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John Howard Darfur update

It has been eleven months since I posted my last report - in actual fact, a nil return - of John Winston Howard's public references to Darfur.

Nothing has changed in that regard. Disappointingly, I can only find one reference to "Darfur" in Federal Parliament since the start of this year, a speech in the adjournment debate of the House of Reps on February 28 by Liberal MP Louise Markus, whose electorate in the Blacktown area is home to a large number of Sudanese refugees. Ms Markus took to task an opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph.

Our Immigration Department and its parade of incompetent ministers have copped some bad press, quite rightly, over recent years, but to their credit they have admitted more than 10,000 Sudanese refugees over the past three years. According to DIMIA figures (PDF), in the six months to the end of 2005, a total of 2026 Sudanese settlers arrived in Australia - that's out of a total of 65,804 from all nations. In the 2004-05 financial year, 5572 Sudanese arrived in Australia under humanitarian settlement programs, and that's 42% of all humanitarian admissions for that year.

If we've done well in accepting Sudanese seeking asylum here, we haven't been quite so forthcoming in helping to make their homeland more peaceful. We still have the grand total of fifteen (15) Australian Defence Force personnel with the UN Mission in Sudan. Enough for a rugby team without reserves.

We could do a lot better with foreign aid too. According to AusAID's summary of Australia's Overseas Aid Program 2005-06, a total of $77 million was projected for aid programs for the whole of Africa. A sub-total for Sudan was not given. Overall, Australia's ODA (Official Developmental Assistance) for the 2005-06 year was projected at just under $2.5 billion. That's a total of 0.28% of Gross National Income.

How can we get Little Johnnie to take an interest in this major humanitarian calamity? (And here, by the way, is the latest from IRIN about the African Union's peace talks. The April 30 deadline has come and gone but the AU has given a 48 hour extension.)