First published on The Daily Blog
The Australian humanitarian crisis cannot be ignored by New Zealand. Canberra seems completely paralysed and unable to understand the horror of the situation they have created at the Manus Island Detention facility in Papua New Guinea, let alone resolve the problem.
Partly, this is because of the entrenched racism of the conservative Turnbull Government and partly it’s because that awkward Liberal Party led coalition is on the verge of collapse, with its majority already gone and yet another MP about to be forced from Parliament because he’s unsure what country he’s from.
New Zealand has repeatedly offered to take 150 of the refugees stranded on Manus Island. The Aussies have refused, apparently because they are afraid NZ will grant the brutalised men citizenship and that will entitle the refugees to then move to Australia.
It’s worth remembering that these people are genuine referees, not economic migrants. They have every right to seek sanctuary. It’s Australia’s shame that they are being treated so poorly.
Australia has cut off power, water and food to the 600. They tell them to move to the tiny main town on Manus Island where they have no accommodation, no jobs and no welcome from the locals. It’s madness.
There is a Kiwi solution available though.
In the ANZAC spirit, we should help our Aussie cousins out. We’ve always been there to help them when they couldn’t help themselves and in their time of crisis we need to step up.
We should send the Navy to Manus.
The NZ Navy has ships more than capable of evacuating all 600 asylum seekers. The Wellington and the Otago are designed to cover this sort of work and have the ability to launch smaller vessels and helicopters to ferry the victims from the Island.
The larger frigates HMNZS Te Kaha and HMNZS Te Mana (ironically Aussie built and ANZAC class) could act as motherships further to sea.
We could be in and out in a couple of days and the evacuation is certain to be supported by the PNG Government and the Manus Island locals.
The next step is to grant citizenship to all 600 on the understanding that 450 will fly to Australia within days. After all, it’s Australia’s problem and Australia is where the issue should be resolved.
So, there’s the plan.
Swift, sensible and easily accomplished.
Let’s prove that the ANZAC spirit is not just something to saluted on Gallipoli Day commemorations.
Let’s save our Aussie cousins when they can’t save themselves.
Let’s send in the navy.