A strategist for Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party apologized yesterday after describing a person widely reported to be the Indonesian foreign minister as resembling “a 1970s Filipino porn star.”
Mark Textor made the derogatory comment on Twitter as ties between Canberra and Jakarta plunged to their lowest point in years after a series of spying allegations.
“Apology demanded from Australia by a bloke who looks like a 1970’s Pilipino [sic] porn star and has ethics to match,” said the tweet, which has since been deleted.
Reports said he was referring to Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marty Natalegawa, who has demanded Canberra apologize after documents leaked by US intelligence fugitive Edward Snowden showed Australia tried to listen to the telephone calls of the Indonesian president, his wife and ministers in 2009.
However, although Textor apologized, he said he was not referring to “anyone in particular” when Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) cornered him at Parliament House in Canberra.
“Apologies to my Indonesian friends — frustrated by media-driven divisions — Twitter is indeed no place for diplomacy,” he later tweeted. “Conduct unbecoming.”
Textor touts himself as being in Abbott’s “inner circle,” ABC said, and his market research firm Crosby Textor has been associated with the Liberal Party for many years.
Labor opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said his comment would do nothing to repair relations with Jakarta and called on Abbott to distance himself from Textor.
“Frankly, I was quite shocked. They’re highly inappropriate comments, I’m pleased to be told they’ve now been taken off the Twitter feed,” Plibersek told reporters. “The prime minister must disassociate himself, the Liberal Party and the Australian government from them immediately and unequivocally.”
On Wednesday, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono suspended cooperation with Australia in the sensitive area of people-smuggling in retaliation for the spying claims.
He also announced that cooperation would be temporarily halted in a number of other areas, including military exercises and intelligence exchanges. Indonesia recalled its ambassador from Canberra earlier this week over the scandal and Yudhoyono has publicly lambasted Abbott on Twitter for what he called a lack of remorse.
In related developments, Australian police and central bank Web sites fell victim to cyberattacks yesterday, with an Indonesian hacker claiming responsibility, reportedly demanding that Canberra apologize for its spying.
Officials called the attacks on the Australian Federal Police and the Reserve Bank of Australia “irresponsible,” and said whoever was to blame could face prosecution.
“These attacks ... will not influence government policy,” the federal police said in a statement. “Activities such as hacking, creating or propagating malicious viruses are not harmless fun. They can result in serious long-term consequences for individuals, such as criminal convictions or jail time.”