Former diplomat's Australian-American alliance anger


This year marks the 20th anniversary of Eureka Street. To celebrate the anniversary, the journal presented a series of six video conversations with prominent contributors earlier in the year. This interview is the first in a second series to continue the celebration.

It's fitting that the interviewee is an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice, as, right from the start, these have been a prominent strands in the issues covered by Eureka Street. At the forefront has been the plight of refugees and asylum seekers, along with a raft of other issues, like Australia's involvement in developing countries, and in wars and conflicts around the globe.

Tony Kevin has written with verve and insight on all these topics. He began writing after retiring from a lengthy and distinguished career as a senior public servant and in the diplomatic corps. He worked for 30 years in the Prime Minister's Department and in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and served as Australia's ambassador to Poland (1991–94) and Cambodia (1994–97).

Kevin's life and career was strongly influenced by his parents. His Australian Irish-Catholic father, also a diplomat, met Kevin's mother in London before the outbreak of the Second World War. She was a Jewish refugee from Vienna, who'd escaped from Austria with her family at the time of the Anschluss, the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in March 1938.

Her family were secular Jews, and so Kevin grew up in Sydney in what he calls a 'fairly secular household'. In primary school he attended the Protestant Cranbrook School in Sydney's eastern suburbs, but every Saturday his father sent him to the Jesuits at Campion Hall for instruction in the Catholic faith. In high school he boarded at the Jesuits' St Ignatius College, Riverview.

Kevin studied engineering, and later economics and politics, at Trinity College, Dublin. Following this he began his long career in the Australian public service. In 1999 he married his wife Sina, a Cambodian woman he had met when he was ambassador there.

Since retirement he has been a prolific writer for a swag of magazines and newspapers. He's led debate on a range of issues; in one article written for the Canberra Times in March 2002, he coined the name SIEV-X for the asylum seeker vessel that sank the previous October, drowning all but 44 of its 397 passengers.

Kevin has written three books: A Certain Maritime Incident: the sinking of the SIEV-X; Walking the Camino: A Modern Pilgrimage to Santiago; and his latest, Crunch Time: Using and Abusing Keynes to Fight the Twin Crises of our Era, about the need to address anthropogenic climate change.

Peter KirkwoodPeter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity. 

Topic tags: Peter Kirkwood, Tony Kevin, Crunch Time, Climate Change, SIEV X, asylum seekers



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Existing comments

Well said, Kevin. I sometimes wonder how different our world would be, if the 'Christian' USA and its Western allies had acted on the Christian injunction to "seek first the kingdom of heaven and its justice, and all else will be given to you", instead of backing dictators, justifying torture, and creating the most lethal military alliance our world has ever known.

Gordon Rowland | 12 August 2011  

And how do we get past the Australian media's belief that we can trade humans at will because we are the special people of the world'.

We have the prattle today in the Fairfax media about "people smugglers ignoring the Malaysia threat", as if Needham had a lovely conversation with all the nameless and unknown people along the way who give refugees a ride until they get here.

The Australian is running the reprehensible line that because of SIEVX 10 years ago that they did not much care about, we should trade refugees off today.

The fact is that since SIEVX some 90 million kids under 5 have quietly died of starvation while the people who could have helped waged their US led wars.

They claim we have to brutalise kids who arrived today who didn't drown because 10 kids have drowned since SIEVX, which ignores that about 500 Australian kids have drowned in the same 10 years and 10% of the Somali kids under 5 will starve to death by November.

Figures show that $1.24 billion has been wasted on illegal refugee jails in the last three years while kids starve.

Marilyn Shepherd | 12 August 2011  


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