The cameras have taken us closer than we could ever have imagined into the aftermath of the catastrophic tsunami in countries familiar to many of us. We watched and wept as the numbers of dead can no longer be counted, as the survivors struggle to stay alive, as the stories surface of acts of heroism and kindness, as the aid starts to arrive. For a few days it felt like we were as one, linked by shock and suffering, determined to find ways to help, our self-centredness and insularity behind us.
But then it began again.
Colin Powell on CNN, in the run up to Thursday’s special summit meeting in Jakarta, declared that the prime motivator behind the massively increased US aid to the ravaged nations was self interest – otherwise they would become ‘breeding grounds for Islamic radicalism and terrorism’. ”This is not just about building capacity to respond to a crisis but to make significant strides in these nations developing economically,’ he said. ‘It is an investment in our own national security. This is crucial in the War Against Terror.’ And our Prime Minister was quick to agree.
Earlier this week, the Bakhtiyari’s were flown to Pakistan at dead of night. John Allen, Federal Secretary of the TWU, told NewMatilda he had been contacted by Julian Burnside to see what could be done to delay their scheduled flight out of Adelaide airport. When asked if the TWU was planning action, the SA Branch Secretary told the press that without prior approval of the ACTU nothing could be done to stop the flight leaving. Even so, the government decided to lease, at considerable expense, a National Jet out of Port Augusta to deport the family to Pakistan.
Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone denied the government was rattled. ‘The flight had left at 3am in order to meet connections en route,’ she said ‘and to fit in with the availability of the aircraft.’ But the Minister does intend to offer on our behalf the privilege of accessing TPVs to those in ravaged areas with family in this country. Presumably her Department will be able to convey to applicants the joys of a short stint in Australia before their luck runs out again.
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