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Bali teen arrives home
The 14-year-old Lake Macquarie boy who spent two months in detention in Bali on drug charges has arrived home. He flew into Sydney Airport from Denpasar this morning, dodging waiting media.


The boy, who lives at Morisset Park and is a student at Morisset High, was held in the Jimbaran detention centre for buying 3.6g of marijuana on the street in Kuta on October 4.

Before leaving Indonesia he completed paperwork at the Kerobokan Prison, where he was also fingerprinted and photographed, and was then sent to the immigration office at Denpasar airport.

A media scrum has been following the teenager wherever he goes, but he continues to disguise his identity with a balaclava and refuse to answer questions.

The Nine Network has denied making a deal worth hundreds of thousands of dollars with the boy's family for exclusive rights to their story.

The charges the boy faced carried a sentence of up to two years' jail, but prosecutors requested three months.

The judge reduced the sentence further, to two months, which with time served meant the boy would be home before Christmas.

The teen's lawyer, Mohammad Rifan, says his client is "so happy" to be going home.

He says the boy is hoping his experience sends a message to other Australians.

"Many people, or many boys in Australia, may have some mistakes like him," Mr Rifan said.

"He wants this to be a warning to the Australian boys not to continue or do something stupid like that."

It's now up to the boy's family to decide whether to enter him into a rehabilitation program.

Homeward bound? Bali teen likely to escape criminal charge and avoid jail
AUSTRALIAN ambassador to Indonesia Greg Moriarty visited the 14-year-old Lake Macquarie teenager who is facing drug charges and his mother at Denpasar police headquarters this afternoon.

He said the family was under "incredible stress" but he has no concerns for the teenís health or well-being.

"We are continuing to work with the Indonesian authorities and his (the teen's) legal team to ensure his return to Australia as soon as possible.

"I certainly believe that we are doing all that we can to support the boy and his family," Mr Moriarty said.

The boy's father travelled home to Australia on Sunday leaving the mother to care for their son in the police holding cell.

"She is under incredible stress but she is strong and she is handling it as well as can be predicted in the circumstances," Mr Moriarty said.

Earlier, The Daily Telegraph revealed that the teen could be moved out of his small cell above Denpasar's police station in the coming days.

The drug squad head Mulaydi spent an hour finalising details of the police report.

He later revealed the boy could be moved within a week.

"We will find a suitable custody for minor," Mulaydi said.

"But he is still here for a while until P21 process".

P21 refers to the police summary case being handed to the prosecutors.

This morning the Telegraph revealed the boy was likely to face trial - but may escape a jail sentence.

The new hope for an early release came as Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday came under fire for potentially inflaming a delicate diplomatic situation by revealing she spoke to the boy by phone while he sat in a Bali jail cell.

Mulyad said he would recommend the Lake Macquarie schoolboy be charged under article 128 of Indonesian law, which states the minor will not be sentenced to a jail term. He admitted a judge could still ignore the recommendation.

"Article 128 is the appropriate because he is a minor and a user," the officer said.

But a former Australian ambassador to Indonesia said Ms Gillard's foray could aggravate Indonesian authorities:

"Generally Indonesia resents public activities designed to put pressure on them for domestic political reasons in Australia. Much more progress is likely to be achieved by private discussion," said the former ambassador, who asked not to be named.

Ms Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd appeared locked in a desperate struggle for the political spotlight yesterday over the boy's plight.

With leadership tension between the two mounting, Ms Gillard's office took the surprising step of revealing she had spoken to the Morisset High School student on Sunday by phone. The current Australian Ambassador to Indonesia, Greg Moriarty, was with the boy at the time.

Mr Moriarty handed the phone over to the boy for a brief chat, the PM's office said.

"She just had a chance to make sure he knew the Australian government was doing everything we could to help him," a spokesman said.

Aussie boy 'may have been set up'

Mr Rudd has led the campaign to secure the boy's release since he was arrested for allegedly buying marijuana.

While Mr Rudd has spoken to the boy's father, he had not spoken directly to the boy.

He has also made repeated public statements that he "would do everything to get the little bloke home".

Indonesian authorities said they believed the Australian government was trying to interfere in the legal processes, angering key police officials.

The opposition yesterday condemned the government's handling of the situation.

