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Thread: Please, don't judge us all by our government!

  1. #1
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    Post Please, don't judge us all by our government!

    Considering Australia's actions over the last couple of days, anyone would be well within their rights to write us all off as a "rogue state".

    Bear in mind that not all Australians support our government's actions, and think that the situation with the Tampa is despicable. Especially the use of soldiers against civilians and the effective piracy we have committed against Norway.

    For any Norwegians on the list - let me apologise on behalf of the "non-red-necked" half of Australia.

    I am utterly ashamed to be an Australian at present.

    ------------------
    "Every atom in our bodies was forged in the furnace of ancient stars - it is our destiny to return home..."

  2. #2
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    Question

    What is the situation you are talking about? I have yet to hear of any problems "down under" on the news. Of course I live a very shelterd life .

    So what's the deal?

  3. #3
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    Angry

    It's bloody complicated, actually.
    About five days ago, there was a leaky rust-bucket heading from Indonesia to Australia, stuffed with over 400 refugees, most of them fleeing Afghanistan and Iraq.

    When the thing started sinking, an Australian Coast-Guard plane spotted their SOS and radioed a Norwegian cargo-ship, the Tampa, and asked them to supply assistance.

    The Tampa went in and plucked the people out of the water. So here they were, 400+ dripping, frightened refugees who had basically just traded everything but the clothes on their backs for passage into Australia.

    The captain was preparing to take them to Indonesia, but the refugees basically said: "No! If we get stuck there, we'll never get out - we've got nothing left to buy passage with. Take us to Australia - otherwise, people are going to start diving back in the water!"

    So the Tampa captain agreed, and headed for Christmas Island, the closest Australian territory.

    The Australian Government (who is at present in the throes of criticism by every church group, Amnesty International, The Red Cross, the United Nations and several Senate inquiries into the poor treatment of refugees) sent a message to the Norwegian government and said: "They're not welcome in Australia, tell your captain to turn his ship around."

    Unfortunately, Indonesia said essentially the same thing.

    The Norwegian government relayed this to the Tampa captain, who by this stage was close to Christmas Island, who essentially responded with: 'I don't care. There are 438 men, women and children on the deck of my ship. Many of the women are pregnant. Many of the people are ill. I'm declaring a state of distress and coming into Christmas Island'.

    So he did, dropping anchor about 3 km off-shore (Christmas Island has no port to handle a container ship), within Australian Territorial waters.

    So what does our government do? Does it grit its teeth and say: "Damn! We didn't want this - but there are 400+ people in need of help"?

    No. It says: "Get out of our waters" and sends in a platoon of SAS troops to back it up. So now the ship is occupied by Australian soldiers, the 438 refugees (who are fleeing totalitarian police-states) are surrounded by soldiers with assault rifles, the Captain of the Tampa is still refusing to budge.

    Indonesia refuses to take the refugees.
    Australia is refusing to take the refugees.
    The captain (who is the real meat-in-the-sandwich here) is the only person actually trying to do the right thing - he is saying he doesn't give a rat's-arse whose responsibility it is; he's got hundreds of people, many of them ill, aboard his ship, and is being told he's going to be forced back into international waters.

    Many Australian maritime law experts have already decried the government's action as in breach of maritime law.

    The Norwegian government has said if Australia forces the ship out into international waters it will (probably successfully, it seems) have Australia hauled before the World Shipping Organisation on charges of piracy!

    My own government was in parliamentary session until 2am this morning, debating an emergency piece of legislation to make it legal for Australia to take this direct action - legislation which was to have been retrospective back to 9am the previous morning, before the troops had stormed the ship.

    This legislation has been knocked on the head, with the opposition and several independent parties refusing to pass it.

    So there we have it. I am living in a country which is not only willing to use military force against unarmed civilians, but is willing to re-write its own laws to cover its actions, taken in obvious violation of the current laws!

    Moreover, my country's government is content to bandy semantics over this with Indonesia, rather than just accept the bloody fact it's happened and help these people!

    I have been increasingly angry and frustrated with Australia's treatment of asylum-seekers for over a year now, and actively involved in campaigns to improve their treatment. I have been vocal in trying to stop the vilification of asylum-seekers; their being characterised as "illegal immigrants", for example, when under Australian law they are not illegal. It is not illegal to enter Australia without a visa and request asylum, which is what they've done.

    But this just takes the cake.

    We have an election later this year - unfortunately, the Opposition (the only other party with hope of forming a government) has actually supported the government's heavy-handed approach to this (though they stopped the legislation).

    So I am left wondering who the hell I vote for in November? Either way, I'll get a government lacking in compassion and willing to abrogate peoples' basic human rights.

