Last night’s Four Corners program on the ABC wasn’t just compelling viewing because it featured reporter Sarah Ferguson embracing her inner A Current Affair and chasing someone down the street with camera crew in tow (in the TV industry, this practice is called “bouncing”).
Or for the fact that after tracking a band of people smugglers around the world, she ended up getting them on camera having coffee with an ABC whistleblower at a coffee shop a hundred metres away from the broadcaster’s headquarters in Ultimo.
It was a ripper story that raised some serious questions about the process people go through to gain asylum here. Ferguson exposed a small group of people smugglers who infiltrated Australia as asylum seekers to tout their business with our refugee community.
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This is the third in a series of essays adapted from the Centre for Policy Development book, More Than Luck: Ideas Australia needs now. The Labor Government has set itself up for failure by upholding the view that asylum seeking is a national security threat, writes Kate Gauthier.
It is said that any civilised society can be measured by how it treats its most vulnerable people. Asylum seekers, vilified by the media and feared by the public, make an excellent target for unscrupulous public figures who seek to gain power or position through a culture of fear.
In order to appear tough on asylum seekers – tough on the victims of human rights abuses – successive governments and political parties have enacted or proposed policies that severely curtail the rights of people fleeing war, persecution and torture.
The argument in favour of taking a punitive approach is that it discourages onshore asylum seeking. This is shown to be false by two issues.
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Tony Abbott wants to stop the boats. Can we do this?
I was recently in Djibouti, a small country that is very important in the world of people smuggling because of its location. Djibouti is wedged between Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, some of the most conflict-ridden countries in the world. In contrast, Djibouti is relatively stable. Importantly it has a long coastline in the Gulf of Aden. A fishing boat can reach Yemen in under two hours.
Despite its peace, Djibouti is a very poor country. Women still cart water on their backs. The CIA Fact-book describes the country as “mostly wasteland”.
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Marty Natalegawa is a consummate diplomat. The Indonesian Foreign Minister is also his country’s former representative to the United Nations and Ambassador to the UK.
At the age of 46 he has done more than most top diplomats do in an entire career. Now he’s the Foreign Minister.
On Tuesday this week I interviewed Marty Natelagawa in his Jakarta offices. In a long line of difficult issues between Australia and Indonesia, people smuggling has been the most awkward in recent months, so of course I had to begin our discussion on just that.
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