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November 21st, 2013

I was going to write something about Abbott’s mishandling of the latest spy fiasco, but I don’t think I can improve on Tad Tietze at Left Flank. I’ll just stress a few points

(a) Indonesia is now a democracy which means that the kind of cosy deals between military/security apparatchiks we used to do are just as constrained by Indonesian public opinion as by Australian if not more. I don’t know who the Indonesian equivalents of Ray Hadley and Alan Jones might be, but I can imagine what they are saying

(b) The idea, still underlying a lot of the discussion, that we can and should dictate terms to the Indonesians is nonsense. The US can get away with this kind of thing (though Obama was wise enough to end the bugging of Merkel’s phone), but we need the goodwill of the Indonesians at least as much as they need ours. The fact that neither we nor they are paragons of human rights policy or the treatment of minority groups is a case of attending to our own problems before lecturing others.

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  1. Doug
    November 21st, 2013 at 11:00 | #1

    The current government is demonstrating on a number of fronts that international issues are being handled solely on the basis of internal political obsessions – this issue is one, climate change negotiations are another.

    what is worrying beyond the actual policy itself is that Scott Morrison has indicated his puzzlement that Indonesia has not automatically fallen into line and acted as an agent of the Australian Government in its handling of irregular maritime events. He did not seem to be able to at least grasp intellectually the possibility that the Indonesian might see things differently from him.

  2. Ted
    November 21st, 2013 at 11:06 | #2

    It is odd to see Australian politicians using military figures to support their authority at briefings, whereas the Indonesians no longer need such figures to appeal to their people.

  3. David Allen
    November 21st, 2013 at 11:40 | #3

    It seems Dumb Dumb has upset Bang Bang.

  4. may
    November 21st, 2013 at 11:52 | #4

    well well well.

    serves them bloody well right.

    just because hiding behind big noting misdirection,distortion,self rightious and secretive worked so well in Australia doesn’t mean it will work in Indonesia.

    (best comment?
    the other day in the fin: some one asked if they could claim education expensed for subscibing to an Indonesion newspaper. heh.)

  5. may
    November 21st, 2013 at 11:53 | #5


  6. may
    November 21st, 2013 at 11:57 | #6


  7. Ikonoclast
    November 21st, 2013 at 12:07 | #7

    It’s time for a little Realpolitiks. And remember I am not an Abbott supporter.

    1. When did the spying happen? Under Abbott or under Gillard-Rudd? If under Gillard-Rudd as I believe, why is it Abbott’s fault?

    2. All nations spy on all nations at all levels and everyone knows this. It is total hypocisy to pretend anything else. Indonesia has boasted of bugging the Australian embassy and spying on Australian politicians in the past.

    3. Why is this situation any different? The Indonesian leader is simply playing to his domestic audience.

    4. We need a refugee solution that doesn’t need Indonesia involved in any way.

    5. What use is any co-operation with Indonesia? That’s just appeasement of their extreme right wing elite. Their long term goal is to conquer Australia. Remember West Irian, East Irian and South Irian (Australia)? Those sort of goals don’t change. Anyone who thinks otherwise is being hopelessly naive.

    6. Indonesia is still an extreme right wing oligarchic-military dominated nation. The elite are very dangerous and inimical to their own masses and to us. “Democracy” there is an ineffective fig-leaf. I would suggest ending all co-operation with the Indonesion elites. There is nothing in it for us or their own poor people, only dangers.

  8. Ikonoclast
    November 21st, 2013 at 12:11 | #8

    PS. I agree we should not try to “dictate” anything to Indonesia. Of course, we cannot do that. But then neither do we have to interact in any way with Indonesia. There is absolutely no purpose served by interaction with Indonesia.

  9. Martin W.
    November 21st, 2013 at 12:23 | #9

    Ikonoclast, sorry but I think you are completely incorrect. If, as you believe we are on the long term target list surely our best defensive tactic is engagement. And that is on every level, adopting a fortress Australia mentality is not going to work.

  10. David
    November 21st, 2013 at 12:41 | #10

    Indonesia has the right to wave their hands in the air and proclaim the moral high ground. It is what we would do in reverse. There will be some political point scoring and good old indignation for the media, then in several months we will more than likely be right back where we started a few weeks back, all spying on each other and (hopefully) not getting caught at it too often. I hope that somewhere in the intelligence services some benefit has been made from the spying (which we will most likely never know about) and this outweighs the hiccups along the way.

  11. Tim Macknay
    November 21st, 2013 at 12:53 | #11

    Ikonoclast, smoking that stuff is bad for you.

  12. November 21st, 2013 at 13:00 | #12

    Iko, I reckon the spying predates the last at least three governments by many years. Don’t forget what DSD knew (but didn’t share, at the time) about the murders of the Australian journos at Balibo. The only possible reason our intelligence people would’ve had for not tapping the phones of Indonesian ministers and their spouses at the time would’ve been because they couldn’t.

  13. may
    November 21st, 2013 at 13:08 | #13

    @David Irving (no relation)


    our coalition of the teaparty seems to think chest beating will be good enough.

  14. Ikonoclast
    November 21st, 2013 at 13:26 | #14

    “Yudhoyono served several tours of duty in East Timor during the bloody rising against Indonesian rule and had been promoted to chief of territorial affairs by the time it won independence in 1999. As such, he worked directly under Gen. Wiranto, the former leader of the armed forces who has been indicted for war crimes by an East Timorese special tribunal. But no one has ever attempted to charge Yudhoyono and supporters say he wasn’t part of the inner circle.” – CBC.

    Note, “his supporters say”. In fact, he was there doing work directly under Wiranto. This is in the Indonesian Army where you implicitly obey the Generals at all times. Along with Wiranto, Yudhoyono would appear to have been directly involved in war crimes in East Timor. It’s hard to see how he is not implicated. Yudhoyono is not a good guy and deserves NO credence in ANYTHING he says. He became a general and was the son of a military man. By marriage he became Indonesian military aristocracy through and through. It is not I who smoke stuff and forget history.

    “Yudhoyono was born into a well-to-do family of aristocratic background. Following in the footsteps of his father, a middle-ranking officer, he entered the army after graduating from the Indonesian Military Academy in 1973. His quick rise through the ranks was assisted by his marriage to Kristiani Herawati, the daughter of a powerful general.” – Britannica.

