Well, well, well.Â Turns out you can turn back boat people after all, as the Abbott Government has proved after less than two weeks in office:
Forty four Paki asylum-seekers, including four children, and two crew were brought to Indah Kiat port at Banten in Java at about 8am today, according to Indonesian police and rescue officers.
They were rescued yesterday by HMAS Ballarat near the southern mouth of the Sunda Strait after the engine on their fishing boat failed and it began taking water.
Ballarat was met late last night by an Indonesian coast guard vessel in the strait, southwest of Indah Kiat and close to Indonesia’s 12 nautical mile territorial boundary.
It has been years since boat people picked up at sea by our navy were returned to Indonesia, and this could not have been done without Indonesian cooperation at the highest levels.
In other news:
Over 1800 Migrants Arrive In Italy Over Last 24 Hours
So I repeat what I said this morning: there may be much less to this Indonesian tiff with Australia than the media and Labor are furiously suggesting. Some Indonesian MPs may be just playing to their constituents and hiking the price for Indonesian cooperation.
Journalists and furious Leftists – but I repeat myself – protest that this was not a real turn-back but a rescue at sea. Things is, under Labor such rescued people were brought to Christmas Island.
Suyanto, the head of operations at the Jakarta office of Indonesia’s rescue agency Basarna…says he does not know why Australia did not take the asylum seekers to Christmas Island.
One of the boat’s crew members, Azam, says the boat was not broken, despite passengers calling Australia to be rescued. He says the Navy set fire to the boat at sea.
The passengers and crew have been returned to the Indonesian mainland.
An interception of this kind, where the Australian Navy hands asylum seekers back to Indonesian authorities after being asked to assist in their rescue, only happened once during the six years of the last Labor government.Â On all other occasions the people rescued were taken to Christmas Island.
Here’s an example from two months ago:
AMSA coordinated theÂ response to a vessel requesting assistance approximately 42 nautical miles south of JavaÂ with support from Defence, Customs and merchant vessels. AMSA received a request for assistance at approximately 5.15am today. A broadcast to shipping was issued by AMSA this morning and two merchant vessels responded. Aircraft tasked by AMSA located the vessel at approximately 3pm. The merchant vessels arrived on scene at approximately 5pm. HMAS Larrakia was also tasked to respond and arrived on scene at around 5pm.Â A total of 101 people were safely transferred onto HMAS Larrakia and are now en route to Christmas Island.
So, didn’t Labor claim sending boat people back to Indonesia could lead to war? Didn’t ABC and Fairfax journalists insist this could not be done?
Can’t wait to see howÂ The AgeÂ spins this – if it can ever bring itself to report the news.
It’s the second boat-load sent back:
TheÂ Sydney Morning Herald’s spin:
The boat’s engine had stopped. A turn-back or tow-back under Mr Abbott’s Operation Sovereign Borders would differ from a rescue operation in that the asylum vessel would be deemed seaworthy, and the Australian authorities would order it back, or tow it back into or near Indonesia’s waters.
Ignored is that many, many boats under Labor tried exactly this trick – claiming to be in trouble and getting our navy to taxi them to Christmas Island. Now two have been sent back to Indonesia instead. It was the media which invented the definition that Abbott’s “tow-back” policy meant only the literal towing back of boats. I’ve said from the start that this kind of transfer was more likely.
And in another sign that Labor and the media has beaten up this “confrontation” with Indonesia:
An email entitled “Materials for Press Information” was sent to journalists yesterday and gave a detailed summary of the private meeting between Marty Natalegawa and Julie Bishop in New York…
It also warned Australia’s plans to turn back asylum seeker boats could jeopardise trust and cooperation between the two countries.
But this afternoon, Indonesia’s foreign ministry issued a “correction”, saying the information was not intended for the media, that the meeting was private and there was no official press release.
“Information [from that meeting] is now being quoted in several media outlets to create the impression of discord among Indonesian and Australian officials on matters of mutual interest, “ it said.
“The Indonesian government… stands ready to work with the Australian Government… to ensure the interests of both our people are fulfilled.”
Even more reason to admire the steady response to Tony Abbott to the media furore, refusing to bite or beat his chest and turn a misunderstanding into a grievance.