Browsing articles in "Diplomacy"
Monday 15th June 2015 - 5:28 pm
Comments Off on Govt stays silent on boat cash

Govt stays silent on boat cash

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal government is still rejecting calls for clarification of reports that it bribed the crew of an asylum seeker boat, to turn back towards Indonesia.

The Opposition pursued the issue throughout question time – and beyond – when parliament resumed today, with the Shadow Immigration Minister, Richard Marles, describing the reports as “simply outrageous.”

But the response of Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, was blunt.

He noted that Labor had called for a clear statement on the issue and said:” Here is a clear statement.

“We stopped the boats.”

In a radio interview last week, the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, refused to either confirm or deny reports that an Australian official had given the captain and crew of the asylum seeker boat wads of cash.

But he also said the government would stop the boats “by hook or by crook.”

Mr Dutton told parliament that it was a matter of record that 1, 200 people had drowned at sea, while Labor was in office.

And 4,200 children had arrived in Australia and were taken into detention, while Labor’s Chris Bowen was Immigration Minister.

Labor attempted to censure the government, over the issue, after question time.

But its censure motion was lost, 82-47, on a party line vote.

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Sunday 14th June 2015 - 7:07 pm
Comments Off on PM stays silent on boat payments

PM stays silent on boat payments

by Alan Thornhill

Tony Abbott refused – again – today to say whether Australian officials had paid people smugglers to turn their boat back towards Indonesia.

Addressing reporters, at a doorstop interview in Canberra, the Prime Minister said:” There’s really only one thing to say here and that is that we have stopped the boats.

“That’s good for Australia

“It’s good for Indonesia

“And it’s particularly good for all of those who want to see a better world.

“Because if the boats start again, the deaths start again.

“None of us should want to see deaths at sea and the only way to avoid that is to ensure that the boats stay stopped, “Mr Abbott said.

Indonesia has asked the Australian government if reports of such payments are true.

The Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, is also demanding clarity on the issue.

He said:”It is now time for Mr Abbott to make it clear.

“Has taxpayers’ money, Australian taxpayers’ money, been paid by the Abbott Government to criminal people smugglers or not?

“Australians deserve that answer,” Mr Shorten said.

Wednesday 29th April 2015 - 12:46 pm
Comments Off on Executions “cruel and unnecessary” PM

Executions “cruel and unnecessary” PM

by Alan Thornhill

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has condemned Indonesia’s execution of two Australian drug offenders early today, describing it as “cruel and unnecessary.”

The two men, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were among eight members of the so-called Bali Nine, who were shot by an Indonesian firing squad in the early hours of this morning.

The ninth, a Filipina woman, won a late reprieve.

Labor and the Greens joined Mr Abbott in condemning the event.

Mr Abbott said business and relations between Australia and Indonesia could not continue as usual, in view of what had happened.

He has recalled Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia and suspended ministerial visits to that country.

Mr Abbott acknowledged the two young men’s crime, but said their punishment was excessive.

He told reporters in Canberra:”These executions are both cruel and unnecessary.

“Cruel because both Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran spent some decade in jail before being executed.

“And unnecessary, because both of these young Australians were fully rehabilitated while in prison.”

Mr Abbott said:”Australia respects the Indonesian system.

“We respect Indonesia’s sovereignty but we do deplore what’s been done and this cannot be simply business as usual.

“For that reason, once all the courtesies have been extended to the Chan and Sukumaran families our ambassador will be withdrawn for consultations.”

This is a rare – and significant – step in the world of diplomacy.

But Mr Abbott was firm.

“I want to stress that this is a very important relationship between Australia and Indonesia,” he said.

“But it has suffered as a result of what’s been done over the last few hours.

“Whatever people think of the death penalty, whatever people think of drug crime, the fact is that these two families have suffered an appalling tragedy…” Mr Abbott said.

Sunday 26th April 2015 - 7:07 pm
Comments Off on The ANZAC myth

The ANZAC myth

by Alan Thornhill

Analysis

There can be no room now for doubt about the importance of national myths.

Not after the huge turn-outs we saw, on ANZAC Day, marking the centenary of our invasion of Gallipoli.

Yes, it was ill-judged.

A military disaster.

But it has become an occasion for reflection, too.

The most eloquent, perhaps, dates back to 1934.

It was the work of Mustafa Kemal, now better known as Atatürk.

