Dolly and the Cheryl Plugger

   

 

Australia’s twin pillars of foreign affairs hypocrisy

You need a keen appreciation of irony and hypocrisy to really enjoy the daily practice of Australian politics.

Dolly Downer lecturing the Solomon Islanders about governmental corruption while his own supine “three wise monkeys” role in the AWB affair goes unpunished.

The self-same Downer writing an opinion piece in this morning’s Oz slating the great wartime Labor PM John Curtin as an appeasing pacifist because he failed to see the self-evident virtues of Pig Iron Bob Menzies’ swanning around London sucking up to Churchill while Australia was under seemingly imminent threat of invasion by the Japanese.   Would Menzies have stood up to Churchill, as Curtin did, and countermanded his attempts to divert homecoming Aussie troops to Burma?   I wouldn’t bet on it, and Downer doesn’t even mention the incident.

Of course, one can understand Downer’s expedient  equating of  Australian nationalism with unthinking support for our Imperial masters pro tem.   It conveniently serves to label Dolly himself as  a brave nationalist hero for having his tongue permanently buried up George Bush’s rectum.

Then there’s Downer’s late unlamented Labor predecessor Gareth Evans.  

Gareth  wasted no time,  during a fleeting return to the country from assorted salubrious  overseas hardship posts  with the International Crisis Group, in lecturing Australians  on international morality.   He’s calling  for urgent international intervention in Sudan’s Darfur region.   I certainly can’t argue with that.   The current situation looks almost a carbon copy of the UN and international community’s pathetic hand-wringing impotence during the Rwanda genocide of the mid 90s.   But what a hide Evans has in simultaneously slagging the Howard government’s performance over West Papuan asylum seekers!:

TONY JONES: Just a final question on another subject. Many years ago as foreign minister, you were very pragmatic in your dealings with Indonesia. Do you think the present Australian Government’s been right to make major concessions to Jakarta on how it treats Papuan asylum seekers?

GARETH EVANS: No, I don’t. In terms of Papuan asylum seekers, that can genuinely satisfy the criteria for treatment as refugees ought to be so treated and so erect a series of barriers that have been erected now after the original batch were quite properly on the face of it given that status is I think indefensible as a matter of international obligation, international principle. [KP – Evans was  Foreign Minister  throughout the period 1993-96 when the Keating government persisted in denying asylum to East Timorese fleeing the Santa Cruz cemetery massacre, on the spurious basis that  they should have been seeking asylum in a safe  country namely Portugal, of which they were supposedly citizens – this was a policy adopted by the Howard government until about  2 years ago.   Thus this statement by Evans is almost bretahtakingly dishonest and hypocritical].    The Papua situation is obviously extremely delicate and I don’t think it is doing any service to anyone in Papua to give encouragement to notions of independence and so on. I don’t think that’s going to happen. But the truth of the matter is that there are people on the ground in Papua who have been fighting the independence cause. They are clearly at risk and it is appropriate that if they want to leave the country, flee the country, they be treated as international law and practice demands that they be treated.

TONY JONES: You’d be aware of the way the Indonesian Government has responded. Their ambassador has been withdrawn. He’s sitting in Jakarta now in protest. Things don’t seem to be getting better. Do you see a way around this diplomatic crisis?

GARETH EVANS: Well, when in doubt, stick to decency, stick to principle. That’s not a bad basis on which to act. …

Well, err, yes.   But what about your own record on East Timor, Gareth?   It’s well summarised in a recent article by Scott Burchill:

THE report of the United Nations inquiry into Indonesia’s brutal 24-year occupation of East Timor will come as no surprise to activists who opposed the policies of successive Australian governments, beginning in 1975, nor to the people of East Timor.

However, the report, which documents torture, rape, slavery and starvation leading to the unnatural demise of as many as 180,000 civilians (from a pre-invasion population of 628,000), should shame those ministers, journalists, diplomats and academics who played down or ignored consistent human rights abuses in the former Portuguese colony ¢â¬â incredibly described as “aberrant acts” by former foreign minister Gareth Evans.

This group, known as the Jakarta lobby, not only sought to protect the reputation of the Soeharto dictatorship at every opportunity. They went out of their way to oppose East Timor’s claim for independence (a “lost cause” ¢â¬â former diplomat Richard Woolcott) and accused critics of the regime in Jakarta of not only exaggerating the scale of the repression, but of being “racist” and “anti-Indonesian” (Woolcott).

Evans was for years the chief political-level mouthpiece for the Jakarta lobby, and the man who negotiated a series of expedient treaties carving up East Timor’s oil and gas resources and cementing defence co-operation with the corrupt TNI forces.  For years he did to East Timor what he subsequently did to Cheryl Kernot much more fleetingly. On one level  I can see a certain amount of force in the standard realpolitik DFTAT Jakarta lobby line that it’s in Australia’s interest to foster a united, stable Indonesia, even if it isn’t a model of western liberal democratic freedom and propriety, because that’s better than having a series of tiny failed states (cf Solomon Islands) to our north which might expose us to greater danger from terrorism, drug-running, asylum seekers and the like.    

On the other hand, it isn’t at all obvious that the current ruling  Javanese miltary kleptocracy is doing very well in any of those areas anyway.   You can mount semi-respectable  arguments both ways, but  Gareth Evans is almost the last person who should be lecturing us about the issue, just as Dolly Downer isn’t high on the list of people you’d choose to lecture Australia’s neighbours about anti-corruption strategies.  

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic at Charles Darwin University, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law) and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 12 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in he early 1990s.
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5 Responses to Dolly and the Cheryl Plugger

  1. phil says:

    We get what we pay for. One was a bad-tempered pig, the other a vacuum in search of some space in which to reside.

  2. Uncle Milton says:

    Ken, I agree with mostly everything you say, but why is it assumed that the only alternative to Indonesia’s current political configuration (as set by the 19th century colonial carve up between the Dutch, the English and the Germans) is chaos and corruption, PNG and Solomon Island style? Has anyone actually done an analysis of what an independent Aceh, to take one example, would be like?

    As for Evans, I think the Howard government got it right a few years ago when they awarded him a mere AM in the Australia Day honours. Evans no doubt thought he was AC material. However, while unlamented, he isn’t “late”.

  3. Rick says:

    Phil,
    I can’t make the distinction. On close inpection it would appear both are bad-tempered pigs and vacuums in search of some space in which to reside. Maybe DFAT does that to people, although I think these two may have always been like that!

  4. Bill says:

    Uncle Milton
    Rather than an alternative to chaos & corruption, the current configeration of indonesia fosters it, along with & suppression and arrogance.

    While an newly independent Aceh,Bali & West Irian would like all newly founded nations have their share of troubles. They would better for it in the long term.

    A natural progression on your argument would be that the Balkan states should have stayed under Russian rule, or Bangladesh should have remained part of Pakistan to avoid the inefficiencies of small government.

  5. Andrew Leigh says:

    KP, you’re much too harsh on Gareth Evans. This is like the argument that we should crucify Kofi Annan because Rwanda happened on his watch. Neither GE or KA came out of those episodes covered in glory, but there’s little doubt that under Gareth’s leadership, the International Crisis Group is doing the work of the gods today.

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