Monday, December 24, 2007

Pacific Solution & Nauru- "Aid: With Strings Attached"

Regular readers of this blog will know that Tampa and the Pacific Solution were the catalyst for my discursive rantings on Howard's human rights record over the last couple of years.

I have posted many messages on the miscasting of aid to Nauru and elsewhere under the PS and the alarming 'somnambulism' of the Australian people as these events unfolded. I have been critical of Australia's fourth estate for largely failing to expose and condemn Howard's approach to human rights. The profound negative implications of the Howard experiment for the health of Australia's body politic will be the subject of much reflection in the coming years.

Writing in New Matilda, Nic MacLellan underscores the tawdry misuse of official aid under the Pacific Solution and the downstream implications of the strategy, which was made up on the run by bureaucrats trying to engineer good outcomes from bad motives. He quotes my published condemnation of aid to Nauru as "‘an unmitigated bribe’ to ensure the Pacific Solution continued". The public sector reform 'conditionality' that evolved was a half-baked and largely punitive response to Nauru's failed economy, wages crisis, decrepit infrastructure, growing civil unrest and the potential impact this instability could have on the management of the PS.

We have bullied, bribed and coerced our way to this point. The challenge remains to help Nauru avoid total failure as a state by salvaging its limited resource base sufficiently to sustain its small population into the future. We must commit ourselves to a genuine long term development partnership. It is time to discard the cynical, mercenary gambit to compensate Nauru for hosting our offshore detention facilities and to put the bilateral relationship on a proper footing.

It is necessary for the new government to investigate this dark chapter. I hope my oft repeated call for an enquiry to shine a light into the dark recesses of the Pacific Solution pork barrel will be realised.

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