Workers Online
Workers Online
Workers Online
  Issue No 110 Official Organ of LaborNet 07 September 2001  

 --

 --

 --

.  LaborNET

.  Ask Neale

.  Tool of the Week


History

Johnny's Naruan Wet Dream


Rowan Cahill looks at how Australia's preferred refugee dumping ground's history is indelibly linked with our own.

 
 

Nauru

**********

The Pacific island of Nauru lies 4000 kms north-east of Sydney. Originally administered by Germany, the island was surrendered to Australian forces during World War 1. It subsequently became an Australian responsibility under the League of Nations, and later the United Nations. Independence was achieved in 1968 with Australian trade union support.

The 21 square kilometre island and its 11845 inhabitants, constitute a poor nation. Once the site of the world's richest phosphate deposit, a century of greedy phosphate extraction by British interests decimated and trashed the environment. Local water is now unfit for human consumption, and fresh water is imported from Australia.

Most of the island's trade is with Australia and New Zealand. Alongside the phosphate residue, the economy relies on coconuts, and being the world's second-largest tax haven and money laundering facility.

So how did a poor speck of fertiliser, fractionally closer to Hawaii than Australia, its highest point a mere 60 metres above the Pacific, get the nod to host two-thirds of the Tampa/Christmas Island asylum seekers?

In Canberra the logic must have been abundantly clear and simple; something along the line that if Nauru can launder money, then why not asylum seekers? Horses for courses.

And maybe there was another angle. When it comes to dealing with allegedly troublesome Asians, like Afghans, Australia has an interesting link with Nauru, going back to the 'good-old-days' of Australian conservative icon and John Howard role model, Prime Minister Robert Menzies.

During the 1950s the Menzies government was paranoidly afraid of communist China. Far, far, away, on Nauru, the British Phosphate Commission employed indentured Hong Kong Chinese to work the phosphate deposit.

In Canberra, the Menzies government and its military and security advisers regarded most Chinese as potential communists, subversives, and saboteurs. As Nauru was an Australian trust territory, the 1400 Chinese workers there came under Australian security and military suspicion.

Alarm had been raised earlier, in 1948, when the Nauruan work force rioted against its British employer, protesting against poor working conditions, confinement, and lack of amenities. A State of Emergency had been declared in response; eleven workers were wounded, and four killed.

Between November 1950 and June 1953, the Australian government and the British Phosphate Commission planned to contain any possible communist menace on Nauru. The 50 strong local police force was covertly supplied with Australian weaponry, shipped to the island disguised as "merchandise". The existing armoury of thirty .303 rifles, three Bren guns, and six Owen sub-machine guns, was supplemented with twenty .303 rifles, bayonets, ammunition, and 100 specially commissioned tear gas grenades.

The Director of Police on Nauru was a former (British) Indian Army officer and tear gas expert, linked to the quelling of Palestinian rioters in the Middle East.

Additional plans were made to form a special mobile Australian military platoon capable of quelling "disturbances, and to boost Nauruan defences with artillery placements. Budget constraints sidelined these plans.

During 1953, amid persistent fears of a communist menace on the island, the Chinese workers were searched for subversive materials. However the only "strategic supplies" found were a few hand tools, screws, and scrap metal from the island's World War 2 litter.

An eventual investigation of the political loyalties of the workers established they were all supporters of the anti-communist nationalist government on Taiwan.

As a result, and despite advice of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization to the contrary, Australia's paranoia about the Nauruan workers ended.

Those with a racist bent no doubt welcomed Prime Minister John Howard's announcement last week of Nauru as the processing site for the bulk of the Tampa/Christmas Island asylum seekers. For those who also look back fondly to the Cold War days of Menzies, it possibly brought with it a warm, fuzzy, sense of deja vu.

After all, the asylum seekers are Asian, and buried in the Australian/Nauruan psyche is a 'good-old-days' precedent of confining Asians, limiting their rights and amenities, paranoidly distrusting them, and administering military style solutions to any problems posed, either real or imagined.

