The ABC TV program Four Corners has publicly exposed barbaric treatment in Indonesian slaughterhouses of live cattle exported from Australia.
Citing this and a similarly damning report in 2010 by Australian Meat and Livestock and Livecorp, the public and organisations like the RSPCA and Voiceless have rightly called on the federal Minister for Agriculture, Senator Joe Ludwig, to ban live-animal exports to Indonesia.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Senator Ludwig is taking decisive action on this scandal by “considering all regulatory and legislative actions” and “not ruling out” further bans and suspensions.
Which is all very well and good. But as a great many Australians are asking, if the government can take such prompt action against cruelty in the animal-export trade, why is it so hell-bent on proceeding with its callous plan to export human beings to Malaysia?
Trading refugees like so many cattle, and even sending unaccompanied children to Malaysia’s dire detention camps like so many lambs to the slaughter, is an insult to the idea and ideals of Australia, and a disgrace to the so-called Immigration Department.
Dimmigration Department, more like it, given the additional revelation today that hundreds of Iraqi interpreters whose lives were deemed in danger as a result of working with Australian troops and were thus granted refuge with their families in Australia three years ago, are largely unemployed and living in poverty.
This despite the fact that a great many if not most have university degrees or other tertiary qualifications in additions to their interpeting skills.
As determined as he claims to be to “send a message” to people-smugglers to stop plying their disgraceful trade to Australia, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen’s department seems to be sending very mixed messages indeed.
Giving the Iraqi interpreters priority over other refugees and asylum-seekers, then virtually leaving them for dead once they’re here. And now exporting those who arrive on boats to a living death in the custody of the rotten Umno/BN Malaysian regime.
As a prosperous and spacious nation largely inhabited by immigrants and refugees, and with such a sorry record of displacing and decimating its indigenous people to atone for, Australia should by rights be a caring and compassionate society. Not just for cattle and other animals, but also for people who seek safety here for themselves and their families.
If Chris Bowen has a message he’s keen to send to people-smugglers, let him send it directly through diplomatic channels to the governments of countries like Indonesia and Malaysia that corruptly condone the activities of these traffickers in human misery. It’s time he and the Gillard government got their act together, and put an end to the farce of punishing the victims for the crimes of the flesh-traders.