If you’ve missed the big news this week, Indonesia is understandably furious following the publishing by ABC News and The Guardian of revelations that Australia has been spying extensively on key Indonesian figures. This includes the tapping of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s phone, which has been the primary source of the diplomatic anger.
Although these spying allegations pre-date Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s administration, the responsibility falls on him as leader to put out the flames, which he attempted to do by saying Australia had nothing to apologise for. Tony Abbott, we’d like to remind you, is a qualified fire fighter.
Things are getting dicey. Indonesia has pulled out of a joint air force exercise, and has recalled its Australian ambassador. (And not in the sense that they were all like “Balding guy who answers to ‘Nadjib’, right?”)
So, given we’ve invoked the “C’mon man, everybody does it!” defence used by pot-smoking teens and online piracy-obsessed millennials, it’s clear that a mere apology won’t solve this problem. Here are five things Tony could do to ease the tensions.
1. A TAPE OF TONY ABBOTT’S OWN PHONE CONVERSATIONS
Nothing would sort this situation out quicker than a quid pro quo deal. Australia must respond in kind, and hand over all recordings of Tony Abbott’s own phone conversations. These would include such hits as “Tony RSVPs to sister’s wedding”, “Tony calls attorney-general to ensure sister’s wedding is illegal”, and “Tony is told that Lance Armstrong is still in a meeting, but he got all your messages and please stop calling”.
2. A BRAND NEW SMART PHONE
You know when you buy your housemate dinner because you accidentally ate the last of their Indian leftovers, or when you order a bouquet of flowers for your girlfriend because you accidentally had an espionage agency tap her phone for months on end? You need to smooth the tension in a way that refers back to the original incident without making too big a deal of it.
Basically, I’m saying get the President a smart phone. There’s a new iPhone out soon, probably. Susilo will appreciate the gesture, and enjoy all the fun apps we’ve pre-loaded onto the phone, like “Password Store Pro”, “Military Plan Maker” and “ASIO Quiz: The Game”.
3. A KARAOKE VERSION OF NANCY SINATRA’S “BANG BANG”
Julie Bishop, this is what the Foreign Affairs portfolio is all about. You need to step into the breach here and smooth things over by flattering President Yuhhoyono’s massive ego. Not that I know that it's massive, but then I’m not the one listening to his phone calls.
A karaoke version of the Nancy Sinatra classic would do the trick here, but with Susilo Bambang’s name substituted. You’d only need to belt out a few verses of “Bambang... He Shot Me Down” over images of the joint military training exercises you’re no longer conducting, and, like the end of every romantic comedy made between 1989 and 2003, all will be forgiven.
4. A GIANT WOODEN HORSE FULL OF ASYLUM SEEKERS
As far as I can tell, this is the perfect situation. Indonesia is losing asylum seekers at a fairly steady rate, and we’ve got more than we humanely know what to do with! It’s supply and demand at its most basic.
Don’t just dump them on a Papuan beach, however. The art of gift-giving lies in the packaging. You need some sort of themed wrapping that’s native to Indonesia, like, say, the Batik Pony.
You could totally a build a gigantic Batik Pony out of all the boats you keep impulse-buying from Indonesian fishermen and store all the refugees in there. And given the Coalition’s grasp of history, I feel confident in assuring you that this has never been attempted before.
5. SEX SCANDAL
Usually, serious foreign diplomacy incidents are used as a way to distract the nation from sex scandals. In the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, President Bill Clinton famously diverted attention with an embarrassing foreign affairs gaffe in which he bombed Yugoslavia.
Australia prides itself on doing things differently, so taken are we by the “Down Under” moniker. We’re like the diplomatic version of the old Yakov Smirnoff routine.
In order to distract from this current controversy, someone in the Coalition needs to take the hit and do something scandalous and sexy. Like when Gareth Evans managed to woo Cheryl Kernot from the Democrats to Labor, and it was later revealed they’d been having an affair. Something like that, except without us having to imagine Gareth Evans naked.
If no one on the front bench is already having an affair, then I suggest putting the hard work on Christopher Pyne. He’s reasonably attractive, and has that “fire and brimstone” quality that would make the story so juicy, an all-out nuclear war with Indonesia would be bumped to page twenty.
Follow Lee on Twitter: @leezachariah
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