Coalition's boat plan 'risks co-operation' with Indonesia

06/08/10 192936 Deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop visit's Buderim. Alex Somlyay
06/08/10 192936 Deputy opposition leader Julie Bishop visit's Buderim. Alex Somlyay Cade Mooney

NEWLY-minted Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is being accused of faltering during her first try at international diplomacy, after key discussions were made public by her Indonesian counterpart.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa's department issued a 1100-word press release after he met Ms Bishop in New York.

It warned that the Australian Government's intention to turn back the boats would "risk co-operation" between the countries.

Acting Opposition Leader Chris Bowen seized on the comments, at a lunchtime press conference, saying the Indonesian politician's comments echoed what the Labor Party was saying prior to losing power, that Coalition policy would jeopardise Australia's relationship with Indonesia.

"It's a clear indication that Julie Bishop has failed her first test as Foreign Minister," Mr Bowen said.

Earlier, Howard government-era Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told ABC's The Drum that Mr Natalegawa had no right to criticise the new government.

"Let me make this point for Mr Natalegawa's benefit: Indonesian-flagged boats with Indonesian crews are breaking our laws bringing people into our territorial waters," Mr Downer said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott was more measured in his responses when interviewed on a morning radio show.

He repeatedly spoke of his unwavering respect for Indonesia and described the asylum-seeker issue as a "passing irritant".

The only way, he said, that Australia's relationship with Indonesia would be put at risk was if the government did "foolish things".

"We will do strong and sensible things which build on the good relationship we already have with Indonesia".

Mr Abbott, Ms Bishop and Trade Minister Andrew Robb are to meet with Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday.

Topics:  chris bowen indonesia julie bishop

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