It’s confirmed: Abbot and Gillard have got it wrong

16 Aug

Today’s Nielsen poll revealed some interesting information about Australian attitudes to asylum seekers, and the hard-line off-shore processing policies pushed by both major parties.

According to the poll, 53% of us believe that boat arrivals should be processed  in Australia, not off-shore. This puts Abbott and Gillard out of step with the majority of the electorate as they both pursue their expulsion plans, either to Malaysia or Nauru.

It could be speculated that the responsibility for this unexpected surge of public compassion towards boat arrivals lies with Gillard’s Malaysia solution. While many of us could apparently come at Nauru, Malaysia is a step too far, given the uncertainty asylum seekers will face there. The concept of expelling children to that country is also highly unpalatable, and likely to be contested by the UNHCR.

There’s a nice irony in imagining that Gillard might actually have done herself no favours with her Malaysia deal, when the government’s intention was to win support from an Australian public they perceived as demanding they demonstrate increasing toughness in their treatment of boat arrivals.

Perhaps instead they’ve managed to sicken enough of us with their conservative, bullying rhetoric, and the tide has begun to turn. One can only hope. The sight of federal police armed to the teeth, in training on Christmas Island to push boat arrivals onto planes bound for Malaysia, was not edifying. All this violence and threat against a handful of unarmed people asking for asylum?

Maybe we just didn’t need to see Julia chucking a Tampa. 

At this stage, there’s little the government can do, having committed to the Malaysia solution and facing a court battle next week. This poll, like so many others recently, can’t be encouraging.

60% of us also believe that those found to be refugees should be granted permanent protection in Australia.

With so many big issues facing us, one has to wonder yet again what the government stands to gain with its theatrics over boat arrivals, especially when asylum seekers arriving by plane are treated quite differently. There’s no legal justification for this difference, and there’s no rational necessity for it either. It’s politics.

This latest poll casts concrete doubt on the government’s judgement in this matter. They’ve outdone the Howard government in their ferocity towards boat arrivals, and it just might be starting to backfire, particularly as the boats aren’t stopping.

The answer is so simple. Initial detention for health and identity checks, release into the community while claims are assessed, re-settlement or return if the claims aren’t substantiated. It’s not rocket science. It’s humane, it’s responsible, it’s common sense, it’s legal. Why, then, do Abbott and Gillard have to make it so hard?

16 Responses to “It’s confirmed: Abbot and Gillard have got it wrong”

  1. Sam Jandwich August 16, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    Logical really! I’d say “well done Australia”, however 53% opposed is still an extraordinarily low figure in my opinion… and unfortunately it’s too late now anyway. Still, perhaps it goes to show that “you get the government you deserve”. I didn’t agitate for reform. I didn’t write to my local member (not that writing to Bronwyn Bishop would do much good!). I just assumed people would be more sensible. So I guess I’ll have to take some responsibility for this situation.

    What would be really interesting would be to see a split between the views of those who voted Labor and Liberal at the last election, and between people’s current voting intentions. Would all of those 53% support Labor if they had handled this issue more graciously?


  2. R.M. Grifffin August 16, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Given that a high proportion of these illegals are muslims with a life-style inimical to Australia, even if they are not actual terrorists right now they must be considered a very real potential threat. Therefore the best solution is one in which they are kept as far away from mainland Australia the better.


  3. Marilyn August 16, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    It’s protection Jennifer, nothing to do with re-settlement. Protection is a legal right under the law, resettlement is entirely different even though our lazy pollies try and say it is the same thing.

    Re-settlement is the import of refugees with protection in other countries so long as they suit us and we can get away with being the country of absolute last resort.

    See – two different programs. Protection is an absolute obligation, resettlement is a handbag we choose to carry. It costs taxpayers $60,000 per import of people who have zero legal right to come here except as migrants.

    I do wish lazy media would bother to tell the difference instead of assuming Australia alone in the world can try and change one for the other.

