United Nations and Ambassador to the UK.
At the age of 46 he has done more than most top diplomats do in an entire career. Now he’s the Foreign Minister.
On Tuesday this week I interviewed Marty Natelagawa in his Jakarta offices. In a long line of difficult issues between Australia and Indonesia, people smuggling has been the most awkward in recent months, so of course I had to begin our discussion on just that.
She sits in a prison, thousands of kilometres away from her family and friends. She doesn’t speak the language and doesn’t think much of the food that’s served up to her.
Her only crime was to try and bring drugs into a foreign country to make a bit of money and now she is stuck in a foreign jail for what must seem like an eternity.
How could you not feel sympathy for her? Easy. Her name isn’t Schapelle Corby.
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Australian travel journalist Natasha Dragun lives down the road from the Ritz and Marriot hotels in Jakarta. She filed this post for The Punch on the bombings today.
I’ve lived in Jakarta for about 15 months (I moved here having spent 5 years in Beijing, and now work for a travel magazine based in Jakarta). I’ve always felt extremely safe here.
In fact, I’ve felt safer here than when I lived in Melbourne. Everyone here is always so friendly and lovely.
I’ve never been scared for my safety – even during the elections, or the executions of the Bali bombers… my family and friends were more worried than I was.
The security at both hotels (the Marriott and Ritz) is extremely tight, so I just don’t understand how the bombs got in.
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The sole remaining daily reminder in Australia of the existence of Schapelle Corby is the plastic luggage-wrapping service at our international airports.
More than four years after her conviction on drug smuggling charges - when Corby was the only story in Australia, the only topic of discussion at the pub, at barbecues, in the office tea room - the one thing that reminds us that she even exists is the roll of industrial cling-film in our departure lounges, so you can make sure your baggage leaves our shores and arrives overseas without 4.2kg of cannabis in it.
As she prepares to celebrate her 32nd birthday tomorrow - her fifth inside Bali’s Kerobokan jail - prison authorites let Schapelle have her hair cut and coloured by a professional hairdresser, saying they hoped it would cheer her up as she continues to fight with severe depression.
Her illness may be fuelled by the knowledge that almost all of her countrymen have pretty much forgotten about her - and that unlike in 2005, when most Australians disputed her guilt, public opinion appears to have swung the other way, not just against her but members of her family.
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