Refugee advocates and former Diplomat express concerns about Bill Farmer appointment

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Western Australia 6312
Phone: 0417 090 130

Refugee advocates and former Diplomat express concerns about Bill Farmer appointment

Media Release
Monday July 11 2005 8:00am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

West Australian lobby and advocacy group Project SafeCom has expressed serious concerns about both the public service replacements and the move of Department of Immigration Secretary Bill Farmer to Indonesia as announced by the Prime Minister on the weekend.

Both Project SafeCom spokesman Jack Smit as well as long-term member and one of the Association's advisors, former Indonesian Diplomat Bruce Haigh, have stated that Mr Bill Farmer may be seriously unsuitable for the diplomatic posting to Indonesia.

Mr Haigh said that in the context of the Children Overboard debacle, Mr Bill Farmer has failed to correct the public record and was happy to let false information stay on the record about whether refugees threw their children overboard, and has since failed to come forward to publicly state that children had not been thrown overboard.

Retired diplomat Bruce Haigh is a former head of the Indonesian Desk at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and he held diplomatic postings in Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and South Africa. He is the author of "The Great Australian Blight" and "Pillars of Fear", books dealing also with relations between Indonesia and Australia, and he is a former member of the Refugee Review Tribunal.

Mr Smit also questions Bill Farmer's replacement in Immigration, Andrew Metcalfe, a deputy secretary in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and he called the Howard appointment as another sign of John Howard taking control once again of the Immigration Department.

"We know that since Tampa and until well after the 2001 Federal election, the "refugee war office" resided in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, where as a result of John Howard taking control of the information flow as well as rescue decisions of boatpeople, dangerous rescue delays of sinking boats have resulted, and we know that this seriously endangered lives - and that this also seriously undermined the independence and the acting "without fear or favour" of DIMIA, the NAVY and other sections of the Public Service," Mr Smit said.

"The appointment of Andrew Metcalfe confirms again that Howard seeks to once more keep control of the Immigration Department and seeks to stack its upper echelons with his own choice of "yes men". The Prime Minister's accountability and openness to the Australian public and exemplified with his response to Immigration Department bungles and debacles remains of extremely serious concern to all Australian citizens."

For more information:

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

Bruce Haigh
Retired Diplomat
[phone number posted]

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