Australia abandoned on Monday plans for tougher new asylum laws after a revolt by government lawmakers ensured Prime Minister John Howard could not pass the legislation.
Three government lawmakers defied Howard and voted against the new laws in the lower house last week, and two abstained. At least two government Senators planned to defy Howard in the Senate, where the government has a one-seat majority. Howard shrugged off any damage to his authority over his party, saying his ruling Liberal Party was proud of having a range of opinions, and that his ultimate authority came from voters at national elections, even though it is the biggest parliamentary defeat in his conservative government’s 10 years in office, and forced him to withdraw the changes ahead of a vote.
Ties between Indonesia and Australia were strained and Indonesia withdrew its ambassador in a temporary protest after Australia granted asylum to the Papuan asylum seekers, who had arrived in the country’s remote north by boat in January. Howard on Sunday said the new laws were not crucial to Australia’s close ties with its larger neighbour, but a day later said he did not know if Indonesia would be upset that the new laws were not passed.
These new laws drawn up to ease Indonesian concerns after Australia granted asylum to 43 Papuans, would have sent all asylum seeker who arrived by boat on mainland Australia to detention camps on the remote Pacific island nation of Nauru. It’s a special goodness from Australian’s PM, isn’t it? But, why his colleagues in Australian Parliament rejected his intention. Another “trick” of Australian foreign policy? I’ll bet!