Australia. Queen Elizabeth II visited Australia in March
for the first time since the referendum on whether or not to
be the monarchy in 1999. She was received without much pomp
COUNTRYAAH, the issue of the conditions of the indigenous peoples,
Aborigines, received a lot of attention during the year, not
least during the Sydney Olympics. Several UN committees
strongly criticized the treatment of indigenous peoples. The
criticism concerned, inter alia, the laws of some states
that provide that convict criminals should always be
sentenced to prison. In one of the states concerned, it is
four times as common for Aborigines to be arrested by police
than whites are. One incident that caused a great stir was
when a 15-year-old Aboriginal boy in February committed
suicide while serving a 28-day prison sentence for theft of
pens and crayons.
However, Prime Minister John Howard refused to officially
apologize for the abuses and discrimination suffered by
Aborigines over the years. Howard argues that the current
regime cannot take the blame for what previous generations
have been guilty of.
Two children of the so-called stolen generation -
aboriginal children who were forcibly taken from their
parents and placed in institutions or in white foster
families - went to court to claim compensation for the
wrongs they were exposed to, but their claims were rejected
in August by a federal court.
During the late summer, the Conservative Australian
government threatened to prevent UN representatives from
examining how human rights are being respected in the
country. The government's attitude was criticized by both
the UN and human rights groups and the domestic opposition.
Prime Minister Howard stressed that domestic policy issues
should be resolved within the country, saying that Australia
could reconsider its stance on the UN's entire system of
treaties and regulations.
Australia has also been criticized for its treatment of
illegal immigrants who came by boat to the country from
especially the Middle East. Many of these are placed in
camps located in the desert, where they are treated as if
they were in prison while their cases are being
A June fire in a hostel in the town of Childers in
northern Queensland in June claimed 15 lives. Most of the
victims were foreign backpack tourists.
In July, despite strong protests, the government
introduced a new VAT, GST, while lowering income tax.
The Australian population was heavily affected by the
terror attack in Bali in October 2002, as 94 of the 190
victims were Australian tourists. Prime Minister Howard
declared he would do justice to those killed by supporting
the United States in its fight against terrorism, despite a
number of religious leaders warning that this could expose
Australians to future assaults.
In January 2003, Australia sent troops to the Persian
Gulf in support of the United States' impending war on Iraq.
This happened despite widespread popular protests. In
February, for the first time in the country's history, the
Senate passed a distrust agenda to the government for its
support of the U.S. attack war. Yet in March Howard sent
another 2,000 troops to the Gulf and allowed the military
(Australian Defense Forces, ADF) to join the US-led attack.
Polls showed that 71% of Australians were against this move.
In July, Australian intelligence sources admitted that
they had not informed Howard of any serious doubts about the
accuracy of Iraqi uranium purchase information in Niger. The
Prime Minister apologized for having used counterfeit
intelligence to justify Australia's participation in the
attack war. However, he added that although he had been
informed that the intelligence was false, he had
nevertheless sent troops. The Liberals accused Howard of not
daring to put the truth into the question of the country's
There is a strong military tradition in the country,
despite the fact that no compulsory military service exists.
Although wars have never been fought in Australia - apart
from a Japanese attack during World War II - the
increasingly geopolitical significance of the Pacific region
and China's possible future aspirations mean that the ADF
will play an increasingly important role.
The alliance between the Liberals and the National Party
is shaping an increasingly tough ideology on security policy
issues. This position is not shared by everyone in the
Australian defense, nor does it correspond to the security
policy position developed within the framework of ASEAN.
Howard has during his reign carried out two major revisions
of the country's military strategy: "Strategic Audit" and
"Audit of Defense Efficiency". These revisions mean major
changes in the defense's administration, structure,
deployment and also give the defense a more expansive and
active function in the 21st century.
During his reign, Howard has sought to strengthen
bilateral military ties with the United States, and the
country's governments have become increasingly sensitive to
Washington's strategic policies in the region.
