Indonesia Demands Spying Explanation, Suspends Co-operation; Abbott To Respond; Shorten Invokes ‘Team Australia’

Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has suspended intelligence exchanges and military co-operation with Australia and demanded Tony Abbott explain the tapping of his and his wife’s mobile phones.


The suspension of military co-operation includes the sharing of information for anti-people smuggling operations as well as joint military exercises of any kind.

“Facing the common problem of people smuggling, Indonesia and Australia have coordinated operations, coordinated patrolling in the sea area – I have asked for this to be suspended until everything is clear,” President Yudhoyono said.

Yudhoyono will write to Prime Minister Tony Abbott tonight demanding an explanation of the tapping carried out by the Defence Signals Directorate in 2009. He has called for new and binding protocols before the relationship can be restored. “I will officially send a letter to the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abbott, to obtain his response and then we will see what we can do in the future.”


Yudhoyono said it was difficult for him to understand why the phone tapping took place. “Now is not the era of the cold war.”

Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten both made short statements to the House of Representatives just after 7pm tonight. Abbott said he would respond promptly to Yudhoyono. Shorten said the Opposition supported the government in what is a “Team Australia” moment.

  • Listen to Abbott and Shorten in Parliament tonight (4m)

Text of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s remarks.

I know Indonesians are upset and angry about what Australia has done to Indonesia. But in international relations, in dealing with certain situations, we cannot be emotional, we must remain rational.

Our reactions will determine the future of the relationship and friendship between Indonesia and Australia which actually have been going well.

The relationship between the two governments has been going well. When disasters occurred in Indonesia, Australia responded swiftly with assistance.

I find it personally hard to comprehend why the tapping was done. We are not in a cold war era. Indonesia and Australia aren’t in the position of being against each other or fighting.

What’s the direction of this intelligence? Why was the friend and partner – not the enemy – tapped?

This problem is serious.

It’s in violation of international law and regulations, human rights and the right to privacy.

It’s also related to morality and ethics as neighbours, partners and friends, and maintaining good relations between two countries.

For a president like me, in regards to state secrets, I can’t talk about them over the phone anyway. I will call the ministers to see me and talk to them directly.

I don’t understand why it had to happen. Why Australia did it to Indonesia.

I am expecting an official statement and stance from the Australian government.

We really want an explanation. We also want to know what measures Australia is going to take on the tapping issue.

And if Australia wants to maintain good relations with Indonesia.

Tonight I will send an official letter to Tony Abbott.

There are three things Indonesia is going to do:

1. Over the next few days Indonesia will wait for an explanation and admission from Australia.

2. Because of the tapping, some co-operation agendas are being reviewed.

At the moment we are holding off the following co-operations:

– information sharing and intelligence exchange. It will be held off.

– joint military training for the army, navy and air force is to be held off.

– co-ordinated military operations targeting people smuggling. This overwhelming issue for Indonesia and Australia will be held off. We can’t possibly continue with it when we’re not sure that there isn’t tapping on Indonesia’s national forces.

3. In all future co-operations, Indonesia requests a code of conduct and guidance principles that are binding and clear in nature.

I hope – and I’m sure Australia shares the same hope – that our good relationship will continue after this problem is resolved.

I know Australia respects Indonesia sovereignty, which is the most important basis for co-operation.

The Indonesian and Australian governments have a duty and obligation to resolve this problem.

Text taken from translation published by The Guardian.

Hansard transcript of statement to the House by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

A short time ago President Yudhoyono made a statement in Jakarta. I have to say that I was encouraged by the president’s remarks about the strength of the relationship between Australia and Indonesia although obviously there are very serious issues which do need to be worked through in the near future between us.

Again, I want to express here in this chamber my deep and sincere regret about the embarrassment to the president and to Indonesia that has been caused by recent media reporting. The president indicated that he would shortly be writing to me. I would like to reassure the House that I will be responding to the president’s letter swiftly, fully and courteously. As always, I am absolutely committed to building the closest possible relationship with Indonesia because that is overwhelmingly in the interests of both our countries.

Hansard transcript of statement to the House by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.


We agree with the Prime Minister of Australia there is not a more important relationship than with Indonesia. As I said yesterday in this place, the opposition believes that our relationship with Indonesia can recover and it can thrive and prosper. What the government and the opposition must continue to do is to unite in our commitment to improving and repairing this relationship in a timely way.

This parliament, all of us, respects Indonesia as a successful democracy. A strong and constructive relationship is fundamental to our national interest. It is particularly fundamental to the work that we do to help stop people smuggling, to improve regional security and the strong trade and to the business interests between our two countries. That is why our position continues to be one of support for the government. The days ahead remain of the utmost importance and these matters should continue to be resolved.

We do not underestimate the seriousness of this matter or the sense of offence that our Indonesian friends are feeling. We will support the government in these efforts. As I said yesterday in this place, it is impossible to imagine our futures without a positive and constructive friendship and dialogue between our governments. That is why, again, I reiterate on behalf of Labor: we want the government to be successful in rebuilding the relationship and trust with Indonesia. We will support the government in its efforts. This is indeed a ‘team Australia’ moment. This is something that is happening to both Indonesia and Australia. We need to walk this road together. Other nations have resolved these similar issues. We can too.

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