Alison Broinowski writes:
Sam and Rodger would remember when we happily traded for years with a China whose existence we did not recognise. Unless we had a trade embargo in place against the UAE, the obnoxiousness of their regime gives Australia no right nor reason selectively to refuse to sell uranium to them. The fact that what we are selling is uranium makes this a different matter only in that we impose safeguards on those sales, which the UAE meets while India doesn't. I hope we are not proposing to defy WTO rules and treat trade with the UAE as if it were a gesture of approval of its government, and then defy the IAEA and sell uranium to India because it is a democracy.
I am more disturbed by the other undercurrent on this issue, implying that Australia sets a moral standard that the UAE fails to meet. Looking at Australia from the Middle East, what Rodger calls 'the odd human rights abuse' might come to mind: Australia has been criticised by the UN Human Rights Council and Amnesty International for our treatment of Indigenous people (to whom we have suspended the application of our international human rights obligations for several years) and of refugees whom we detain without charge for long periods.
The Emirates don't tolerate free speech, and detain people without charge, Rodger observes: but the sedition law in Australia can now be applied with a stringency that clearly inhibits personal liberty and free speech, and freedom of artistic expression has not exactly flourished in recent years either. As for autocratic rulers not listening to the voice of the people, what about the Iraq war, which Australians opposed in large numbers, and on which Australia still awaits a public inquiry?
Rodger is concerned about the closure of foreign-funded NGOs promoting democracy in the Emirates: he might recall, following Gary Johns' recommendations, the withdrawal for political reasons of federal support from a number of environmental and social NGOs in Australia. Why, anyway, should Australia fight for American and German NGOs? What, I wonder, would Australia's response be to Emirates-funded NGOs promoting their ideals here?
Australia is not exactly leading the race for a seat on the Security Council this year. If Foreign Minister Carr were to go to Abu Dhabi and take up Rodger's objections, he might lose the UAE's vote and gain nothing. He might also be told some of the above, and have to hear some other home truths as well, including how to run a successful airline.