A member of Indonesian parliament has labelled as offensive the coalition’s lack of consultation on asylum seeker policy, indicating one-sided management of people smuggling could cause a rift between the two countries.


Tantowi Yahya is a member of the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Commission and said the first he and his colleagues knew of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Operation Sovereign Borders was when it appeared in newspapers.

“It’s very offensive,” he told ABC TV on Wednesday, adding there was consensus between Indonesia’s government and parliament not to agree with the coalition’s plans.

“What Australia should do right now in relation (to) asylum seekers is sit with any countries that will be involved in this issue … and we have to fight against it in the spirit of friends.”

Mr Tantowi said the Indonesian parliament would “fully reject” the coalition’s policy to turn back boats carrying asylum seekers, indicating his country would deem such a move illegal.

“I do hope this policy will not be implemented until Mr Abbott talks about this issue with our foreign minister,” he said.

Mr Abbott promised to put in place the coalition’s operation from the day his team was sworn into parliament, which occurred on Wednesday.

He is expected to visit Jakarta in the coming fortnight.

But the new Australian government faced a stern warning from Mr Tantowi.

“It will obviously damage our relationship,” he said of the coalition’s policy.

“Indonesia accepts all possible solutions, all possible proposals from Australia … this case should be settled in a very modest and very peaceful way,” Mr Tantowi said.

He said it “annoys our sovereignty” that the coalition had floated the idea of paying Indonesians for information about people smuggling.

“We could employ our policemen. We could employ all the infrastructures to help,” the MP said.

Mr Tantowi said he and his parliamentary colleagues were happy with the former Labor government’s Papua New Guinea solution as long as asylum seekers were happy to remain in the country, and “not end up back in our territory”.

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