Federal Labor is urging the Abbott government to move quickly to mend ties with Jakarta, saying it fears Australia may not be high on the next Indonesian president’s priority list.
Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek says it would be “strongly desirable” to see the relationship restored to a normal footing before President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono leaves office in July.
She said Indonesia’s next leader would have a “huge list” of issues to deal with and fixing the relationship with Australia may not be an urgent matter.
“I think in any incoming government, any new president, will of course prioritise what they have to do domestically before working on fixing the relationship Australia,” she told ABC radio from Jakarta.
“I worry that the relationship with Australia might slip down the ‘to do’ list.”
It’s been six months since Indonesia recalled its ambassador and suspended cooperation on a number of issues following revelations Australia had spied on President Yudhoyono, his wife and inner circle.
Indonesia demanded Australia sign a code of conduct before the two countries start working together on people smuggling, defence and intelligence sharing.
Indonesia’s ambassador remains in Jakarta after being pulled out in the wake of the spying revelations.
Ms Plibersek has used her first official visit to Indonesia to call for an end to the friction, saying it had dragged on for far too long.
She said Indonesia wanted clearer lines of communication so that any future issues that arise could be resolved quickly and amicably.
But it appears the strain stretches back further, with Ms Plibersek claiming the Abbott government’s actions around its asylum seeker policy when in opposition had been raised during her visit.
“Yes, I think that has caused difficulties,” she said.