In a tribute to the ANZAC troops who died at Gallipoli in 1915, he wrote:-

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours … You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

These words are inscribed in the Kemal Atatürk Memorial, on Anzac Parade, Canberra.

Very few of the estimated 120,000 Australians who turned out in Canberra for the Dawn service on ANZAC day, would have seen that inscription.

Not in that stormy weather last Saturday,

Those words are particularly poignant now, though, with fresh contingents of ANZAC troops being sent to the Middle east.

Not to fight this time.

But to train the “Mehmets” – in Atatürk’s words – to fight each other.

There has to be a better way.

But what?

One analyst was asked, in an ABC interview last week, if anything good ever came of war.

His reply was both unhesitating and surprising.

“Big government,” he said.

That was certainly true, in Turkey’s case.

Mustafa Kemal was born Salonika, which is now Thessalonika, Greece.

He pursued a military career with the Turkish Army in Syria.

As a member of the Young Turk revolutionary movement which deposed the Sultan in 1909, he took part in the war of 1911–1912 against Italy in Libya.

He returned to Gallipoli in 1915 as commander of the 19th Division, the main reserve of the Turkish Fifth Army, and opposed the Anzac landing in April 1915.

Kemal was to be Turkey’s first president, when that country became a republic in 1923.

His vision of Turkey, as a modern nation, was realised.

During Kemal’s 15-year rule, many sweeping political, legal and socio-economic changes were made.

Modern Turkey had been born.

In 1933, Kemal said:”I look to the world with an open heart full of pure feelings and friendship”.

In 1934, he accepted the title “Atatürk,” which means “father of Turkey,”

Last week, the Prime Ministers of Australia and Turkey announced that they will unite in the fight against terrorism.

Tony Abbott, was in Turkey to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the landing of Australian soldiers at Gallipoli, when that announcement was made.

The Australian PM said he – and his Turkish counterpart – Ahmet Davutolu had agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation to counter terrorism, tackle terrorist financing and mitigate threats from foreign fighters.

“Turkey is on the front-line in the fight against DAESH and plays a crucial role in these efforts,” Mr Abbott said.

He said, too, that Australia welcomed Turkey’s renewed efforts to prevent young people from using Turkey’s border as the entry point to joining DAESH and other terrorist organizations through tougher border controls and increased information sharing.

“Both parties underlined the importance of identifying and stopping foreign terrorist fighters travelling to conflict zones, at their country of departure,” he added.

Perhaps big government has its uses, after all.

Especially as the current alternatives, in the Middle East, are far from enticing.

Thursday 23rd April 2015 - 7:52 am
Comments Off on Old foes to co-operate

Old foes to co-operate

by Alan Thornhill

Australia and Turkey are to unite in the fight against terrorism

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who is in Turkey to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the landing of Australian soldiers at Gallipoli, made the announcement.

Mr Abbott said he – and his Turkish counterpart – Ahmet Davuto?lu had agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation to counter terrorism, tackle terrorist financing and mitigate the threats from foreign fighters, during their official bilateral meeting held today in Ankara.

“Turkey is on the front-line in the fight against DAESH and plays a crucial role in these efforts,” Mr Abbott said.

He said Australia welcomes Turkey’s renewed efforts to prevent young people from using Turkey’s border as the entry point to joining DAESH and other terrorist organisations through tougher border controls and increased information sharing.

“Both parties underlined the importance of identifying and stopping foreign terrorist fighters travelling to conflict zones, at their country of departure,” Mr Abbott said.

With over 100 Australians fighting with DAESH in Iraq and Syria – and the arrest this week in Melbourne of young men intent on bringing the violence to Australia – Australia will continue to do all it can to stop foreign fighters,” Mr Abbott declared.

He said there would also be closer co-operation on the issue, between officials of both countries.

Monday 20th April 2015 - 6:33 pm
Comments Off on We’re “dancing with the devil” Wilkie

We’re “dancing with the devil” Wilkie

by Alan Thornhill

Australia is “dancing with the devil” in its intelligence sharing deal with Iran, according to a former intelligence analyst, Andrew Wilkie.

Mr Wilkie, now an independent Tasmanian MP. told the ABC that Iran is the last nation Australia should be swapping sensitive information with.

He said the deal, reached by Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop: “…might be good political theatre for the Government, but it’s complete and utter madness from a security point of view.”

Mr Wilkie said the Iranian government uses torture to extract sensitive information.

