Morrison and Turnbull send mixed signals on embassy move

Australia is still considering moving an embassy to Jerusalem despite a strong warning from Malcolm Turnbull that Indonesia will hate it.

Oct 30, 2018, updated Oct 30, 2018
Indonesian President Joko Widodo (left) with former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Bali yesterday. Photo: EPA/Made Nagi

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (left) with former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in Bali yesterday. Photo: EPA/Made Nagi

Turnbull met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Bali on Monday as part of an Australian delegation attending a global conference.

Following the meeting, Turnbull said the Indonesian president expressed “serious concern” over Australia potentially shifting an embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“There is no question, were that move to occur, it would be met with a very negative reaction in Indonesia. This is after all the largest Muslim-majority country in the world,” Turnbull told reporters.

“So we have to be very clear eyed about that.

“We have to take into account Australia’s national interest and our interests in the region when we make a decision like this.”

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was still going through the process of looking at moving the embassy.

He denied Turnbull’s comments had undermined his authority.

“We’ll consult, we’ll listen to others but at the end of the day Australia will always make decisions about our foreign policy on our terms and in our interests,” the prime minister told reporters in Canberra today.

The government floated the prospect of shifting the embassy during the final week of by-election campaigning in Wentworth, where more than 12 per cent of voters are Jewish.

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While the Liberals suffered a devastating swing against them in Wentworth, Morrison insists the government is still considering the potential move.

“We will follow a proper process but let me stress, Australia decides what our foreign policy is and only Australia,” he said.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said the Coalition was making Australia a laughing stock overseas.

“Imagine what the Indonesians think,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“Here’s Malcolm Turnbull, who they last met as prime minister, now no longer prime minister, going up to explain that the current prime minister didn’t mean what he said.”

Shorten said Australia is allowed to make its own foreign policy decisions, but it made sense to talk to close neighbours and allies about decisions that will affect them.


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