26 July 2013

Introducing Widyan Al Ubudy

Nice interview here with a remarkable young Iraqi-born Australian woman I have been privileged to meet. One to watch, I think.

Military rank inflation on our borders

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is promising that the Coalition if elected will establish a military-led response “to combat people smuggling and protect our borders” – an operation to which he gives the grandiose title Operation Sovereign Borders. He will appoint a “3-star officer” (Lieutenant General or equivalent) to undertake this role.

In support of this proposed measure Mr Abbott insists there is a national emergency on our borders.

A description of the policy can be found on the Liberal Party website at Operation Sovereign Borders, and the policy document may be downloaded from here.

Leaving aside the overblown rhetoric and the questions of whether the proposed new arrangements will be effective or whether it is appropriate to militarise a routine civilian law enforcement and immigration issue in this way, let us have a look at what military officers are normally expected to do to earn their general officer ranking:

Mr Abbott’s proposed border supremo would be at the same rank as the following:

-  The Chiefs of Navy, Army and Air Force, and the Vice-Chief of the Defence Force

-  Lieutenant General John Monash when he commanded the Australian Corps on the Western Front in World War I

-  Lieutenant General Miles Dempsey when he commanded the British 2nd Army, the main British force that landed at Normandy on D-Day.

Mr Abbott’s proposed border supremo would be one rank above Major General Leslie Morshead when he commanded the Ninth Division in North Africa, including of course at Tobruk and Alamein.

One can see why former CDF Admiral (retd.) Chris Barrie said this morning during an interview with Radio National’s Fran Kelly, “I don’t know what the Majors in Afghanistan think about the charade that is going on in Canberra”. Hear the full interview with Chris Barrie here.

24 July 2013

Susan Harris Rimmer on the flaws in the PNG “Solution”

Dr Susan Harris Rimmer is the director of studies at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy at the Australian National University. Here she outlines, for the ABC blog site The Drum, the top ten mistakes in the PNG solution.

It’s a compelling list – read it here.

What has Australia done to Nauru?

Nic Maclellan writes in today’s edition of the UK edition of The Guardian:

As Kevin Rudd trumpets his "PNG solution", it's worth thinking about the price Nauru has paid for hosting detention centres. The legitimate focus on the plight of refugees on Nauru has overshadowed the impact of Australian policies on that island nation, a closely integrated society of just 10,000 people.

It’s a pretty disturbing story, which can be read in full at What has Australia done to Nauru?

Background to the riots on Nauru

In light of the recent events that have taken place in Nauru, on 23 July a collection of former and current Salvation Army staff who have spent the last ten months working with asylum seekers at the Regional Processing Centres in Nauru and Manus Island issued a public statement.

The bottom line message of this heartbreaking document is:

The most recent incident in Nauru was not borne out of malice. It was a build up of pressure and anxiety over ten months of degrading treatment, and a planned peaceful protest that degenerated. It was a reaction to a refugee processing system that is devoid of logic and fairness

To get the full measure of what is being done to the asylum seekers who were rushed to Nauru with such indecent haste by the Gillard Government it is necessary to read the statement in full. It is clear that the Government did not concern itself at all with the welfare of these people to whom we owe a duty of care – whether or not any individual’s claims for refugee status are successful. People who are detained by us or under our control are in our care, and we have duties for their safety and welfare.

To read the full statement see Nauru Riot Press Release.

23 July 2013

Juan Cole on prospects for a Palestinian state

US-based Middle East expert Juan Cole thinks the Israeli Cabinet isn’t serious about talks on a Palestinian state.

His core argument is to contrast the motivations of the two sides:

For Palestinians, the point of negotiating with the Israelis is to achieve a Palestinian state on the territory of the West Bank and Gaza as they existed in 1967. That is also the point of any serious Western negotiator attempting to achieve peace.

However, from the point of view of the ruling far-right Likud Party of Israel, the point of negotiations is to create a fig leaf of a “peace process” while continuing to appropriate as much Palestinian land as possible, putting more hundreds of thousands of squatters into the West Bank, while decisively and forever preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state. In short, for the Likud Party, the “peace process” with the US and the Palestinians is like the ski mask worn by a bank robber. It allows you to get away with it.

Read his full article here.