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Crowds burn Australian flags in the Indonesia -

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MARK COLVIN: In Indonesia the spying crisis has moved from the presidential palace to the streets.

A small hardline group called the Red and White Brigade rallied outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta.

Crowds burned Australian flags in the capital and Yogyakarta, a city with a high proportion of students.

Our correspondent George Roberts is monitoring events, he joins me now.

Big demonstrations or small ones?

GEORGE ROBERTS: Look it was a fairly small demonstration Mark. It's hard to guess exactly how many people were there. I was thinking it was about 60 to 100; other people put it at about 100 to 150. But look, it was almost evenly split between the number of protesters that was almost evenly matched, rather, with the amount of journalists and the amount of security that were surrounding the embassy.

But, nevertheless, they managed to spray paint some slogans on the ground, calling Tony Abbott stupid; they were holding placards denouncing Australia. And they managed to spray paint on the walls of the embassy, nearly getting out one of the names of the, effectively, uniformed thug groups that were represented there, Merah Putih, which takes its name, Red and White, from the Indonesian flag.

But, you know, what they lack in numbers they make up for in passion. They're also known as professional protesters. Some of them recognised us from the last protest in Yogyakarta and admitted that they'd flown in yesterday for the occasion and, you know, sort of said 'remember me George? We saw you in Yogyakarta, how's things? Oh, by the way, Australia's the enemy, and can we have a photograph with you?'

MARK COLVIN: Oh I see. So two things going on at the same time really?

GEORGE ROBERTS: (laughs) That's right. Look, it is sort of widely considered that these guys are almost sort of professional protesters. There were members from two or three different groups there, relatively small group. They represent a minority view. They're always happy to get involved with these, you know, very nationalistic shows of Indonesian pride. But it's sort of considered that someone behind the scenes is paying the bills for them to fly in to Jakarta for the occasion, you know, and they probably make a little bit of money out of it.

So it's not sort of something that should be taken too seriously, although they did make some threats, like they would round up Australians and hunt down Australians if the Australian Prime Minister doesn't apologise to Indonesia within 24 hours.

MARK COLVIN: Meanwhile, while the foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, has said that Indonesia would never tap the phones of Australian politicians. A man called Hendropriyono, who you and I have talked about before - Indonesia's former top spy - has given an interview to Fairfax today saying that that's not - that it's routine for Indonesia to do that, or try to do that, and that for intelligence, "it's normal", was the quote he gave.

GEORGE ROBERTS: Yes well Hendropriyono's a rather frank but also colourful character in his own way. He, as you said, he's admitted before to Sarah Ferguson, who now works for Four Corners, that Indonesia had been tapping Australian leaders' and MPs' phones, rather, in the past or had been attempting to. And attempting to get people to, you know, effectively deliver information.

But, yeah, so it's not surprising that he's come out and made these comments.

Now, he's no longer the head of Indonesian intelligence, but he - so that - and his statements are at odds with what the foreign minister says, which is Indonesia no longer does it.

So it's hard to know who to believe. I presume seeing he's not the head anymore, you'd have to go with Marty Natalegawa, the foreign minister, and even the current head of Indonesian intelligence has said overnight that they've already had an assurance from Australia that the spying, the phone tapping has stopped.

MARK COLVIN: And any indication of, from the media or from the presidential palace, or anywhere else, of when or how this might die down if Tony Abbott does respond courteously, as he says he's going to?

GEORGE ROBERTS: Look, I haven't really seen any reports of a time frame. Some of the newspapers have been fairly critical. You know, there has been you know comics of sort of, you know various nature, depicting Australia. Sort of in one case a kangaroo tickling the Indonesian garuda, or sort of eagle, symbolic bird for Indonesia, and another one of a kangaroo jumping all over Indonesia, and a few things like that.

There was also some critical stuff about the ambassador still continuing to tour around the country and he was seen in West Papua on the front page of the paper, and there was criticism about that. You know, why wasn't he in Jakarta while this was going on?

But, there's no sort of indication as to any timeframe or deadline being placed on this response from Mr Abbott.

MARK COLVIN: George Roberts, thank you very much.

George is our Jakarta correspondent.