According to news reports, a boat sank within Indonesian waters carrying an estimated 120 people from Lebanon, Jordan and Yemen. This claimed the lives of 22 people, including several children, with other passengers missing.
Some in the media have labelled this tragedy as Tony Abbott’s “first asylum seeker tragedy”.
Tragedy, yes, but not an Australian asylum seeker tragedy. No more, that is, than the Costa Concordia sinking was an Australian tragedy.
It is an Indonesian tragedy.
Yet the Australian Government is being attacked for being tardy in its response.
Sending an Australian warship into Indonesian waters without an invitation by the Indonesian Government could be considered an act of war. Australia cannot enter those waters without an invitation from the Indonesian Government.
The key question: why did the passengers try to call Australia rather than Indonesia? The Indonesian authorities were well placed to respond to cries for assistance. The correct Australian response would be to refer the people to Indonesian authorities, relay the information to Indonesia, and offer assistance.
If, and only if, the Indonesian Government formally sought assistance from Australia could our Government send in the Navy or Coast Guard.