Fasten your seat belts: turbulence ahead

25 Jun

It was with a certain contempt that I watched footage of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott piously declaring that he would hold his forked tongue for twenty four hours while the bodies of drowned asylum seekers were recovered and taken to a makeshift morgue on Christmas Island.

And I noted the absence of any comment, pious or otherwise, from Shadow Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison. Perhaps they’ve put the muzzle on in case he comes out with observations somebody might construe as racist.

However, it seems inevitable that all gloves will be off when Parliament resumes today, and we will be subjected to the self-interested politicising of the plight of asylum seekers that began with John Howard and hasn’t stopped since.

No doubt the government will attempt a revival of its Malaysia plan. This surely will necessitate re-negotiations with that country, as the initial agreement covered only 800 boat arrivals, after which, presumably, we went back to how things always were.

Mr Abbott will no doubt adhere to his demands that the government re-open his beloved Nauru detention facilities, because, he will argue, when they were operative they stopped the boats. Quite how the Nauru option will stop the boats is unclear to me, after all, practically everyone who got to Nauru was found to be a refugee and resettled. Hardly seems like a disincentive.

What both major parties apparently fail to grasp is the desperation of people who undertake these journeys. The dangers they face are no deterrent. They risk their lives to have a life. An inability to comprehend desperation is fairly typical of most politicians. They lack the imagination, and are far too occupied with saving their own arses than they are with the plight of human beings in dire circumstances, at home and abroad. Lack of political will is responsible for some of the most obscene travesties on the planet.

What we urgently need is a regional approach to managing people movements. This will require a degree of co-operation between the government, the Coalition and the Greens. This possibility looks as likely as Gina Rinehart funding care and housing for homeless children.

What we will get is yet another extended brawl that will achieve nothing. Then there will be another catastrophe in which more lives are lost. Then we will have another extended brawl that achieves nothing. Then there will be another catastrophe in which more lives are lost.

As well as the asylum seekers, you know who I feel sorry for? The good people of Christmas Island who have to deal with the stark reality of these events in their back yards.

This piece from the Castan Centre unpacks the complexities with clarity. The author addresses the notion of saving lives by deterring asylum seekers from embarking in the first place. Perhaps, if our objective really is to save lives, we would supply safer boats?  Or is the saving of life a cover for deeper concerns about border protection and just stopping the boats?

Thus far our politicians have proved themselves entirely inadequate on this matter. It isn’t good enough. Refugees are not going away. The numbers seeking resettlement here are miniscule compared with many other countries. It is a regional problem, but how can Australia take a responsible role in addressing it at this level when our politicians continue to domestically exploit widespread human misery to further their own interests?

26 Responses to “Fasten your seat belts: turbulence ahead”

  1. gerard oosterman June 25, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    There is no way forward than to allow far more refugees into Australia. As has been pointed out , the front line countries adjacent to Afghanistan, Iran and others have millions of refugees in camps. European countries are also taking in thousands on weekly basis. In Greece alone, one in twelve is now a non-Greek.
    No political solutions will come to fruition while each of the major parties are seeking to profit from a well nurtured xenophobia going back to the White Australian policy.
    If saving lives is our duty, we should take a humane stance on prevention but also do far more to resettle those that make those desperate sea voyages. The political parties are obsessed with squabling over detention on different islands. Somehow Nauru will deter refugees but Chrismas island will not!
    It is clear that despite the dangers inherent in the boat trips, many will take that risk. For them there is no other option and they don’t care what island they will arrive at.
    The idea that somehow our borders are unsafe because of the arrival of those fragile boats filled with the pityfull flotsam of endless warring (that we seem to be so keen to engage in) is illogical and just another arrow in the hearts of those seeking refuge.
    We would be wiser to spend the money wasted on overseas futile wars on giving refugees a chance to recover from that fighting.
    We are the least populated continent in the world and are best placed to take in many more refugees.


  2. Mindy June 25, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    I wish for once that both parties would just listen to the Greens, but of course they won’t because then they would have listened to the Greens. I would be happy to pay more tax to support a really good refugee resettlement program in Australia. We are a rich country, we can afford it. While we are at it we can put more money into schools, hospitals and pensions too.


    • AJ June 25, 2012 at 11:32 am #

      Australia is one of the few Western Countries that fails to protect its sovereignty. Thus we allow foreign ownership of resources, housing, businesses not allowed nearly anywhere else. Now I firmly believe Australia is wealthy and developed enough to need to honour its UN commitments, but there is a perception in Australia that we should welcome all comers regardless of background simply because they are refugees. This is foolish, niave and also unfair to those seeking entry by more legitimate means via the visa process. What really amazes me though is that those that can afford the high cost of travelling by such dangerous means havent had the smarts to use the far cheaper option of simply travelling to a country from which they can apply for entry and catching a plane, Seems obvious to me especiallly since its less than half the cost!