In the simplistic knee jerk mind of Johnny Howard, this must come close to being a wet dream.


------

*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 110 contents

In this issue
Features
*  Interview: Cast Adrift
Ethnic Communities Council chair Salvatore Scevola gives his take on the Tampa saga and the underlying attitudes driving the debate.
*
*  Workplace: Coming to Australia
Jagath Banderra recounts his own experience as a new arrival in Australia entering the workforce.
*
*  Human Rights: Long Road to Nowhere
Iraqi refugees travel the same tortuous road as Afghans. The refugees on the Tampa have almost certainly endured a similar ordeal.
*
*  Immigration: Experience Required
Veronica Apap looks at the many difficulties migrants face in having their skills recognised in Australia.
*
*  International: Why Economic Rationalism Isn't
The CFMEUs Phil Davey surveys the wreckage after 10 years of Brazil's Government doing what the free marketeers want.
*
*  History: Johnny's Naruan Wet Dream
Rowan Cahill looks at how Australia's preferred refugee dumping ground's history is indelibly linked with our own.
*
*  Unions: Getting the Message Out
Caroline Alcorso argues the integration of immigrant workers into the trade union movement has been a central issue in Australia’s post-war labor history.
*
*  Work/Time/Life: Driven To The Edge
In the ACTU’S groundbreaking Fifty Families report there is one particularly sobering story. Frank tells how the modern workplace is driving some people to the fatal edge.
*
*  Review: Whose Party?
NSW Labor’s century of successes began in 1910, as did the “middle classing” of Labor policy.
*
*  Satire: Ethnic Wog Gangs Rape Everyone
People who are white in colour are being raped by people who are not white, an exclusive Chaser investigation found last week.
*

News
»  Unions Rescue Afghan Worker
*
»  Revealed: Migrants Face Hidden Unions Barriers
*
»  FOI Seeks Royal Commission Papers
*
»  Long Hours Corrode Family Life Says Study
*
»  Medibank Workers 'Feel Bitter Now'
*
»  Chronic Stress in Child Care
*
»  It's a Steal! Workers Underpaid Since 1991
*
»  WorkCover: Bell Rings for Round Two
*
»  Transfield Fire Sale Threatens Entitlements
*
»  Foot-And-Mouth Heroes Face The Boot
*
»  Superannuation Warning to Labor
*
»  Bully Casino Locks Out Workers
*
»  Bra Wars: US Giant Quit Burma
*
»  Sydney's Salsa for Saharawis
*
»  Labor Council Revamps Online
*
»  Get Ready to Wobble
*
»  Activists' Notebook
*

Columns
»  The Soapbox
*
»  The Locker Room
*
»  Trades Hall
*
»  Tool Shed
*

Letters to the editor
»  Tampa Feedback
*
»  Battling the Bullies
*
»  Searching for John McNeill, Labor MP
*
»  Tom Seeks Family Leave
*
»  Spell Check
*
»  Injured and Ripped Off
*

What you can do

Notice Board
- Check out the latest events

Latest Issue

View entire latest issue
- print all of the articles!

Previous Issues

Subject index

Search all issues

Enter keyword(s):
  


Workers Online - 2nd place Labourstart website of the year


BossWatch


Wobbly Radio



[ Home ][ Notice Board ][ Search ][ Previous Issues ][ Latest Issue ]

© 1999-2000 Labor Council of NSW

LaborNET is a resource for the labour movement provided by the Labor Council of NSW

URL: http://workers.labor.net.au/110/c_historicalfeature_nauru.html
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005

[ Privacy Statement | Disclaimer | Credits ]

LaborNET is proudly created, designed and programmed by Social Change Online for the Labor Council of NSW

 *LaborNET*

 Labor Council of NSW

[Workers Online]

[Social Change Online]