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Australians must stop visiting Egypt to support Peter Greste

Date

Peter Reith

Australians should stop going to Egypt for holidays in support of the Greste family.

Australians should stop going to Egypt for holidays in support of the Greste family. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

Australia should not just sit pat in the face of the gross injustice meted out to our mate Peter Greste.

There are three things we can do to let the Egyptian government know what we think of its behaviour. And if we can encourage the Canadians to join us then maybe we could start an ongoing broader international campaign.

The first is to call a spade a bloody shovel so that no one is in any doubt about what sort of people now run Egypt. By all means the Australian government should go on singing the diplomatic tune to the Egyptians on the off chance they might in the future change their minds. In the meantime, let's face it: the Egyptians could not give a damn about anything we say.  Egypt is now a very nasty totalitarian police state and average Australians should not hesitate to vent their views on Egypt's denial of basic human rights. The blunt truth is that Egypt maintains a pretend judiciary as a front for the political killings of their political opponents as shockingly demonstrated by the intention of a mass execution of 180 members of the Muslim Brotherhood. There was no evidence against Greste; he is a pawn in Middle East politics and does not deserve seven years in jail for doing his job.

Second, Australians should stop going to Egypt. Apart from anything else, the security situation in Egypt is only going to get worse as the government killings promote retaliation from ever more barbaric extremists. So Aussies should not go to Egypt because it's not safe. This measure is not a form of sanction but the tourist industry is one of Egypt’s few sources of income. By not going, Australians can also make it known that while the Egyptians keep Peter Greste languishing in jail, Australians will not be sipping martinis on boats down the Nile. Remember how we stopped visiting France when it restarted nuclear testing in the Pacific at Mururoa Atoll in the 1990s.

The third suggestion is that Australia stop funding Egypt through the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Labor agreed to exit the EBRD when I was an executive director of the bank and in that role worked hard to promote Egypt’s interests. My recommendation for the exit was supported by the Australian Treasury. The essential reason for leaving the bank is that it has largely fulfilled its mandate. When the Arab Spring arrived, US President Barack Obama proposed a broadening of the bank’s jurisdiction by making it possible to fund Egypt and others. His idea was to support burgeoning democracy in the Middle East. It was a naive idea which has turned to dust but which was manna from heaven for the empire builders in the bank. Only last month the bank voted to lend 126 million euros to Egypt in the full knowledge that Egypt was already in breach of the bank’s mandate to promote democracy and encourage free markets.  In my view, the EBRD should immediately freeze the funds intended for Egypt. The bank should then suspend all loans to Egypt. Egypt does not meet the bank's criteria of democracy. The Australian government should then proceed to exit the bank as Treasury originally recommended.

I don’t hold out much hope for either an appeal or a response to these suggestions but they are much better than doing nothing and each are fully justified on their merits. Some may argue for sanctions of some sort. That’s a much more dramatic approach. Sometimes its better to start firmly and await the response before going stronger. 

Peter Reith was a Minister on the Howard government and is a Fairfax columnist.

212 comments

  • Maybe our PM could speak to Obama about applying some diplomatic pressure. His word still holds weight. I'm afraid an Australian tourism boycott ain't going to hurt them all that much.

    Commenter
    Spaniel
    Date and time
    June 25, 2014, 1:27PM
    • Yes, Obama is the man who was described by John Howard as Al Qaeda's candidate of choice for the US Presidential election in 2008. I'm sure he's real sympathetic to whatever Sir Tony wants.

      Commenter
      Party Stooge
      Date and time
      June 25, 2014, 2:06PM
    • Especially when the US just handed over $500m in "military aid"!

      Commenter
      Dino
      Date and time
      June 25, 2014, 2:15PM
    • The majority of Egypt people don't mind having the army in control in my understanding, because they no longer have bloodshed on the streets.

      So comments such as reiths will not help peter in my opinion, because the army and the judiciary will politcally do what the majority in Egypt want......it's my understanding that the brotherhood support is in the minority in Egypt itself, most of the brotherhoods support is coming from outside Egypt for obvious reasons i feel.

      So the Aust gov needs to do more diplomatically, and express support for egypts protection of it's sovereignity, and keep insisting that peter was only doing his job, and jailing him is only going to lose egypt much support in the long run, and it would be in egypts best interest to release him, because the negative backlash against Egypt over this issue is not going to help their cause in the long run..........and peter is a true blue aussie who only happened to be in Egypt because he was filling in for some other journo.......

      Commenter
      Mack
      Date and time
      June 25, 2014, 2:24PM
    • yes agree AUSTRALIANS tourist boycott will not help the as the Egyptians like Japanese british and middle east tourist so the idea fails

      Commenter
      ableminded
      Location
      strathfield
      Date and time
      June 25, 2014, 2:33PM
    • Agreed, the US needs to impose sanctions on Egypt until this is sorted out. That will get their attention.

      Commenter
      Strahany
      Date and time
      June 25, 2014, 2:38PM
    • Even if it does no make a difference, Australians should not give up nor give in. A boycott is very appropriate.

      Commenter
      Matthew
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      June 25, 2014, 3:09PM
    • Yes, perhaps cutting the billions of dollars in funding by the US to the military dictators would be a good start.

      Any chance the US government (and its sycophantic allies) actually supports this crushing of resistance while pretending to deplore it for appearances sake?

      Commenter
      MsHC
      Date and time
      June 25, 2014, 3:23PM
    • @ Party Stooge

      Perhaps there is another way we can blame Tony Abbott for everything and anything that happens in this world...

      On a more relevant point - although I think economic sanctions would be justified - the fact that their government and judiciary appear to act without any due process, or reasonable justification does not seem to bode well for the future.

      Commenter
      Darwinism
      Date and time
      June 25, 2014, 4:42PM
    • Yes, well we may have to reply on US assistance seeing as Abbott, Brandis and Bishop have recently made Australia's name mud in the Islamic community over the 'occupied' territory.

      Commenter
      Simon
      Location
      People's Democratic Republic of QLD
      Date and time
      June 25, 2014, 5:07PM

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