Australia’s missteps with Pacific media – it’s more than just bad manners

This item was first published in the Vanuatu Daily Post on April 14th, 2017

So this week the prime minister of Australia visited Papua New Guinea. It was a very short visit (he was on his way to India).

The relationship between Australia and PNG is a complex and complicated one. Recently, it has not been an easy one so this visit could and should have been a great opportunity.

It seems hard to believe that one very short visit could generate so much controversy. But it did.

Before Prime Minister Turnbull arrived, there were concerns that it was too close to the forthcoming elections in PNG.

While he was there, he and his immigration minister (who was not in PNG) gave out mixed messages about what the long-term future of refugees and asylum seekers on Manus island might be.

In amongst all this, the apparent treatment of members of the PNG media corps is something that merits particular scrutiny.

A senior journalist reported that the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby told her that a press conference at Bomana cemetery was for Australian journalists only and she was turned away from another subsequently.

At a very basic level, this is plain bad manners. It is also a fail at Public Diplomacy 101. But the implications of this go deeper and are much more significant.

First of all, the Australian foreign service has form in this regard. Late last year, when the Australian foreign minister visited Vanuatu members of the local media were given the run around and were not able to be at the official press event.

It sparked an editorial in this newspaper. But it does not appear to have sparked a meaningful discussion about why this is a bad thing and how to make sure it does not happen again.

Australian officials who organise these press events need to think about the context in which they operate. In this country, in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere in our region, the role of the media in the development and maintenance of democratic culture is not assured.

I looked recently at the disturbing comments of the prime minister of Tonga about what he thinks the media should or should not do. In PNG, we continue to see reports of journalists being vilified by politicians, threatened and attacked both verbally and physically.

In Vanuatu we can point to numerous instances of politicians treating the media with contempt and seeking to undermine their ability and willingness to ask hard questions or criticise failures of leadership.

Australia is the biggest democracy in our region. We might expect or hope that those who represent this democracy would provide leadership by example. But in this particular area, we have been sorely disappointed.

When Australian political leaders and officials treat our media badly it sends a signal to our politicians that it is OK for them to do so. The remarks of Justin Tkatchenko, the PNG Minister for Sports are telling in this regard.

At the close of Prime Minister Turnbull’s visit he made a reference to the local media having had a ‘rough time’ and then glossed over it with an airy assurance that all can learn from this for next time.

It may be that this is window dressing and behind closed doors Minister Tkatchenko will express his concern about the treatment of Papua New Guinean journalists in strong, possibly undiplomatic terms. Then again it may not be.

Australia is in the process of seeking regional and global support for it to become a member of the UN Human Rights Council. In 2015, Julie Bishop said:

Should we be elected, our focus would be on empowering women and girls, strengthening governance and democratic institutions, promoting freedom, freedom of expression, and advancing human rights for all.

As we all know, actions speak louder than words. And the actions of Australian politicians and diplomats when they visit our region are of particular import.

The role of the media is crucial in the establishment and maintenance of democratic culture.

Our neighbour’s leaders and representatives should use opportunities such as to encourage media professionals to develop their practice. This includes asking difficult questions and holding decision-makers to account. That is the public service they are mandated to perform.

Since the very shabby treatment of Papua New Guinean journalists came to light, the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby has issued an apology. It relates to a ‘misunderstanding’ although, as RNZI notes, it is not clear what the nature of this misunderstanding is.

All well and good but an after the fact apology is too little and too late.


Telling the policy story

This item was first published in the Vanuatu Daily Post on April 1st, 2017

When I talk with people about elections in Vanuatu and elsewhere in the Pacific, there is a lot of concern about how the voting public behaves.

Sometimes this concern is about how people are being told who to vote for by their elders, spouses or chiefs. Sometimes it is about how they are influenced by promises of a job or donations of food, or money.

There are also concerns about the people who stand as candidates in elections.

 People may feel that they are not suitably qualified or don’t have enough experience in other areas.

There is often a concern that they take advantage of voters and manipulate them by making promises they don’t intend to keep.

There is a key missing ingredient in this mix. It is a discussion about policy.

This gap exists on both the ‘supply’ and ‘demand’ side of political engagement.

On the ‘supply’ side, generally speaking, politicians (and would-be politicians) do not talk to the electorate about policy issues.

