Saturday, April 08, 2006

Meeting their international obligations?

Back in January, 43 West Papuan independence rights activists landed in Australia and sought asylum. Last month, their claims were granted, touching off a messy diplomatic spat with Indonesia, which denies that there is any persecution in West Papua. Now John Howard wants to review Australia's asylum process, so that the "national interest" and Australia's relationships with other countries can be taken into account. In particular, they want to be able to take into account the views of a country an asylum seeker is fleeing. All of this, Howard assures us, will be done in a way which "will meet our international obligations".

Unfortunately, there is no such way. The Refugee Convention is pretty explicit: someone is a refugee if they have a "well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion". This is a question of fact, to be decided by the evidence supporting a claimant's story - and the answer does not change depending on whether Australia wants to suck up to the claimant's government or not. Discrimination based on a claimant's country of origin is explicitly forbidden precisely to prevent this sort of tawdry sacrifice of people's human rights for perceived national interest and trade advantages.

What Howard is proposing is an outright violation of the Refugee Convention so that Australia can suck up to a government which grossly abuses human rights. And it is something Australians should be deeply ashamed of.


Any Australian who isn't already ashamed of Howard isn't going to be moved by this.

Howard is about to appear before the Cole inquiry (which has terms of reference making it basically powerless over him) to answer questions about how he could possibly have been ignorant of the AWB's shonky dealings. He's pushed through draconian and unnecessary industrial relations reforms purely because he likes the ideology, and he did it during (literally in the middle of) major sporting events when it would never make the front page of the news. He continues to give a mandate to the refugee detention centres, which skirt the edges of violating those same international laws. He lied, knowingly, about the Tampa and the children in the water. His refusal to treat the Stolen Generation issue with a modicum of humanity is pathetic.

I wonder if this is seditous yet? Howard and his entire snivelling lot should be forced from office. There you go.


Posted by Chris : 4/11/2006 10:35:00 AM