To What Extent Has Australia Been a Good International Citizen Essay

Pages: 10 (2786 words)  ·  Style: Harvard  ·  Bibliography Sources: 20  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Government

Australia as an International Citizen

In the arena of international politics, Australia is one of the leading nations in the Asia Pacific region, attributed mainly to its status as a developed country, economically, politically, and socially. This does not mean, however, that it is considered a leader among the countries in the region. Owing not only to its cultural differences with other nations in the Asia Pacific region, but also because of the seemingly 'autonomous' stance it takes on critical issues affecting the region, Australia is both respected and criticized for assuming an independent stance in issues of global concern.

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The discussion that follows focuses in detail on the integration of political analyses concerning Australia's behavior and actions as an 'international citizen' operating within the framework of 'achieving the common good.' As a member of international bodies and organizations spearheaded by developed nations all over the world (specifically the United States and Britain). Drawing on analyses made by Peter Mares, Peter Singer and Tom Gregg, Patrick Kilby, and Matt McDonald, this paper posits that Australia, in general, has not been a 'good' international citizen. This assumption is made based on Australia's policies and actions towards important issues, particularly on laws and policies regarding refugee seekers, aid programs on poverty, and global climate change. More specifically, Australia has not been a good citizen towards improving policies on refugee seekers and addressing concerns about the climate change, and it has not been fully responsive to the needs of poor, developing countries through its aid programs.

Mares and Singer: Australia 'working its way around' the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees

TOPIC: Essay on To What Extent Has Australia Been a Good International Citizen Assignment

Peter Mares (2002), in his book Borderline, provided an in-depth look into Australia's policy in accepting refugees seeking asylum in the country through the case of MV Tampa incident. This incident was highly-publicized because of the unexpected action that Australia took in dealing with the refugees contained in MV Tampa: all but 433 Iraqi, Afghan, and Iranian refugees seeking asylum were turned away and were not allowed to set foot on Australian soil (230). This sparked controversy and caught the interest of developed nations who are often the target 'destinations' of refugees coming from conflict-stricken countries/regions (most cited were Middle Eastern, Central, and South American countries).

Mares' discussion of the Tampa incident were twofold: first, it explored the issue of revisiting and reviewing this international policy on refugees seeking asylum, and second, it confronted the reality that, despite the Convention being an international policy granting protection to refugees, developed nations implementing the Convention are in a 'crisis' in determining the boundaries of this policy. These are critical issues that have not been discussed until the Tampa incident, making Australia the catalyst of what is a very timely topic centering on the role of developed nations in providing aid and security to refugees and victims of war and conflict.

The first issue covered in Mares' analysis was Australia's prompt action to not accept refugees coming into the country. The Tampa's case laid bare, according to the author, "how crude the business of border protection really is" (231). This stringent implementation of border protection was an initial measure that enabled Australia to 'work its way around' the Convention: by not allowing refugees to set foot on Australian soil, they are in effect disowning the responsibility of taking care of the refugees, whether or not they become successful in seeking asylum in the country.

This brings into fore another issue inherent in accepting refugees into the country's area of responsibility, which is the cost of keeping the refugees safe and secure in the meantime that their papers are being processed for approval. The Australian government has in fact spent a total of $572 million in dealing with refugees who came "unauthorized [sic]" in asylum boats to the country between 2001 and 2002 (236). Apart from the cost of taking in refugees, Australia must also deal with the difficulty of controlling the number of people entering the country, both legally and illegally. Unfortunately, the Convention was not effective enough to promote legal entry of refugees to destination countries like Australia, and a system of corruption built around beating the strict border protection to the countries has proven to be lucrative -- mainly because of the reluctance of countries like Australia to accept refugees into the country, and secondarily because of the poor legislative measures in the Convention (243). In effect, the weak implementation of the Convention, heightened border protection of destination countries, high cost of taking in asylum seekers, and a prevailing corruption system of illegally transporting and bringing refugees to destination countries all make the issue of asylum seeking highly complex. These issues make Australia's case difficult to discern -- whether indeed, Australia was simply protecting its borders against refugees who are not really asylum seekers, or it is not being a good citizen by implementing 'harsh' and 'non-humanitarian' measures to deflect the responsibility of securing and protecting asylum seekers.

These issues prompted other destination countries in Europe and North America to start rethinking about the way they accept asylum seekers entering their borders. Mares cited an example wherein both Australia and the United States developed a system in dealing with asylum seekers, with the objective of preventing them from "achieving their 'desired migration outcome'" (234). That is, inasmuch as destination countries would like to help asylum seekers, there is also the possibility that asylum seeking has become a "means" through which an individual from a war-stricken (oftentimes also a poor, developing) country would enter a developed nation via this easier route, legal or otherwise. And because the Convention only offers protection to asylum seekers and does not provide much protection or assurance to the destination countries, systems similar to the ones developed by Australia and the U.S. were developed to address the countries' need for migration security and border protection.

These issues arising from the Tampa incident reflects the lack of ability of international organizations like the United Nations and developed nations to address the increasing number of refugees seeking help outside of their war- or conflict-stricken countries. With the attack against Iraq by the United States in 2003 acting as one of the precedents that resulted to the increased diaspora of refugees coming from Middle Eastern countries, nations who were the signatories of the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees were suddenly confronted with this international affairs problem of dealing with asylum seekers. And it was only after this deluge of refugees coming in from war-torn countries that the weight of responsibility of becoming a 'host' or 'destination' country began to sink in, prompting the signatories to revisit and review the Convention and in the meantime, as in the case of Australia and the U.S., device a system to avoid assuming responsibility for the refugees in a legal manner.

While Mares did not explicitly state that the Australia has indeed been harsh in turning away refugees entering the country, Singer (2004) was more direct in describing Australia's actions in the eyes of international politics and affairs. For Singer, Australia violated the Convention, citing specific articles in the Convention as his supporting arguments. Identifying Australia as "one of a handful of nations with a policy of mandatory detention of asylum seekers," Singer went on to discuss how the Tampa incident was a violation of the Convention, through Articles 33 (1) and 32 (1) (70).

In supporting his claim, Singer stated that Australia violated both articles, wherein Article 33 (1) states that, "[n]o Contracting State shall expel or return a refugee in any manner whatsoever…where his life would be threatened." Article 32 (1) was also violated, and that Australia, as a signatory of the Convention, "shall not expel a refugee lawfully in their territory save on grounds of national security or public order" (70). Both articles were violated by Australia in the Tampa incident, the author reported that the country is not "carrying its fair share of the burden" of resolving the refugee/asylum seeker problem.

Both Mares and Singer provided valid arguments against Australia not being a good international citizen, despite the varying degrees by which each author portrayed the country's 'poor international citizenship.' Regarding the Convention, each author has their own recommendations on critical issues that must be addressed regarding this international policy. Singer reflected his strong belief in the Convention, hence his argument that Australia violated the Convention in dealing with the MV Tampa refugees. Meanwhile, Mares expressed the need to revisit the Convention because of its inability to protect host/destination countries in the same way that it seeks to help the refugees.

Kilby on AusAID: Australia's aid program not responsive to needs of poor, developing countries

Patrick Kilby (2007) provided a detailed criticism of the AusAID program through his journal article entitled, the Australian aid program: dealing with poverty? Kilby assessed Australia's thrust of alleviating poverty in poor, developing nations by identifying the components that make up the AusAID's aid program on poverty. Early on in the discussion, the author… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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