Publication Details

Buchanan, I. 2003, 'August 26, 2001 two or three things Australians don't seem to want to know about 'asylum seekers'', Australian Humanities Review, no. 29, pp. 1-7.


The road to war began with an incident at sea, as it has so many times in the past - the sinking of the Lusitania, Pearl Harbour, the Gulf of Tonkin, and so on. History will have to record that Australia’s involvement in the ‘War on Terror’ and the ‘War against Iraq’ began on August 26, 2001 when the MV Tampa rescued 433 asylum seekers from the sinking ferryboat, Palapa 1. It will then have to explain how this essentially humanitarian act could trigger so bellicose a response. To do this, it will not be enough to condemn the cynical actions of John Howard and his inner circle of advisers; for what is really at stake is the shockingly high levels of support those actions were given. Guy Rundle is undoubtedly correct to speak of the response to the Tampa affair as exposing “some very dark corners of the Australian psyche” - the trouble is, it isn’t the backroom machinations that are the most disturbing elements of this whole sorry episode, but what occurred in the open.