Saturday 18 November 2017

Not Quite An Act Of War: Analysing Australia’s Push-Back Against Jacinda’s Manus Island Outreach.

Real Human Suffering: In the face of the extraordinary Australian push-back against the government of Jacinda Ardern, it is important to remember the people at the centre of this controversy - the appallingly-treated victims of Australia's "Pacific Solution" who remain trapped on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

YOU HAVE TO GO BACK A LONG WAY to find anything remotely resembling Australia’s current treatment of New Zealand. For a supposedly friendly government to deliberately inject inflammatory disinformation into the political bloodstream of its supposedly closest neighbour is an extraordinarily provocative act. Not quite an act of war, but the sort of intervention that can all-too-easily provoke a catastrophic loss of trust.

It’s the sort of thing that the Soviets and the Americans used to do to one another all the time during the Cold War. Except, of course, those two superpowers were ideological and geopolitical rivals of the first order. It takes a real effort to re-cast the relationship between New Zealand and Australia in similar terms. Nevertheless, it’s an effort we are now obliged to make.

So, what is it that Australia has done? Essentially, its national security apparatus (presumably at the instigation of their political leaders) has released, mostly through media surrogates, a number of related stories calculated to inflame the prejudices of a certain type of New Zealander.

Like Australia, New Zealand harbours a frighteningly large number of racists. Politically-speaking, such people are easily aroused and have few qualms about setting-off ugly, racially-charged, debates on talkback radio, in the letters columns of the daily newspapers and across social media. These individuals are trouble enough when all they have to fight with are their own stereotypes and prejudices. Arm them with the carefully assembled disinformation of “fake news” and they instantly become quite dangerous.

And yet, this is exactly what the Australian authorities have done. Planting stories in their own press (knowing they will be picked up almost immediately by our own) about at least four boatloads of illegal immigrants that have set out for New Zealand only to be intercepted and turned back by the ever-vigilant officers of the Royal Australian Navy and their Coast Guard comrades. The purpose of this story (unsourced and lacking in detail, making it, almost certainly, fake news) was to paint New Zealand’s prime minister as an ill-informed and ungrateful diplomatic naïf: an inexperienced young idealist who doesn’t know which way is up when it comes to dealing with real-world problems.

This, alone, was an extraordinary intervention. To gauge how extraordinary, just turn it around. Imagine the reaction in Australia if some unnamed person in New Zealand’s national security apparatus leaked a memo to one of this country’s daily newspapers in which the negative diplomatic and economic consequences of being tainted by association with Australia’s flouting of international law is set forth in clinical detail. If the memo also contained a collection of highly critical assessments of Turnbull’s cabinet colleagues, allegedly passed-on by a number of unnamed western diplomats, then so much the better!

Canberra would not be impressed!

If the Australians had left it at just one intervention, then perhaps New Zealanders could simply have shrugged it off as yet another case of bad behaviour from the land of the under-arm bowlers. But when have the Aussies ever left it at “just one”?

The next intervention came in the form of “Ian” – formerly a guard (or so he said) at both the Nauru and Manus Island detention centres. For reasons it has yet to adequately explain, RNZ’s Checkpoint programme provided “Ian” with nearly ten, largely uninterrupted, minutes of air-time during which he poured-forth a stream of accusations and characterisations which, to put it mildly, painted the protesters occupying the decommissioned Manus Island facility in the most lurid and disquieting colours. The detainees were criminals, drug-dealers – paedophiles even! Not at all the sort of people New Zealanders would want in their country.

“Ian”, it turns out, is a “witness” well-known to the many Australian NGOs that have taken up the cause of the detainees on Manus and Nauru. They have noted the curious similarities between “Ian’s” supposedly personal observations and experiences, and the inflammatory talking-points constantly reiterated by Australia’s hard-line Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton. A cynic might describe the grim “testimony” of “Ian” and Dutton as mutually reinforcing.

No matter. New Zealand’s racist, Islamophobic and militantly anti-immigrant community had been supplied with yet another truckload of Australian-manufactured ammunition.

Enough? Not hardly! Only this morning (17/11/17) New Zealanders were fed the shocking “news” that the protesting Manus Island detainees are harbouring within their ranks an unspecified number of men guilty of having debauched and prostituted local girls as young as 10 and 13!

Too much? Over the top? Redolent of the very worst instances of the murderous racial-incitement for which the Deep South of the United States was so rightly infamous? It sure is! Which is why we must hope that the Internet does not operate on Manus Island. Because, if the local inhabitants were to read on-line that the detainees were responsible for prostituting their daughters, what might they NOT do?

