Which Country Will Take You To This Island Paradise For Free?

(or Why Not To Make Vacation Plans Based On A Facebook Link)

NauruHeaderMy Facebook page these days is a lot less about what my friends are up to, and a lot more about tedious clickbait links like ’59 Facts About Children And Monkeys That Will Blow Your Mind – #34 Made My Ovaries Explode!’ and so on. Exactly the sort of thing I’d be writing if I wasn’t currently gainfully employed making fun of Justin Bieber for television.

This morning I was admittedly distracted by Distractify’s ’40 Incredible Secret Places Most Travelers Don’t Know About. The Last One Blew Me Away…’ page, compiled by one Mella Noha, which was full of beautiful photos of pretty places. (The last one was Monument Valley in Utah, which didn’t blow me away because I knew about it.)

Congratulations to Australia’s tiny neighbour, Nauru, for being third on the page! Click the image to appreciate the image and relish the write-up.


What the article doesn’t tell you is: you can get to this “island paradise” with “miles of untouched beaches and forests” FOR FREE!

How? Simply take a boat to Australia and exercise your right under the UN Refugee Convention to apply for asylum!

Nauru is one of the islands to which the Australian Government sends asylum seekers who arrive in its territorial waters – although usually it just gives them a better boat and turns them back out to sea. (At least, we think that’s what’s happening. Australian citizens aren’t allowed to know what their government is doing, because its leaders seem to believe a run-of-the-mill issue of border administration is a “war”.)

Why Nauru? The answer is a complicated mix of politics, racism, sociology, pragmatism, people-smuggling, and international law. It amounts to the Australian Government declaring that those found to be genuine refugees will never be settled in Australia, and better get used to their new homes, which are third-world countries, dependent on Australian aid, and even less keen on absorbing the new arrivals than Australia.

That doesn’t matter right now. The important thing is that you can get to the tropical island paradise of Nauru FOR FREE!

Just one thing you should know. That’s not Nauru in the photo. The scene in the photo is the Adaaran Club in the Maldives. It’s the fifth photo in the resort’s homepage slideshow.


The real Nauru is a wasteland resulting from the strip-mining of its natural phosphate resources. Here’s a satellite image. Have fun looking for the untouched bits.

Nauru_satelliteCourtesy: U.S. Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program


If you’re still interested in visiting this island paradise and would like to beat the hoards of tourists lured there by Distractify, click here to peruse your accommodation options.

So, Nauru or the Maldives this winter? It’s true the Republic of Maldives has a few lingering human rights issues, though it’s been drifting in the right direction of late. But at least the Adaaran Club will let you in, which is something I can’t guarantee will happen in Nauru.

But it’s not all bad news. If the Australian Government doesn’t turn your boat back out to sea, and you end up on Nauru, you’ve won the lottery. Because the alternative is Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, where recently a detainee was killed after guards attacked asylum seekers.

You can find Manus Island on Distractify’s list of ’40 Incredibly Secret Places The Australian Government Doesn’t Want Travellers To Know About!’

Two mothers

The late news on Wednesday night started with a breathless update on the investigation into the Essendon AFL club’s drug program. The rapidly developing scandal was the big story of the day.

I wondered if the news was going to mention the reports filtering out of Syria, where a chemical or biological agent had reportedly been unleashed in a large-scale attack on a civilian area of Damascus.

The images appearing on social media backed reports of hundreds of dead – and a few shell-shocked survivors – many of them young children. Pale, limp, and lifeless. Not a scratch on them. A UN chemical weapons inspection team was kilometres away, but cannot investigate, as it is not an inspection site agreed upon with the Syrian government.

After a few more stories, including a tangential NRL angle on the football drugs scandal, the late news eventually reported the attacks. It was a verbal mention only, because the images were “too confronting for broadcast.”

The comment hit a nerve. I exploded. I even tweeted the network, knowing the futility of the gesture. Twitter is good for a vent.

What can I say? Fury breeds sanctimony. Sorry.

Here’s a still shot from a video purporting to show victims of the attack. Most of those in the frame are dead children. As with most footage out of Syria, I have to add the disclaimer that it has not been independently verified due to the scarcity of foreign journalists in the country.

Victims of the Syrian attack(A pro-revolution blog has compiled purported images and videos of the attack here.)

You should know that I studied in Damascus in the 1990s, and have been back since. Even pre-war, life wasn’t easy for many locals, but they maintained a hospitality and humour that left an indelible imprint. Damascus is as close to a second home as I have.

These days, I stay up late into the night gleaning murky updates from Twitter and YouTube. I carry a quiet heartbreak with me every morning as I head off to work, where I write jokes about Justin Bieber and wonder how I live with myself.

