Wednesday October 21, 2009 7:00am WST
For Immediate Release
"Kevin Rudd's plans to pay Indonesia a per-service fee for stopping asylum seekers before they make it down under to Australia (as reported by The West Australian - see below) is not just an illegal act in international law, but it is also a disgusting gesture that smacks of colonial grandstanding 19th Century style by Australia," WA Rights group Project SafeCom said this morning.
In recent years, many international observers have seen that Indonesia wants to try to do the right thing by the international community, and this week 12 months ago UNHCR Regional Representative Richard Towle revealed to the Joint Standing Committee's Inquiry into Immigration Detention that Indonesia wants to ratify the UN Refugee Convention next year, but the sublime colonial arrogance on display by Kevin Rudd warrants a worldwide condemnation by all countries who have ratified the 1951 Convention," spokesman Jack H Smit said.
 URL for Mr Towle's testimony to the Inquiry (PDF File):
"The Prime Minister on the one hand maintains a sanctimonious game in an attempt to gain credibility so Australia can secure a seat on the United Nations Security Council by 2012, while on the other hand he has ramped up the rhetoric in calling those who attempt to reach Australia as the only Convention country in the region "illegal immigrants" - even attracting strong criticism from senior reporters, journalists and MP's on his own team."
"Indonesia is on the receiving end of Kevin Rudd's Lesson Number One, that has on display amplified details and clear rote learning lines in "How to undermine the UN Refugee Convention". It is a disgusting act where Kevin Rudd and Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith are selling Australia's abrogation of International law and our clear obligations under the Convention under the flag of international good relations with our neighbour Indonesia, and Rudd should be condemned for it."
Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]
Rudd to offer deal on refugees
The West Australian
Andrew Probyn and Nick Butterly
October 21, 2009
Indonesia will be offered millions of dollars to intercept and house asylum seekers who attempt to make the journey to Australia under a new plan which echoes the Howard Government's so-called Pacific solution.
The West Australian understands the extraordinary scheme is being developed by the Rudd Government as part of urgent efforts to enlist Indonesia's help to stop people smuggling syndicates targeting Australia.
It is believed the incentive payments could be paid on a per-person basis or as a bounty for every boat intercepted.
Australia is also willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars upgrading and building new detention centres in Indonesia and to increase intelligence sharing to combat people smuggling.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was expected to use a meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta yesterday to raise elements of the plan for increased cooperation.
The Government believes that paying Indonesia to intercept asylum seekers would not only be a significantly cheaper alternative to processing them in Australia but serve as a big deterrent to people smuggling.
Whereas asylum seekers lucky enough to make it to Australian waters are usually processed within 90 days, asylum seekers in Indonesia can face up to a decade in limbo as they are assessed by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
But the move is bound to spark accusations that it represents Mr Rudd solving a political problem by outsourcing its responsibilities, much like John Howard did in 2001 by paying Nauru and Papua New Guinea to process asylum seekers.
Already this year, 1753 people on 33 boats have been intercepted in Australian waters, placing a huge strain on the Christmas Island detention centre. The Opposition claims the surge is due to the Government's softening of the Howard Government's hardline policy, whereas the Government blames "push factors" including civil unrest in Sri Lanka.
Mr Rudd's close relationship with Dr Yudhoyono saw the Indonesian President agree to intercept an Australia-bound boat carrying 254 Sri Lankans on October 11 at the PM's request. While these Sri Lankans are refusing to leave their boat at an Indonesian port, Canberra and Jakarta remained in negotiation yesterday over another 78 asylum seekers who were intercepted in Indonesia's search and rescue zone by an Australian Customs ship on Sunday.
The group, which includes at least five women and five young children, were taken aboard by Customs ship the Oceanic Viking after the Navy responded to a SOS call by mobile phone call from the vessel.
Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the 78 people were in good health except for one who had a fever.
She said the Federal Government was liaising with Indonesia over where to land the rescued people.
"International laws ... are in place to ensure the safety of everyone who finds themselves in distress at sea," she said. "We will follow the letter of the law in relation to this matter."