At a brief news conference today the Prime Minister effectively diverted attention away from the increasing number of persons attempting to enter Australia illegally and onto the evil people smugglers, describing them as “vile scum” and the “lowest form of life”, who should “rot in jail”, or “hell”, as appropriate. So, according to Mr Rudd, it’s the evil people smugglers we should be thinking about.

Rudd’s preoccupation with people smugglers comes as something of a surprise. Yeah, people smuggling is a crime but many on the left must surely harbour admiration for those who facilitate the entry into Australia of people desperately seeking a better life. I therefore decided to see what the federal Labor government has to say about people smugglers.

Searching “people smuggling” results in several government links. The first, to the Australian Federal Police, condemns people smuggling, but doesn’t explain how it is that people smugglers are perceived to be so much more evil than is their illegal cargo.

The second link is to Department of Immigration and Citizenship fact sheet 73. Clicking it produces: “Page Not Found This website was recently redesigned. This means the bookmarks and addresses you have used in the past may no longer work.” Entering “fact sheet 73″ in the window’s search function eventually leads to the “Fact Sheet Index” page. Five of the 11 “Border Control” fact sheets, including no. 73, are currently unavailable, shown as “under review”. Hmm, this is at odds with the site’s claim Fact Sheet 73 is unavailable because of a site redesign.

Better double check that. Googling “fact sheet 73″ “people smuggling” leads again to “Page Not Found”. In contrast, Googling “fact sheet 70 – managing the border” leads directly to Fact Sheet 70. It’s odd but no big deal that the reason for Fact Sheet 73′s unavailability is misattributed. I mean, it’s not like there are sinister forces at work here trying to hide a select few “border control” fact sheets for some reason.

Anyway, Fact Sheet 73 is temporarily available, cached “as it appeared on 9 Apr 2009 08:33:32 GMT”. As of that date, people smugglers apparently weren’t the “evil scum” they now are:

People smuggling is the organised illegal movement of groups or individuals across international borders using the services of trans-national people smuggling organisers, usually on a payment for service basis.

People smuggling is a lucrative, relatively low risk activity for people smugglers and is primarily the work of sophisticated and highly organised networks.

People use the services of people smugglers for many reasons, including to seek protection, because of limited opportunity for legitimate migration and to pursue economic opportunities.

Surely Fact Sheet 73′s disappearance in the past few days is a coincidence. Right?

Update: The cached Fact Sheet Index page shows Fact Sheet 73 was still online as of 13 Apr 2009. It’s removal was timely indeed.

Update II: It’s interesting that Fact Sheet 73 was last revised on 17 November 2009, so its content should reflect current government policy and perspective. But of the 10 fact sheets not currently available as “under review”, as indicated on the Fact Sheet Index page, Fact Sheet 73 is the only missing sheet not displaying its “last revised” date. Another coincidence, surely.