    Yudhoyono is a terror suspect.


    Also see the book “Masters of Terror : Indonesia’s Military and Violence in east Timor.”

  15. Geoff Andrews
    November 21st, 2013 at 14:22 | #15

    @Martin W.
    Somewhat of an overstatement, Martin.

    Ikonoclast listed six points, one of which was an opinion that Indonesia has always had eyes in our direction and he quite reasonably supported that opinion by referring to the brutal acquisitions of East Timor and West Papua where they claim some sort of ethnic relationship!
    He was not advocating fortress Australia; he was suggesting a disassociation, an at arms length relationship.
    Possibly your “completely incorrect” opinion related to his other five points?

    However, I’m a bit surprised by his first point. The most striking thing about Abbot’s responses so far is the absence of any reference to or criticism of Rudd. His reluctance to do so makes me wonder if the spooks briefed Rudd when he was elected in 2007 as to what the state of “intelligence gathering” in Indonesia was before 2007 and Rudd simply said, “keep up the good work”.

    On another thread: If SBY and/or his wife have done no wrong then they have nothing to worry about, eh? (At least that’s what we’re told when ASIO wants to tap our phones)

  16. konfigurasi ratapan
    November 21st, 2013 at 15:07 | #16

    I want to hear Rudd confess, himself. Then maybe… maybe…

  17. TerjeP
    November 21st, 2013 at 15:19 | #17

    I agree with a lot of what Ikonoclast said above. In particular it seems to me that Abbott is taking a bullet for the ALP in a quite statesman like way and they ought to stop complaining about it. However the Indonesian position is one I can readily understand. Having people spy on you is pretty offensive.

    However isn’t the bigger story the fact that you can’t safely share secrets with the Americans.

    Also do people think it was in the public interest for the ABC to publish this particular leak?

  18. Tim Macknay
    November 21st, 2013 at 15:53 | #18

    Their long term goal is to conquer Australia. Remember West Irian, East Irian and South Irian (Australia)? Those sort of goals don’t change. Anyone who thinks otherwise is being hopelessly naive.

    I’m not sure how to label this. Is it the “yellow peril” or the “brown peril”? Either way, I’m reminded of the effects of a Balinese mushroom omelette.

  19. Michael
    November 21st, 2013 at 16:16 | #19

    Normal rules of conduct were totally trashed by Abbott. The ALP owes him nothing but his own medicine.

  20. iain
    November 21st, 2013 at 16:32 | #20

    What is good policy in regards to spying on Indonesia?

  21. Jim Rose
    November 21st, 2013 at 16:51 | #21

    what do spies do but spy on other countries?

  22. paul walter
    November 21st, 2013 at 16:58 | #22

    Ikon is blowing off. A simple apology following normal form as to these sorts of matters, would have been fine, end of story. But no, Abbott’s fragile underlying sense of self esteem prevents even this.

  23. Lloyd
    November 21st, 2013 at 18:08 | #23

    What Paul Walter said. Seems so completely obvious I’m surprised Bill Shorten, the Labor Party in general and more than half the MSM seem to be buying into Tony’s narrative.

    Apologise for FFS. Obama gave you the template, the fact that Dolly Downer thinks he’s made a mistake should be all you need to know it’s the correct decision.

  24. iain
    November 21st, 2013 at 18:22 | #24

    For all the people seeking an apology, what policy are you recommending, moving forward, in regards to spying/intelligence gathering in Indonesia?

  25. Megan
    November 21st, 2013 at 18:23 | #25


    Also do people think it was in the public interest for the ABC to publish this particular leak?

    I think all the recent leaks (Snowden & Wikileaks) have been in the public interest.

  26. November 21st, 2013 at 18:25 | #26

    Thanks very much for posting, John.

  27. Ikonoclast
    November 21st, 2013 at 18:33 | #27

    @paul walter

    It is Yudhoyono who is blowing off for domestic consumption. Indonesia has admitted and indeed boasted of spying on Australia (the Jakarta embassy and Australian politicians). They all do it. They all know they all do it. I mean the governments of all countries. So the complaints are purely hypocritical and for domestic political consumption.

    There is circumstantial evidence suggesting Yudhoyono was part of Wiranto’s war crimes process in East Timor. It has never been properly investigated. This has been hushed up and Yudhoyono protected by his supporters (the ruling clique of Indonesia founded on the long and corrupt tentacles of the Indonesian military into all aspects of Indonesian life.) Nobody has addressed the substantive concerns I raised about Yudhoyono’s shady past.

    It is clear that Yudhoyono has been looking for a pretext to use to not cooperate with Australia on people smuggling. Now he has his pretext. This is right and fine from Indonesia’s perspective and entirely Indonesia’s right and perogative. Our refugee policy after all is atrocious. But no apology from Australia for such a hypocritical claim is necessary. Their claim is true but the outrage is hypocritical, manufactured and self-interested.

    We simply should not deal with Indonesia officially in any way. There is nothing to be gained by engagement with Indonesia at governmental level. Let trade, commerce and interaction between the two countries happen or not happen by private enterprise and private activity but there is no need for much official interaction or cooperation of any significance between our governments.

  28. Tim Macknay
    November 21st, 2013 at 18:37 | #28


    For all the people seeking an apology, what policy are you recommending, moving forward, in regards to spying/intelligence gathering in Indonesia?

    Engage in espionage to the extent that national security requires. Take steps to avoid disclosing sensitive information to entities that cannot keep it secure. In other words, a commonsense policy.

  29. iain
    November 21st, 2013 at 18:49 | #29

    Tim, in other words, what they are doing now?

  30. Tim Macknay
    November 21st, 2013 at 18:52 | #30

    If that is what they are doing now (I don’t really know), then yes. It seems they could be a bit more careful about disclosing information to the NSA though.

  31. iain
    November 21st, 2013 at 18:57 | #31

    Tim, so you advocate 1) an apology 2) then continue as current, despite the “apology” 3) have a word to the Americans about security of information 4) hope you don’t get caught out again.

    If so, I like Ikon’s proposal better (and I don’t like Iko’s proposal at all).

  32. Tim Macknay
    November 21st, 2013 at 19:00 | #32

    Suit yourself.

