Put your money on Australia blinking first
In April, as the number of boat people – irregular immigrants the government now calls them; me, I prefer atypical entrants – began to surge Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd shrewdly diverted attention onto the people smugglers, calling them "vile scum" and the "lowest form of life". The Department of Immigration and Citizenship's People Smuggling fact sheet sort of, well, mysteriously disappeared for a rewrite. Regardless, people smugglers aren't a factor in the current stand-off on board the Oceanic Viking, the Sri Lankans crewing their own boat prior to rescue.
Having seen conflicting figures on the Oceanic Viking's complement, I decided to check the official figures. Oddly, many of the Oceanic Viking pages at the Customs and Border Protection Service's website are now "page or file not found". And strangely, since the missing pages are still in Google cache, they were only recently removed. Similarly, pages related to the Customs Marine Unit are also gone but still available in cache. A strange coincidence, that's what it is.
Anyway, no matter how the Oceanic Viking impasse turns out, not everyone's going to be smiling. The Sri Lankans don't want to go to Indonesia and Indonesians, apparently mostly, don't want them. Offered enough incentive the Indonesian authorities would probably be more welcoming but it's hard to see what could be offered to the Sri Lankans. If they're smart they'll stand their ground and see if the Rudd government decides to cut its losses and take them to Christmas Island. Doing so will make the government look pretty silly after its attempt to come across as all resolute and decisive in taking a hard line on atypical entrants. Using force to remove the Sri Lankans would be the logical move for a resolute and decisive government but just imagine the uproar should one of those rescued now be injured or killed while being forced to disembark. Can't see it happening.
The Prime Minister should announce that owing to seriously deteriorated conditions on the Oceanic Viking, perhaps emphasising the threat to the children's mental and physical health, all on board will be transferred to Christmas Island. The Opposition can't really be too critical of such a move and it doesn't really matter anyway since no one takes them seriously at the moment anyway.