During election periods, policy platforms are generally not well developed. And then when people are in parliament, including being in government, policy achievements rarely feature in discussions.

In particular, when MPs and ministers visit places outside urban areas, we rarely hear of them talking to the public about policy issues.

There is a lot of discussion about services. Sometimes we hear about how particular communities are receiving services they didn’t have before. Other times we see reports of communities being without services. But we don’t get much indication that MPs and ministers use these visits as a platform to talk about policy achievements.

It’s not that talking about service delivery is not important because it is. But it is also important that policy work is discussed.

In particular, MPs and ministers can use visits to communities to develop greater understanding of how the work of Parliament in progressing policy and passing legislation is connected with providing more and better services. For example, more and more people are now able to make use of mobile phones and the internet.

The provision of these services was made possible by serious policy and legislative work over a long period of time. But we don’t hear it used by politicians as a way of illustrating the relationship between the work of Parliament and things that have a real impact on people’s lives.

On the ‘demand’ side of political engagement, those who are seeking to be elected are rarely called upon to explain or justify policy positions. At campaign meetings it is not common that candidates answer questions from voters. If there are questions, they are almost always about issues related to service delivery.

This is reflected in how elections are covered by the media.

There is no developed culture of asking policy-focused questions of politicians and candidates. For example, where political parties and candidates do put forward policy positions, we do not see them being asked to provide more detail. They are rarely if ever asked to explain what the justification for a particular policy is or how much it is going to cost to implement it.

Similarly, they are not asked about gaps in their policy platforms. During the elections in Vanuatu held last year, only two of the candidates put forward anything about addressing gender-based violence.

This is a really important issue in Vanuatu (as it is in many other Pacific island countries). There is little if any ‘supply’ of policy discussion on this issue from our politicians.

There is some effort on the ‘demand’ side but it is not sustained. Neither does it exist in a broad-based way: there is a lot of demand in some places (e.g. the Vanuatu Women’s Centre) but huge gaps elsewhere. In particular, when members of the media interview MPs or political candidates, this issue is rarely raised.

This is just one example of many discussions about policy that are missing. To fill the gap, there needs to be movement on both sides of the equation.

On the ‘supply’ side our politicians and political parties need to expand their communicating to tell us more about what their long-term vision is and how they intend to bring it about. On the ‘demand’ side, we the voting public need to ask questions that draw out more information about policy achievements and challenges.

In Vanuatu, the next scheduled elections are for 2020. The time to start improving the amount and quality of political engagement on both the ‘supply’ and ‘demand’ sides is now.


The media is not government’s PR agency

Credit: mynewnormals

Credit: mynewnormals

This item was first published in the Vanuatu Daily Post on March 18th, 2017

Earlier this week the prime minister of Tonga, Akilisi Pohiva, made a startling announcement.

He said that he was proposing to introduce a piece of legislation that would see the national broadcaster closed down or sold off. One of the main reasons he gave for this position is that Tonga Broadcasting does not do a good enough job of supporting the government.

Tensions between the prime minister and the national broadcaster are not new in Tonga (so maybe the announcement wasn’t that startling). I heard a lot about them late last year when I spent a week working with media professionals from a number of organisations. And neither is this sort of tension something that is specific to Tonga. Across the region, we can point to many instances of where governments have tried to control the media.

We have seen outright censorship, manipulation of ownership laws, threats to journalists and editors, denial of access to opposition MPs, and more. Sometimes we hear governments make reference to the need for the media to act more responsibly or ethically. There are times when these calls are justified. Often they are code for ‘they are saying nasty things about us and we need to make that stop’. Actions of this type are, at their heart anti-democratic.

State owned media organisations are particularly vulnerable. They rely on government funding for their existence. This means that they are often walking a fine line between fulfilling their democratic function of being a public watchdog and not biting the hand that feeds them so hard that they end up starving.

Prime Minister Pohiva’s statement prompted a strong response from the Pacific Freedom Forum in which they pointed out:

“It is not the job of any news media to support the government of the day, but to represent the public — and they must be ethical when reporting criticism.”

Quite so. The media is not government’s PR agency. The media’s responsibility to the public requires that government activity is appropriately reported, analysed, questioned, and criticised. Journalistic training and standards require that all of these things be done ethically. Even if there are instances of a media professional or organisation acting unethically, that does not justify threats to undermine the essential role of the media as a whole.

