08 July 2010

Australia, Timor Leste, and Asylum Seekers...

There is probably much to write and much more to be written on this. However, there needs to be a start and it needs to be somewhere, so why not here?

This is policy making on the run and is sure to get the criticism it deserves and then some. Australia has obligations having signed on the dotted line to all of the relevant treaties and conventions relating to asylum seekers and refugees. This is not a political issue, it is a humanitarian one. It is time that politicians started to remember those basic human decencies under which we all strive to operate under and be respected for.

Now that that is out of the way it is time to get down to some cold hard realities. This is a political issue. It is so because politicians go out of their way to make it so. And, by doing so, they serve only to unravel the web that surrounds them to show themselves as hypocritical number crunchers concerned only with personal electoral survival.

The "Timor Solution" is the "Pacific Solution" by another name. Some of the details might be a little different, but in essence the Labor policy on this is to process asylum seekers offshore and presumably in Timor Leste. The only problem with this is that Labor has forgotten to consult with their Timor Leste counterparts on the policy prior to its announcement. Or, failing that, the Labor people responsible for this move were very poorly advised (preferable bailout position) or just too arrogant to even consider that Timor Leste might say, "bugger that for a joke, we have plenty of problems of our own without taking on your 'problems' as well!"

The government, assuming the government was consulted on this, has been poorly advised. Poorly advised in the sense of Jose Ramos Horta is not the man on this one. He is not Timor Leste. It is time that the Australian government showed a little more respect to a sovereign neighbour. It is worth remembering that Timor Leste is an independent nation with considerable resources and considerable income streams that will come on line over the coming years and decades with the exploitation of oil and gas resources in particular.

That is not to say that the new independent nation that is Timor Leste is thriving and economically stable or aid free. However, the people of Timor Leste have done more than enough to earn a little respect in terms of being consulted on the establishment of an asylum seeker processing / detention facility on their sovereign territory.

The proof of the pudding with respect to the poor advice and the poor consultation mechanisms is that Julia Gillard PM, has come out and said to the effect, 'if Timor does not agree then we will find somewhere else!' Perhaps, Nauru, Ms. PM?

I am still waiting for a talking political head to make a valid case on how this is different to the Pacific Solution that John Howard came up with and that Labor so consistently slammed as being in breach of our international obligations and an affront to our collective humanitarianism. So, much so when I watched Alexander Downer articulating on national television pretty much the same things as I was thinking. And, I am sure many millions of other Australians were thinking too!

Therefore, the arguments have to be that the Liberal policy was fundamentally the right one and the adoption of the Timor Solution is Labor's way of saying so or alternatively the policy is seriously flawed and no matter which way you wrap it it still stinks. My humanitarianism tells me that the latter is the correct assumption. No matter how you package it, it still stinks.

This is not about queue jumpers or terrorists sneaking into Australia. The system will 99 times out of 100 pick up on those individuals and exclude them. This is about doing what is right. Right for Australia and right for those fleeing persecution and other dangers that allow them to claim refugee and asylum status legitimately.

A final point. It is about time someone published the numbers. You know, did the number crunching and some projections and gave it to us, the Australian people, how it really is. I heard earlier today on the idiot box (aka TV) that the numbers were something along the lines of a MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) every 10 years or so as the total number of refugees and asylum seekers Australia would receive and process. Apparently, our legitimate migration numbers far-exceed this. So, it is not like refugees and asylum seekers are going to do us in economically, socially, legally or any other -ly.

It is time that we as constituents said to our politicians, "this is not a political issue, it is a humanitarian one." And we should add that, "if you want my vote you will act on your humanitarian conscience and not your political one".

Thus endeth the sermon on asylum seekers and the Timor Solution (for today at least!).

1 comment:

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