    I'm seeing so many echoes of Goebbels-ish propaganda in the whole situation I'm really starting to get concerned.

    Recently our immigration minister, Philip Ruddock, stated on national TV he couldn't see "any Australian giving succor to an asylum-seeker who had escaped detention". Mind you, these detention centres are borderline concentration camps - mostly in the middle of the desert, where the media are prohibited access, staff are bound with gag orders and no contact is allowed between the inmates and the outside, save 1 TV and 1 newspaper for every 300 refugees. 570 of the people in these camps are children.

    UN inspections of these camps have been refused.

    In response to a great deal of public concern over the treatment of refugees, our government has enacted draconian legislation mandating a 10 year prison sentence for anyone harbouring an escaped refugee.

    It is despicable. It is disgusting. I would urge everyone to contact their own government's and ask that they put pressure - political and economic - on Australia to abide by its own treaties and own laws, and International law, as well as the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

    I am so utterly ashamed to be an Australian at the moment, though I am angry enough that I will quite happily break any law the government makes regarding this situation.

    As a friend of mine pointed out:
    "When injustice becomes law, treason becomes duty."

    Sorry for the rant. I am so angry I think I'm going to burst, actually.

    ------------------
    "Every atom in our bodies was forged in the furnace of ancient stars - it is our destiny to return home..."

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  5. #5
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    Hey pal! I would contact my government to protest what you have just told us, but as far as I'm concerned my government can't take proper care of my country either, let alone lend assistance to another for a good cause.

    Hope everything works out.

    ------------------
    In the Praetors Name!

  6. #6
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    That would not have happened here in Canada. Our officials would have lost them as soon as they got within 50 miles of our shores. Then there is the problem with our navy. West Edmonton Mall won't let the subs go...
    Do we still have a frigate broken down in Hawaii?

    All levity aside, we can only hope that someone steps forward or comes to their senses. A lot of nations took in the Kosovars. Humanitarian aid should not be selective.

    Aldaron - All governments screw up so often one would think that screwing up was their job. (Canadian Government rant clipped here). We don't judge the people by the actions of their governments. The passion in your post and the simple fact that you needed to post shows us what kind of person you are.

  7. #7
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    I totally agree, a person should not be judged by its political systems. If they were then Canadians would never show there faces...Out of shear embarassment.

    You mean the frigate actually made it to Hawaii? Wow, they usually breakdown enroute.

    I commend you on putting voice to your views here. Keep up the good work, maybe you and fellows can yet sway your government.

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    In the Praetors Name!

  8. #8
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    Wow! I can't believe I haven't heard about this. Two questions: one does not think of Aust. as being a destination for refugees. Is it a common practice for refuggees to go there? It must be more common than it was if you have "camps" set up. Second, where is Christmas Island relative to Aus.? It must be a small territory not to have any port facilities.

    I study naval history as hobby. I am not an expert in marine law, but I don't think I have ever heard of such a refusal of a state of emergnecy before. I wonder what caused the decision to made in the first place?

  9. #9
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    <font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by redwood973:
    Wow! I can't believe I haven't heard about this. Two questions: one does not think of Aust. as being a destination for refugees. Is it a common practice for refuggees to go there? It must be more common than it was if you have "camps" set up. Second, where is Christmas Island relative to Aus.? It must be a small territory not to have any port facilities.

    I study naval history as hobby. I am not an expert in marine law, but I don't think I have ever heard of such a refusal of a state of emergnecy before. I wonder what caused the decision to made in the first place?
    </font>
    Well, it's all over Australian news at the moment - the ABC (Australia's non-commercial broadcaster) has info on it at:

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/

    I've also checked www.nytimes.com and www.washingtonpost.com, and they have a fair amount of info on it in their "World" or "International News" sections. Haven't checked the Brit or Canadian papers yet, but I'm sure there'll be something on it.

    I'd bet my left testicle it's all over Norwegian news, as well!

    Christmas Island is a lot closer to Indonesia than Australia. It's a tiny dot in the Indian Ocean, about (IIRC) a thousand or so kilometres west of Darwin, a few hundred kilometres south of Java. It is tiny; the islands only about 15km long and has a population of less than 2,000.

    Interestingly enough, many Christmas Islanders (who are the ones who will be "swamped" if the Aust. government relents) are furious at the government's use of military force and are begging John Howard (our Prime Minister) to let the people be landed!

    Australia doesn't take in many refugees, actually. A couple of thousand a year, at most. Because we're the biggest Western nation bordering the Indian Ocean, however, a lot of Mid-East refugees have been coming over the last couple of years, mainly from Algeria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.

    They generally arrive on small, leaking rust-buckets of boats that barely make it to the Aussie coast. Many others have been reported drowned en-route.

