Relationships with Indonesia were strained by revelations Prime Minister Yudhuyono’s phone was targeted by Australian security officials in 2009. The diplomatic fallout of the past week cast doubt on the viability of the government’s asylum seeker policy, which relies on cooperation with Indonesia. Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard urged Mr Abbott not to tap phones in future.
A senior Indonesian immigration official indicated that the government will cease surveillance aimed at stopping boat traffic. At the same time, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison assured the public that the Coalition’s policy will operate independently of Indonesia’s policy.
Mr Morrison predicted that the coming weeks would be a time of higher arrivals as people smugglers sought to launch attempts before the beginning of the monsoon season. 40 asylum seekers were rescued when the navy boat towing them toward Christmas Island damaged their vessel’s bow, making it unseaworthy.
ABC’s Four Corners revealed that people smugglers have been selling travel documents in Indonesia, allowing asylum seekers to fly into Australia on commercial flights, as opposed to arriving by boat. Meanwhile, during questioning at the Senate Estimates hearings, DIAC Secretary Martin Bowles revealed the cost of detaining asylum Seekers on Nauru and Manus Island was almost $1 billion this financial year.
Criticism of the government’s engagement with the media on asylum issues has continued. The challenge of maintaining secrecy around operational issues was highlighted this week, when the head of Operation Sovereign Borders, Angus Campbell, confirmed to a Senate committee that the boat buy-back scheme had been scrapped.
A Rohingyan woman delayed her return to Nauru after recently giving birth in a Brisbane hospital.