FOREIGN MINISTER Bob Carr has sharpened his attack on the Coalition’s asylum seeker policy, warning a win by Tony Abbott at the next election will result in a dramatic unwinding in Australia’s relations with Indonesia. Senator Carr, who will travel to Indonesia on Friday ahead of talks in Jakarta next week, warned that Mr Abbott presented a huge risk to relations with Australia’s northern neighbour.
In an interview with AAP on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh, the foreign minister said there was “no doubt” the political deadlock in Australia on the asylum seeker issue had caused an increase in people smuggling activity.
“More deaths at sea, pressures in Indonesian ports, more hard, unpleasant risky work for Australian personal – all of this will flow from Tony Abbott continuing to say ‘no’,” Senator Carr said.
Asked if the stand-off could be settled with an early election, Senator Carr warned that a Coalition victory would be a diplomatic disaster in relations between Australia and Indonesia.
“If Tony Abbott were to win the election, he would trigger a crisis in our relations with Indonesia by doing what he’s saying he would do.”
Mr Abbott has remained defiant despite mounting criticism, including from Indonesia where the turning back the boats strategy has been attacked from a variety of quarters in recent days. The Royal Australian Navy is also opposed to the policy.
Senator Carr added that Mr Abbott’s policy would undoubtedly result in more asylum seekers deliberately sabotaging their boats to avoid being forced back to Indonesia. It is already suspected that a number of the asylum seeker boats rescued in recent weeks have been sabotaged after making contact with Australian authorities in an effort to ensure their delivery to Christmas Island.
“By attempting to return the boats, he’d be inviting personnel on those boats to disable them. That creates risks for the asylum seekers on board, it creates risks for Australian personnel sent to rescue them,” Senator Carr said.