Democracy is a process, not a product. When Fiji held elections in 2014, I commented that this was just the ‘first step’ in establishing a democracy in that country. Building and sustaining a true democratic culture requires ongoing activity across the whole of society.

The media plays a crucial role in providing good quality information to citizens to inform how they engage with the democratic process. That good quality information needs to include what government is doing well, what government is doing badly, and a range of things in between. An independent media that is able to act free from political interference and intimidation is an essential part of a democratic culture.

The PFF is right to push back so strongly against claims that the media is responsible for supporting the government. If this sort of thinking is allowed to persist, there is a risk of a ‘chilling factor’ coming into play.

This already exists in some places, including Vanuatu, where journalists will say things along the lines of ‘we have to be careful that we don’t undermine development by being negative about the government’. It is certainly the case that the media has a responsibility to consider HOW something is reported. Journalists and editors make decisions of this type every day to ensure that they are not sensationalising things or presenting material in a way that might inflame a sensitive situation.

But that is very different from promoting an atmosphere in which the media feels constrained about WHAT can be reported. Actions and inactions of government (both positive and negative) are matters of public interest. We expect and need our media professionals to be presenting facts and analysis about them in a robust manner.

If and when we see attempts by politicians, public servants or others in authority to constrain what the media tell us, we should be alarmed. We should express our concern in the strongest terms. It’s not about protecting journalists, newspapers and broadcasters. It’s about protecting our democracy.


Pacific Predictions: what will 2017 hold for the Pacific?

This item was first published on Devpolicy on January 11th, 2017

Pacific politics will continue to be a source of fascination and concern in 2017. There will be general elections in Papua New Guinea (polling will take place between June 24th and July 8th). In addition to the ever-present concerns about money politics, logistics, cost and security, the economic crisis that country is currently experiencing will also contribute to the prevailing environment. It is always a matter of concern if governments cannot pay their bills and these concerns are exacerbated in election years. Jitteriness was increased recently, when the O’Neill government ‘delayed’ release of the IMF Article IV assessment, which has yet to appear. Another potential flashpoint is the failure (in both Waigani and Canberra) to appropriately resolve the situation in relation to the closure of the Manus refugee-processing centre. Recent violence should be seen as a serious warning as should the increasing frustration (seen most evidently on Twitter: @pontuna2run) of Ron Knight, the current MP for Manus province.

Fiji is scheduled to hold elections during 2018 but the pre-positioning that took place last year will continue during 2017. The major opposition party SODELPA has a ‘back to the future’ leader in former coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka and he has called for opposition parties to work together in coalition to unseat the Fiji First government. The electoral system in Fiji militates against independents and, in an attempt to counter this, Roshika Deo (who contested unsuccessfully in 2014) is expected to form a new party to contest.

Further afield, there will be presidential elections in France. The results may have a ripple effect in our region in relation to the finalisation of the Noumea Accords process in New Caledonia and the participation of France in the Pacific Islands Forum, the details of which are yet to become clear.

Constitutional reform is a hot topic in several Pacific island countries. Vanuatu’s attempts to progress a whole raft of measures (largely designed to engender greater political stability) faltered in late 2016. This was because the Salwai government failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed to progress legislation further to constitutional reform committee process. Whilst there are certainly elements within the government who will want to progress this if the opportunity arises, it is possible that other issues will become and remain more pressing. Chief among them is Vanuatu’s impending relegation to the Financial Action Task Force’s ‘black list’. The referendum on constitutional reform scheduled to take place concurrently with provincial elections in March is on indefinite hold.

To our north, the Republic of the Marshall Islands will hold its first Constitutional Convention once the 45-person membership has been established. The most significant item for consideration is a proposal to move from a parliamentary to a presidential system of government. Meanwhile, in Samoa, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi is seeking to have the Constitution amended to make the Samoan state Christian, a proposal that has caused concern within the wider society.

