Morrison at pains to praise Indonesia after street protests

IMMIGRATION Minister Scott Morrison was at pains today to praise Indonesia's efforts on border protection after Indonesians hit the streets to protest at Prime Minister Tony Abbott's refusal to apologise over phone tapping allegations.

During his weekly briefing on immigration matters, Mr Morrison went out of his way to praise "our partners - in particular Indonesia" on their efforts.

"We continue to commend them for their efforts and restate our commitment to support those efforts in pursuit of our shared interests," he said on Friday.

But his appeal may do little to repair the damage of revelations Australian officials tapped President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's mobile phone, among others.

The revelations sparked a backlash from Indonesian political leaders and protests in the street, with Mr Yudhoyono writing to Mr Abbott seeking a personal explanation and apology.

Officials from the Indonesian Government have also signalled immediate action to dial down co-operation with Australia on defence issues and border protection arrangements.

While Mr Abbott has promised a speedy response to Mr Yudhoyono's letter, this week he repeatedly refused to apologise, saying all government knew other governments complete such monitoring.

Mr Morrison on Friday singled out Indonesia's cooperation with Australia on the Bali Process as demonstrating "over many years their commitment to tackling people smuggling".

But the Immigration Minister refused to be drawn out on how the heated diplomatic tension will affect people smuggling efforts in the region.

He said while there were serious issues afoot, he would not be commenting on "relationship issues".

Operation Sovereign Borders commander Angus Campbell also would not comment, saying the relationship was a matter for "government to government, and indeed, leader to leader".

Lieutenant General Campbell also revealed there were four boat arrivals this month, carrying 128 "illegal maritime arrivals".

Mr Morrison said that compared with 2630 arrivals last November, and while the government was preparing for a busier season, the "momentum" of the Abbott Government's polices were building.

He said "no single measure" was responsible for the reduction in arrivals; it was the government's "resolve" that was slowing arrivals.

But again, Mr Morrison would not answer a series of questions which he said went to "operational matters", which Greens immigration spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young seized on.

Senator Hanson-Young said the weekly briefings and a Senate estimates hearing of the operation were "a farce", saying they were told to wait until the Friday briefings for answer to questions in the estimates hearings.

She said The Greens would be moving to get Labor's support next sitting week to bring back officials to answer questions on the record, saying there was potential the public servants could be held in contempt of the Senate.


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