Tony Abbott defends claims of spying on Indonesian president

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott has defended Australia against claims it was spying on Indonesia's president, saying "all governments gather information and all governments know that every other government gathers information".

Mr Abbott said he had seen reports this morning about the fresh claims, but refused to confirm them, saying "the Australian government never comments on specific intelligence matters".

The Prime Minister said the government used all of its resources to "help our friends and allies", "not to harm them".

He said Australia first interest was in protecting its national interest.

Mr Abbott described Australia's relationship with Indonesia as its most important, adding that Australia would do what it needed to protect that.

His comments in Parliament come after the ABC and The Guardian revealed Australian spy agencies had listened in on the personal phone calls of the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Spy agencies also targeted the mobile phones of his wife, senior ministers and confidants, a top secret document from whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

Dated November 2009, the document names the president and nine of his inner circle as targets of the surveillance, including the vice-president, Boediono, who last week visited Australia.

Other named targets include ministers from the time who are now possible candidates in next year's Indonesian presidential election, and the first lady, Kristiani Herawati, better known as Ani Yudhoyono.

When a separate document from Snowden, a former contractor to the US's National Security Agency (NSA), showed Australia had spied on Indonesia and other countries from its embassies, the Indonesian foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, reacted angrily and threatened to review co-operation on issues crucial to Australia such as people smuggling and terrorism.

The new leak, published by the Guardian Australia and the ABC, is likely to seriously escalate those tensions.