During 2016, I suggested that the new logo for the Melanesian Spearhead Group should be the Gordian knot. As we enter a new year, the internal tussles are becoming ever more entrenched. There are several strands to this knot with the issue of membership being the one that is proving the most stubborn to shift. Despite the fact that there was no leaders’ meeting in December, the foreign ministers met in Port Vila to consider the text of membership regulations and guidelines prepared by the group’s Subcommittee on Legal and Institutional Issues. In town at the same time was a large delegation of West Papuans including Benny Wenda and other key members of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua leadership. The MSG leaders’ meeting is now pencilled in for January, to be held in Port Moresby, prompting declarations of disappointment from within the ULMWP. It is hard to see the disappointment lifting any time soon given the proposal to hold the meeting in Papua New Guinea (the ULMWP would prefer that the meeting be held in Port Vila, where they have the most support from government and civil society) and the continuing non-appearance of Fiji’s prime minister at these gatherings – last month in Port Vila he was represented by Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, the former Foreign Minister and current Minister for Defence.

There are some indications that the current chair (Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of Solomon Islands) is looking to use the current impasse over membership as an opportunity to expand the grouping. In relation to activism around the West Papua issue, this is likely to be taken forward at global levels by the Pacific Coalition on West Papua, with Sogavare as its head. Australia has had two indications recently that its ‘nothing to do with us’ stance is wearing thin in Jakarta: the ‘request’ made to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne to caution the leadership of Pacific island countries to stop interference in relation to the West Papua issue and, more recently, the rupture in defence relationships.

More generally, Australia will prepare and publish its first white paper on foreign policy in 14 years, which will complement a new ‘Pacific strategy’ promised by the Prime Minister. We hope to see a detailed and nuanced approach to relationships with the Pacific island region feature prominently in this document. It presents an important opportunity to rectify previous missteps, build on what is working well and send important messages about where our region features in Australian policy thinking on diplomacy, trade, development assistance and, critically for the Pacific, labour mobility.

Tess’s past annual predictions can be found here: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 & 2016.

Photo credit: Flickr/GreensMPs


February 2016

February has been an odd month. The weather has been very hot and there have been numerous cyclones hanging around that we have had to keep an eye on. It has been very hard to see what our neighbours in Fiji have been going through at the hands of TC Winston as it brings back many difficult memories of what we experienced here in Vanuatu last March. My thoughts and condolences go to the families of those whose lives have been lost.

On ‘Coffee and Controversy’ we have covered a number of topics: how to improve women’s representation in Vanuatu politics, what we would like to see included in the government’s 100 day plan and the issues surrounding NISCOL and other state-owned enterprises.

Over on the Devpolicy blog, I rebooted the Pacific Conversations series. In a wide-ranging interview with Fei Tevi, we discussed green growth, Pacific regionalism, democracy in Tonga and more.

This op-ed, which was written originally for the Daily Post, looked at recent attacks on democracy in Fiji and what lessons they provide for Vanuatu.

During February I travelled to Canberra for the Australasian Aid Conference hosted jointly by the Asia Foundation and the Development Policy Centre. I chaired a panel on the continuing role of aid in PNG and Fiji.


Deafening silence on rule of law in Nauru

This item was first published on The Interpreter on 21st March, 2014

The status of the rule of law in Nauru became even more precarious with the recent resignation of Nauru’s Chief Justice, Australian Geoffrey Eames. After two months of seeking to have the withdrawal of his visa by the Nauruan Government overturned, he now says his position is untenable.

This week, the parliamentary opposition of Nauru expressed its deep concern about the state of governance in their country and called on the governments of Australia and New Zealand to stop ‘pussyfooting’ around the situation (more on that later). Particularly vocal among the Opposition is Roland Kun MP, who described government proposals to appoint a new chief justice on a six-month renewable contract as:

…proof that this government is either completely ignorant of the importance of the separation of powers and judicial independence – and therefore unfit to govern – or so contemptuous of the rule of law that they think they are entitled to effectively dictate to the judiciary that judicial decisions must favour government.

But elsewhere, the volume levels have been turned way down. It is true that the Pacific Conference of Chief Justices has expressed its collective concern, but by its own admission, it can do precious little else. More significantly, there has been no utterance from the Pacific Islands Forum. And it is not for want of a mechanism. The Forum has the Biketawa Declaration to provide guidance for responding to a situation of this type.

What is the Biketawa Declaration and why is it important here?
It is a statement of principles of governance that was accepted by the members of the Pacific Islands Forum in 2000. Among those principles is a commitment to maintaining the rule of law; indeed ‘upholding…the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary’ are expressly stipulated in point three of the document.