  33. Jarrod Knox
    November 21st, 2013 at 19:01 | #33


    You lost me on point 5. ‘Their long term goal is to conquer Australia. Please…

  34. Jarrod Knox
    November 21st, 2013 at 19:04 | #34

    @paul walter

    Exactly Paul, an apology, a line was crossed, won’t tap you or your wives phone again. Say they’ll be a review of the appropriateness of our surveillance opps (the recs of which will of course have to be kept secret). Give SBY a way out with his domestic audience.

  35. kevin1
    November 21st, 2013 at 19:07 | #35

    @paul walter

    It’s possible that Abbott or Turnbull was briefed in opposition about the bugging of SBY, so is partly complicit and has to bite his tongue?

    Andrew Wilkie MP, the ex-ONA analyst and Iraq war whistleblower, was interviewed by Michelle Grattan yesterday at The Conversation and his views should be carefully considered.

    Below I summarise what seems relevant here.

    *He is generally supportive of current practice.
    *the people who are close to the people who have secrets are valid targets (eg. SBY’s wife, Ibu Ani)
    *He supports Edward Snowden because “Snowden has done us a public service by telling us what these people get up to”
    *the Indonesian outrage is political theatre for domestic consumption.
    *He believes that effective privacy protection of the rights of Aust citizens exists but can be improved
    *currently there is no parliamentary oversight of operational intelligence matters; unlike in the US, the parlt ctee only oversees admin of intell agencies
    *some greater oversight is better, not just by the Minister.

    Wilkie’s main points in defence of spying were:

    *Intelligence provides info about terrorist plans, what people smugglers are saying, what the foreign political leadership is thinking, and their intentions, views and concerns about Australia
    *the alternative is that we don’t understand well what is happening, the risk of being caught by surprise, and making decisions in a vacuum
    *knowing other countries well and understanding those countries better fosters more stable rel’ships
    *one reason why Bush Jr. J Howard, Blair etc were able to create a false story about Iraq was that there was an intelligence vacuum which they were able to backfill with whatever story they wanted
    *in our region, if we don’t know what’s going on, we can – and perhaps should – assume the worst, which is not good for relations with our neighbours.

    It seems to me that the uncertainty created by lack of knowledge promotes dangerous and hostile behaviour, while transparency of information amongst participants (govts. not citizens) seems a moderating and rational influence. (If you like, an “open conspiracy”).The Iraq example is very important to examine.

    There is little if any connection with the privacy issues which concern domestic citizens, which should not overshadow national defence (of which intelligence is a component.)

  36. iain
    November 21st, 2013 at 19:09 | #36

    A better approach would be to 1) refuse an apology, 2) point out the hypocracy of the SBY government, and the mindless arrogance of the demonstrators in Jakarta (and also likely here) 3) point out, and openly discuss, the problems with “representative” democracy, and regional security, in South East Asia (as Iko points out).

    The main problem is that Abbott is a prime product of the problems with representative democracy, and is unlikely to criticise the military monopoly of government in Indo in this light, even less the useless duopoly here in Aus.

  37. Tim Macknay
    November 21st, 2013 at 19:14 | #37

    Difficult to see what that would achieve.

  38. Ikonoclast
    November 21st, 2013 at 19:22 | #38

    @Jarrod Knox

    So nations never have long term conquest goals? Britain never had the goal of creating an Empire and dominating peoples? Europe, Britain and the US never had a long term goal of conquering and chopping up China? (Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai, Boxer Rebellion etc. etc.?) Nazi Germany never had a long term goal of conquering Europe. Russia never had a long term goal of conquering Poland and East Eurupe? Japan never had a long term goal of conquering S.E. Asia and Australia. China never had a long term goal of conqueringTibet? The USA never had a long term goal of dominating the M.E. and drawing cheap tribute oil and profits?

    To believe that Indonesia (the Javanese empire as it really is) has no long term goals of further expansion and conquest (if at all possible) is the height of blind naievity.

  39. Collin Street
    November 21st, 2013 at 21:42 | #39

    What is good policy in regards to spying on Indonesia?

    To do it and to lie about it.

    Abbott’s problem is that he doesn’t seem capable of managing the latter. It’s something you might laugh at, “oh oh oh he’s too honest”, but, well: we can judge the size of a problem by the consequences, and so far our excessively-honest-if-overly-literalistic PM has managed to engender some fairly major consequences as a result of his inability to mutter… it’s not even a lie, noone could possibly believe anyone would believe it, surely. No intent to deceive.

    [as I think I’ve mentioned here, based on certain elements of his manner and personal history, I am reasonably confident that Abbott is affected by some form of diagnosable autism-spectrum condition, aspergers-type. This sort of behaviour certainly doesn’t convince me he doesn’t, that’s for sure.]

  40. Neil Hanrahan
    November 21st, 2013 at 21:45 | #40


    Wow. What a lot to agree with. JQ take note. Perhaps it would help clear thinking if you joined those of us who declared Tony Abbott unelectable (and didn’t like some of his Catholic views, without perhaps giving as much credit as we should have for his Catholic social anti-capitalist side) and got over being so wrong. It is surely premature – and indeed wishful thinking – to leap to adverse judgments in these very early days of a new government when actions can be and are being taken on the basis that current perceptions of them won’t matter a damn in three years time. (I have even heard it said that the boat-stopping is going rather well but don’t place any weight on that whether it is true or not).

    You Ikonoklast seem to understand something about Indonesia which helps to ensure that there are about a dozen reasons for knowing what their leaders are up to (“Trust but Verify” has something of the right flavour when one is feeling optimistic). Pankaj Mishra’s piece in the London Review of Books of 13 October gave a realistic view of the way the same old corrupt elite, including lots of generals and police (though the latter tend to be corrupt at a lower level) has held on to money and power with occasional populist beatups (small Chinese business people, Christians, Australians) as a diversion instead of the old brute force. We would be barmy to accord them naive trust. Here is a passage from Mishra’s piece:

    “That was what Suharto wanted: a population divided by individual pursuit of food, wealth and status was the basis of his regime’s stability. It was also what finally tripped him up.: As Mishra points out there is now much more regionalisation of power and plunder.

