The Prime Minister, John Howard to-day announced the resignation of Bill Farmer AO from his position of Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. See New Senior Appointments - 10 July 2005. Ordinarily, this would be a matter for much rejoicing in those seeking reform within the Dept of Immigration. However, his departure has been suspected as being imminent for two reasons:
- He apologised to a Parliamentary Committee
- He received an AO at the recent Queen's Birthday awards.
Awards are not unusual prior to the resignation of a senior public servant or their transfer to a significant overseas posting. In this case, Bill Farmer will become Australia's Ambassador to Indonesia. This posting need not be seen as unusual since his service prior to DIMIA was with the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (DFAT). If there is anything punitive in these changes to Bill Farmer's career because of the massive failures within the operations and organization of his department, it is not evident.
As a Christian and a practising Anglican, I have been particularly disappointed in the handling of immigration matters because Bill Farmer is the spouse of an Anglican priest in the Anglican Diocese of Canberra-Goulburn and because the excesses under his leadership also occurred under the ministry of that other well-known Anglican, Philip Ruddock, now the Commonwealth Attorney-General.
All of us can be forgiven and all of us deserve the right to a clean slate and a fresh start. I hope that Bill Farmer has been able to learn from what has occurred within the Department of Immigration and understands how the Department he led has been the bureaucratic hand of gross injustice. I also hope that his new position gives him more time for biblical study - in particular, I hope he has a glance at the references in the Old Testament on how the Lord God of Israel instructs us to care for the sojourner - because you were once sojourners. The New Testament could provide material for reflection - particularly the matter of Jesus, with his parents Mary and Joseph, fleeing persecution to become asylum seekers in Egypt. There is no mention of how the Egyptians treated this little family of refugees but clearly they were not locked in interminable detention and were, at an appropriate time of their choosing, able to return. And thereby hangs a story! Now, Bill, narrative theology is a worthwhile pursuit. Listen to the stories.