So, Amanda Vanstone has admitted that the government’s latest
proposed changes to immigration laws have been made partly to appease the Indonesian
government over Australia’s decision to give 42 West Papuan refugees temporary protection visas
in April.

But what was it, exactly, that made the Indonesians so mad? According
to Tim Fischer, it was the well aired footage of the refugees
disembarking from
a government charter aircraft at Melbourne’s
Tullamarine Airport, brandishing their forbidden flag and singing freedom songs on the tarmac, that really “sent Jakarta
spare”.

The former Federal Minister for Trade, who spoke this morning at a UNHCR breakfast in Sydney,
told Crikey yesterday that he felt most of the recent angst between Indonesia
and Australia could have been avoided were it not for the powerful footage, which captured what looked a lot like an
officially sanctioned photo op.

Which makes you wonder: if our government is so concerned with keeping
its Indonesian counterpart happy, perhaps it should have taken measures
to avoid the small, yet televised, celebration of West Papuan independence at Tullamarine, rather than
making amends at the policy level.

Peter Fray

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