  41. Neil Hanrahan
    November 21st, 2013 at 21:58 | #41

    As I said JQ, being a recovered member of the “he’s unelectable” brigade, I think one should face reality. Are you not being a tad self indulgent to pick up the stuff from Tad Tietze at Left Flank, to wit:

    “On the other hand, Left nationalist arguments — like those of Clinton Fernandes — that Australia has every right to spy on Indonesia because Indonesian governments have done bad stuff should be rejected. They are in effect a defence of the malign regional influence of the US and its allies, including Australia, and of the Abbott government itself. Remembering that the main enemy is at home has rarely been more important. We should think carefully about how we can increase our enemy’s pain.”

    His link to Kurt Liebknecht and the implied association of Australia with German imperialism when it still had a population growth of nearly a million a year and hadn’t, as it had, by 1945, had its militarism and arrogance knocked out of it by terrorism from the air…. well its just Marxist romanticism isn’t it?


  42. rog
    November 21st, 2013 at 22:20 | #42

    How long has Australia been spying? Years

    Foreign Minister Bob Carr insists Australia and East Timor remain on good terms despite reports the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) broke into and bugged East Timorese cabinet rooms nine years ago.

  43. Neil Hanrahan
    November 21st, 2013 at 22:20 | #43

    @ Ikonoklast replying to Jarrod Knox

    It is one thing to point to naivety and counsel a small country to be wary indeed of a highly populous country of increasing wealth on its doorstep but it doesn’t help at all to be so lacking in nuances and inaccurate in one’s supporting material.

    There is not much mystery about the way the British Empire came about and it certainly had very little to do with Britain having a long term goal of “creating an Empire and dominating people” (though there was certainly a heyday for overt imperialists in from about the 1870s to 1914: partly spurred by competition with or mere attempts at security against Germany. Russia and France who were seriously imperialist). The East India Company’s activities for two and a half centuries and the transport to and import of slaves to the Caribbean, and the sugar trade, were hardly a planned British activity any more than the Scottish commercial disaster which led to the union of Scotland with England were part of any long term policy. Your suggestion that Europe, Britain and the US had a long term goal of conquering and chopping up China is totally ahistorical and surely careless as you don’t mention Japan which really did have a policy of conquering China. The Brits and the others on their coattails were all about making money, not ruling China, and the Americans could even be given some credit for their missionary activities which were well-intentioned and seem to have done some good. (Not just the Americans. I read that the remarkable winner of two Nobel Prizes for chemistry, Fred Sanger, who has just died, was the son of an Anglican missionary -later turned Quaker- who only left China because of poor health).

    You see I am not quibbling about the US in the Middle East or the Chinese in Tibet (but did you know that there was once a Tibetan empire which extended to the Bay of Bengal: clearly the Tibetans were a warlike Mongol related lot who needed to be brought under control, quite apart from their sitting on the headwaters of so many important rivers). Nazis? Well I would say they had the short term goal of conquering Europe and lots and lots of Lebensraum for what they still hoped would be a population of Ubermenschen that expanded as fast as it had under the Wilhelms.

  44. rog
    November 21st, 2013 at 22:23 | #44


    one reason why Bush Jr. J Howard, Blair etc were able to create a false story about Iraq was that there was an intelligence vacuum which they were able to backfill with whatever story they wanted

    Which puts pressure on the term “intelligence”.

  45. alfred venison
    November 21st, 2013 at 22:29 | #45

    i’m not sure if people here are aware of this – it wasn’t on our news for reasons obvious to me – but there was a major diplomatic row a couple of months ago between brazil & canada over electronic espionage.

    based on documents leaked to brazilian media – by edward snowden – it is claimed that a canadian agency – communications security establishment canada (csec) – which “routinely” monitors the phone traffic of other countries for anything that might interest canada, has been conducting large scale industrial espionage, by intercepting all phone traffic & emails coming in or out of the department of mines & energy in brazil.

    the brazilian president openly confronted the canadian p.m. about it at a conference in indonesia last month.

    the canadian ambassador was called in to explain.

    brazil’s foreign minister made a statement expressing “[his] government’s repudiation of this serious and unacceptable violation of national sovereignty and the rights of people and companies”.

    the canadian opposition leader called it “a black eye for canada”.

    the canadian p.m. said “[the] commissioner of the canadian security establishment does surveillance and audits the organization to make sure its operating within canadian law … we are concerned and we will do appropriate followup.”

    public opinion in brazil is outraged. the ministry is being “scrubbed” but a rift has developed between the two countries, at a time when: (1) canada wants to extend trade relations with brazil, and (2) canada complains about china’s industrial espionage.

    it intrigues me how an edward snowden revelation, which leads to a major rift between two countries, one of which speaks english, is not reported here at all. so, for my 24 cents worth, i’d like to know, why oh why, are they called “north america correspondents” at the abc when they don’t report a story like this?

    the issue is off the front page in canada now, as this revelation works its course. and they have bigger fish to fry, today, and i don’t mean mayor ford. -a.v.

  46. Tim Macknay
    November 21st, 2013 at 23:22 | #46

    @Collin Street
    I agree Abbott is struggling with how to deal with the situation, but the idea that this is because he can’t lie is risible.

  47. Neil Hanrahan
    November 21st, 2013 at 23:54 | #47

    @alfred venison

    Thank you for that interesting info about Canada and Brazil. As you say, where were the ABC. Fairfax doesn’t have anything like the resources. News doesn’t either but it would still be expected to report on the Canada-Brazil falling out. Has it done so?

  48. Megan
    November 22nd, 2013 at 00:17 | #48

    @Neil Hanrahan

    You can still bump into people every single day who think that AGW is, at best, something of a 50/50 proposition and that we invaded Iraq because of 9/11.

    It’s interesting that intelligent people accept this reality without doing anything about it.

    The core of all our woes is the establishment media – without its propaganda model and market manipulation we wouldn’t be where we are.

    Hands up everyone who heard from our vastly diverse media that the Australian tax-payer gave Rupert Murdoch $470million just the other day. Surely his mortal enemies at their ABC mentioned it somewhere? Nup.

  49. Megan
    November 22nd, 2013 at 00:26 | #49

    The source for that figure was Neil Chenoweth:

    Australian Tax Office gave News Corp a lovely $US473m tax payout (again) but sadly it all went to 21st Century Fox under tax sharing deal

  50. paul walter
    November 22nd, 2013 at 05:58 | #50

    Thanks Megan, again. You are a long term option for following, here.

