30 Sep 2013

Border protection dominates Abbott's Jakarta visit

1:54 pm on 30 September 2013

Border protection policy and asylum seeker deaths at sea will dominate the first overseas trip by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

AAP reports that before coming to power Mr Abbott indicated that all future Australian prime ministers should make Indonesia their first port of call overseas.

He flew to Jakarta on Monday for an overnight visit and met President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Indonesia says the new Coalition government's 'turn back the boats' policy could breach its sovereignty.

The ABC reports Mr Abbott's message to the Indonesian president would be that Australia is open for business and he took 20 prominent business leaders to Jakarta with him to push for stronger ties.

Australia's cattle trade will also have prominence during the talks, given past trouble with live exports, while Mr Abbott will also argue for greater education ties.

Mr Abbott will also make a plea for clemency for the Bali Nine, who are on death row for drug crimes.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Trade Minister Andrew Robb, who will take part in discussions on trade and investment, are travelling with Mr Abbott.

Downer supports asylum seeker policy

The ABC reports former Liberal foreign minister Alexander Downer on Monday urged Mr Abbott not to sweep the asylum seeker issue "under a diplomatic carpet".

In an opinion piece in The Australian newspaper, Mr Downer said the federal government must resolve the issue before the president's term ends next year.

''We have to move beyond the boats issue with Indonesia ... the boat problem won't be solved by ignoring it or sweeping it elegantly under a diplomatic carpet,'' he wrote. "It needs to be fixed and then we can move on."

He said Australia is not doing anything wrong if it decides to implement its policy of turning back the boats.

"The Indonesians don't like that but the boats are theirs, have their crews and come from their ports," Mr Downer said.

"They can hardly complain that we are sending their boats back to Indonesia - their home."