    Judi Moylan said it best in February:

    The real deficiency, though, of the current system is that in 1996, by a deliberate decision of the government, the number of onshore protection visas and the number of visas available under the Special Humanitarian Program were linked, so there is now a shortfall of places for special humanitarian visas. However, this motion intimates that somehow onshore applicants are less entitled to and less worthy of permanent protection than offshore applicants. It seeks to allot 3,750 visas to onshore applicants, or 787 fewer visas than the number granted to onshore applicants in 2009-10. This presupposes that asylum seekers would again be held in indefinite detention, or that temporary protection visas would be reinstated.
    This would create the situation which in the past prolonged the pain and prevented the resettlement of asylum seekers. Apart from the obvious human trauma this policy engendered, it was administratively demanding and costly. The logical solution would be to delink the two programs and to allocate specific numbers for each of those programs. The fact is that once an asylum seeker reaches our shores we have a legal, social and moral obligation to assess the claim and then provide asylum. This obligation must be separated from our voluntary commitment to offshore resettlement programs.


    • Jennifer Wilson August 16, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

      Yes, thanks for pointing that out Marian. The poll question was about permanent protection, not resettlement, and as you say they are two very different things, though that isn’t made clear in the media reports.
      I wonder if the difference was made clear to those who participated in the poll?


  4. Marilyn August 16, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    I wonder why they have the worthless polls and never mention trifles like Australian law and obligations to hear cases.

    You might like to check out my latest on the WEBDIARY.


    • Jennifer Wilson August 16, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

      Anybody interested in seeing history of Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers over the last ten years, Marilyn’s drawn up a list of the significant events here:
      A record of incompetence, hysteria, racism and cruelty.


      • Steve at the Pub August 16, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

        The list you link to is very very subjective Jennifer, and notable more for the heated emotive language than anything else. I’d recommend a grain of salt when reading it.

        I’ll agree the only surprise in the poll is that more people didn’t want applications processed onshore.
        Unfortunately there is a valid reason why the government is unwilling to process them onshore, & an understandable reason why quite a number of people, who would otherwise be perfectly happy for it to be done onshore, want them processed offshore.

        What won’t help public opinion sway in favour of asylum seekers is seeing them treated better than Australian old age pensioners. Good example an article in a Melbourne newspaper today, showing a house purportedly housing only three refugees/asylum seekers/illegal arrivals. This house is better than any I’ve seen an old age pensioner live in. It is better than anything I have ever lived in. It is better than any member of my family lives in.

        This does not warm me to the government. I unavoidably see waste.


      • Matthew August 17, 2011 at 9:27 am #

        Steve, some elderly live in rather appalling conditions. There are thousands on waiting lists for public housing. Indigenous Australians still live in third world conditions in the 21st century. Thousands of people under 18 are homeless. However just because these problems exist, I don’t think we should accept the way the Government treats refugees. Why can’t we look after Australian citizens who are in dire need of help AND treat refugees with dignity, respect and fairness? The government can do both. Just because they don’t doesn’t mean it’s the refugee’s fault.


  5. Marilyn August 17, 2011 at 5:16 am #

    Steve, That story was a beat up of amazing proportions, it read like the kids were given the damn house instead of being in prison in the damn house.

    You need to get over your hate.


  6. Steve at the Pub August 17, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    You’re a class act Marilyn.

    We now know where to file your contributions. *scrunch* *toss*


  7. Marilyn August 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

    Here is one of the so-called smugglers.

    Rendered by Thailand for something he did in Indonesia and jailed here for no reason at all.


