One of the stories of my past that people like to bring up is that I used to clean house for Laurie Oakes while I was a uni student. Being Prime Minister after eleven years of the Liberals in power is like cleaning up Laurie’s place after the Press Gallery’s Mid-Winter ball, every thing’s a hideous mess and you simply don’t know where to start. Today we were able to cross two more things off the list by finally sorting out the compensation claim for Cornelia Rau and also mending relations with Papua New Guinea.
I don’t thing that I’m surprising anyone when I say that the Howard government’s approach to immigration was one of the most disgusting and duplicitous seen since the days of the White Australia policy. While Howard’s mob were busy playing the race card and vilifying refugees at every possible opportunity, they were simultaneously bringing in tens of thousands of migrant workers on 457 visas so their mates could undercut wages with cheap imported labour. Let’s also not forget that thousands of the refugees they were attempting to either turn away or send to offshore processing camps had been displaced because of military campaigns that our armed forces had committed to in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Cornelia Rau was an unfortunate victim of the Department of Immigration running unsupervised thanks to the repellant Philip Ruddock. What made the whole situation more deplorable was the way that she was dragged through the courts rather than simply being compensated. I knew that we’d have to fix it quickly and I’m glad that it’s been done. My PA, Amanda, was saying just the other day that it’s my commitment to social justice that impresses so many people.
Sorting out our relationship with other countries is something that’s going to take a lot of work. As a former diplomat I used to wince every time that Downer opened his mouth, the man is a first class buffoon, so it’s little wonder that Howard wanted him out of the country as often as possible. During his time in the diplomatic corps Downer was repeatedly marked as a man who should be stationed in places like Bulgaria, Mongolia or Kazakhstan where he could do no damage. Instead of this, he was put in charge of the department and spent eleven years turning us into an apologist for the USA, while concurrently offending almost every other country that we have either in a trade or security relationship with.
Downer’s incompetence was no more apparent than with our near neighbours. I’m not sure what his problem was, perhaps he felt that places like PNG and the Solomon Islands weren’t worthy of his attention, but while he was busy helping to make Iraqi families homeless he completely missed the importance of maintaining stability in our own back yard.
Michael Somare is actually a really funny guy, he’s also a good judge of character, which explains his distaste for Howard and Downer. The only hiccup today was that when I presented him with a Broncos jersey he said that he was a NSW fan, I rang my ASIS liaison Nigel as soon as the meeting was over and asked him to organise a resignation letter from whoever screwed that one up. Nigel thought that I was being a little unfair, but they’ve already used the ‘intelligence failure’ excuse enough times over WMDs, the AWB and almost every other cock up of the last decade. If they can’t find out the favourite Rugby League team of a foreign head of state then they should be working somewhere where competency isn’t required, like the NSW parliament.