So, yes, I was edgy. But the “too confronting” disclaimer didn’t just rankle because of my interest in this story. It’s also because I feel passionately that Australian TV networks must stop wrapping viewers in blinkers when it comes to disaster in the rest of the world.

Only when Australians are exposed to the full reality and horror of life – and death – in the rest of the world will we see our own country clearly.

By international standards, Australian viewers are treated like children.  Europeans see dead bodies on their news. The Middle East too. Even the Americans may be less uptight about it than we are. But the powers that be in Australian TV think we prefer foreign tragedies delivered to us in statistics rather than vision.

Or do we? Did you see that high-speed Spanish train crash? The one that killed 79 people? Of course you did. Wasn’t the CCTV footage amazing? Let’s see that again in slo-mo. What a news producer’s dream that footage was. 79 people killed in an instant, and not a single body in shot. Great, we can run that in prime time. Ditto World Trade Centre replays.

So respect for the victims is clearly not the issue here. Indeed, I was in a TV newsroom as live pictures of the 2011 Japanese tsunami were going to air.  When fleeing locals were  about to be engulfed, the vision would judiciously cut to a different shot. There were complaints from viewers about the network switching away.

I was, and remain, appalled by those complaints. We don’t need to watch people die. But once death has visited – particularly where human cruelty or ineptitude is involved – Australians ought to see the consequences (with due consideration for the victims and the viewing demographic of each timeslot, of course).

“I don’t care,” some will sniff. “What’s happening over there has nothing to do with me.”

Well, it does have something to do with you. And me. We are two of the millions of Australians who have little idea how good we’ve got it here. And we need to start appreciating that, even if it has to be rammed down our throats.

Australian TV viewers, sheltered from the chilling excesses of humankind and the ravages of nature, fail to count our many blessings. We carry on in blissful ignorance. What makes this country great? Mateship and Phar Lap or something. Oi! Oi! Oi! No one thinks to mention incredible sanitation infrastructure, transparent elections and geological stability. We take it all for granted.

No wonder we run screaming in panic when the world shows up at our door. We haven’t got a clue. We’re left guessing, pathetically, at asylum seekers’ motives. Someone in Syria gassed your children to death? You’re making that up, I didn’t see it on TV. Nope, you’re clearly after my dole.

That’s why what’s happening over there has something to do with you. Ignorance breeds idiocy. We might choose to remain aloof – and when confronted with reality, many will – but we don’t have to be stupid.

Wednesday’s tragic events in Damascus expose the hysterical tenor of Australian politics for the sham that it is. Say what you like about Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott or Julia Gillard, but none of them are going to drop a chemical-laden warhead on your children as they sleep.

The futility of the deaths in Damascus is magnified by the intractability of the war. There is zero prospect of a meaningful intervention or solution in the foreseeable future without a major shift in the positions of Syria’s allies, Russia and China. The horrors will continue.

Late this week, ‘Sarah,’ the mother of an Essendon player, spoke emotionally to Triple M about the effects of the club’s supplements program on her family, and her frustration at not knowing what drugs her son had been given.

Welcome to Australia, where we expose our sons to chemicals in the hope that they’ll win a football trophy. ‘Sarah’ has a right to be upset.

In Damascus, another mother is also wondering what chemicals her son was exposed to. But we can’t possibly show you that footage, you poor, fragile petals. You’ll find it too confronting.

Anyway, the footy’s on.

Postscript: Since Wednesday night, small sections of footage from Syria have been run by Australian TV networks, including Network Ten. The UN chemical team is yet to enter the affected zone, which was bombed again with conventional weapons the following night.

Conroy on my mind

I just logged in to Facebook and it asked, “What’s on your mind?” I started typing and this came out.

You ask what’s on my mind, Facebook? Here’s what’s on my mind. Three years ago the commercial TV networks whinged about the costs of implementing digital TV. So after a lovely meeting on the Colorado ski slopes with Seven owner Kerry Stokes, Minister Stephen Conroy gave the poor networks a cut of $250 MILLION in licence fees paid to the government, which incidentally was timed just before an election. This week Conroy made that licence fee cut permanent, a decision gratefully received by the mining magnates and media tycoons who run our networks. But this same Conroy reneged on a promise and won’t stump up a measly *$5.6 million* to fully equip non-profit community radio stations for digital radio broadcast. So come the analogue switch-off, you can switch off your local independent music and content, youth radio, Koorie radio, and radio for the vision-impaired. But what does Conroy care? He’ll still have Smooth FM, as will we all.

If you like your radio bland and dictated by idiots in suits, don’t do anything. But if you appreciate diversity and radio for people with brains, go here:

Side note: In return for the licence fee break, Conroy hasn’t
demanded that the networks actually commission any extra new local content, so enjoy those endless repeats of bad American talk shows. Luckily we have community radio to listen to instead.
Oh wait…