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November 2013

Greg Sheridan's take on Tony Abbott's handling of the relationship with Indonesia

Greg Sheridan's view published in today's The Australian newspaper - if anyone can point me towards President Yudhoyono's statement I'd be obliged.

TONY Abbott's letter to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been successful. That judgment is inescapable and incontestable.

The President, in his formal statement responding to the Prime Minister's letter, has spoken warmly of the relationship with Australia. He has also spoken warmly of Abbott, whom he describes as "my good friend". The President has committed to a process of consultation and negotiation with Australia to come up with a set of agreed protocols to cover intelligence sharing, among other things.

There are complications and troubles aplenty ahead. But so far, Abbott has handled one of the most complex international relations crises you could imagine extremely well. He has been calm throughout. He has stressed the key national interest that Australia has in its relationship with Indonesia. He has been warm and gracious towards the President.

He has also safeguarded Australia's key interests in maintaining its intelligence capabilities. He has stayed away from the obvious political points he could have made against Labor. He has responded to the President quickly, but with serious, indeed intense, deliberation at every stage.

There may still be very challenging days in this relationship to come, but whatever happens, this has been a solid performance by the Abbott government. It should give our allies, and the Australian people, a good deal of reassurance that this is a competent, sensible government fully conscious of the grave responsibilities it must shoulder in national security.

Overall, this was surely the most positive response the Indonesian President, universally known as SBY, could possibly have come up with. There was a great deal of nationalist outrage in Indonesia at the revelations that Australia's Defence Signals Directorate had been tapping the President's phone, and that of his wife and close associates, in 2009.

A lot of players in Indonesian politics were stirring the waters on this. Most big players in Indonesian politics are less internationalist, and more inclined to nationalist paranoia, than is the President himself. Indonesian friends tell me that behind the scenes one of the presidential candidates, former general Prabowo Subianto, was stirring up a great deal of anti-Australian trouble, even though in public Prabowo was fairly quiet.

But this story has a long, long way to run and we could still well be in for choppy waters ahead.

Pay TV industry group asks for the Australia Network tender to be re-opened

Christian Kerr in today's The Australian.


THE pay-TV industry's peak body has called on the federal government to reopen the Australia Network contract to a competitive tender as part of its commission of audit.

The contract for the soft-diplomacy service was awarded by the Gillard government in 2011 to the ABC despite two tenders recommending it go to Sky News Australia -- a reversal later lashed by the Auditor-General.

The original request for tender documents issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade described the service as "enhancing the government's ability to pursue its broader foreign and trade policy objectives".

The ABC has been accused of failing to meet this goal in the wake of its decision to broadcast allegations Australia tapped the phone of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association has used its submission to the audit committee to call on the root-and-branch review of government functions to examine if taxpayers are getting value for money from the contract.

"There are no substantive public policy grounds that would prevent the Australia Network being reopened to competitive tender," ASTRA chief executive Andrew Maiden said.

"A competitive tender process would assure taxpayers they are receiving the best value for money.

"Further, there is no public policy reason to suggest that the ABC is uniquely placed to deliver the Australia Network service.

"The contract should be awarded to the organisation, public or private, that can most effectively and efficiently deliver the service."

Will the 360 documents before the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on 2 December elicit "Julia, you bloody beauty" from Judge Murphy?

The police say that documents created in the Industrial Unit at Slater and Gordon for its, ahem, "client" Bruce Wilson were created in the furtherance of fraud.   There were two lawyers in that unit, the putative Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the man who would be made a Federal Court Judge by her government Bernard Murphy.

On 2 December Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen will turn his magisterial mind to a question of fact. It will boil down to something like this -  was that half a million that winged its way into the AWU Workplace Reform Association slush fund from Thiess meant to end up in Bruce Wilson's control?   Or was there a fraud????    Hmmmmmm.    Police say there was a fraud and that the documents that helped Wilson get his hands on the money were created in the furtherance thereof.

So who of the two lawyers will be the most thrilled with what Chief Magistrates Lauritsen finds.

Julia, you bloody beauty!   Or His Honour Bernard the Unblemished?


LAWYER Josh Bornstein's mobile phone flashed at 9.41am on Thursday with the exultant text message: "Julia, you bloody beauty."

From the unlikely location of South America, the Maurice Blackburn chairman Bernard Murphy was letting his colleague Bornstein, who was in a meeting, know their one-time workmate was now Prime Minister.

Both Murphy and Bornstein knew Gillard when her more mundane day job was working as an industrial lawyer at another Labor law firm, Slater & Gordon. Back then, the trio was part of a small team representing unions under fire during the Kennett years.

Gillard, who secured a coveted partnership aged just 29, was a formidable presence at the firm. Just as she took to politics, she enjoyed the aggressive world of industrial relations. She remained at Slater & Gordon until 1996 when she became chief of staff to then state opposition leader John Brumby.

Her pathway, while stellar, was not seamless. Another lawyer at Slater & Gordon, Paul Henderson, recalls she did not secure articles, the equivalent of a legal apprenticeship after graduation from the University of Melbourne, but instead did a Leo Cussen's study course  often seen as the second-best option at the launch of a practical legal career.

Gillard impressed on the job, however. After two weeks of work experience at Slater & Gordon she was in. "That gives you pretty good understanding of the impression she made," says Henderson.

Henderson, now a principal lawyer in medical law at Slater & Gordon, says: "She's passionate, she's got compassion she's intellectually very capable," he says. "She's got a good sense of humour and has the capacity to communicate across a broad range of people."

Both Henderson and Bornstein, who rose to prominence in the 1998 waterfront dispute, still regard Gillard as a good friend despite seeing her less often these days.

Henderson says they'd go out or meet at her place for a drink. Conviviality was at the core of Gillard, a natural networker. "She was quite inclusive" with her friends ranging from support staff, to partners, to union organisers and officials.

Bornstein says: "She's intensely loyal, you may not speak to one another for a period of time . . . then you say to Julia, 'Do you mind if I seek your assistance on something?' and she will be there."

That's Ben Schneiders writing in The Age on 26 June 2010.   You can find the whole "Julia, you bloody beauty" article here.