    I see a number of people here quite deliberately ignored my point concerning Abbott’s lack of sophistication in dealing with racial, (ethnic, gender and class?) “others”.
    Instead we are bombarded with xenophobic hornswoggle concerning an imminent Asian Invasion, and tosh denying that intelligence is gathered to also stomp out community resistance to nonsenses like FTA endowments to capital at the expense of local communites.

    Not enough folk have conjured with the notion that we are actually doing the Wall St controlled US’s dirty work, via elecronic intelligence and that information gained may even be being used to destabilise democracy from within, with the corrupting of democratic processes here.

    I don’t doubt that outsiders would be glad of any conflict between Australia and its neighbours, uninformed citizens in countries involved would be naturally inclined from a point of isolation to more right wing xenophobic politics, with Conservative governments inclined to hard capitalist “reform” at the expense of dumbed down communities denied a more considered approach to the determing of their own futures.

  51. Julie Thomas
    November 22nd, 2013 at 06:11 | #51

    @Collin Street

    Like Tim says this is a very silly attempt to analyse Abbott. He can’t lie? Let us count the lies he has told and he has said on the record that he lies whenever it seems like a good idea.

    I think his upbringing as someone destimed to be a ‘man of substance’ is part of the explanation for the choices he makes, and I also think that this upbringing sets people up to adopt the libertarian inspired meme that alpha males and ‘hairy chested’ blokey behaviour is admirable and drives civilization forward.

    Something like that anyway but there is nothing ‘aspie’ about him.

  52. Ken Fabian
    November 22nd, 2013 at 06:39 | #52

    Anyone else think it’s as simple and fundamental as being criminal and cringeworthy and offensive – the bugging and hacking that is and justifications thereof? If this is the way freedom and democracy really works then I think it has a long way to go to grow up into something to be proud of.

    We spy because others spy. We pollute because others pollute. We cheat on our obligations because others cheat on theirs… and cannot even imagine open government pursuing goals it is proud to speak aloud, using fair means, facing domestic and international challenges head on, debated openly in parliament and in public…

    Spying and defense of spying diminishes us all – Australia, it’s allies, our ‘noble’ goals of making a better world for our descendents – even, ultimately, damaging our self interested prospects for prosperity and security rather than enhance them.

  53. Alan
    November 22nd, 2013 at 08:13 | #53

    There are two great logical leaps in the Iconoclast thesis. One is that the statements ‘everyone spies’ and ‘everyone taps the phones of friendly chiefs of state’ are not the same. The second is that tapping Yudhoyono’s phone is in Australia’s interest. Most likely it was carried out by DSD at the request of the NSA and no minister in any government was any the wiser.

    Yudhoyono was not the candidate of the military oligarchs at the last election or the election before that. Prabowo, who was their candidate last time and will be next year, is making enormous political capital out of Yudhoyono’s embarrassment. If you want an Indonesian president who (unlike Yudhoyono) does entertain the conquest fantasies that prevailed under Sukarno and Suharto, you could do nothing better than maintaining Abbot’s current stance.

  54. sunshine
    November 22nd, 2013 at 08:22 | #54

    We spy on them and share information with the US -the average Indonesian in the streets now knows this. Especially with Abbott as PM we are perceived as arrogant colonialists .Our entire region is watching ,where does our future lie ? with an alliance on the other side of the world or with our region?
    Abbott wont apologise ,his tough on brown people stance plays well for his domestic base .The Indo’s may now want some kind of no spying agreement -how will Uncle Sam like that ? what if we sign it and get caught out again ?

  55. Ikonoclast
    November 22nd, 2013 at 09:13 | #55


    What about Yudhoyono’s involvement in East Timor under Wiranto? Are you giving him a free pass on that despite the deaths of 1,000s of East Timorese? We cannot second guess Indonesia’s choice of leadership. It is not our job to support the bad (Yudhoyono) because the next one might be worse. Involvement and cooperation with Indonesia is inimical to our interests. By your own admission, the military oligarchs (of whom Yudhoyono is one by the way) still pull many of the strings in Indonesia. Yudhoyono is simply a bad military oligarch compared to other wing which is worse. That is the choice, bad or worse. It’s not our choice to make for sure so we should disentangle ourselves from a corrupt and dangerous Indonesia.

  56. Crispin Bennett
    November 22nd, 2013 at 09:46 | #56

    @Julie Thomas:
    I think his upbringing as someone destimed to be a ‘man of substance’ is part of the explanation for the choices he makes, and I also think that this upbringing sets people up to adopt the libertarian inspired meme that alpha males and ‘hairy chested’ blokey behaviour is admirable and drives civilization forward.

    It’s an Aussie meme as much as a libertarian one. It’s easy to see in Abbott the Good Aussie Bloke who is superficially rough around the edges but in reality won’t say boo to a goose, where “goose” equals “mate”, and where “mate” equals the group of loutish blokes who run the joint. Any old crap goes as long as it plays to the mates. Outsiders don’t matter, until you’re alone amongst them and then they become the mates and you change your crap-spout to suck from their trough (Abbott amongst the farmers). We’ve all met this bloke. He’s frequently the boss: empty, incurious, ignorant and pusillanimous, but in charge.

  57. tgs
    November 22nd, 2013 at 10:14 | #57

    Ikonoclast :It’s time for a little Realpolitiks. And remember I am not an Abbott supporter.
    1. When did the spying happen? Under Abbott or under Gillard-Rudd? If under Gillard-Rudd as I believe, why is it Abbott’s fault?
    2. All nations spy on all nations at all levels and everyone knows this. It is total hypocisy to pretend anything else. Indonesia has boasted of bugging the Australian embassy and spying on Australian politicians in the past.
    3. Why is this situation any different? The Indonesian leader is simply playing to his domestic audience.
    4. We need a refugee solution that doesn’t need Indonesia involved in any way.
    5. What use is any co-operation with Indonesia? That’s just appeasement of their extreme right wing elite. Their long term goal is to conquer Australia. Remember West Irian, East Irian and South Irian (Australia)? Those sort of goals don’t change. Anyone who thinks otherwise is being hopelessly naive.
    6. Indonesia is still an extreme right wing oligarchic-military dominated nation. The elite are very dangerous and inimical to their own masses and to us. “Democracy” there is an ineffective fig-leaf. I would suggest ending all co-operation with the Indonesion elites. There is nothing in it for us or their own poor people, only dangers.

