Our newest columnist. Julia Forbes Winby is an acclaimed Kiwi artist who’s moved from Waiheke Island to Melbourne.
In her first column. Julia – who’s also a former KIN cartoonist – draws a picture of a heat-plagued country facing dark days for its democratic system.
Government news clamp on plight of asylum seekersBy Julia Forbes Winby
I have just experienced in Victoria a heat wave of five days of temperatures over 40C and, as it’s only January, I have been assured there are more days like this to come.
Long hot year ahead
So it’s going to be a long, hot year – perhaps most of all for Aussie politicians.
After the heat wave, the worrying issue grabbing the headlines concerns asylum seekers.
When Tony Abbott was elected Prime Minister last September he said he would ‘turn back the boats’ — by which he meant he would make sure that leaky craft making the perilous journey from Indonesia to Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean, would be turned back.
This plan was an instant failure as the asylum seekers scuttled their boats once they were in sight of Christmas Island which meant they had to be rescued by The Australian Navy.
Abbott then decided he would buy the boats being used by people smugglers in Indonesia.
Indonesian anger with Canberra
This incurred the wrath of the Indonesian Government already angry over revelations that Australia had been spying on Indonesia and had hacked into private mobile phone calls between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife.
So Plan B came to nothing and in the meantime the asylum seekers kept on coming. Plan C was announced last week – Abbott would purchase new lifeboats capable of carrying 100 people so any asylum seekers who scuttled their boats would be loaded into the lifeboats which are equipped with life jackets, food, water and enough fuel to make the return journey to Indonesia.
The thinking behind this plan defies the imagination as for starters it would be every people smuggler’s dream to sink their old boat at sea and be given a new one in return.
Then late last week the Australian Navy sailed into Indonesian waters and turned back some asylum seekers.
Indonesia’s response was one of intense anger and an apology was demanded from Australia. The apology was quickly given.
Blaming the Navy!
However Abbott’s immigration minister, Scott Morrison blamed the Navy.
A by now highly sceptical Australian public have noted in their letters to the editors of all the major newspapers that the Australian Navy is equipped with highly sophisticated navigation equipment and that in any case armed services have to do what they are told to do by Government. The Australian navy was only following orders clearly given to them by the Government.
It is a very messy situation and made worse by the fact that the Government is refusing to give information to journalists.
The Immigration Minister will only communicate by media releases so it is very difficult for news journalists to get to the truth of the matter.
It looks like dark days for democracy in Australia.