National Political Editor
The Daily Telegraph
November 9, 2013
TONY Abbott has warned Indonesia that his pledge to turn back the boats is a matter of "sovereignty'' after Australia agreed to back down and accept a boatload of 63 asylum seekers.
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After a three-day ocean stand off, Australia agreed to accept the asylum seekers today despite the fact they were rescued just 43 nautical miles off Java.
Labor has compared the capitulation with Kevin Rudd's disastrous Oceanic Viking saga but the Coalition said Indonesia had agreed to accept a number of asylum-seeker boats back since the Coalition was elected.
Senior Liberal sources have confirmed that the Prime Minister believed it was still possible Indonesia would have eventually accepted the asylum-seekers but did not want the stand-off to drag on into the opening of Parliament and overshadow the carbon tax debate.
While Australia had requested that the boatload of 63 suspected asylum-seekers picked up close to Java be returned,
Indonesian officials were still considering the request.
"We will have disappointments. But we will succeed,'' Mr Abbott told a Liberal Party Conference in Perth today.
"We will never again tolerate a situation where an important part of our immigration program has been subcontracted out to people smugglers.
"This is an issue of sovereignty for us. We have good relations with Indonesia. But we will stop these boats."
On Friday, an Indonesian official Djoko Suyanto warned Indonesia would not accept the asylum-seekers.
"The Indonesian government NEVER AGREED to such wishes or policies of Australia,'' he said.
"There is NO CHANGE of policy."
After warning on Friday he would not be providing "shipping news'' on the boat stand off, the Abbott Government broke with recent protocol and issued a statement on the resolution of the stand-off.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that Border Protection had first responded to a request for assistance on Thursday.
Because the incident took place within close proximity to the Indonesian coast, "a request was made, consistent with our standing practice under Operation Sovereign Borders, to transfer the passengers rescued to Indonesia, in accordance with international search and rescue protocols."
"On two recent occasions, Indonesia has agreed to these requests and facilitated an on water transfer,'' Mr Morrison said.
"The Indonesian Government has advised Australian officials overnight that they are reviewing the request put forward by Australia.
"While we welcome Indonesia's review of our request, in the best interests of the safety of the passengers and crew of the rescued vessel and the Australian vessel that has been rendering assistance, earlier this morning I requested
Lieutenant General Campbell to transfer the persons rescued from the SAR incident to Christmas Island for rapid onward transfer to Manus Island or Nauru. They will not be resettled in Australia."
But Labor's immigration spokesman Richard Marles said the back down was embarrassing.
"The diplomacy of the Abbott Government with Indonesia around asylum seekers has been absolutely inept.
"What we have seen is the embarrassing spectacle of the Abbott Government seeking to dictate terms to the
Indonesia Government. This is school year diplomacy backed up by half-hearted resolve and it is a sad embarrassment."
"So today, I call upon the Prime Minister and Minster Morrison to end this farce, to end this culture of secrecy."
The Greens said Mr Abbott's border protection policy was "in tatters."
Indonesia says it will absolutely not take back Insurgents