|Issue No 109
|31 August 2001
STOP PRESS: ITF says PM Tampa action illegal
By Zoe Reynolds
The trade union body has delivered a letter to the Australian High Commission advising it that it was in clear breach of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, and the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees - even before it took military action that could leave it open to a charge of committing an act of war.
The ITF has also repeated its urgent warning that the Australian Government's action risks setting a dangerous precedent that could fatally undermine all future rescues at sea. Effectively making ships' captains responsible for deciding whether they can go to the assistance of vessels in distress and who is a genuine asylum seeker endangers the existing system, by which seafarers must help in emergencies and then allow the relevant national authorities to decide on questions of immigration, it says.
The ITF also warned the Australian Government that: 'the unwanted and unrequested occupation of the sovereign territory of Norway - a friendly country - by Australian soldiers is dangerously irresponsible. It is difficult to see how this, let alone any use of troops or a frigate to turn around the Tampa, is anything less than a technical act of war. Were it to have been carried out on the high seas, rather than in territorial waters, there would be a good case to be made for calling it piracy.'
David Cockroft, General Secretary of the ITF, commented today: "There is a legal case and there is a moral one too. Like it or not Australia must abide by its humanitarian duty and accept these migrants. Until then it is endangering everyone on board the Tampa - including the innocent crew members whose only mistake appears to have been to respond responsibly and promptly to an Australian call for assistance.
"Deploying camouflaged, body-armoured commandos to deal with a few hundred dehydrated civilians is using a very large sledge hammer to crack a nut - though I've never seen a sledgehammer armed with silenced sub-machine guns before. "
He concluded: "It's true that Australia has been handed something of a poisoned chalice by Indonesia, but the difference is that Australia is a responsible maritime state that has signed these treaties and Indonesia isn't - as is shown by its appalling behaviour and all too evident failure to police its waters and tackle the horrible trade in human lives."
The unions to which the Tampa crew belongs and the Maritime Union of Australia (which has branded the use of troops to board the Tampa "a deplorable invasion") are affiliated to the ITF.
A copy of the ITF letter to the PM is available at the mua website - http:mua.tcp.net.au
For more information contact ITF press officer, Sam Dawson, direct line: + 44 (0)20 7940 9260. E-mail: [email protected]
INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORT WORKERS' FEDERATION - ITF: HEAD OFFICE, ITF House, 49 - 60 Borough Road, London SE1 1DS,Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7403 2733, Fax: + 44 (0) 20 7375 7871, Email: [email protected] Web-page: www.itf.org.uk
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Electrical Trades Union state secretary Bernie Riordan surveys the union movement's troubled relationship with Labor.
International: Spreading the Word
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E-Change: Training for a Wired Workforce
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Unions: AWU Defends Millennium Train Workers
Mark Hearn looks at how a group of Newcastle workers are setting a new standard in the railways.
Politics: Chatting with Enemies of the State
Brazils MST is the largest and most radical social movement in the Americas. The CFMEU�s Phil Davey drops in for a chat.
History: Struggle and Inspiration
Rowan Cahill argues that it is only through understanding history that we can make sense of the present plight of workers.
Technology: A World Without Microsoft
Heather Sharp argues that all technologies involve political choices and moral values. Computer software is no exception, and it is Bill Gates' choices that dominate.
Review: Let There Be Rock
Kid Rock and Beer Bong, Australia�s Oldest Rock Fans review the week�s music and political events from the safety of the bar stool.
Satire: Tampa refugees ask to go home: "It's less inhumane than Australia"
The 460 asylum seekers on board the Tampa freight vessel have demanded to be taken back to their oppressive homelands, which they now realise aren�t nearly as hostile as Australia.
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