    • Min June 25, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      Mindy, unfortunately the flaw in the Greens policy is that it does nothing to deter the people smuggling trade..remembering that asylum seekers are not their only “goods”, there is also the smuggling of sex workers. For the most part the people who are caught are also innocent of much other than poverty..the Indonesian peasant fishermen who end up in prison in Darwin for 5-10yrs. The real people smugglers sit in their pendhouse appartments in both Indonesia and Australia.


      • Marilyn June 25, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

        There are no frigging people smugglers doing anything. There are other refugees helping the less educated refugees get to safety.

        They come and go, they do not work in gangs, there is no crime being committed by them and they are not the problem.

        the problem the cretins in this countries parliament and media forget is that it is the problems in their home countries that force people to leave, they need help or they die.

        For once use your shrivelled imagination and think about these two scenarios.

        1. Afghan Hazara has had his home bombed, this immediate family slaughtered and is faced with certain death so he goes to the next village during the night hiding and terrified every step of the way. He begs for help and offers all his worldly goods for help and is turned back to his own village where he is killed.
        2. Same story but someone helps him, accepts his goods and wares because he also is starving, gets him safely out of Afghanistan and tells him where he can get false papers so he can be safe in another country. He gets those false papers and gets to a safe country where he has a life.

        Who is evil? The person in 1 for getting him killed or the person in 2 who saves him?

        For the record we tend to work with the person in story 1 to make sure people cannot escape.

        In Sri Lanka we have cameras and guards in the airports to prevent any Tamils coming our way and we have the navy preventing them leaving by sea and we jump up and down for joy when the navy of Sri Lanka arrest refugees and jail them.

        I would rather be person 2 myself and actually have been in the past as I helped battered wives and kids escape, shared my home with them, called the cops on the bastards doing the beatings and so on.

        Being decent is not evil, doing nothing is evil


  3. Sam Jandwich June 25, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    If you believe in free markets, then how can you possibly object to allowing free movement of people across borders? The supposed advantages of free trade simply don’t follow unless you address this fundamental source of inefficiency.


  4. hudsongodfrey June 25, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    Thanks for the link to Sarah’s article…

    Does it not beg the question as to whether if comedians can come up with a solution why we need governments?

    I refer you to the following:

    and here with a transcript….

    Our politician’s attitudes on this issue make me feel sick. Both sides seem as bad as one another and never has anyone explained to me how Howard could excise portions of our territories from the so called “immigration zone” but not make laws that allow us to process refugees better if they thought that there was otherwise a problem.

    In my view there’s only one reason and that is to appear to be being tough on a group of people who are powerless to resist and whom an element within the Australian population whose votes they desperately need takes permission to dislike.

    Perhaps we need to take larger numbers starting with those best placed to qualify as genuine refugees by simply processing them at some place or places proximate to likely embarkation points, with a view to obviating the need to take the boat journey. There will at least be some kind of queue, though in so doing I acknowledge the risk that those we’d inevitably deny or delay taking may embark in boats anyway. Mine is not a prefect solution perhaps but more humane and more capable perhaps of justifying the view that these dangerous boat trips are made by us to be as unnecessary as we reasonably can. I know they will at least be reduced to some extent and who knows whether we might not be able to get to a point where so few customers exist that it isn’t worthwhile for most of the smugglers to keep operating.


    • Marilyn June 25, 2012 at 3:51 pm #

      Why do you talk about smugglers where none exist?

      You seem to have this bizarre notion that the same people are sitting around somewhere running a trade when it does not happen like that and never has.

      Refugees escape and once they are safe they help others, that is not smuggling it is the right thing to do.


      • hudsongodfrey June 25, 2012 at 4:06 pm #


        We are told that they exist, sometimes anecdotally by refugees themselves. Maybe there is also a skewed emphasis in the MSM. It may even be likely.

        As far as I am aware money is spent, boats are provided, and evidently the boats are not seaworthy. This is a tragedy is it not to see such loss of life?

        So however it happens somebody conspires to organise these journeys… Badly!

        It seems probably that people smugglers are fewer than the MSM or our current crop of political hacks imagine. I doubt you can prove that there are none. Proving a negative is a tall order.

        The idea of the conspiracy should not be frightening to us just because others choose to use it as code for something nefarious. Halfway through writing this I conspired with others to procure coffee. I am not concerned for my well-being as a result.

        It almost seems to me like conspiring to invent a conspiracy and then conspiring to blame somebody for inventing the kind of conspiracy that you disapprove of is all done as a conspiracy to bring down what I wrote.

        Is mine or Clarke and Dawe’s not a humane proposal?