"It's unseemly to watch the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister competing over issues as serious as the young boy in Bali," Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said.

With her hold on the top job under an increasingly dark cloud, Ms Gillard now faces a make-or-break week, with two key pieces of legislation to be voted on in parliament.

While the PM is likely to score a political victory with the passage of the controversial carbon tax through the lower house tomorrow, defeat looms as the government tries to change the Migration Act to revive its Malaysia asylum seeker solution the next day.

Penberthy: Who'd risk a Bali high?
THE Government has been protecting us from our own foolishness, writes David Penberthy.

THERE is something enticing about the idea of life in the foreign service, with the promise of exotic travel, dealings and double-dealings with diplomats from the dodgiest regimes, cocktails on the lawn at lavish ambassadorial residences.

We have been reminded this week, however, that a very large part of the role of the foreign service is to lend a helping hand to ratbags who get themselves into strife overseas, and believe that it's the job of the Government to get them out of trouble.

You would imagine that any Australian diplomat posted to a place such as Phuket would spend most of their time arranging ambulances for guys called Wazza who ploughed their Vespa into the back of a tuktuk after 14 bottles of Singha, safe in the knowledge that our Government can save them from their own stupidity.

One of the best columns of the past few years was written by the former foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer when he hilariously dismantled the mindset of the so-called "Beer Mat Mum", Annice Smoel, who was accused of swiping a beer mat from a bar in Thailand and immediately demanded that the Australian Government do something about it.

Downer provided the following reflections on his arrival in the foreign affairs portfolio in 1996 and the responsibilities it entailed:

"After about 10 minutes as foreign minister I was a little surprised to learn I was `responsible' for miscreant Australians who got into trouble in foreign countries.

"No, no, no, don't get it wrong - drug traffickers, drunks, kleptomaniacs and fraudsters weren't responsible for their own stupidity - I was.

"It's about time that great nanny in Canberra, the Federal Government, turned around and told people they are responsible for their own decisions."

This might sound harsh in the case of the youth, 14, who has been arrested in Bali on charges of possessing a tiny amount of cannabis, just $28 worth, which he says he bought in some act of muddle-headed kindness from a man who said he didn't have money.

Just to be clear, I think that it is ridiculous and harsh that this young man faces the prospect of jail time for such a small offence, especially in a prison which is home to the worst class of criminals, and I hope that the Indonesians let him go.

But I do wonder what was going through his mind and, particularly, the mind of his parents in allowing him to behave in such an extraordinarily foolish manner in a country where, on arrival, you are greeted with massive yellow billboards alerting you to the fact that the death penalty applies for drug offences, and featuring photos of people who have been executed for their crimes, just to hammer the point home.

There should not be a person in Australia who isn't aware that the Indonesians take an extremely dim view of drug offences. Unless you have been living under a rock you should be familiar with the cases of Schapelle Corby and the Bali Nine, and aware that buying even the smallest amount of drugs in a place such as Bali is one of the dumbest things a person can do. A 14-year-old should know these things; if he doesn't, it is the job of his parents to tell him, especially before heading off on an Indonesian holiday.

Kevin Rudd has taken up the cudgels for this boy and his family, which is fair enough.

He could probably have spared us the unnecessary and patronising theatrics of stating that he's instructed our consular staff in Bali that the release of the boy must be their "top priority".

You could be pretty sure that it was already their top priority, and that they were not sunning themselves on the beach at Sanur when news of the boy's arrest broke.

Rudd's determination to immerse himself so dramatically into the issue probably said more about his domestic political ambitions than the diplomatic handling of the case, where he gets to remind us all that he's the people's choice to lead the ALP.

Rudd has been very generous in his assessment of what the boy's parents must be going through.

"I think if you put yourself in the position of being a mum or a dad with a 14-year-old who's got themselves caught up in this situation, your heart would go out to the parents," he said on Thursday night. Of course it would.

But for many of us this compassionate assessment comes with a totally valid qualifier as to how they all got themselves into this pretty ludicrous scrape in the first place.

We may also wonder why it is that, from the Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister down, the Government is fixated on this issue, when the diplomats would have already been working diligently and professionally to resolve it anyway, in keeping with their role of protecting Australian travellers from their own foolishness.

penberthyd@thepunch.com.au
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