    Couldn’t agree more.

    Too much partisanship and too little common sense in these comments, imo.

  58. Ken_L
    November 22nd, 2013 at 10:14 | #58

    ‘ it seems to me that Abbott is taking a bullet for the ALP in a quite statesman like way ‘ #17

    On the contrary, he is taking a bullet for the USA. Australian intelligence gathering in Indonesia is part of the international American NSA network – that’s why we found out about it via Snowden’s leaked documents.

    We need the American alliance to protect us from people who are hostile to us, and of course they are hostile to us because we are America’s deputy sheriff. It’s a nice little closed loop that will go on for as long as it suits Washington. When it no longer suits, we’ll be on our own – and a hostile Indonesia, growing in power, is absolutely the last thing Australia needs when it is on its own.

    Cooperative, mutually respectful relations with Indonesia should be the very first priority of Australian foreign policy. A well-disposed, increasingly powerful Indonesia virtually ensures basic Australian national security. Howard’s mob, and now Abbott’s, seem determined to achieve the opposite by treating Indonesians as people to be (1) patronised, (2) bullied, or if neither works, (3) treated to lectures on Western values and ignored.

  59. paul walter
    November 22nd, 2013 at 10:32 | #59

    Still Ikon misses the point.

    It is not about whether Yuhoyono was Wiranto’s underling somewhere in the past, but the secrecy and abuse of secrecy that goes on in our society.

    I’d give some credence to the claim that Abbott and some of his predecessors have been used, unwillinglyor willingly, by foreign interests to subvert SBY and his immediate predecessors, for someone more hardline after their next election, what’s more.

    I wonder how powerful the influence of a couple of outside powers may be in shaping our politics and whether this should be a worry for us.

  60. Ken_L
    November 22nd, 2013 at 10:34 | #60

    Australia loyally apes America in trying to defeat UN moves to protect digital privacy. ‘Failed attempt by US, UK and Australia shows increased isolation of ‘Five-Eyes’ nations amid international controversy’ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/21/un-surveillance-resolution-us-uk-dilute-language

  61. Crispin Bennett
    November 22nd, 2013 at 10:59 | #61

    @Ikonoclast: Our extremely dangerous far-right wing elite is currently conspiring to permit the entirely foreseeable breakdown, for the sake of fossil fuel mafia profit, of the unusually stable climate system which was a necessary condition for the emergence of global agricultural civilisation.

    If you believe our citizenry supporting (no fig leaf!) this reckless corporate radicalism somehow makes us better or less dangerous than Indonesia, then you have a grievous case of democracy-fetishism needing urgent treatment. Indonesians have better excuses for being dangerously led than we do, and you propose we take some kind of pleasure and advantage from this?

  62. Alan
    November 22nd, 2013 at 12:40 | #62

    I’m not giving anyone a free pass, but Yudhoyono was an early and consistent supporter of reformasi and has been a longterm friend to Australia, sometimes at the cost of much political capital. The overwhelming reaction in Indonesia to this mess is that they have been a democracy since the Indonesian people overthrew Suharto but Australian attitudes are still stuck in the Cold War.

  63. Jim Rose
    November 22nd, 2013 at 15:04 | #63

    @Ken Fabian should Australia spy on suspected terrorists?

  64. Fran Barlow
    November 22nd, 2013 at 15:08 | #64

    @Jim Rose

    Were SBY and his wife suspected terr0rists?

  65. Alan
    November 22nd, 2013 at 17:22 | #65

    @paul walter

    Deeply uncomfortable as it feels to defend Howard, and while he definitely started off with the deputy sheriff absurdities, he actually learned quite quickly and was perhaps our first prime minister to treat Indonesia rationally. Whitlam, Hawke and Keating were all up to their armpits in the horrors of East Timor.

    Incidentally, Keating used to call Suharto bapak, ‘revered father’. As part of his Jakarta-centric foreign policy Abbot was calling SBY ‘Bapak President’ in Jakarta. Apparently reverence and eavesdropping is the same thing in the Abbotverse.

  66. paul walter
    November 22nd, 2013 at 18:09 | #66

    Allan where we come from, we call that arse-crawling.

    Fran, if they are not white and mossies, they must be terrorists.

    “Walks like a duck, talks like a duck..” well, you know the rest.

  67. kevin1
    November 22nd, 2013 at 19:52 | #67

    @paul walter

    When Joseph Banks sent a platypus back to the Royal Society for examination, apparently they thought they were being duped: it was obviously some sort of duck. Queenslanders only had a max. 11 years school education (when did they get the extra year?) and Jo BP reaped the benefit.

  68. Ikonoclast
    November 22nd, 2013 at 20:29 | #68

    I am astonished at the people who think opposing Tony Abbott and his policies (which I do) immediately converts to supporting Yudhoyono who is running genocidist policies in West Papua and who also worked under Wiranto in East Timor.

    “The Indonesian government is accused of human rights abuses, such as attacks on OPM-sympathetic civilians and jailing people who raise the West Papuan National Morning Star flag for treason.[12] Official estimates are that up to 450,000 Indigenous Papuans have been killed in the conflict. (Such numbers amount to Genocide under UN Constitution).”- Wikipedia.

    This site is under no illusions about Yudhoyono.


  69. sunshine
    November 22nd, 2013 at 22:24 | #69

    Even if Rudd/Gillard knew about this spying Abbott has owned it by his actions .
    The USA isnt an ally without blood on their hands either .
    Im not sure about the wisdom of stopping the boats anyway, as I imagine if I was fully informed about the risks and sleeping rough on the streets of Jakarta I might want the option.I think Menzies signed us onto a UN convention on refugees -we need a regional solution something like that but better.
    Abbotts attitude from opposition is part of a history of disrespect ,amongst other often better things, to the Indonesians from Aust . The live cattle export ban is a part of that history too, but I would argue that that was a battle worth picking because of the numbers involved. Cutting foreign aid to build more freeways at home didnt help. The Oz embassy in Jakarta got eggs thrown on its coat of arms today.I think Indons in the street think we are far more tech superior than them as far as spying goes .Abbotts deputy dog man of steel jnr persona needs to change. Gillard was superior with international relations.
    Free West Papua !!!!!!!!!!!!! Maybe tell them we will stop spy sharing with the US if they do it .Maybe they could get out but still have access to some of the resources in some sustainable way .

