Deep in the jungles of New Guinea the Melanesians of West Papua helped Australian diggers fight the Japanese. They carried wounded men, ammunition and supplies through difficult terrain. They provided food and worked at the massive naval base in Hollandia.
How does the Howard government, that rarely hesitates to wrap itself in the flag, repay this debt of honour? By turning away West Papuan asylum seekers who seek our protection, and turning a blind eye to the Indonesian military colonialism that many experts equate as genocide.
Although Australia is a signatory to the UN Refugee convention, which requires us to fairly assess people who seek our protection (regardless of their method of arrival), the Howard government has erected a series of ad hoc barriers to avoid our responsibilities.
Detention centres on Nauru, PNG and Christmas Island. Special deals with the US and Indonesia. Operation Relex, in which the Navy turns around small leaky boats full of desperate people.
The continuing pantomime that you have not 'requested asylum' until you've dotted the i's and crossed the t's on the official forms. Lastly, the excision of all of Australia's northern islands from the migration zone.
These mean and tricky mechanisms belong in a Kafta novel, not modern Australia. The rest of the world does not accept that Australia can shirk its responsibilities through legislative tricks, but they provide a useful justification for the domestic audience.
The latest news that Immigration secretly sent back five West Papuan refugees to PNG simply confirms how mean and tricky this government is.
While PNG is a signatory to the Refugee Convention, they have not ratified all aspects and life as a refugee is precarious. Indonesian agents operate freely in PNG and harass West Papuan activists.
While the Immigration Department continues to operate in secret, with its convoluted tricky laws, Australians can not have confidence that asylum seekers are getting a fair go and are not being returned to danger.
The real fear, held by both the Indonesian and Australian government, is that the West Papuan independence movement will establish a sizeable activist base in Australia.
Will a Rudd Labor government end the excision of territory from the Migration Zone?