Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Tony Abbott: ready to assist, but no Rohingya refugees to be settled in Australia -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

MARK COLVIN: Indonesia's foreign ministry is insisting that Australia is obliged to resettle Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, or Burma.

The Prime Minister Tony Abbott is flatly refusing to consider the option.

After international pressure, Malaysia and Indonesia have said they would no longer turn away migrant boats. They've offered instead to take in a wave of asylum seekers, provided they can be resettled or repatriated within a year.

But Mr Abbott said \ there was no way any of those fleeing would be allowed to settle in Australia. "Nope, nope, nope", he said. "If we do the slightest thing to encourage people to get on boats this problem will get worse, not better".

Our correspondent George Roberts joins me now from Jakarta. Another diplomatic row brewing between Indonesia and Australia?

GEORGE ROBERTS: Well potentially. He was quite good humoured about it when Arrmanatha Nasir, the foreign ministry spokesman, answered my question about what he thought of Australia's position. He pointed at his face and grinned and said, "That's my response," and I said, "Are you laughing it off?" He said, "I'm smiling". And I said, "So, well, what do you think Australia should do?"

His response was that Australia is a signatory to the refugee convention, and he said if Australia really believes in what it signed then it is obliged to help and therefore Australia should step up and help try to resettle some of these Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar and some of the camps in Bangladesh. So that was his response to Tony Abbott's flat refusal to help out.

MARK COLVIN: Are Indonesia and Malaysia saying that they will give them landfall, but they must all be gone within a certain period, or will Indonesia and Malaysia take some of them themselves?

GEORGE ROBERTS: That's a little bit unclear as to how this will all work out. The spokesman said that he expects the international community to step up and help. Indonesia has made, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia have made a commitment to provide shelter and support for these people for a year. But they're expecting other countries to also contribute and also help to either repatriate people who are economic migrants or resettle people who are found to be refugees.

And I did put to him Australia's position, that trying to offer safety, support, asylum effectively to people who get on boats may be encouraging people to do so. Tony Abbott said, "That anything that encourages people to get on leaky boats Australia will not support". I put that to him and he said, "Well we have to address the criminal aspect of people smuggling but we also can't ignore the humanitarian aspect of why these people are getting on boats," effectively, and he said addressing that comes from the heart.

MARK COLVIN: And in your observation as a correspondent, what's the current state of Indonesian-Australian cooperation or otherwise on the question of boats, but in the seas between our two countries?

GEORGE ROBERTS: Well there hasn't really been much said or done about it since the Abbott Government managed to stop the boats from leaving here and heading, you know, to Australia. So there hasn't really been much said or done about that.

This is more of an issue of now people leaving the Bay of Bengal and trying to get to another country to try to seek asylum or seek, in terms of some of the Bangladeshis who've admitted that they're just trying to seek work and flee poverty, and so that's, you know, seen as a regional problem that they expect Australia to be among the people who will help out in trying to resolve that.

But certainly it is interesting that Australia has always expected Indonesia to help stop the boats arriving in Australia and now that Indonesia is asking for Australia's help to help sort of resettle people who are found to be refugees, Australia is refusing.

MARK COLVIN: We better leave it there George, thank you.