Ms Bishop, who has just visited Tehran, announced Iran had agreed to trade information on Australian citizens fighting in Iraq, as part of efforts to counter the Islamic State militia.

“They are in Iraq in places that we are not, they also have a very sophisticated intelligence network so there’s a lot of information that they’ve been gathering,” she added.

But Mr Wilkie was not convinced.

“The announcement by the Foreign Minister that Australia is entering into a security arrangement with the regime in Tehran really should send shudders down the spine of every Australian,” he said.

He said Australia risked being used as a pawn and the information could not be trusted.

“When you start dancing with the devil in a place like Tehran, then we run the risk of becoming almost as bad as those who we dance with,” Mr Wilkie said.

“They are also experts at disinformation.

“…we’ve seen this time and time again.

“…the regime in Iran will tell people whatever they want us to believe.”

Mr Wilkie said he was the only serving member of Parliament who had worked in Australia’s intelligence services and therefore had a unique insight.

“I saw first-hand some of the, and excuse the expression, the crap that was coming out of Iran, which was worse than useless because it was downright misleading,” he said.

He said Australia should not accept intelligence that comes from torture.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor was seeking further details about the deal and would take a steady and considered approach.

“I’m not naive,” Mr Shorten said.

“Iran’s a very sophisticated country with a different view of the world to Australia and so we need to keep our eyes open whenever we deal with them.”

Tuesday 14th April 2015 - 4:47 pm
Comments Off on Australia steps up its military training in Iraq

Australia steps up its military training in Iraq

by Alan Thornhill

Australia will commit a military force – of more than 300 defence force personnel – to help train Iraqi soldiers to fight Islamic extremists.

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, who announced this today, said the Australian trainers would be drawn largely from the Army’s 7th Brigade, based in Brisbane.

“It is, as I stress, a Building Partner Capacity training mission,” Mr Abbott said.

“It’s not a combat mission.

“But Iraq is a dangerous place.

“It is a dangerous place and I can’t tell you that this is risk-free.”

The Prime Minister said the operation, involving Australian military personnel, would last about two years.

“They will work as part of a combined Task Group alongside about 100 personnel from the New Zealand Defence Force,” he added.

“The mission of the Australian and New Zealand trainers will be to help the Iraqi Government to prepare sufficient forces to maintain the momentum of the counter-attack against ISIL, or Daesh, and regain control of its territory, Mr Abbott said.

He recalled that the Government announced, on March 3. that it had decided to commence preparations to deploy this force.

“This followed requests for an Australian contribution from both the Iraqi and US governments,” Mr Abbott said.

These preparations are now complete and the combined Task Group will deploy to Iraq over the next few weeks.

“The training mission is expected to be fully operational in May 2015.

“The combined Task Group will be stationed at the Taji Military Complex north of Baghdad, working to build the capacity of units of the Iraqi army.

“We will also deploy around 20 personnel to coalition headquarters roles in Iraq.

“The Air Task Group will continue to support coalition air operations,” he added.

“This marks the next phase of Australia’s contribution to the international coalition effort to assist the Iraqi Government to disrupt, degrade and ultimately defeat the Daesh death cult,” Mr Abbott said.

Monday 13th April 2015 - 5:22 pm
Comments Off on Allow asylum seekers to work:Greens

Allow asylum seekers to work:Greens

by Alan Thornhill

The Federal Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, says he has approved interim visas for “literally thousands” of asylum seekers.

He told the ABC this allows them to work or study in Australia, while their applications for permanent residence are assessed.

And he said this “will continue.”

Mr Dutton was responding to an earlier statement by the Greens, alleging that asylum seekers are having to wait at least three years, even for interim visas.

Green Senator Sarah Hanson-Young described the present system as cumbersome and urged the government to provide quick relief.

She said she would move in the Senate next month to give thousands of asylum seekers work and study rights much more swiftly, if it didn’t.

” I urge the Government to support the move,” she said.

“Work rights are currently not allowed for asylum seekers unless the Minister gives his personal approval,” she said.

“Asylum seekers living in the community should have the right to work and study, allowing them to provide for themselves and contribute to the economy,” Senator Sarah Hanson-Young added.

“Putting these people to work or study rather than leaving them to sit around for three years with nothing to do is a no-brainer,” she said.

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Alan Thornhill is a parliamentary press gallery journalist.
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