One almost feels that the Australian spooks behind this extraordinary disinformation campaign would actually be delighted if the locals burned down the Manus Island detention centre with the protesting detainees inside it.

“This is what comes of 37-year-old Kiwi prime ministers meddling in matters they know nothing about!” That would be the consistent theme of the right-wing Australian media. It would not take long for the same line to be picked up here: first on social media, and then by more mainstream media outlets. Right-wing outrage, mixed with a gleeful “we told you so!”, could not, however, be contained within the news media for very long. Inevitably, the more outré inhabitants of the Opposition’s back bench would take possession of the controversy, from there it would cascade down rapidly to Opposition politicians nearer the front.

Before her enemies could say: “It’s all your fault!”, Jacinda would find herself under withering political fire from both sides of the Tasman. Canberra would register her increasingly fragile government’s distress with grim satisfaction.

As the men and women responsible for organising “Operation Stardust” deleted its final folder, and fed the last incriminating document into the paper-shredder, one or two of them might even have voiced a judiciously muted “Mission Accomplished!”

This essay was posted simultaneously on Bowalley Road and The Daily Blog of Saturday, 18 November 2017.


peteswriteplace said...

Thought provoking. Will we have to wait for those on Manus Island to starve?

greywarbler said...

They play under-arm or whichever way will help them to win. And play hard-ball politics. We are not the little brother, we are another Pacific Island that they dominate and interfere with. We are suffering a similar treatment to those we dished out on one Pacific Island which we governed inadequately. There they killed the NZr when he interfered too hard and too often. This book by Dick Scott about that.

NIUE ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND AND THE LATE MR LARSEN, by Dick Scott. ... Resident Commissioner Larsen was killed by three escaped prisoners on 17 ... The author tells how the three young Niueans believed they were ridding the island of a .

countryboy said...

Excellent Post.
I've always thought of AU as a quasi-state of the U$A. So what ever AU says echo's what's said in the White House,in my view.
And does The White House want beastly foreigners flocking to NZ's shores? The country the Deep State Hyper Riche U$A citizenry and its little cuddle bunnies will need to escape to when the shits of many nations hits the terrible fan?
No risks are being taken in readiness for The Exodus. I fear that soon, push will meet shove.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I made this comment somewhere else, but perhaps it deserves repeating.
There's a lot of bullshit written about the trans-Tasman relationship. Australia has always done what it thinks is best for Australia without even considering New Zealand, while spouting all this crap about Anzac comradeship and the rest. So this is nothing new.

Polly said...

Chris, I disagree with you view;
The Manus Island illegals have all been confined there for some years, during our election not once did Jacinda or anyone from her Labour team raise the question about these illegals being invited to come to New Zealand.
These is trickery by Labour against anyone who may have voted for them or indeed include NZF and the Greens in that vote fact.
Jacinda and the Labour coalition are pulling a vile deception on the New Zealand public by this invitation to Manus Island illegals.
I live in Auckland, take a long walk around, you will see plenty of unemployed and homeless Kiwi;s.
We must all look after our own first.
The pox on Labour for this invitation.

Unknown said...

Isn't it a little odd that they claim to be refugees yet they've managed to pass through multiple places of refuge but still trek onwards, paying many thousands of dollars to snakeheads (where did that money come from...) to get to Australia.

They're not refugees, they're economic migrants trying to subvert the system and sneak into Australia illegally.

Also, a question - NZ has a refugee program that takes in genuine, UN verified refugees from around the world. Should they now miss out because 150 economic migrants failed to get into their country of choice?

David Stone said...

You seem remarkably sure about the virtue of the Manus Island detainees Mr Trotter. How are you so sure that Ian and others who have had first hand contact with these people don't know anything about them or are lying? What's in it for them to lie? Why would it be so surprising if some of the boat people turned out to be escaping from justice they richly deserve to be subject to? I think some of them are sure to be bad eggs. And if they have destroyed any papers they had confirming their identity how does anyone discover who they actually are and why they are running incognito?
Genuine refugees aught to be helped, but we need to know who they really are and why they are in danger in their country of origin, and which country that was. It could be England or Canada for all we Know.

Victor said...


The mere absence of an issue from electoral discussions does NOT make it a "vile deception" for a government to subsequently raise that issue.

Polly said...

Victor, please read all of my piece, 18 Nov 12.27.
Take a walk around Auckland with your eyes open..
You will not miss our homeless.
I state;
A vile deception.
Only idiots would want to bring in illegals.
In the real circumstances the Labour Party qualifies for idiocy.

