Bordering on farce

The Courier-Mail

August 15th 2006


Following today's dumping of proposed tough new immigation laws, The Courier-Mail's Paul Syvret and the Australian Strategic Policy Institute's Des Moore go head to head on the vexed issue.



Des Moore argues that rejection is misguided


A majority of West Australians in the last century wanted to secede from Australia, but were denied.


Many West Papuans now want to secede from Indonesia, but have been denied. Still, two basic differences. The West Australians acted within the law and accepted peaceably their disappointment. The West Papuans, in contrast, have engaged in armed insurrection and outside the law.


Indeed, they are clearly determined to go on using force to achieve their desires.


More than that, some are clearly determined to escape the arm of the law by fleeing abroad, leaving behind the misguided but at least brave to continue the fight.


Those who flee justify their cowardly action by claiming to continue the fight by trying to persuade another, powerful, country to take up their cause politically and materially and, they hope, in the end forcibly.


How can it possibly be in Australia's national interest to fall in with the miscreants' desires? True, the Australian Government 40-odd years ago decided it was in our interest to keep Indonesia away from West Papua, if necessary by military action. But our national interest was not seen to be in making West Papua independent.


Indeed, we wanted a totally alien power - Holland - to continue governing West Papua from the far beyond. Fortunately, the US pulled the military rug from under our and the Dutch feet, and the conversion of the Netherlands East Indies into Indonesia was completed.


That some West Papuans do not like being part of Indonesia is none of our business, any more than it is our business that some Kashmiris do not like being part of India, some Chechens do not like being part of Russia, and some Scots and some Irish do not like being part of Britain.


To buy into others' troubles because they urge us to, or because it gives us a warm inner glow, is simply irrational if our national interest is not affected by how those troubles pan out. And our national interest is certainly not engaged in West Papua.


That it is close to Australia is not to the point, but only another example of the Tyranny of Proximity. Indeed, the continuation of Britain matters far more to us - and many others - than the fate of West Papua.


Unless, of course, we take the side of West Papuan independence. For then we would have deliberately ranged ourselves against a central Indonesian national interest: keeping together a country with many fissiparous tendencies.


That would incur a hostile Indonesia, determined to wreak what damage it could on Australia - not mainly out of vengeance but with the purpose of changing our policy.


Indonesia could not sensibly act with military force against us, but it could do plenty to damage us politically and practically. Why on earth would we want to invite that outcome?


More even than wantonly ranging ourselves against a central Indonesian national interest is acting against a central Australian national interest: that Indonesia not break up.


The Balkanisation of Indonesia would complicate disastrously our foreign and defence policies, and give real and sinister meaning to the easy phrase arc of instability right across our main egress to Asia and the Middle East and Europe.


Despite all the foregoing obvious realities, the ALP and some Government members resort from a mixture of poor motives to characterising the Government as appeasers of Indonesia. That is nonsense.


Certainly, if Indonesia's policies were as much against our national interests as Hitler's were, Australia's inaction would merit the charge of appeasement. But that is not the case.


What the Government's Pacific Solution is doing is to prevent, where possible, West Papuans (and others) from gaining uninvited and unwelcome entry to Australia - this not because they are being acted against in their country for what they are, like Hitler persecuting the Jews simply for being Jews, but because they are acting outside the law, both Indonesian and Australian.


And above all because they seek to come to persuade Australia and Australians to add their considerable weight to the taking on of Indonesia.


The West Papuans are not just economic refugees. They arrive here not just to vastly better their standard of living at an unearned stroke but to better their political cause in the land they have deserted.


And to accomplish that nefarious aim by working on the bleeding hearts, but

not the rational minds, of well-meaning but misguided and soft-centred Australians.


And by working too on those who will seize on any stick with which to beat the Government, even though they will be beating Australia too.


Des Moore is a councillor with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. These views are his own.




Paul Syvret is glad to see the back of the proposed laws


Today I'm thankful not to have to cry for my country. To despair. But only just. Those tears, I fear, are only postponed.


It would be heartening to be able to say that basic human compassion, tolerance and generosity of spirit won out over political turpitude.


It would be reassuring to be able to think Australia has demonstrated that it is indeed a nation that respects fundamental human rights and that we are a people prepared to open our arms to those in need.


In an ideal world, yesterday the Australian Senate would have struck down the unconscionable and morally bankrupt legislation that would have seen all asylum seekers forced into offshore detention centres - centres beyond the reach of, and without recourse to, Australian law.


But Prime Minister John Howard pulled the legislation from the Senate yesterday before it could be debated - after it had been made clear to him that at least one Coalition senator would cross the floor to oppose this iniquity.


Howard withdrew this legislation not because of he accidentally stumbled across a long-lost conscience or sense of common human decency but because the Bill would have been blocked by the Senate. It would have embarrassed him.


To those Coalition MPs - Petro Georgiou, Russell Broadbent and Judi Moylan - who have already crossed the floor to oppose the Migration Amendments (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill in the lower house, thank you.


Thank you also to Nationals MP John Forrest who resigned from his post as the Nationals' chief whip and abstained from voting on the Bill.


"I just don't understand where this hard-heartedness comes from. This is not my Australia," he said.


These are politicians of principle, men and women who place the value of human life ahead of mean-spirited, dog-whistle politics. So too is Family First Senator Steve Fielding, who vowed to vote against the legislation.


Queensland National Party Senator Barnaby Joyce posed this question on the ABC's Lateline recently: "If it was the time of Herod, and Jesus, Mary and Joseph turned up in Australia, what would we do?" The answer, Senator, is that under our PM's model, we would ship them to a small island nation in the Pacific called Nauru - a once beautiful land raped by decades of phosphate mining. There we would detain them - man, woman and child behind razor wire until they were "processed" and being of Middle Eastern extraction you'd take short odds of Joseph, Mary and Jesus winning a one-way trip back to a war zone. Of course, being on Nauru, they could not appeal against the decision in Australian courts.


Nauru is Australia's answer to Guantanamo Bay, the difference being we lock up children, and the detainees have not been charged with any crimes. To those senators who were wavering, please also bear in mind that Australia is a nation of immigrants and refugees. We're all bitsers.


For the record, my natural mother arrived in Queensland as a child refugee from Europe after World War II, with her family. Asylum seekers. My natural father was a refugee of another type - a peace-loving Irish-American who escaped to Australia during the Vietnam War to avoid the draft.


Howard - amid a climate of extreme alertness and alarmedness following the September 11 attacks - campaigned in the 2001 election on the nakedly xenophobic slogan: "Only we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come."


Children overboard anyone? Now, however, it seems the campaign slogan would be more accurate if amended to "only we and Indonesia will decide who comes to this country".


I say that because it would appear that the primary motivation for this latest moral and ethical abomination of a law was to appease Jakarta following the arrival of 43 West Papuan asylum seekers who were granted protection visas.


Australian law, and compassionate reason, decreed they deserved asylum, but in Howard's Australia we need to remove them and any other unwanted, politically embarrassing "illegals" from the scrutiny of the system and deny them access to the law.


And this applies, be they West Papuans or any other people who possess the courage and the desperation to abandon their homes in search of safer, more fortunate lives.


The paranoid lunacy of this Government's approach to unwanted arrivals was illustrated depressingly clearly recently by the proposal to deploy a heavily armed prison ship off the northern Australian coast, to intercept potential asylum seekers. Please, senators, when this Bill doubtless re-emerges from its fetid grave in another guise, show some basic humanity. Make me proud to be Australian, proud of our democracy and our generosity of spirit, not ashamed. Please.