In April 2004, Jane Errey was fired after she refused to
confirm that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Errey was chief counsel in the Ministry of Defense's Office
of Science and Technology. Secretary of Defense Robert Hill
stated that the decision was made solely after an assessment
of Errey's work and nothing related to her stance on
Australia's policy towards Iraq.
In May, the government decided to place hidden armed
guards on a number of Qantas' and United Airlines departures
to the United States. Attorney General Chris Ellison stated:
"This move is a long story of close cooperation between the
United States and Australia on issues of law enforcement,
aviation security and the strategy on terrorism". The
government negotiated a similar effort with the UK, Canada
In June, Australian lifeguards applied advanced
technology to improve coastal safety. To reduce the number
of drowning accidents, lifeguards took on a new computer
system - SurfCom - to monitor coastal stretches. Surf Life
Saving member Peter Dawes declared: “When rescuing surfers,
every second counts. A good and stable communication system
that can quickly disseminate information is fundamentally
important in these situations ». SurfCom's operations center
is located on the Gold Coast of Queensland. The technology
came from the company Zetron Australasia. SurfCom was
developed after a record high number of tourists drowned in
2002. According to. the available statistics after the
system was applied, the number of drowned has dropped
In July 2004, Canberra granted permanent residence
permits to thousands of asylum seekers. The temporary visas
had been introduced to curb the flow of refugees without
documents. Up to this point, asylum seekers had only been
able to obtain temporary visas every three years.
Immigration Minister Amanda Vaston stated that 9,500 asylum
seekers would now be able to apply for a permanent residence
permit. Vaston continued: “Of course, not everyone will be
granted a residence permit. But they would be able to obtain
the permit without having to leave the country ”. The
minister explained that many people with temporary residence
permits work in rural areas where it is difficult to find
Australians to perform the same functions. She also pointed
out that the new legislation guarantees that:
The move was a significant breach of the Australian
Government's previous policy towards asylum seekers. The
statement was welcomed by the organizations that fight for
asylum seekers' rights. The policy of temporary visas had
been introduced by Australia 5 years earlier, with the
stated purpose of limiting the influx of boat refugees
In January 2005, Labor Party leader Mark Latham withdrew
from politics due to ill health. That same month, an
investigation revealed that the government had not
manipulated intelligence reports to legitimize its
participation in the Iraq war. The investigation acquitted
Prime Minister Howard of any responsibility in this regard.
Former diplomat Philip Flood led the investigation,
concluding that Australia had based its decisions on
"miserable, ambiguous and incomplete" intelligence. The
findings of the study closely matched the findings of
similar investigations in the UK and the US, which also
placed the entire responsibility on the intelligence
agencies, and not the governments acting on the
intelligence. The study probably recommended, that the
Australian intelligence system should be more transparent
and report, but did not recommend that major restructuring
be carried out. Of the 2,000 soldiers the country sent to
Iraq in 2003, 900 were still there in January 2005. In July,
the government announced that it would also send 150
soldiers to Afghanistan.
The Howard government is seeking to increase its
influence in the Pacific region to intensify the fight
against terrorism and to increase its economic impact. In
expressing this policy, in April 2005, Indonesian President
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Malaysian President Abdullah
Badawi visited the country. The relationship between
Australia and Indonesia had worsened severely in the
previous 6 years. Relations with Malaysia were even more
tense as the country regarded Australia and the Howard
government in particular as an outpost for the United States
in Southeast Asia. Still, both state visits meant an
approximation between the countries. Australia has so far
refused to sign a non-attack pact with ASEAN. It is an
indication that Australia is reserving the opportunity to
take 'preventive military action' against terrorist threats
in its neighboring countries.
As inspiration for Parliament discussing a new tightened
terrorist law in November, police announced that it had
uncovered and prevented a large-scale terrorist attack on