Jakarta. Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has pushed Indonesia-Australia relations onto the country’s election agenda after linking the ban of live exports to Indonesia and an increase in asylum seekers entering Australia by boat from the archipelago.
Speaking in a pre-election Regional Leaders Debate hosted by Australia’s state-owned broadcaster ABC on Wednesday (25/05) night, the leader of governing Coalition minnow Nationals Party suggested the suspension of exporting live beef to Indonesia prompted retaliation via the increase of boat arrivals.
“When we closed down the live animal export industry, it was around about the same time that we started seeing a lot of people arriving in boats in Australia,” he said.
When asked by debate moderator Chris Uhlmann if he intended to imply the Indonesian government was behind the rise, he agreed.
The ban created diplomatic issues with Indonesia and a feeling of bad will, he said.
The ban was introduced by the then-governing party Australian Labor after secret footage obtained from inside an Indonesian abattoir was aired on Australian TV in 2014, creating mass outrage over animal cruelty.
Joyce visited Indonesia most recently in October when, in his capacity as Agriculture Minister, he signed a slew of agreements relating to the beef trade and fisheries with his local counterparts.
The minister is well-known for his frank leadership-style, most recently taking on movie superstar Johnny Depp and his two dogs.
Australia will hold it's federal election July 2.