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Wednesday 21 September 2011

Double Standards

There's alot of arguing going on in Parliament lately. To-ing and fro-ing, argy bargy and general oushi kuso being thrown about. I've been in the tractor the last few days and have had the wireless on, the one I've welded the dial to ABC so Gemma can't get in and stuff about with my stations, so I've had the opportunity to hear a fair bit about this offshore processing business. And the hypocrisy of it all stuns me.

It all centres around the Governments Bill designed to ensure the High Court can't scuttle their plans to send asylum seekers / refugees / illegal immigrants (cover all bases so as not to upset anyone) to Malaysia for processing. The following comments are from the report I heard based on the exchange in Parliament. The whole thing is here.

JULIA GILLARD: We have made an arrangement with Malaysia which it has freely entered into and frankly, apart from being insulting to our friends in Malaysia, there is no reason to assume that Malaysia would not honour the obligations it has freely entered into.

Dead right. Foreign relations are such a complex thing. People, powerful people, can take offence at such tiny things. Such things must be considered when dealing with other countries, especially those that are important trading partners with Australia.

JULIA GILLARD: The Leader of the Opposition says that the only thing that ever compels anybody to do anything is legal compulsion. Well I actually believe in the real world decent people who freely enter into agreements that have obligations in them do that because they genuinely intend to meet their obligations.

The Malaysian government has done that and I think this sort of casual insulting of the government of Malaysia is not proper and not of assistance to us or our role in the region.

And fair enough too. Most people do the best they can without a piece of paper, or rigorous rules, regulations and bureaucratic bullshit to tell them to do so. And again, she is very keen to point out the danger of insulting Malaysia.

But I couldn't help but think back a few months. Substitute cattle for asylum seekers / refugees / illegal immigrants and Indonesia for Malaysia. The Government took an extremely hard line approach to this. The entire trade was banned overnight with no warning to industry, in fact, people where still mustering, and trucks were ready to load a ship that already had Government approval to do so. Indonesia wasn't informed of the ban until it was imposed, eight days after a TV report on the trade exposed shocking cruelty. And they were a wee bit upset about it, rightly so. An article in The Australian, points this out.

Indonesia's Deputy Agriculture Minister, Bayu Krisnamurthi, questioned whether the ban was discriminatory, saying other nations Australia exported to also had issues in relation to animal welfare.

“We hope this is not mainly a special policy for Indonesia,” he told reporters. “If applied only to Indonesia, this is discriminative and we will submit (a complaint) to the WTO.

“I know that there are several other countries importing from Australia facing the same (animal welfare) situation.”

Fortunately cool heads have prevailed. the trade has been resumed, however the cattle can only go to accredited facilities where they can be traced from the ship, through the feedlots and into the abattoirs. And the facilities must comply with OIE Animal Welfare Standards. This is a good thing.

But I wonder how we got to a point in society where cattle seem to have much better welfare guarantees, brought about by actions that insulted one of our biggest agricultural customers, than those granted to desperate people willing to get on a dodgy boat just to live here, purely because demanding such guarantees may be offensive to Malaysia.


Becky said...

Great work, and very correct as per usual. I have shared this everywhere I could in the hopes that others also see the double standards that we have been faced with since the ban came into place.

Anonymous said...

Great comparison Michael, thanks for sharing!
Robyn....who is not a blogger!

Alison Fairleigh said...

I shared it on Twitter again Michael. You have become my favourite blogger :)

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