How to stop the boats

18 Feb

Three children wounded by US bombs in Nangrahar Province, Afghanistan


I‘ve said it before and brought down a load of trouble on myself, but I’ll say it again.

Australia is entirely responsible for boat arrivals. Doesn’t matter which political party’s in ascendency.

Because we are signatories to the UN refugee convention, we are known in  the world as a country that accepts asylum seekers for refugee assessment and resettlement.

Domestic law supports  the Convention. Australia invites anyone anywhere to claim asylum here, and seek refugee status.

No one who does this is acting illegally, no matter how they arrive, and whether they have papers or not.

Therefore, they come. Of course they do. Wouldn’t you in their place?

They have done nothing more than accept our invitation.

God help them.

Reading the comments on various articles the last few days, I’m pretty sickened by the overwhelming number of callous posts, blaming the asylum seekers for coming here in the first place, and blaming the government for not stopping the boats.

The answer is simple. We withdraw from the Convention, which we are not upholding anyway, and we change domestic law.

We then cease to be a country known for accepting asylum seekers, and asylum seekers will not endanger their lives trying to get here.

To continue to issue the invitation, and then to treat  those who accept it as sub humans, reveals a worrying sadistic streak in the Australian psyche. Clearly, we are not in the least hospitable towards those arriving in boats, yet we keep on inviting them.


If we aren’t prepared to withdraw from the Convention and change domestic law, then we obviously are  prepared to keep on extending the invitation.

Basic rules of human decency require that we treat those we’ve invited with hospitality and respect. We’re inviting them into our home.

What kind of host holds the guests in mandatory detention?

If nothing else, can we at least be honest about what we’re doing? Can we at least come clean about our two faced duplicitous position? Can we at least own up to the fact that we’re solely responsible for the situation, and not the asylum seekers?

They don’t know we don’t mean what we say.

It’s time to make a decision. It’s not rocket science. Get in or get out. But stop pissing about complaining, and tormenting our invited guests while we’re at it.

Of course, then we’d have to find somebody else to despise.

6 Responses to “How to stop the boats”

  1. PAUL WALTER February 18, 2011 at 6:47 am #

    Your approach is similar to a local activist here in Adelaide, Marilyn Shepherd, who I “met” at a blogsite and ended up becoming close personal friends with.
    The key to your post rests in your comments re “invitation”. I know you realise this would go down like a lead ballon at suburban shopping centres, pubs etc, where most would have not considered the issue in that light and likely reject it, anyway, if framed in those terms.
    I am in a time warp, back a decade. The economy is stuffed and unemployment high, while welfare accessability is clamped down on. Ruddock’s idea tha they are queue jumpers strikes a chord at gut level; I know that Ruddock is part of a neoliberal government dedicated to busting unions. One way to bust unions is to flood the labor market with alternative sources for employers, so my suspicion is that “labor reform” remains their underlying goal, so my suspicons of boat people increase.
    Fast forward ten years.
    The Howard government got its labor flood through the subterfuge of visa categories, anyway.
    The economy is reasonable, even for people at that the wrong end of the two speed economy. Even Adelaide now has many, many people from outside countries working, often in menial jobs, but my personal circumstances have not deteriorated.
    Logic dictates that if foreign (and trade and economic) policy disintegrates third world economies and creates refugee flows, you’d think those responsible should help ease the misery of the human manifestations of “collateral damage” but we’ve just seen, yet again, what a US government’s atitude to democratisation in developing countries is, in its craven duplicity in handling the Egypt events.
    So refugees, in their millions, continue to flee from war zones in the developing world.
    But most of us privileged westerners dont want to know that our comfort is predicated on Imperialism, colonialism and neo colonialism- iif we did, we should pay exponentially more than the pathetic fractile paid into foreign aid just now, that could improve conditions for the global masses.
    Going back a decade, I remember the libs saying they would have a “Timor levy”, selectively applied to wealthier elements in our own economy, then Costello gleefully withdrawing this measure in favour of tax cuts for wealthy groups here.
    After 2007, one hoped the worst of Howards excesses would ease via the instrument of Rudd Labor. These flirted briefly with a more reasonable approach, before theopposition again lit bush fires trying to find an issue to gain traction on in their pursuit of Labor and they did their usual timid retreat onissues of principle, to the extent of being prepared to virtually abduct a refugee in Australia after the Xmass Island disaster, to send the young fellow back to Xmass island to show that like Morrison and abbott, they could be”tough” on aylum seekers too.
    It’s become a subspecies of the incessant law and order nonsenses that parties use to try and differentiate themselves from their rivals, when neither party wants to take on real issues.
    And as ever, across the world, people continue to live on two dollars a day in malarial slums, while we prepare ourselves for the latest “Big Brother” or Warne/ Hurley distractions that help us forget the realities too easily.