Not only does the Biketawa Declaration set out a democratic framework to which Pacific island countries have ascribed, it also delineates how the Pacific community can move to guide, censure or otherwise intervene in the event one of its members strays from the path. As well as engaging in national and regional consultation, the Forum Chair has a number of options available to him, including issuing a statement, deploying a fact-finding mission, convening a ministerial contact group or establishing an eminent persons’ group.

The Forum has acted on three occasions under the aegis of this declaration. The most significant was Operation Helpem Fren (also referred to as the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands or RAMSI). The other instances were the targeted measures in relation to Fiji (instigated in 2009 and including suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum) and the Pacific Regional Assistance to Nauru (PRAN), which ran from 2004 to 2009 at the request of the then Nauru Government.

While all of these initiatives are branded as ‘regional’ and carry the imprimatur of the Pacific Islands Forum, they have one other important characteristic in common: Australia played a pivotal role in driving each of them. So, it’s fair to say that unless Australia steps up to provide leadership in this space, we are unlikely to see a regional response beyond that of the chief justices’ grouping referred to earlier.

It is unrealistic to expect New Zealand to take the lead, given Nauru sits so firmly within Australia’s sphere of influence. However, there certainly is a role for Wellington to play given that it is footing the bill for the Nauru justice system to the tune of $1 million per year. Concerned voices from within and close to Nauru have been dismayed that New Zealand has maintained its financial support on the strength of what appear to be weak assurances given at a high level meeting between MFAT and Nauru’s Minister for Justice David Adeang and Home Affairs Minister Charmaine Scotty.

Which brings us to Australia. In discussing the reasons for his resignation, Geoffrey Eames was (by chief justice standards) strident in his criticism of Canberra for describing the situation in Nauru as being purely a domestic matter. It is doubtful that recent statements about the importance of ‘cultivating’ the rule of law in Nauru will comfort those who have criticised Australia’s silence on this issue.

Given the history of Australia’s involvement with Nauru, which started before independence and is much more complex than the most recent phase centred on processing of asylum seekers, it seems disingenuous to seek to adopt a ‘hands off’ approach at this juncture. The interweaving of the bureaucracies of Nauru and Australia, which has involved key positions in the Nauru government machinery being occupied by Australian public servants and contractors, is extensive. For some, it tends to undermine the credibility of Australian protestations about the importance of sovereignty.

Australia runs the risk of sending mixed messages to its Pacific island neighbours about how much value it places on democratic norms. As Bal Kama commented this week:
Australia continues to play a leadership role in the region as an established constitutional democracy. It needs to project a consistent and clear position on issues of rule of law and constitutional governance in a region plagued by serious socio-political instability.

Bal warns that the Nauru precedent may come back to haunt Australia. We should hope he is wrong but be aware of increasing concerns that he may be right.

Photo by Flickr user ARM Climate Research.


The Pacific Solution and Nauru’s coup by stealth

This item was first published on Devpolicy on January 23rd, 2014

The implosion of the legal system in Nauru has been described as a “coup by stealth” by David Lambourne, a former Secretary of Justice for Nauru. He left the country after having had his appointment terminated in 2011 following the fall of the government led by Marcus Stephen. The deportation of the Resident Magistrate, cancellation of the Chief Justice’s visa to enter Nauru and resignation of the Solicitor-General (for details, see herehere and here) are part of what Lambourne characterises as a comprehensive programme to return Nauru to the ‘bad old days’.

Prior to 2004, Nauru was a democracy in name only with the cabinet effectively ruling by fiat. There was no commitment (or even lip service) to any form of checks and balances on executive action and no understanding of the need for administrative decisions to have a lawful basis. Some degree of ‘progress’ was made during the 2007 – 2011 period, which may come to be seen as the high point as far as good governance applies in Nauru. However, in the period of November 2011 to mid-2012, and more recently since the change of government in June 2013, there has been a comprehensive removal of office-holders who are seen to stand in the way of government will and whim. This includes the Commissioner of Police, the Secretary of Health, the Secretary of Justice and others, most recently the Resident Magistrate Peter Law.

