John Menadue on John Howard
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highly respected former high-level public servant has slammed the Prime
Minister's stance on asylum seekers, describing John Howard as a coward."
John Menadue is a former Australian Public Servant. He was head of three Federal Government Departments, including Immigration and Prime Minster and Cabinet. He was a Telstra Director and Chief Executive Officer of Quantas. He is a member of the Order of Australia
Speaking to the ABC's World Today program (as at November 11 2001) Menadue said he was "appalled at the behaviour of the Prime Minister." He accused the Prime Minister of "scaremongering" over the Boat People issue and said the Labor Party had "knuckled under" to him. Mr Menadue said the Prime Minister's actions were doing Australia enormous damage.
ABC radio journalist Eleanor Hall put this question to Mr Menadue. "John Howard says that we're facing a crisis with boat people and that these are queue jumpers. Why are you saying that this is scaremongering?"
He replied, "We haven't got a crisis in refugees. The numbers coming in are quite trivial compared with about 20 million refugees worldwide, hundreds of thousands from the Middle East who are trying to go into Europe, our numbers are quite small, probably about 4,000 a year and we're tying ourselves in knots over this trivial flow when in fact, in Australia, we have about 60 or 70,000 illegals."
He was referring here to the legal UK and USA visitors among others who overstay their visas and who we make little effort to track down and deport. He said that instead, the Prime Minister is "demonis(ing) and punish(ing) some of the most vulnerable people on earth." He felt the Australian Prime Minister was appealing to the worst in every Australian and agreed with Ms. Hall that the current (Nov 10) election was becoming a race election.
He responded to this suggestion with these words: "The Prime Minister uses code words as he did on Pauline Hanson in 1996; as he did in 1988 when he opposed Asian migration. But that's what the Prime Minister is about, appealing to the parochialism and in some degree the racism in this Australian community.
But we are better than that. When we have good leadership, we respond with our most generous instincts..."
Eleanor Hall commented, "Of course it's not just John Howard. Kim Beazley says that he backs the Prime Minister's policy and both say that we do indeed need strong leadership at this time to make sure that we don't have people taking advantage of our refugee system."
To this Menadue replied, "Well this is not strong leadership in the first place, to attack vulnerable, outcast, weak people. It is cowardice. It is not courage and is not strong leadership. Strong leadership is required when difficult decisions have to be made and risks have to be taken for the sake of human beings.
But it is true, I think, and it is disappointing that Kim Beazley hasn't lived up to I think what his own instincts are and he's been misled I think by people who see that one has to knuckle under and follow the way of the Prime Minister. It is a great pity that the Australian debate is being debauched at this time by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the opposition who doesn't take a stand."
Menadue is no Labor or left wing sycophant. He is able to state what has hugely disappointed many Australians about the Labor party on this issue. To quote one news group correspondent "I wasn't suggesting that Labor should put up a Leaky Sieve policy, just something other than the carbon copy Great Wall policy."