  2. Jennifer Wilson February 18, 2011 at 7:38 am #

    Yes, I know framing it in this way will be fiercely resisted. But the people who don’t know the obligations we’ve got should be told about them – Gillard etc should be saying, look we’ve got these international and domestic legal obligations to asylum seekers.

    Our UN commitments and domestic law have no riders about waiting in queues, having papers, arriving by plane – we extend an open invite, that’ what they should be talking about.

    It’s a tactic I’ve started using when cornered by refugee haters – instead of getting into the same old same old cycle of abuse (because they always abuse) I just say, look, here’s the situation, you should get onto your local member and tell him or her you want us out of the Convention. Stops them right in their tracks.

    After 10 years I’m sick of the rabid hatred and don’t want to engage with it anymore. I want to say to those virulent opponents, well, lobby to get the country released from it’s international and domestic commitments, if you don’t want people coming by boat. Put your money where your mouth is, and work get the country out of a deal you don’t want.

    Let’s get that argument up, and see what the politicians do with it. It will present them with serious dilemmas.

    I know there are many, usually unexamined complexities underlying the global refugee debate – some of which you’ve raised. Including our role in Iraq.


  3. Steve at the Pub February 23, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    Well put. Withdrawal from the UN refugee convention is likely the smartest move Australia could make. Lobbying of politicians is likely to intensify, as more people twig that is the simplest way out of this self-hamstringing of being obliged to accept anyone who pays US$10,000 to chug up in a dodgy fishing scow.


  4. Steve at the Pub March 1, 2011 at 8:10 am #

    I don’t share the racism & protectionist rent-seeking of Paul Walter’s opposition to asylum seekers. Merely harbour natural scepticism as to the authenticity of their claims.

    Quite some time ago I used to be quite a thorn in the side (more likely an amusing annoyance) of the “Immigration Dept”.

    It was triggered by a boatload of Chinese nationals landing in the Kimberley & setting off on foot for the promised land. I would phone up (this was when phones & TV were quite new) & offer a “2-for-1 swap”.

    That is, for every Chinese citizen with the drive & enterprise to get themselves here by boat, I’d arrange for China to receive TWO boatloads of Australian citizens who were on the dole.

    Win-win for Australia. (Or so I thought at the time, one wonders what Communist China would have made of it)


  5. PAUL WALTER March 1, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    SATP, where on earth do you get off on this notion that I’m “oppposed” to asylum seekers?
    I’m not against refugees coming here, all I’ve ever done is point out that if the politicians got themselves organised better as to future planning, beyond the crudity of privatising public assets for the benefit of themselves and their corporate backers.
    Do you really feel comfortable with the likes of the people who’ve been running Tasmania, for example, if that mentality is nation wide throughout governments and these are the people given the job of preparing an efficient high pop nation?
    Its not “rent seeking ” to want to see the environment you live in not turned into the sort of mess the neolibs have made of Sydney, over recent decades.
    For big pop, there must be changes that return sustainability to its earlier position in theoverall job of planning. No use bringing heaps of people here just as the environment is cracking up.
    Of course Abbott’s nonsenses about halving refugee intake numbers is a more serious issue- they could quadruple the refugee intake without even denting population increase percentiles. The real “rent seekers” are busy “protecting” their own interests through the import of cheap labour on fishy visas to weaken resistance and dumbing down working people already here.
    That’s whilst recruiting what few qualified people live and work in their home countries, at the expense of these poorer countries, in affect “bludging” scarce doctors and the like, for our own selfish comfort, rather than training up our own so that the poor in poor countries have access to proper medical care from what few doctors most of them have.



  1. Tweets that mention How to stop the boats « No Place For Sheep -- - February 18, 2011

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