SYDNEY–A strategist for Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Liberal party apologized Thursday 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 Marty Natalegawa, who has demanded Canberra apologize after documents leaked by U.S. intelligence fugitive Edward Snowden showed Australia tried to listen to the phone 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 the 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, adding, “Conduct unbecoming.” Textor touts himself as being in Abbott’s “inner circle,” the 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,” she told reporters. “The prime minister must disassociate himself, the Liberal Party, and the Australian government from them immediately and unequivocally.” Former Australian prime minister Malcolm Fraser also weighed in, demanding on Twitter that Textor be sacked immediately, while Greens leader Christine Milne called the remarks “appalling.” “Clearly he’s a close confidant of the Liberal party and it says quite a lot about what they think in those back rooms,” she told the ABC. “This sort of tweet will be seen as just further inflaming the situation, particularly because of the close relationship between Mark Textor and the prime minister and the Liberal party in general.” Abbott’s office did not return calls for comment.
On Wednesday, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono suspended cooperation with Australia in the sensitive area of people-smuggling in retaliation to 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.