Sunday July 17 2005 8:30am WST
For Immediate Release
"The fact that the Indonesian government may well block the appointment of former DIMIA Secretary Bill Farmer as Australia's Ambassador provides a perfect reason to now get out into the open all circumstances and incidences of the Department of Immigration's dealings with Indonesia over boatpeople," WA Refugee group Project SafeCom and former Indonesian Diplomat Bruce Haigh said this morning, after The Age's Political Correspondent Philip Hudson revealed that the Indonesian Parliament may block Farmer's appointment to the Indonesian Foreign Desk.
"It's more than time that the DIMIA, as well as the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Foreign Affairs own up to how much money changed hands between Australia and Indonesian "people smuggling operatives" since the 2001 Federal Election, and how much bullying and intimidation was involved to stop boatpeople attempting to reach Australia."
"And answers need to come hard and fast, not only over the amount of money, but also about what methods were used to disrupt voyages, whether boats were sabotaged, whether tracking devices were placed on boats, and whether holes have been drilled in boats headed for Australia - and how bullying and intimidation, paired with 'under the table money', was used for Australia to ruthlessly get its way with a foreign nation."
"Minister for Immigration, Philip Ruddock, asked Australian officials at a June 2001 meeting at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta if boats carrying asylum seekers to Australia could be sabotaged. What other things have Australian Ministers and bureaucrats suggested and what were Indonesian disruption teams bullied into?"
"The remarks made by Indonesian MP Djoko Susilo of the Commission for Security, Defence and Foreign Affairs show that Bill Farmer constitutes 'damaged goods', but Project SafeCom would be interested if instead of Bill Farmer Australia would suggest the head of the Australian Federal Police, Mick Keelty to take up the Indonesian diplomatic post: would Mr Susilo have similar remarks also about Mick Keelty?"
"The Howard government has bullied and intimidated not just Indonesia, but Australian voters since the 2001 Federal election, by spreading the myth that it is "illegal" to arrive unannounced by boat in Australian waters and seek asylum."
"Regardless of last week's "controlled fallout response" to Mick Palmer's damning report, we know that Howard, Ruddock, Vanstone, and a whole string of bureaucrats have been engaged in scandalous mismanagement, bordering on being engaged in criminal activity, in dealing with people's cases who came to Australia to seek asylum, which was within their good International right."
"Now we want to know how many more lives have been made miserable of the hundreds of others, often wives and children of men who already lived in Australia as refugees - who attempted the sea journey to Australia in order to join them. The boat dubbed SIEV X was just one of the many boats."
"Australians need answers, not just some half-truths but the complete answers, and they need to come hard and fast."
For more information:
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
[phone number posted]
[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.]
Indonesian threat to block envoy
By Philip Hudson
July 17, 2005
The controversial plan to reward former Immigration Department head Bill Farmer with the plum diplomatic posting to Jakarta faces resistance in the Indonesian Parliament.
The Federal Government was in damage control last night after the influential Indonesian MP Djoko Susilo, who sits on the Commission for Security, Defence and Foreign Affairs, formally raised "deep concern" about the appointment and said he could not rule out it being blocked.
Mr Susilo lodged his concerns on Friday with a delegation of Federal MPs visiting Jakarta.
"I talked to the delegate of the Australian Parliament, Andrew Southcott, and I expressed some deep concern with the possibility of the nomination of Mr Farmer as the next ambassador of Australia to Jakarta," he said.
Last night he also claimed there was a culture of intimidation and rudeness by immigration officers against Indonesia and blamed Mr Farmer. He questioned whether Indonesians could work with him.
"We have evidence the Immigration office under Mr Farmer unfairly treated Indonesian officials," he told The Sunday Age. "Indonesian delegations have been rudely treated by Mr Bill Farmer's immigration people. This is the culture of intimidation, the culture of rudely treating foreign dignitaries under Bill Farmer."
Mr Susilo said Mr Farmer's handling of immigration in Australia could also harm his ability to be an effective envoy.
"At this moment we are not sure about his credibility. We want to look deeper into Mr Farmer's background. We have concerns about the controversy in Australia," he said.
The committee can block or delay diplomatic postings.
"We can block the appointment of Mr Farmer if we have substantial evidence the appointment will be harmful to the relationship between Indonesia and Australia," Mr Susilo said.
"We want to know that your envoy can reach out to the public at large. We basically want to have a good person who can communicate with us here in Jakarta."
Prime Minister John Howard shifted Mr Farmer out of immigration just days before the release of the Palmer report into the wrongful detention of Cornelia Rau and deportation of Vivian Alvarez Solon.
Dr Southcott, who chairs Parliament's treaties committee, confirmed Mr Susilo had raised concerns. He indicated he would pass these on to Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. Last night Dr Southcott contacted The Sunday Age to say he had defended Mr Farmer to Mr Susilo by praising Envoy can reach out to the public at large. We basically want to have a good person who can communicate with us here in Jakarta."
Prime Minister John Howard shifted Mr Farmer out of immigration just days before the release of the Palmer report into the wrongful detention of Cornelia Rau, and deportation of Vivian Alvarez Solon.
Dr Southcott, who chairs Parliament's treaties committee, confirmed Mr Susilo had raised concerns. He indicated he would pass these on to Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.
Last night Dr Southcott contacted The Sunday Age to say he had defended Mr Farmer to Mr Susilo by praising his record as a former ambassador to Malaysia and PNG. "Jakarta is our largest embassy and we only send our best people there," he said.'
Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said the controversy could harm relations with Indonesia.