Letter regarding Afghan staff who have worked for the Australian Government in Afghanistan

Jun 9, 2021

Dear Prime Minister and Minister for Immigration,

The undersigned are a group of Australians who have worked in the Indo Pacific in government, business and the media from the sixties until the present day.

We would ask you and your ministerial colleagues to arrange residence visas for those Afghan staff who have worked for the Australian Government in Afghanistan.
Most of us recall vividly when in 1975,  the Whitlam Government failed to evacuate our Cambodian and Vietnamese staff when Phnom Penh and Saigon fell to the Khmer Rouge and the North Vietnamese army respectively. Some of us were in the Indochina theatre at the time. Others spent substantial periods there.
This omission was in stark contrast to the actions of the United States, and of other countries which had been involved in the Indochina wars on the side of the United States.
It was assessed in 1975 that locally engaged staff would probably be safe in Saigon and Phnom Penh.  That assessment was wrong. Only two of some 80 staff and their family members survived the takeover of Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge. After the fall of Saigon, a large proportion of our employees were sent to re-education camps.
Put simply, we failed to repay loyalty to Australia.
We appreciate that the situation in Afghanistan differs in important respects to that of Indochina in 1975, one of which is that Kabul and some other areas of Afghanistan are not in imminent danger of capture by the Taliban.
However the situation in Kabul has been deemed too unsafe for Australia based staff. It follows that Afghans who were in our employ must also be endangered.
We would argue that if there is a possibility that our Afghan staff could be killed or mistreated because of their employment with the Australian Government, their security should be taken as seriously as that of those Australians with whom they worked.
Moreover history shows that there is often little or no time to process permanent residence applications on a case-by-case basis – as was one argument in 1975 for lack of action regarding our employees.
We note the positive approach to permanent residence which is being taken in relation to those Afghans who have worked closely with the Australian Army. Australia’s other employees should be accorded the same consideration.
The signatories of this letter do not propose to release it as a public document.
Yours sincerely
David Armstrong
Michael Brogan
Alison Broinowski AM
Richard Broinowski  AO
Penny Burtt
Jocelyn Chey AM
Prof. Peter Church OAM
John Connor
Mike Courtnall
Jim Crowe
Rawdon Dalrymple AO
Ross Dalrymple
Mike Davis
Bruce Dover
Hon. Gareth Evans AC                   
Steven Fitzgerald AO
Carrillo Gantner AO
Cavan Hogue
Malcolm Hudson
Prof. John Ingleson
Miles Kupa
Christopher Lamb
Dr. Simon Longstaff AO
Michael Mann AO
Ian Macintosh
Ian Macphee
John McCarthy AO
John Menadue AO
Geoff Miller AO
Prof Tony Milner AM
Carl Robinson
Glen Robinson
Michael Ryland
Tim Storer
Peter Varghese AO
Sue Walker
Patrick Walters
Trevor Watson
Grahame White
Mack Williams
James Wise

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