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Indonesia backs down in row with Australia over torched fishing boats


Mustafa Arsad, the head of the Timor Sea Traditional Fishermen Alliance said Australia was within its rights to destroy the boats, which “entered very deep into Australian waters”.

“They have far passed the Ashmore Islands. It was already close to Broome. So it is normal that Australia took action,” he said.

“The [fishermen] did make mistakes. Actually, since early September many fishing boats were sent out of Australian waters by Australian authorities. Perhaps because it happened frequently Australia has now burned down the boats to give a deterrent effect.”

Setting off from East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia’s southernmost province, the fishermen took the risk of entering Australian waters because “the catch out there is better”, Mustafa said.

“But it’s only happened this year. We didn’t fish there last year,” he said.

The offshore raids were conducted by Australia’s Maritime Border Command, a joint ABF and Australian Defence Force taskforce, as part of a new operation against illegal fishing off the Ashmore Island and Cartier Island Marine Parks that was launched in April.

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Payne flew into Jakarta to meet with her counterpart Retno Marsudi following a five-day regional trip that had taken in Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam.

It was aimed largely at addressing consternation from the region about Australia’s ambitions to acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines under the new AUKUS agreement with the United States and United Kingdom.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is also on a week-long diplomatic mission through south-east Asia, taking in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

The region’s recovery from the pandemic has also been on the agenda and on Wednesday Payne announced a pledge of another 2.7 million vaccine doses to Vietnam, following a previous shipment of 1.5 million shots to Hanoi. Australia has also committed to help the country acquire an additional 3.7 million shots.



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