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NZ should have no truck with Abbott’s bribery

By   /  June 17, 2015  /  7 Comments

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Despite John Key’s best efforts to distance himself from Australia’s “bribing the people smugglers” scandal, New Zealand is involved.

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Despite John Key’s best efforts to distance himself from Australia’s “bribing the people smugglers” scandal, New Zealand is involved.

The asylum seekers on the intercepted boat claim they were headed for New Zealand. This raises the question of whether the Australian navy is under instructions from the New Zealand government to intercept any such boat and send it back to Indonesia. If so, the justified Indonesian wrath at Australia’s “send the boats back” policy will also be directed at New Zealand. Indonesia and the world will see us as an accomplice in Australia’s inhumane sea blockade to stop asylum seekers reaching our shores.

It also follows, given the boat was coming to New Zealand, that the National government will be seen as complicit in Australia’s bribery of the boat’s crew to get them to return to Indonesia. John Key’s comments so far reinforce such a view. The PM’s comment – “I can sort of see the argument [for paying the crew] both ways” – won’t cut it with Indonesia.

Indonesia’s Vice President, Jusuf Kalla has made clear his objection. He was quoted as saying: “Wow, a state bribing, that certainly doesn’t fit with the correct ethics in state relations.”

It’s clear the bribery took place because asylum seekers on the boat told both Radio New Zealand and officials from the UN High Commission on Refugees that it did happen. It appears that an Australian official gave crew members around $US5000 each.

Australia’s bribery also falls foul of its own (and New Zealand’s) anti-corruption laws, so John Key would be wise to condemn it before any case comes to court.

Also, under 73.3A of the Australian Criminal Code you can get 10 years in jail for lending “material support” to a people smuggler. There is also a jail penalty under the New Zealand Crimes Act. Simply assisting asylum seekers to find refuge (as the boat owners were originally doing) is not a crime – but Australia was paying the crew to do the opposite and return the refugees to Indonesia, which could draw a trafficking charge. Simultaneously, Australia was violating the 1951 Refugee Convention by stopping the refugees from reaching New Zealand to apply for asylum – a right guaranteed to them by the Convention.

In the Australian Senate the Greens are pushing for the release of all relevant documents around the bribery case. Prime Minister Abbott is refusing to confirm or deny the payments, claiming it is merely an “operational matter” and therefore confidential. This sets an awful precedent. Officials are now allowed to secretly hand out “incentives” in a completely unaccountable manner. Usually we call that corruption

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7 Comments

  1. esoteric pineapples says:

    When a government does not feel bound to keep within its own laws, that leaves the entire county open to corruption and a decline into anarchy

    • Murray Smith says:

      When a government abandons it’s own laws, there is no longer such a thing as law, just a fight for survival. I believe that decline already has critical momentum. Dark days await.

  2. Mike in Auckland says:

    While I agree this is appalling, that the Australian Navy and staff employed to “keep the boats away” from Australian shores are bribing the “people smugglers”, we better wake up to the damned reality on this planet!

    Some will say the “people smugglers” are “bribed” also by the people they try to bring to Australia, and perhaps in some cases even to New Zealand. So it is “bribery” going both ways, on the open sea in Australia’s case.

    There is a different legal situation, which the Australian government can exploit, as whatever they do, it comes under international law, and how it can be enforced, that depends on the states and governments near where such actions take place.

    I am also appalled about the way the Australian government treats many refugees, by sending them to inhumanely run camps on Mannus Island and on Nauru.

    But then again, wait, we will get further waves of refugees all over the planet, for the coming decades and centuries. This is just the beginning. Add to economic problems, social injustice, unemployment and extreme poverty in many countries and within many populations in Africa, South Asia, South East Asia also the looming climate change disaster, and we will have hundreds of millions driven across borders and seas soon.

    We are living in a so far protected environment, sheltered from over-population and extreme poverty. We have relative poverty and other injustices here, but there is much worse happening elsewhere. The planet is largely over-populated, billions of people live in unsustainable conditions, still largely dependent on fossil fuels. This will not continue much longer, it cannot.

