Thursday, March 27, 2014

Finding a heart

In the search for Air Malaysia flight MH-370 Australia lending assistance  to its neighbours in trouble is an international image the Australian government likes to cultivate: a stable, sober country using high-tech equipment and highly-trained professionals. The cost of the search, Australia’s government says, is immaterial.  Australia is generous.

One of Australia’s neighbours is  the country of Papua New Guinea which has an island called Manus Island - Australia’s own Guantanamo Bay, for on that island is a detention centre paid for - and effectively run by Australia - for asylum seekers who have tried to travel to Australia by boat. Tony Abbott was in Papua New Guinea this week but he didn’t visit the detention centre. Placing asylum seekers in another country and then detaining them indefinitely – even though the Australian government knows most are genuine political refugees – seem the actions of a very ungenerous and unkind country.

Australia is taking the world’s media along with it on its search flights over the Southern Ocean.  Yet, it doesn’t want media anywhere near Manus Island. This week,  it took legal action and the  the orders of a Papua New Guinean judge, to allow journalists to see inside the island's detention centre for the first time in almost two years. The journalists found squalid, desperate conditions.

Just as the Abbott government might have hoped, most of the TV stations and newspapers  attention a which ran stories of Abbott's Papua New Guinea visit concentrated on his comments about the hunt for the plane, not the plight of refugees.

Adapted from here

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