    Despite the fact there is nothing under Australian law that makes it illegal to land on Australia's shores, without a visa, and request asylum (which is exactly what they're doing), the Australian government sees fit to lock them up in camps and call them "illegal immigrants" and "queue jumpers".

    They are basically stuck in these camps until they're refugee status is assessed. Despite the fact that over 90% of them are approved, the government sees fit to inter them in these camps, sometimes for years while the bureaucratic mess that is our Immigration Department processes their applications.

    At present, we have around 3,000 refugees in these camps, most of them out in the desert, miles from anywhere. No air-conditioning (in the desert, remember), poor access to medical care, most of them suffering God-knows-how-many psychological disturbances such as post-traumatic-stress disorders after fleeing such folks as Saddam Hussein and the Taliban. Moreover, their contact with the outside is extremely limited; in some cases to 1 newspaper and one TV set per 300 people. 570 of those incarcerated are children.

    The camps are run by a privatised company call "Australian Corrections Management" (who also run several of our prisons). A year or so ago, it was revealed that at a 12 year old refugee boy had been being sexually assaulted by a another refugee. This was covered up by the company, and not reported to the police until they were "sprung" by a staff-member who defied the "gag" orders placed on them and spoke out. ACM didn't want the negative publicity, apparently.

    What was done? Nothing.
    The way the process if your application for refugee status fails works is this. Detention centre authorities come and get you, order you to pack your belongings and come with them. You are then taken to a solitary cell until a plane is available to take you back to wherever you're being deported to.

    In other words, from the perspective of the other inmates, you "disappear" at the hands of the authorities. Imagine how that looks to someone who's fled Iraq or Afghanistan!

    And the government is surprised there have been riots in the camps! Unfortunately, all it's done is give them an excuse to crack down further, and to further vilify the asylum-seekers.

    There has been (to my knowledge) two separate Senate inquiries into the detention centres, the most recent only a few months back. Between them, they have made hundreds of recommendations. John Howard and Philip Ruddock (our Immigration Minister) have ignored all of them. Amnesty International has condemned Australia's treatment of refugees. Ruddock had the gall to appear on national TV after that, wearing his Amnesty International members badge (apparently he's a member) and say the AI is wrong. The detention centres, the treatment of the asylum-seekers and the mandatory detention of them has been condemned by Australia's three largest Church groups: the Catholic, Anglican and Uniting Churches.

    The United Nations High-Commissioner of Human Rights has expressed concern over the treatment of asylum-seekers in Australia. He has asked the UN inspectors be allowed to visit and inspect the detention camps.

    The Australian government has refused.
    Goddamn it - we condemn Iraq over this sort of s**t, yet we do the exact same thing!!

    The Australian Broadcasting Corporation current affairs program "Four Corners" actually smuggled a camera inside the Villawood detention centre, recording extremely emotional testimony by many of the inmates. Other media groups have attacked the government over this. The Federal Opposition has called for a judicial inquiry into the situation (which could hand down findings that would have to be abided by).

    The government has ignored every. single. one..

    Australia once had a great reputation for human rights issues. We were one of the founding nations in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    How far we have fallen. What scares me even more is the way the Australian public at large seems to be so easily manipulated by government propaganda, even in the face of the bald lies and untruths the government is using.

    Makes me kind of understand how Hitler got away with it, if a nation can be so easily swayed with rhetoric.

    Thanks for your kind words guys. Sorry to be ear-bashing over this, I'm just feeling particularly helpless at the moment.

    Makes me wish there was a Picard or Kirk out there who would simply ignore the rules, fly in and beam the refugees into Australia!!

    I'll shut up now...


    ------------------
    "Every atom in our bodies was forged in the furnace of ancient stars - it is our destiny to return home..."

    [This message has been edited by Aldaron (edited 08-30-2001).]

    [This message has been edited by Aldaron (edited 08-30-2001).]

  10. #10

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    If it helps to know. The situation has made main news broadcasts in the UK.

    I didn't realise the exact situation, but was aware of it.

    Dont worry. I have never met an Aussie I didn't like, but HAVE met politicians that got my goat almost instantly.

    Its not a testament to your country, just on Politics.



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    DanG.

    "Hi, I'm Commander Troy McClure, you might remember me from other academy training holo-simulations as, Abandon Ship, the quickest way out, and I sense danger, 101 things you dont need a Betazoid to know..."

    http://www.theventure.freeserve.co.uk

  11. #11
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    I work at a convenience store that has a TV monitor that flashes soundless ads and one-sceen news bites for about a minute at a time. This story was featured yesterday with a photo of many people on a ship's deck and the caption: "Australia and Indonesia Clash Over Fate Of Refugees".
    Most of what it says is equally as informative. Nice to have the whole story.