        • Marilyn June 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

          The requirement for a crime though is for it to be against the will of the people supposedly being smuggled. Nothing is being done against the will of the people supposedly being smuggled, it is their demand that starts the process, not the other way around.

          It is nothing at all to do with us who refugees pay to get to safety, there is no conspiracy to do anything illegal or wrong so why do you talk such complete crap.

          Just because our lazy pollies and media all prattle the same lies does not mean you have to swallow the yarns as the truth.

          there is a refugee solution – 148 nations have agreed that anyone who arrives in their territory claiming asylum will have their cases fairly heard without punishment, they will be accorded protection and be treated the same as the locals.

          The only conspiracy in this country is how to best pervert that.


          • hudsongodfrey June 25, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

            In fairness to the language, nothing more, I think you’ve confused the offence of people smuggling with the crime of slavery.

            The notion that our borders are not open to anyone and everyone without exception is not generally in dispute here in the sense that visitors and tourists are required to carry passports and in some cases to be issued visas. So subverting our entry requirements would be an act of smuggling as defined under Australian immigration law.

            I don’t however dispute as do some people that claiming asylum is a perfectly legal and protected act, that should be available to people in a way that invalidates the use of the term smuggling as opposed to trafficking, or simply running a really shithouse ferry service, in connection with their arrival into Australian territory.

            I don’t think we substantively disagree, so why do you have to be so abrasive?


            • Marilyn June 25, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

              But there is no frigging subversion of our laws, that is why I am so abrasive.

              There is no law that says asylum seekers have to ask permission to arrive and there never has been, if there was we would tell them to fuck off.

              There is simply no law or offence to breach so it is not smuggling, it is a legal right.


              • hudsongodfrey June 25, 2012 at 8:27 pm #


                Nor do I think that it’s smuggling on the definition that applies to concealment, so I’ll save you arguing that little irrelevancy also.

                However back here in the real world “people smuggling” is political code for the act of conspiring to help refugees or migrants secure passage against the wishes of those governments on the opposite sides of international borders.

                It may be disingenuous, and it may even be prejudicial, as so much of the conversation around this debate is. What it isn’t is demonstrably absent in all its forms, but nor does that make arriving by boat and claiming asylum a crime.

                Mandatory detention is more often than not punishing the demonstrably innocent as means to deter something we’ve no right to deter. We know all that. Even its champions including members of the government and opposition know that, but they are making laws that attempt to require people to behave in a way that infringes upon their ability to assert their human rights under UN auspices by effectively requiring refugees to apply and be acceptable before undertaking to secure their own passage to Australia. Those are unjust laws in my view and I have little doubt in yours also. But they do nevertheless exist and are being subverted whenever people arrive here unbidden and unheralded by the requisite paperwork that would excuse them from being detained.

                The prime example to the contrary might be that of refugees resettled here under the quota system from Africa or Burma who are not arriving in boats but by plane under the auspices of Australian government supported programs.

                It does back to Howard’s callous statement about choosing who may arrive and the manner of their arrival. That was code for recognising that Australians have a deeply ingrained antipathy towards boat people because half of the dumb bastards have never gotten over the sort of siege mentality endemic to a white enclave in the Asian quarter of the globe. Its also code for rather than standing up to bigotry and leading away from it what he chose to learn from Pauline Hanson was how to turn it into a vote winner.

                All pretty disgraceful stuff I’m sure you’ll agree.

                I proposed earlier that we ought to change those policies by increasing the intake at the source. I did so for all those reasons I’ve now outlined for you above.

                So if you disagree with my proposals then by all means don’t prevaricate. But if you want to get abrasive again with people who are essentially on the same side as you because I don’t put it in quite the precise language adopted by devotees of your particular faction of the Judean People’s Front as opposed to the People’s front of Judea (to quote Python) or whatever other three lettered acronym floats your boat then mea culpas all round, but you can go find somebody else to argue with because your tone offends me and I don’t think I deserve it.


  5. gerard oosterman June 25, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    We did not muck about when cows were badly treated. It was stopped overnight. Bring in animal cruelty and Australia will stop in its track. Dugongs or turtles, cows in Indonesia, free range chicken scams, Black Caviar with torn muscles, dear oh bloody dear. What is to be done?
    It resulted in a nationwide outrage. Who can forget footage of the poor cows being beaten, their sad, pleading eyes as they went into their final death throes?

    Of course, this was all done in a naughty overseas country. Our condemnation went instantly into automatic or overdrive. Within days the export of cattle was halted and reassuring footage was shown of thousands of cattle being put back into holding yards and given rich grains pouring from laden bins. Thousands flocked to the NT and even Queensland and stroked cows. Thank goodness for our humane treatment of all things living. There were tearstained faces on the telly and many cancelled their holidays to Bali or Java. How barbaric. At some stage old footage of sheep being loaded alive in boots of cars by white frocked men, again in an evil overseas country, was again dug up and dusted off, just in case we had forgotten. We all felt a warm glow of empathy. We were not like that. We are caring and full of humanness. We felt good about ourselves.

