Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 06:13 | SYDNEY
Monday 23 Jul 2018 | 06:13 | SYDNEY

Passports: Why are we upset?


Sam Roggeveen


26 February 2010 13:54

It's not often that the foreign policy commentators at Australia's three major broadsheets agree on anything, but Peter Hartcher (SMH), Dan Flitton (The Age) and Greg Sheridan (The Australian) are all outraged over Israel's alleged use of fake Australian passports to help them carry out an assassination of a Hamas official.

Sheridan's piece is, for me, the stongest, in that he urges the Government to be very specific about exactly why it is unhappy. Given the fact that our troops in Afghanistan also target terrorist leaders, we can hardly complain about Israel doing the same. In fact, the chances of civilian deaths in an assassination like this are almost certainly lower than if Israel had ordered an air strike.

This quote from the Prime Minister, then, seems to get the target of our outrage slightly wrong (emphasis added): 'Any state that has been complicit in the use or abuse of the Australian passport system, let alone for the conduct of an assassination, is treating Australia with contempt...'

So what should we be upset about? Primarily, the possibility that Israel has harmed the reputations of three innocent Australians and damaged the credibility and authority of our passports, an important commodity for a nation whose citizens travel extensively. And if you wanted to get global about it, you could also point out that the integrity of passports is an international common good; when a sovereign state diminishes the value of any other country's passports, it hurts every country. 

Photo by Flickr user -nathan, used under a Creative Commons license.