  70. paul walter
    November 22nd, 2013 at 23:18 | #70

    Kevin1- It is true that the various Platipi, current and ancient, represent a fascinating snapshot of evolution process.

    Therefore, such matter would have not been acceptable material for curricula in Christian locations like Queensland.

    One of my great windfalls via Facebook, was the recent download of a New Scientist segment on a Platypus ancestor from the Miocene described as today’s version on steroids.
    The beastie was, in fact, twice the size of the therefore dimished (some what?) modern descendent.

    But since we know from the Bible, that life only started six thousand years ago, it would be nonsensical to expect any evocation of a thesis that proposes a Miocene event since Miocene events occur in the tens of millions of years ago and are thus emphatically refuted in scripture. If Queenslanders are “benign”, it is hardly the fault of upstanding faith-driven Christians, although some observers suggest excessive alcohol consumption may be a contributing factor.

    Ikon, which power-bloc entrenched the military in control of Indonesia for its own purposes at the expense of the Indonesian people and the region in general?

    Who trained its Kopassus SS in counter insurgency, over decades?

  71. Ikonoclast
    November 22nd, 2013 at 23:35 | #71

    Yes, the US did that. And they were wrong. Anyone who follows this blog knows I am highly critical of US Imperialism and I opposed Iraq 2 and Afghanistan. But how do the US crimes excuse the Indonesian power elites’ complicity in and benefit from those crimes at the expense of their own people and those of East Timor and West Papua? How does that equate to your support for Yudhoyono and a call to apologise to him? Not one blogger here has explained to me how they can logically support Yudhoyono’s own Imperialism and attacks on the poor and the weak while decrying the US’s Imperialism. I am againt both US and Indonesian Imperialism (and Australian imperialism for that matter). I am entirely consistent. You guys are so inconsistent it is laughable.

  72. Neil Hanrahan
    November 23rd, 2013 at 03:43 | #72

    There are some very short term views being taken on this blog – looking back as well as forward. The one certainty is that unexpected eruptions of (to most of us) irrationality or factless fanaticism will occur unexpectedly like a 9.9 earthquake where none was predicted but that the long term probability is that country’s will pursue their more-or-less-permanent interests rather than allow ephemera to matter much.

    And there are a lot of situations where subtlety can’t be given much of a run.

    Do we or don’t we persist with the Five Eyes arrangements which started in the 1940s and came out of the Ultra project?

    Sure we will want to try and make sure our allies can’t make life difficult by such extraordinary incompetence as allowing the Bradley Mannngs and Edward Snowden’s the sort of access that they had. (At least the Soviet spies in the CIA were less embarrassing: after all the KGB didn’t deal much with the MSM). But, in the end, we have to face the reality of having a future near-super-power on our doorstep which will be governed in a way which our instincts and traditions will tell us almost nothing about. Do we or do we not think it a good idea to know as much as possible about the things its governing class think important but won’t tell us? And could we possibly go it alone in providing all the intelligence and all the technology we need to protect our interests?

    BTW, much more interesting than most of the minutiae of embarrassment flowing from the US intelligence mismanagement is the question of who really threatens Australia’s security over the next 50 years or so? How about this for a thesis: no one threatens it because, for the next 15 years anyway even Japan could make sure that Australia could see off the Indonesians. And Indonesia is certainly not going to want to allow China (say) to gain control of Australia anymore than India would want to allow it.

    China will be very content if we continue to manage its quarry efficiently and would not wish to upset the status quo.

    A kind of Konfrontasi staged by thousands of fishing boats is conceivable, but that’s it: conceivable but neither likely nor, in the end unmanageable. (Apart from anything else it would only happen if Indonesia was in a dysfunctional condition and unable to threaten anyone seriously).

  73. Neil Hanrahan
    November 23rd, 2013 at 04:06 | #73


    Are the sort of people who think Iraq had anything to do with 9/11 the same to any significant degree of overlap with those who think “AGW” is a 50/50 proposition?

    Or are you just speaking generally of the great unwashed who don’t have time or whatever it takes to know much about anything beyond the mundane of their lives?

    Those who regard Iraq as having anything to do with 9/11 are possibly just a fraction less paranoid and nutty than those who blame Jews or the CIA for 9/11. But on AGW there are, after all people who are beginning, rationally, to argue that fossil fuel emitted CO2 is not a signficant cause of whatever warming is going on (as in going on over the last 150 years or so). Note that I say “rationally” not “reasonably” or “correctly”. Like almost everyone I haven’t had time to read and digest and follow up the work done to demonstrate that the increase in CO2 emissions over the last 70 years has come from warming seas rather than from fossil fuel emissions. Perhaps you haven’t even heard of this line of research? Most people won’t have as it seems to be the result of some basically sceptical physicists (the sort who probably scorned the “climate scientists” as mostly chaps who couldn’t do maths, or, if mathematicians, didn’t have a clue about experimental verification) looking at the sources of data and calculating that the uptake by new forest growth of the Northern Hemisphere’s CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning is almost complete….. So…

    As a matter of interest, who do you think one should rely on, if one wants to be one of those who express confident opinions on the science, and how many people, how qualified, do you think have authority from their actual work on the subject? One person in a million in First World countries? One scientist in 10,000? Which ones? Also…..

    If the science seems to be settled, what is the premise, or are the premises, for an argument which leads to Australia adopting particular policies given the undoubted facts that nothing Australia does will make any difference to outcomes affecting Australia? Can any figure be put on what economic gain there might be from government picking winners in renewables? (Compare the huge advance in photovoltaics for which we have to thank China and entrepreneurs). Assuming no one thinks Australia has any relevant persuasive capacity is the argument from moral solidarity (or feeling comfortable with like-miinded foreigners) one that is compelling quite regardless of costs and alternatives and probabilities of outcomes?