    Now, I find all this love and sweetness for animals somewhat at odds with the treatment of people in endless detention. There were sad and pleading eyes as well. There were people being beaten and shot at. Some were driven to suicide. There was lip-sewing, knife or razor cuts, self-harm percentages, children in jail without parents. Opioids medicated people suffering the torment of indefinite detention without having committed a crime. Those ghastly scenes of boat people running around the dark with tracer bullets lighting up the sky.

    This has been going on for years now. How odd, that we seem to accept that. Where is our indignation and love of humanity?


    • hudsongodfrey June 25, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

      We’re a misanthropic lot indeed, but I don’t think even blacking his eyes and pretending to be a Panda would save our lad Jules.


      • paul walter June 25, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

        There is no doubt that Marilyn has put a vast amount of time and effort into studying the issue and the long term sheepish attitude of Australians, cynically manipulated by the politicians and msm antagonises her
        Marilyn, Hudson knows it is tragic, he is not disagreeing, he is not a Cronulla bogan and is just trying to explain the thing to others here.. Don’t forget, you know this better than most.
        Which reminds me. Sam Jandwich, your free trade comment really does depend on whether free trade is a furphy and hence qualifies or disqualifies your comment re migration. If the current “free trade” regime is a chimera, as could be indicated in the suppression of information re the recent Pacific FreeTrade Agreement, you may find any supposed free, eg fair, trade agreement is more about advancing the interests of more privileged members of trade blocs, rather establishing an even playing field and this would include union-busting through a flooding of the labour market and the driving down of living standards for the masses by the one percent.
        Unless your model also concerns itself with less advantaged people here, with say Gina Rinehart and her twenty billion as contrast, you will not find less educated people here amenable to people movements and its a fear neither politicians or the media here have had the slightest inclination to address, in fact the opposite and I think we both know why this is so,


        • hudsongodfrey June 25, 2012 at 11:19 pm #


          I think the lines you may have been looking for are as follows,

          Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
          Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
          Everybody knows that the war is over
          Everybody knows the good guys lost
          Everybody knows the fight was fixed
          The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
          That’s how it goes
          Everybody knows


          • Jennifer Wilson June 26, 2012 at 6:49 am #

            *I love to speak with Leonard
            He’s a sportsman and a shepherd
            He’s a lazy bastard
            Living in a suit…*


            • samjandwich June 26, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

              In reference to Gerard’s post above, I used to be in a choir when I was a kid and we once sung the closing number at a Rotary convention, the last lines of which were:

              Let love and kindness be our guide,
              Law and justice at our side.
              Then we’ll know that Rotary
              has tried to serve you, manatee!

              or something like that 🙂


              • hudsongodfrey June 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

                I’m sure its an acquired taste!


        • samjandwich June 26, 2012 at 2:52 pm #

          Oh, bit busy today sorry so I’m just going to cut n’ paste something I put on a story about homelessness on OLO yesterday:

          “Asylum seekers are just transnationally homeless people, and qualitatively no different from domestically homeless people – except perhaps for the fact that their lives would be in danger if they tried to live on the streets in their home countries.

          The only reason the government spends so much on incarcerating them is because voters are so insistent on giving them a hard time – whereas we all know that everyone would be better off if we let them live in the community and work while their claims are being processed.”

          I guess it always seems odd to me that it’s usually the right-wing types who eschew asylum seekers but at the same time hold to principles of small government, minimal taxes and free trade. I take this as an indication that they are either thoughtless, or hypocrites, or both!


  6. paul walter June 25, 2012 at 11:26 pm #

    The rich get richer
    And the poor get the picture…


  7. hudsongodfrey June 25, 2012 at 11:30 pm #

    Oh to hell with it this is just a complete indulgence and perhaps even a liberty…

    It is in the nature of a great song that sometimes cover versions do it better justice.
    This one has always touched me deeply. I seem to have a thing for sad songs.


    • Jennifer Wilson June 26, 2012 at 6:47 am #

      This is quite brilliant. Thank you VERY much HG. I love Cohen singing Cohen, but this interpretation brings so much to the song.


  8. Hypocritophobe June 30, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    Abbot said at the conference:
    “”We will work with the states and the private sector to ensure that these projects have started to go ahead within 12 moths of the next federal election because the Australian people need to know that our great cities are no longer at risk of gridlock,” he said.”

    12 moths? And the odd butterfly no doubt.Good old Aunty.


    • Hypocritophobe June 30, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

      Another doozy from the ‘pubic’ broadcaster,
      “A body believed to be that of a man who disappeared off the New South Wales Central Coast two weeks ago has washed up a beach.”


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