Abbott's apparent Indonesian silliness expressed my disquiet over Opposition Leader Abbott's proposal that funding of the Indonesian schools program, Australia's biggest aid program, should be deferred to help pay for the Queensland floods. It appears that the Opposition's Deputy Leader shares my disquiet. According to the Australian
Ms Bishop, the opposition's foreign affairs spokeswoman, has told colleagues she is devastated by Mr Abbott's insistence that the Indonesian program be sacrificed as part of a $1.8 billion savings drive under the Coalition's alternative plan to the Gillard government's proposed flood levy.
Indonesia has also expressed concerns:
Education Vice-Minister Fasli Galal last night asked Australian officials to his office for reassurance that the Gillard government continued to support the Australia-Indonesia Partnership program, which has a substantial component of support for "inclusive and moderate" Islamic schools.
Religious schools supported by Australian aid focus on the secular national education curriculum, limiting to 30 per cent the amount of teaching time spent on religious instruction.
That aid also broadens opportunities for girls from conservative Muslim families who, especially in poor areas, are reluctant to send daughters to anything but an Islamic school.
I must admit I still don't understand why Mr Abbott went this route. I find it hard to believe that, as alleged in one place (I don't have a link), it was a response to Queensland agitation centred around the One Nation web site. I just think that it was opportunistic and sloppy thinking.
A story by Phillip Cooery, Coalition 'insanity' fuels aid divisions, in today's (11 February) Sydney Morning Herald suggests this issue is getting still messier for Mr Abbott with significant divisions continuing within the opposition.