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.

85 thoughts on “Konfrontasi

  1. @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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 ?

  5. @Alan

    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.

  6. @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.

  7. 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.

  8. ‘ 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.

  9. 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.

  10. @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?

  11. 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.

  12. @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.

  13. 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.

  14. @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.

  15. 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.


  16. 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 .

  17. 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?

  18. 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.

  19. 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).

  20. @Megan

    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?

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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…

  24. 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.

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

  26. @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.

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

  28. 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 !!!

  29. @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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