    Yet people here, in Australia, and also in Europe and North America are sticking heads into their sands, that is most. They fool themselves it will continue with only little adjustments, to live in living standards others dream of. If you wonder about over-crowding in homes in Auckland, that will become the rule, as it is in many countries where there is extreme poverty.

    There are two options, international action now, to narrow and reduce the income differences between nations, to fight poverty, wars and climate change pro-actively, and thus stop the incentive for people to flee their own countries and seek better lives here and elsewhere, or to open the borders and let people move freely, turning this part of the world into just another failed state and failed economy scenario as so many other countries are in.

    The only other option, to do nothing, is no option.

    The flood of refugees will become unstoppable, if we taken no action now, it will turn this country also into one where there will possibly be a hundred or more million people live eventually, if nothing is done now.

    So do we trust our government, and the Abbott led government in Australia to solve this? I think we know the answers. Heads are stuck deep in the sand, yet again.

    And for those that think that increasing living standards all over the world, through more economic growth of the way we are familiar with, get real. It will not be achievable, as the world population (certainly in the “developed world”) is living unsustainably as it is.

    A one child policy as China has had it may also be recommended for many places, where they continue to rely on many children to “feed” and look after the ageing parents, as that is part of the problem.

    • Dennis Dorney says:

      I agree. The world is in a terrible predicament. The biggest problem facing the world is not global warming – we wont reach the dreaded 4C increase for maybe 50 years. There are other dangers far more imminent than that and overpopulation is the the most significant. We are ignoring the issue because there is no ‘good’ solution. We need to cut our total population by at least a third. How? No-one has a solution.
      You are right in saying that immigration is unstoppable. We have history to prove this. The hordes from the east played a part in the fall of the Roman Empire and that is not the only historical example. Right now we need good leaders… and we have John Key, and Australia has Tony Abbott. Heaven help us!

  3. Jack says:

    “The asylum seekers on the intercepted boat claim they were headed for New Zealand. This raises the question of whether the Australian navy is under instructions from the New Zealand government to intercept any such boat and send it back to Indonesia.”

    The asylum seekers travel through Australian waters. Their Navy is in control of those waters. Do the math! No NZ Navy officer has command to tell them what to do.

  4. Mike in Auckland says:

    Having followed the news a few weeks back, how Malaysia and Indonesia have turned away Rohinga refugees from Myanmar, who also tried to find new refuges there after traveling by boats, I think that Indonesia can hardly claim the moral high grounds here.

    What is happening is, that Indonesian authorities and their government are relishing this conduct by the Australian authorities, as it gives them a good excuse to turn away refugees themselves.

    That is how nasty all this is. It is every nation to themselves, for their interests, and there is too little cooperation.

    Abbott, his government and Australia have shot themselves in the foot, but for Indonesia to come up and now complain, that is ridiculous. They also have enough to answer for what they do in West Papua.

    Fact is, we are heading into times where human rights will be treated with contempt, all over the world. Face it, the future will bring a return of forms of fascism, in many places.

    Having seen how this country and society has changed over recent years, yes the last two decades, it gives me reason to be concerned. The mood of many is not that caring anymore, it is “me first”, for so many, and “stuff the rest”.

    The human species is at a cross roads. Can we still pull ourselves together and find international solutions, or will we turn our shoulders and walk away from mass starvation, drownings and killings? I fear the answer is not a pleasant one, going by past human behaviour.

  5. Mike the Lefty says:

    Hypothetically, I wonder what would be the world reaction if Italy admitted it was paying human traffickers from North Africa to go to Croatia, Greece, Spain or anywhere else to stay clear of Italy? There would be a hell of an uproar, I would think. The MSM have given it scant coverage so far, despite the allegations that New Zealand is involved in the deal. Perhaps they don’t want to investigate too closely because they might end up biting the hand that feeds them.

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