    ------------------
    You're a Starfleet Officer. "Weird" is part of the job.

  12. #12
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    Like Dan G said this story has been on all the TV News channels in the UK for about 24 hrs now. One channel even had a TV debate between an Australian Senator (from the One Nation Party) and Glynnis Kinnock ( a Labour Euro-MP and wife of the Euro Commisioner).
    But, we have our own Illegal Immigration problems, yours maybe a swarm of boat people, ours is hundreds of people trying to get across or under the channel. It seems everyday we hear and read reports of illegal immegrants either trying to sail dingies and liferafts across the channel or hanging underneath the Eurostar Trains. And its not just men trying to get in, its pregnant women and kids as well. To make things worse, just less than a mile down the road from the Eurostar terminal in Calais, there is a huge French Government Refugee Camp.
    To exacerbate the problem even further, there has been an increase in racist attacks on refugges, a problem partially caused by the present Government incompetant Dispersal program, where hundreds of refugees are being dumped on local authorities all over the Country, usually in racially sensitive Inner City Areas, where there is already high employment. Talk about pouring oil on a hot fire.
    But Illegal Imigration is world wide problem that is not going to be sorted out over night, so we in this country can sympathise with you Aussies, you stuck in a very awkward situation, your Government is going to be damned by all sides what ever they do.
    If they are too lieniant the Extreme right plays up, if they are too tough the left play up. A very terrible situation all round.

    ------------------
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  13. #13
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    Wow...that is too f*cked up. But then again Canada has had it's moments of uncaring...there where those Chinese imigrants off Vancouver who all died on the boat (or were the East Indian) waiting to get into Canada.

    Certainly we have one of the more open systems of access for refugees (Heck I live in what is considered the most racialy diverse neighbourhood in North America).

    This is a tricky area of morality vs politics. Certainly your government really needs to reevaluate it's stance on Refugeees, but at the same time look where you are located. If you were to have an open door policy, you would be swarmed by people fleeing the middle east, indonesia, east timor, southeast asia, etc...Australia and New Zealand are oddities of democracy in a part of the world that is mostly dictatorships or military juntas.

    Still, regardless of that your government needs to do the right thing here.

    Good luck with your protest...and here's a simple way to vote in Novemeber, spoil your ballet and convince everyone else to as well.

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  14. #14
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    Here in the U.S., we had a few minutes on the story, but little more. The U.S. media is very good at ignoring everything that does not effect America directly. My understanding is that we also have immigration camps, where some Cubans, in particular, have apparently spent the last decade or more.

    Whether conditions are as bad in American camps as in Australian I don't know, but I imagine that they probably are, if not worse.

    Unfortunately, we are going to see a lot more of this kind of thing. As much of the Third World collapses into post-modern, Malthusian chaos, it is likely that very large numbers of people will flee for the relative safety of the developed countries.

    Of course, those countries then face the prospect of either letting most of the refugees in, and seeing their standards of living erode, though not all the way to any kind of Third World level, or of closing their borders and protecting their standards of living, at the price of acting like Nazis.

    I imagine that most developed countries will choose the Nazi route.

    The problem is at least partially of our own making. The developed countries have for years assumed that the poverty and desperation of the less developed world wouldn't effect them, and did not need to be dealt with. Well, guess what, the poverty can indeed come home to us, in leaky boats, if necessary.

    Back in the '70s and '80s, if not before, we could have set out to democratize and really develop the Third World instead of backing tyrants and using the place as a source of cheap labor. If we had done this, we might have had a world economy able to absorb the former USSR and its former clients in the '90s.

    Instead, we trashed the Third World, which led us directly to the Talibans, Hutus, and Somali militas of the present. It also made us unable to absorb the former Soviet bloc, which has greatly expanded the scale of our planet's degeneration.

    Now, it is all too late. The planet is dying, and the great migrations have begun. I imagine that the developed coutries will try harder and harder to hang onto their ways of life, eventually turning to ethnic hatred and wars of their own, until essentially we are living in a planetary Somalia.

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    Slan agat!

  15. #15
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    It's in the german news also, starting to make the front pages.

    "Detaining" immigrants / asylum seekers is one thing, sometimes this can protect those people (germany had a fair amount of attacks on them) but refusing aid to persons in need is another thing.

    An no, we judge no one by his/her government. We make jokes if the situation warrents it (US-elections, german criminal ministers) but this is not one for yokes. Keep on yelling for:

    When they came to take the communists, I was silent. I am no communist.

    When they took the jews, I didn't say anything. I am a christian.

    Even when they took away the catholics I keept silent. I am no catholic.

    When they came to take me, there was non left to say a word.

    Dietrich Bonhöffer (IIRC)

    Michael Brinkhues

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