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 and pride.
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.
- ABBREVIATIONFINDER: Offers three letter and two letter abbreviations for the country of Australia. Also covers country profile such as geography, society and economy.
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 investigated.
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 national security.
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 and Malaysia.
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 dramatically.
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 without documents.
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 Australia.
According to COUNTRYAAH, the population of Australia in 2000 was 18,991,320, ranking number 51 in the world. The population growth rate was 1.090% yearly, and the population density was 2.4721 people per km2.