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Uninvited and unwelcome

By Des Moore - posted Wednesday, 16 August 2006

A majority of West Australians in the last century wanted to secede from Australia, but were denied.

Many West Papuans now want to secede from Indonesia, but have been denied. Still, two basic differences. The West Australians acted within the law and accepted peaceably their disappointment. The West Papuans, in contrast, have engaged in armed insurrection and outside the law.

Indeed, they are clearly determined to go on using force to achieve their desires.


More than that, some are clearly determined to escape the arm of the law by fleeing abroad, leaving behind the misguided but at least brave to continue the fight.

Those who flee justify their cowardly action by claiming to continue the fight by trying to persuade another, powerful, country to take up their cause politically and materially and, they hope, in the end forcibly.

How can it possibly be in Australia's national interest to fall in with the miscreants' desires? True, the Australian Government 40-odd years ago decided it was in our interest to keep Indonesia away from West Papua, if necessary by military action. But our national interest was not seen to be in making West Papua independent.

Indeed, we wanted a totally alien power - Holland - to continue governing West Papua from the far beyond. Fortunately, the US pulled the military rug from under our and the Dutch feet, and the conversion of the Netherlands East Indies into Indonesia was completed.

That some West Papuans do not like being part of Indonesia is none of our business, any more than it is our business that some Kashmiris do not like being part of India, some Chechens do not like being part of Russia, and some Scots and some Irish do not like being part of Britain.

To buy into others' troubles because they urge us to, or because it gives us a warm inner glow, is simply irrational if our national interest is not affected by how those troubles pan out. And our national interest is certainly not engaged in West Papua.


That it is close to Australia is not to the point, but only another example of the Tyranny of Proximity. Indeed, the continuation of Britain matters far more to us - and many others - than the fate of West Papua.

Unless, of course, we take the side of West Papuan independence. For then we would have deliberately ranged ourselves against a central Indonesian national interest: keeping together a country with many fissiparous tendencies.

That would incur a hostile Indonesia, determined to wreak what damage it could on Australia - not mainly out of vengeance but with the purpose of changing our policy.

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First published in The Courier-Mail on August 15, 2006 as part of a debate with Paul Syvret on the dumping of the proposed tough new immigation laws.

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About the Author

Des Moore is Director, Institute for Private Enterprise and a former Deputy Secretary, Treasury. He authored Schooling Victorians, 1992, Institute of Public Affairs as part of the Project Victoria series which contributed to the educational and other reforms instituted by the Kennett Government. The views are his own.

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