Visa insult a betrayal of liberalism
The Australian embassy in The Hague, at Carnegielaan 4, is a model of the functional blandness that dominates the Dutch city. An effort has been made to replicate a traditional steeped roof but it barely mitigates the sterility. On most days, a row of bicycles sits outside the front door, a very Dutch touch.
What has been taking place inside the bland exterior of that embassy during the past six weeks is the opposite of Holland's famous liberalism. An unfolding act of cowardice has been cooking inside the embassy. It is a calculated insult to the Dutch government.
Six weeks ago, the leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV), which until recently held the balance of power in the Dutch parliament, applied for a visa to visit Australia. His name is Geert Wilders.
Members of his staff and security detail were granted visas after three days. Wilders received nothing. He is still waiting. The Dutch media are waiting for the insult the Gillard government appears to be preparing for a member of the Netherlands' parliament.
The Australian organisers of the Wilders trip are resigning themselves to being out of pocket by at least $10,000 if the Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen, continues to stall. The trip was going to be cancelled yesterday but the organisers have decided to hold for a few more days. After six weeks of silence, the federal government hasn't had the courage to deny Wilders a visa. It prefers the back door.
This confirms, as if any more confirmation were needed, the gutlessness that lies at the core of Australia's multibillion-dollar debacle on border security, where the thin blue line on border integrity has been turned into a wide yellow streak. While the government blusters, the people smugglers keep thriving and the cost of processing asylum seekers soars well beyond $100,000 per person.
Wilders is an elected member of parliament, has never been convicted of a crime and is an outspoken defender of pluralism, democracy, feminism and freedom of speech. He believes these bedrock liberal values are being eroded by a steady, incremental challenge from Muslims in Holland. He now lives under constant police protection. Four prominent critics of Islam in Holland have been assassinated or threatened with death in recent years.