Abbott describes Indonesia relationship as 'critical'
PRIME Minister Tony Abbott denied taking his "turn back the boats" policy off the agenda during recent meetings with Indonesian officials, saying "nothing was off the table" on Tuesday.
Mr Abbott spoke to reporters in Jakarta before his return to Australia, describing the relationship with the south-east Asian nation as "absolutely critical" for the future.
But he refused to go into detail about what was discussed during talks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
He said he was "not going to spill the beans" on such discussions, saying the two countries had a clear agreement "operational details will be dealt with on a no-surprises basis at ministerial level".
His comments came after it was revealed on Monday Indonesian authorities failed to aid asylum-seekers in a rescue effort last week, contributing to the loss of 31 lives just off the west Java coast.
The revelation was detailed by the Acting Commander of Operation Sovereign Borders, Mark Binskin, during the Coalition's new weekly briefings on asylum-seeker arrivals.
Acting Cmdr Binskin said the Indonesia authority, Basarnas, had refused to take a "co-ordination role" in the rescue effort, despite noting Australia's updates on the vessel in distress.
It is understood the refusal to take the co-ordination role in Indonesian waters came after the boat had turned away from its path to Australia, and was returning to Indonesia.
While the loss of lives exposed the talks to added scrutiny this week, Mr Abbott said both Australia and Indonesia were "victims" of people smuggling rackets in the region.
"It's a problem for Indonesia too, because they've had thousands of people transiting through their country, and not necessarily up to much good while they're here," he said.
"In the end an appearance of conflict can be created when there is none, or when there is none based on real disagreements."
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also defended the Coalition's policy not to release details of such incidents, saying to go into "operational minutiae" would defeat the purpose of the Coalition's policy to turn back the boats.