  8. gerard oosterman August 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    The cost of obstinacy.
    The treasury informs us that 2.4 billion has been spent on detaining boat people since 2000. This has worked out at $100.000, — per boat people. I wonder how long this stupid waste of money will be allowed to continue. The tide in favour of off shore detention has now been shrinking, and ever so slowly there now appears the realisation, that, if not from an humanitarian point, but from a financial point of view we might be better off to swallow our pride or blind obstinacy and simply do what the rest of the world has been doing for many years, dealing with a difficult problem that presents itself directly on most of their doorsteps on a never ending and daily basis.
    After all, not many countries have the luxury of spare and submissive countries or excised islands close by where refugees can be send to and let to slowly languish into a trickle of getting their status processed. In the meantime, as we get pointed out daily, concerns about their treatment, resulting in hundreds of cases of self harm and mental break-downs, riots and AFP involvements is ringing alarm bells worldwide especially amongst the UNHCR.
    So what is that fear that Australia has about dealing with boat people that, no matter what, will continue to arrive at our doorstep? Are they armed or pose threats? Do they come with murderous intent, rape and pillage? The most and not unreasonable assumption is, that many more will arrive, if we let our guard down. That might well be true. So what? Australia happily takes in more than a hundred thousand migrants in a year. Suppose, if a thousand boat people a week arrive on our shores a week. What is the problem with that?
    Surely, by reducing our normal intake of migrants by fifty thousand would still not increase the overall number. Consider that the reduction of fifty thousand migrants from ‘normal’ channels are those that are probably with much less urgent needs to come here, then why not kill 2 birds with one stone. Consider how our image would change overnight?
    Instead of being looked upon by many with the horrors piped out on TV’s world- wide, first with The Tampa and then the terrible sights of roof-top refugees, burning and self harming, those terrible drowning at Christmas Island. Sometimes, the footage resembles something close to a torture on Guantanamo Bay.
    What is that fear and how does fear compare with compassion?


  9. darren February 22, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    Save the boat people. Save the refugees. We need to look good in eyes of the world community.
    Forget the fact that these people are PAYING to come here. At 10,000 to 20,000 a head.
    Forget the fact that over 95% of the refugees come from countries that are known for mass producing and trafficking drugs, moving weapons between warring factions/tribes, human trafficking and terrorism ( these are fact you can look these up, see Afghanistan Iran Iraq , Tamil Tiger or the LTTE)
    Forget that when caught, some have had substantial amount of money on them, that they sabotage and set fire to their ships (Google SIEV 36) or destroy the centres that house them as they are being processed (Google Villawood) and that our service men and women are being sent to court of claims by these “refugees” for negligence, assault battery. Have you ever completed a boarding operation? I have.
    Forget the average wages in these countries, which is essentially one us paying 3 million to go in a boat to Japan, or that they destroy their papers whilst on the way to Australia. Could you come up with that type of money ? Or the co-ordinated deployments of ships at once over millions of square miles of water to ensure success for at least some of these boats (we don’t catch them all). Forget the numberless amount of times sailors have been deployed to only find debris. Some floating plastic jugs , an oil slick. Not much left of anything once the boat has sunk and we get their 18-24hours later. Or the more media known incidents such as SIEV221
    Forget the multibillion dollar asylum seeker industry , or the non for profit groups that make millions trying to sell refugee status. Or the psychological damage to our sailors dragging young kids and women out of the water, bodies, or trying to separate the illegal ship’s crew from a enraged asylum seeker mass of people screaming for blood because they have been caught.
    I know all this because I served for 6 years on Operation Resolute.
    We are corrupt. We need to clean our government up, and remove privatisation from our military and domestic institutions.
    If we want to fix all this a hard decision must be made. Send them all back. Accept the Malaysian solution. Ensure that the idea of trying to come to Australian in this fashion is more terrifying than their current situation
    Open our boarders to real refugees that spend years in camps, that didn’t pay to get in there, but hope and pray to god each day THAT TODAY is their chance. Increase our intake 10 fold.
    Sure boat people miss out. But the tens of thousands that get pushed asideevery year suddenly get a chance. Billions of daollars are saved from fallingdetention centresand a faliing system, and our military men and women might sleep a little easier.
    Have the balls to do the greater good.


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