New G20 leader Australia coy on spying


SYDNEY: Prime Minister Tony Abbott vowed to be “absolutely candid” with world leaders but sidestepped questions on spying as Australia assumed the leadership of the G20 for 2014 on Sunday.

Abbott said the 2014 summit, to be held November in Brisbane, would be the “most significant meeting of world leaders ever hosted in Australia” and—as the host government—Canberra would also invite Singapore and New Zealand to attend.

“Our focus as G20 president will be on strong, private sector-led economic growth,” Abbott told reporters.

He vowed to be up front with his international counterparts, but refused to comment specifically on spying after reports that Canada had allowed America’s National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdrop on the 2010 G20 and G8 summits in Toronto.

The allegations were aired by Canada’s public broadcaster CBC citing NSA briefing notes provided by fugitive contractor Edward Snowden.

“I can promise leaders around the world who are visiting Australia that I’m going to be absolutely candid with them, I won’t be saying anything in private that I don’t say in public,” Abbott said when asked to guarantee there would not be a repeat performance in Brisbane next year.

“Apart from that I don’t comment on intelligence matters. Never have, never will.”

Ties between Canberra and Indonesia have been badly strained in recent weeks by claims Australian spies tried to tap the phones of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and inner circle in 2009.

The allegations, based on NSA leaks from Snowden, saw Jakarta halt cooperation on people-smuggling and military exercises and recall its ambassador to Australia.

There were also furious public protests as relations between the two strategic allies hit their lowest ebb in years.



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