22 Nov 2013

Powerful Indonesian opposition figure weighs in on spy row

11:18 am on 22 November 2013

A senior member of Indonesia's Foreign Affairs Commission has accused Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott minister of mishandling a spying row.

Anger is mounting in Indonesia over an Australian spy agency tapping phones used by the Indonesian president and his inner circle.

Tebagus Hasannudin, the commission's deputy chairman, says Mr Abbott's response lacked "diplomacy skills".

Major General Hasannudin was military secretary for three presidents and is a senior member of the opposition party that looks most likely to win next year's presidential election.

Though a member of a party that opposes President Susilo Bambang Yudhyono, the retired Major General has praised Indonesia's handling of the issue and questioned Australia's response.

"I have high respect and appreciation for Susilo Bambang Yudhyono's recent action," he said. "Because when a response was given by Prime Minister Abbott, it was not in accordance to the standards expected by Indonesians.

He said Mr Abbott should apologise and announce a review of intelligence gathering, because he wasn't in power or responsible when it happened. "Say it will be revised, so the relationship between the two countries can go well. That's it. Done."

The Federal Government is still considering how to respond further to Mr Yudhoyono over revelations Australian spies tapped his phone three years ago.

Indonesia has suspended all major cooperation agreements with Australia after Mr Abbot initially refused to explain the spying, the ABC reports.

Mr Abbott confirmed on Thursday he had received a letter from Mr Yudhoyono seeking an explanation from the Government.

Again, there was no apology from Mr Abbott, but a reiteration he will do everything he can to strengthen the relationship with Jakarta.