  74. November 23rd, 2013 at 04:20 | #74

    As predicted, I am told, there was a television program in Jakarta had a talk show with the
    title: “Lawan Australia” (Against Australia). You have done well Tony! – and it comes as no surprise.

  75. Ken Fabian
    November 23rd, 2013 at 07:11 | #75

    Jim Rose – if Indonesia’s President and wife were suspected terrorists or known enemies of Australia there could be legitimate justification but if that is so it’s news to me.

    If Australian Intelligence services are bugging phones of important friends, allies and neighbors simply because they can, as some kind of standard rules of operation – and probably passing the results on to third parties – then we will damage those relationships. Not might damage, but will damage. Any sense of moral superiority – our motives for behaving badly being better than their motives – looks hypocritical as a consequence.

    It was an offensive thing to do to President Yudhoyono and his family – whether those doing it got caught out or not – and I do not believe it was necessary or even advanced Australia’s interests in any meaningful way; given the current mess, quite the contrary. And that always was a clear and obvious risk. Australia’s intelligence services should stick to counter surveillance unless there is sufficient cause – in which case, with that good cause and documentation, going public should not be embarrassing or damaging.

  76. Donald Oats
    November 23rd, 2013 at 08:26 | #76

    It seems to me the missing piece is why were the ASD^fn1 spying on SBY and his wife at the time in2009? What was the mission brief that led to this? It does seem extraordinary to go to that length to acquire information, given so much could be picked up from other sources anyway. What was the rationale behind it?

    As for Tony Abbott’s handling of it, he seems to be employing the same standard tactic of his in skirting around the central issue, blithely issuing statements saying we are aware of your concern, not that we care for your concerns, not that we’ll go some way to addressing your concerns. The FU and FO approach to International Politics, *sigh*.

    While it is always a joy of the Schadenfreude category to see Tony’s team squirm for someone else’s mistake, I seriously hope his team take some lessons from some of the career diplomats they haven’t yet sacked, and get with using more conciliatory language, or at least polite language rather than barbed-wire. It will be better for us all, in the long run, if they can get that part of their house in order, if nothing else.

    Fn1: Apparently the DSD had a name change somewhen along the way, and is now ASD (Australian Signals Directorate). I wonder if that makes them more subtle now…

  77. Jim Rose
    November 23rd, 2013 at 08:55 | #77

    @Ken Fabian you hold australia to a higher standard than wikileaks

  78. Ken_L
    November 23rd, 2013 at 09:49 | #78

    Neil #22 asks ‘who really threatens Australia’s security over the next 50 years or so?’ The answer of course is ‘impossible to say’, which is why a more intelligent question is ‘how can we best make ourselves secure from unknowable future threats?’ The answer is to ensure we have cooperative, constructive relations with Indonesia and PNG. That is why our relationships with those countries should be Australia’s most important foreign policy concern.

    In the shorter term, however, the threats we are likely to face arise almost entirely from our association with American imperialism. We therefore engage in the idiocy of having an alliance to protect us from the dangers that come from being in the alliance. The fact that the alliance dates back to the 1940s should be grounds for questioning its continuing usefulness, not for mindlessly maintaining it.

    By the way arguments that we have nothing to fear from a hostile Indonesia because they can’t invade successfully ( or alternatively that their long-term plan is to ‘conquer’ us) are based on an extraordinarily outdated conception of national security, but that’s getting off topic.

    Donald #26 it’s not really a matter of asking ‘why were the ASD spying on SBY and his wife at the time in 2009?’ This is not an independent Australian operation, and there is no reason to believe it was Australia’s decision who to spy on.

  79. paul walter
    November 23rd, 2013 at 12:09 | #79

    Jim Rose, since Wikileaks holds to high standards, certainly we woud be pleased to see Australia seeking to uphold a correct standard.

  80. Megan
    November 23rd, 2013 at 22:28 | #80

    @Neil Hanrahan

    I’m fascinated by this:

    Like almost everyone I haven’t had time to read and digest and follow up the work done to demonstrate that the increase in CO2 emissions over the last 70 years has come from warming seas rather than from fossil fuel emissions. Perhaps you haven’t even heard of this line of research?

    No, I haven’t.


    Is the hypothesis that the seas spontaneously warmed up and therefore released a lot of extra CO2 into the atmosphere with the same isotopic fingerprint as burned fossil fuels, and that the CO2 from all the fossil fuels we burned went somewhere else?

    I’m all ears, but I’m afraid you may have just made my original point.

  81. paul walter
    November 24th, 2013 at 14:38 | #81

    What, pray tell, is warming the seas?

  82. Al Newman
    November 24th, 2013 at 16:41 | #82

    Absolute rubbish – particularly the garbage in a) !! Are you naïve – or just that dumb ?

  83. Al Newman
    November 24th, 2013 at 16:58 | #83

    Barack Obama is a pathological compulsive serial LIAR > He is a con man – a charlatan, a fraud. He is NOT smart – he would be lucky to have an IQ above 85. He is a megalomaniac who thinks he is the 13th Imam (sorry, but he IS NOT a Christian – he IS a Muslim – antisemitic, anti American, and a racist. He has weekened the West to the point that NONE of America’s allies either like or trust him. N Korea, Iran, China Russia, Syria, and even the Europeans snub their noses at him. He has added over 7TRILLION dollars to the US debt in 5yars, 1 3/4 times what Bush added in 8 – and Bush had to deal with 911. Your brain dead hero PRONTS 80 BILLION a MONTH – $1 Trillion a year in unbacked currency (NOT included in the deficit numbers. The US is BANKRUPT because of him.

    It is sad, but the world is getting fuller all the time of morins and idiots like you. !!! God help us all !!!

  84. Megan
    November 24th, 2013 at 17:36 | #84

    Did someone open a wormhole to Fox?

  85. Geoff Andrews
    November 25th, 2013 at 08:52 | #85

    @Al Newman


    This site needs more men of letters and calmly reasoned, insightful contributions such as yours. For too long the morins that infest this sight get there biased opinions into pront, weak after weak.
    Your knowledge of economics, international affairs and psychology brings a new dimension to Quiggin’s intellectually flimsy, chardonnay inspired meanderings.

    I, for at least one, look forward to any words of wisdom you probably have on global warming. Or Obamacare? Or the population bomb myth?

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