The government of Nauru has effectively done away with the rule of law in that country. The essential institutions have been severely compromised. The replacement Resident Magistrate who arrived on the island on 20 January was appointed without any reference to the Chief Justice, rendering his appointment in breach of the Courts Act. This immediately calls into question the validity of any decisions he might make, including in relation to the deportation of Rod Henshaw (a former government media adviser) and Hareef Mohammed (a long term Fijian resident). Given the circumstances in which the appointment of Andrew Jacobson was made, it is hard to be confident that he enjoys judicial independence as it is most commonly understood.

Whilst it is possible for Chief Justice Geoffrey Eames to continue to exercise his judicial powers without being physically present in the jurisdiction, there are no meaningful enforcement mechanisms available to him. Geoffrey Eames is renowned for his robust approach (which is exemplified here [pdf]) and is not expected to allow himself to become a pawn in this or any other political game. In theory, he has the protection of constitutional tenure for another 7 years. However, there have already been mutterings within government that if it is not possible to sack the CJ they will call a state of emergency, suspend the constitution and remove him at that point.

Lambourne, who spoke to me from Australia, points to the recent hike in visa fees for journalists as evidence of how the Nauru administration now operates. In order for such a fee to be lawful there would need to be regulations in place. No such regulations exist, there is only a cabinet decision that the cost of the visa should be $AU8,000 but this has been acted upon without question by relevant officials. Senior positions within the Nauruan bureaucracy are being filled with people (including expatriates) who can be relied upon to execute cabinet decisions without question.

For the first time in many years, the government of Nauru has plenty of cash at its disposal. Thanks to the economic boost provided by the Regional Processing Centre (by way of visa fees and increased revenue through duties and customs revenue), Nauru is no longer as dependent on aid as was previously the case. So, with hindsight, it appears that the ‘Pacific Solution’ has contributed to a ‘perfect storm’ with the government having increased funds available at a time when those in power are actively seeking to throw off the perceived shackles of good governance.

It is hard to overstate the precarious nature of the legal environment in Nauru right now. The government has made much of the impending return to the country of commercial banking services, courtesy of Bendigo Bank. It is hard to imagine that a prudent banking operation would countenance setting up in a jurisdiction that is operating with a total lack of, what Lambourne calls, ‘legal rigour’ (although the bank has said it is continuing to work towards opening a branch on Nauru). No one living on Nauru can be confident of having their rights or interests protected by law as things currently stand. And this includes Australian citizens currently resident on the island.

Lambourne is emphatic in his agreement with CJ Eames that these moves are purely politically motivated. Other commentators have described them as being driven by ‘venal politics’. And Lambourne’s perspective is that the real driving force behind these moves is not President Waqa, who is generally perceived to be well meaning but largely ineffective. Rather, the puppet master is David Adeang who holds two ministerial portfolios – justice and finance.

The government of Australia has been cautious in its response to this ‘coup by stealth’. Initially, Scott Morrison declared that it was purely an internal matter. Subsequently, DFAT has expressed concern via the offices of its High Commissioner to Nauru. The relationship between Australia and Nauru has the regional processing centre at its heart. It is not in the interests of either government to damage a connection that is of such mutual ‘benefit’. But these events open up the nature of the relationship between these countries to increased scrutiny and, not surprisingly, significant criticism.

Lambourne confirms that internal politics is what is driving this situation, but Australia should be very concerned about the impacts of what has happened recently. The processing regime set up by Nauru (with the assistance of Australia) envisages an avenue of appeal for asylum seekers whose applications are refused at first instance to the Supreme Court of Nauru and ultimately the High Court of Australia. As discussed here, Australia has shifted the burden of responsibility to the legal system of Nauru. If that system is compromised (and according to Lambourne and other sources close to Nauru it most certainly is) then it is difficult to have confidence that asylum seekers can have the legal protections to which they are entitled. This puts both Nauru and Australia at risk of being in breach of obligations under international law.

Meanwhile, the case to determine the validity of the deportation order against Rod Henshaw and others has been adjourned indefinitely. This means Mr Henshaw can (for now at least) remain in the country where his (recently) deceased wife is buried. Elsewhere, the Australian wife of an opposition MP has had her residency visa cancelled so she is unable to return to her home and family on Nauru. These are just some of the personal impacts arising from this political wrangling; there may well be more to come.