Polly said...

Sorry, but given the facts of our election, of our factual unemployment and homelessness in all our cities, of the length of time the illegals have been on Manus Island
I stand by "vile deception".

Barry said...

I think the Manus Island detainees are not real refugees. I think they are ugly alien illegal Moslem invaders and that normal NZers don't want them in NZ.

greywarbler said...

Barry I don't consider myself a normal NZr and I am sure you aren't either.
Maybe you represent the people you do a group-hug with. That's if you can bear to touch anyone in an affectionate group-solidarity way.

greywarbler said...

David Stone
I am surprised at your naievete. What's in it for Ian or others to lie?
Good grief. If they have a lot of money, they probably wouldn't have been jailers, so they might be offered money or inducements. They might make a name for themselves and get on Pauline Hanson's gravy train. When you become a 'grunt', ie lowly foot soldier or the like, then it is hard to form independent philosophies that don't lead into more lucrative earnings.

Victor said...


We're talking about 150 people. That's all. Taking them in would be an easily accomplished step to help deal with a humanitarian emergency in our "back yard" and, because of the numbers and circumstances, would not create a substantial obstacle to coping with our housing crisis.

Indeed, there's no reason why the people involved should not be settled somewhere else in the country, where more people are needed and newcomers of all ethnicities tend, at present, to be more welcome than they are in Auckland.

Experience suggests that refugees and others rescued from trauma are more open to such suggestions than other migrants. And, personally, I'd rather we took in people who need somewhere to go and would be grateful for it than those merely seeking economic advantage, often primarily through the property market.

slef said...


What is your evidence for thinking that the Manus Island detainees are not refugees?

Why would they have taken what were apparently hazardous and onerous journeys if they were merely choosing between safe spaces?

Why should the fate of those in need be decided by anything as arbitrary as your finding them ugly?

How would 150 Moslems (or, say, 500, if each one subsequently brought in a few relies) constitute an invasion? Isn't this mere rhetoric on your part?


Clearly, the 150 would need to be vetted by the New Zealand authorities, as, I believe, were the Tampa refugees.

My support for resettlement here would be dependent on this taking place, even if they'd already been sifted by other countries or by the UN.

Victor said...


Precisely. And the money might also come from sources in New Zealand.

David Stone said...

Yes Grey I could have left that out. They could always be offered money, but the rest remains unanswered. I don't think that people who's identity can't be established are all necessarily clean. And if there is argument from people who have had direct contact ( people not just one person) that there are troublemakers among them then this should be checked out before assuming they are all good people.
I'm not against genuine refugees, we should have many more instead of moneyed migrants, I have sponsored one I didn't know from Adam from Romania because I was asked, and hosting him was an interesting and rewarding experience for us all. But I was OK with the story about him and he was fine. But it is always a risk, and when there are bad stories they need to be checked out.
Cheers David

ps sorry to disagree about the GDP/ exports issue , but this forum is about exchange of thoughts and ideas isn't it, and we can't always see everything the same or we wouldn't be individuals. But to recap I think the comparison is like looking at a roundabout at a fairground. While it's stationary you can walk around and count the horses; thats the exports. Then when it starts up you can stand alongside and count them as they go past a point till the ride is finished; That's the GDP.

Nick J said...

I have real evidence that humanitarianism can lead to some bad results....the Nazis were persecuting Jews and so NZ took in a young Jewess, she begat her son John, a recent PM. It then turned to proverbial bovine when John visiting Sri Lanka met genuine refugees and deflected their appeals for NZ to help. They were in dire need, and John if he had remembered his mothers plight should really have moved for them. It was a day of great shame for our country.

Jacinda by contrast has spoken the truth to the disreputable Australians. I object to our immigration rates, thats an economic issue. This by contrast is humanitarian.

Victor said...

Nick J

Sorry but JK's perception and empathy problems can't be laid at the door of a generous pro-refugee policy.

His father was an Englishman who emigrated here with refugee (to Britain) wife in tow after World War Two.

New Zealand's policy in the 1930s was actually far more restrictive than those of either the UK or Australia, as far as refugees from Nazism were concerned.

But does NZ have any reason to regret taking in its Polish children? I don't think so.

Similarly, the UK has no reason to regret the "Kindertransporten". And the kids themselves, now in their 80s and 90s, continue to sing the praises of the land that rescued them.

When a mature democracy takes in refugees and wraps a few (far from expensive) services around them, they often become the most loyal of immigrants, which is why lots of female toddlers with parents from Syria are now called Angela.

