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Chickens coming home to roost

March 26th, 2006

The Howard government’s past misdeeds, most of which seemed at the time to be consequence-free, are catching up with it. The AWB scandal is an obvious example, with the important observation that the “Children Overboard” episode ensured that no-one (other than those wanting to be duped, unfortunately a large group) believed the government’s initial denials of knowing anything about the whole business.

Perhaps more serious, in terms of its consequences for Australia’s national interests is the dispute with Indonesia over the granting of temporary protection visas to 42 Papuan “illegals” (the term popularised by former Immigration Minister and current Attorney-General Phllip Ruddock.

Under the international law that prevailed in the past, these people would have been asylum seekers, with a wide range of legal rights.[1] If their cases had proved successful, the government could reasonably claim to be bound by treaty obligations. Now however, “we will decide who comes here and under what circumstances”. People fleeing Saddam Hussein and the war in Afghanistan have been pushed back to sea, to take their chances, or subjected to close and critical scrutiny, in a process with the presumptions all stacked against them.

So, assuming a consistent process is taking place, the decision to grant visas to the Papuans amounts to a judgement that the Indonesian government is far worse than Saddam or the Taliban, so much so that their illegal arrival can be disregarded. Not surprisingly, the Indonesians are not taking this at all well.

The best thing the government could do for Australia is to admit that its actions in 2001 were a desperate and cruel, but successful, political manoeuvre, aimed at winning votes from a panicked electorate, and that nothing it said or did at the time should be regarded as part of our true policy. Almost certainly, that is the message being conveyed privately to the Indonesians, but what’s needed is some sort of public apology, and this is not a government that’s good at saying “Sorry”.

fn1. The process of stripping back these rights was started by Labor, but extended massively by Ruddock and Howard.

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  1. Bill O’Slatter
    April 4th, 2006 at 19:31 | #1

    Thanks for that Steve it is a most effective form of argument. I will use it myself in future. However it would also be appreciated if your argument also had some content.
    Regards “Stinky” Bill

  2. Xanda
    April 17th, 2006 at 09:55 | #2

    To Hal9000:
    I have worked with Indochinese “refugees” for the last twenty years, to call most of them political refugees is a nonsense. Most openly tell me “the best thing that happened” was the fall of Sth Vietnam -it gave them the chance to a move to a more economically promising location.
    Likewise, with the Tianmen Square refugees- what a joke!!!!
    I am married to one. Most had little or no interest in politics-though they went out of their way to be seen and photographed a demonstration against Beijing.
    They used our systems naivity
    To talk of the dangers they had to transvere is misleading too.
    People will smuggle drugs,even under threat of death, if the economic return is sufficient.

  3. Martin
    September 16th, 2006 at 22:28 | #3

    To Xanda
    What you said is 100percent correct.The fall of Saigon was the best thing to happen to the Vietnamese.Have you noticed how so many get excited at the prospect of goung back for a holiday.Cheap women and beer there.Europeans never returned till a regime change.

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