There’s a major problem for Canberra’s
bipartisan policy of Indonesian appeasement – Australians don’t like it.
There’s also a minor problem that the Indonesians don’t feel they’re being
appeased right now, but it’s the divide between the Australian politicians and public that will
For Howard and Beazley, Downer and Rudd,
the phrase “realpolitik “ is its own justification. It’s in Australia’s
practical self-interest to have West Papua under Indonesian control and that’s that – just as it used to be in Australia’s
practical self-interest to have East Timor incorporated into Indonesia.
Principle or sentiment are of no consideration.
Practitioners of the dark arts of
international diplomacy (“join DFAT, travel overseas and lie for your country”)
and the commentators who play at being “expert” on it all view anything less
than a realpolitik view as the softc*ck nonsense
of NGOs, lefties, troublesome priests and assorted ratbags. What they miss is that there remains an
endearing central trait about Australians in that we still believe in the fair
go, that we don’t like seeing an underdog kicked, that realpolitik has not
overcome a certain sense of altruism.
Maybe it’s the defiant Celtic touch in our
soul, but as a people we don’t entirely give up on lost causes. If something
is crook, it’s bloody-well crook and no amount of Murdoch opinion writers
or politicians will change that.
We never bought the East Timor sell-out in
1975 and, as the fraud of the 1969 Indonesian acquisition of West Papua becomes
better known, we won’t ever approve of that either. In
time, sacrificing principle for (falsely) perceived self-interest came back to
haunt us on East Timor and it is again on West
It might be improbable that one day we
might have a government that acts on principle first and foremost – there’s
certainly none on offer – but in the meantime the disconnect between governed
and governing will remain.
A Crikey subscriber left feedback recently
questioning who the “we” were who approved the 1969 farce, apparently
distancing himself from that Australia.
I don’t think we can. Just as we are the inheritors of history and traditions
proud and are formed by them, we also carry baggage from our collective past to
be embarrassed about.
Our politicians would like to quietly disown
that baggage while wrapping themselves in the flag of Anzacs next Tuesday. The cloth
should scorch their skins for such hypocrisy.