Victor said...


I don't think anyone is seriously proposing bringing any of the detainees here without first conducting stringent checks on them.

The Tampa refugees were put through a bureaucratic sieve and so would be the folks from Manus Island. Quite rightly, that's how New Zealand does things.

Nick J

My own view is that any reduction in immigrant numbers should be met with a smaller but proportional rise (say 4 to 1) in our refugee quota.

greywarbler said...

Victor at 16.07
This sounds a reasoned way forward. Saying there might be troublemakers amongst them (DS 18.18) is a word open to abuse. In NZ if you are working for a charity coping with strugglers subsisting and you criticise the government for lack of timely aid, the truth is unacceptable to our masters/esses in our so-called democracy. You will have your funding cut off you ungrateful wretches, that's the standard attitude.

These refugees are desperate for life, fully grown and have chanced and lost much. Wouldn't you be inclined to be 'troublesome'. We have had aderanged Somali woman knife someone, she wanted to go home. Perhaps if we take people who would rather be home and cannot find a place that will trust them, and give them a lift home they might have a better life than be treated like floating detritus

We can keep most and hope with many quiet talks, and perhaps artistic opportunities and perhaps some meditation workshops to enable people to change their thinking when its down, we can help them over the trauma. Have a home, in a community where they won't be bailed up by vicious young men or women, and a job to apply themselves to that offers real work and wages.

Victor said...


One significant potential group of refugees who are less likely to be traumatised by ill-treatment (as opposed to the forces of nature) will be climate change refugees.

Eventually, the entire populations of Tokelau, Kiribati and Tuvalu may need to be evacuated and political, cultural and demographic links make New Zealand the obvious place for them to be relocated to (relax, Polly, the numbers are miniscule).

I think we need to start planning ahead for this and I'm encouraged by the way Jacinda is nibbling, however cautiously, at the issue.

Nick J said...

Thanks Victor, I was being a little sarcastic with reference to Key, the whole episode brought shame on us.

On a broader note I believe that the lack of action by Western democracies in providing open havens for German Jews prior to 1939 stands as a salutary warning on the dangers of hard line refugee programmes. I have long maintained that "economic" migrants who have assailed our shores in multitudinous numbers under National need to be restricted merely so that we can cope. I would much rather have brought a larger number of really needy refugees and spent money integrating them rather than struggle to build houses in Auckland for wealthy immigrants. Thats being responsible to both NZers who live here and to our international obligations as a good world citizen.

Also you strike a chord with the Pacific Islands, there is a major political disaster brewing there as a result of climate change and other matters too numerous to mention. This is our back yard, they are our people.

Anonymous said...

I think the reason the Australians are so irritated by the intervention of our PM is that they have been doing the hard work of both border protection AND resettling refugees. The way our PM talks about doing the right thing and compassion you would think we had anything like a comparable refugee program.

We take in 750 people a year, Australia a country 5 times the size of us, takes in 3,750 as you would expect.

No sorry my mistake, they take in 18,750 people a year. So while New Zealand sits behind Australia, protected from any refugee arrivals, we also do almost nothing towards solving the global problem.

And now our PM wants to do ‘the right thing’, but maybe solving 10% of the problem. I can see why the Australian would say thanks for nothing.

The offer also complicates their current resettlement policy. The US have agreed to resettle up to 1250 people subject to security screening. Our PMs intervention means that some of the people who might leap at an offer to resettle to the US might want to take an NZ resettlement.

So what happens if that is more than our ‘generous’ offer of 150. Do they wait another year or more until a place comes up?

While the offer gets her some favourable headlines it should also be noted that it’s not an increase in our refugee intake. The 150 people we take from the Australian camps is at the expense of 150 people elsewhere who are likely already in processing. Who is going to break the new to them that Jacinda has given their places away to people who paid a people smuggler.

Refugees are a huge problem in the world today and the issue isn’t going to be solved with simple solutions, we can and should do more, but we don’t do us or anyone else any favours by denigrating the efforts of Australia, who are doing the heavy lifting in the region.

greywarbler said...

Anonymous 20.30 you can bend over backwards for the Australians and collapse on the floor for all I care. You describe the situation which is complex and then fail to give us brownie points.

If 150 from the camp were going to replace those already allowed forin our usual quota, then it is not good. We have to make space for a once or twice-only situation. Are we expanding refugee numbers? All we need to do is tighten up on the Indian and perhaps Filipino scams, cut down on those numbers, lessening our problems of swamping from one area, and with an effort I believe we could manage.