When politicians create scapegoats.

26 Jul

Humanity is therefore a graded and ranked status with many shades and tiers between ‘superhuman’ Western, white, heterosexual male at the one end and the non-human, the concentration camp inmates or the fleeing refugee at the other. Costa Douzinas

It began in 2001 when John Howard introduced into our politics the language of border control, illegals and queue jumpers with which to define asylum seekers arriving by boat. In the context of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Howard seized the opportunity to exploit a xenophobia unleashed by Pauline Hanson, and sought to create a bond amongst Australian voters by uniting us in fear of invasion by the boat-borne, allegedly diseased, allegedly potentially terrorist refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.

The fabricated threat of invasion, together with Howard’s promise to protect the electorate from imagined perils, won him an election he looked set to lose.

What was absolutely necessary for Howard’s success, and what continues to be necessary to the present day, is the successful dehumanisation of boat borne asylum seekers by politicians. The humanity of asylum seekers must be negated so that their suffering appears both inauthentic and uninteresting to sections of the electorate perceived to control the re-election of governments. Primarily, they must be constructed as threats to the well-being of Australians, their lives stripped of experience and meaning. The implication of such treatment is that asylum seekers are less than human, and that seeking asylum is a criminal offence.

The theoretical underpinning of Howard’s political moves is explained by Douzinas thus:

The refugee is a representative of total otherness…This is the reason why the refugee is seen as such a threat…the terrifying absolute, total Other, the symbol of contamination that otherness may bring upon community and identity.

The asylum seeker, the ultimate foreign other, is employed as a scapegoat to strengthen the boundaries of the nation-state by uniting its citizens in a common rejection of the foreigner’s humanity in favour of maintaining the ideology of sovereignty. In raw terms, the suffering of boat borne asylum seekers is as nothing compared to Australia’s sovereignty which, it is claimed, is dangerously threatened by their arrival and their requests for sanctuary. Once this principle is established, the dehumanising process has begun.

It is hardly surprising that when such a principle is promoted by the country’s leaders, mistreatment of asylum seekers in detention centres occurs. Permission has been granted from the highest political level to act towards them as if they are less human than us, and less entitled to fundamental considerations Australians may take for granted, such as the human right to access to legal assistance, for example.  In other words, boat borne asylum seekers are denied the right to rights. There is not much more that can be done to dehumanise an individual than to deny her or him the right to rights.

They have been cast as an underclass, displaced persons without citizenship, stateless, belonging nowhere, anonymous. Indeed, to the state and its supporters, the stranger seeking asylum is assumed to be corrupt because of her very circumstances, regardless of how far out of her control those circumstances are.

It can be difficult to understand the situations that have caused asylum seekers to undertake life-threatening boat journeys rather than stay where they are. With no experience of prolonged terror, daily fear of death or torture, or the crushing despair of indefinite uncertainty, it’s not unusual for people to imagine they would do much better than asylum seekers, and show greater resilience and courage  in similar circumstances. This is an attitude politicians exploit, encouraging the electorate to position itself on the high moral ground that casts asylum seekers as inferior and weak. In reality, there are likely few among us who would voluntarily embark on those boat journeys that in themselves speak to us of courage, tenacity, a will to live and a determination many of us never have to seek and find in ourselves.

Politicians carry an enormous burden of responsibility for the mistreatment of asylum seekers by others. They have given permission, indeed they have actively encouraged a perception of asylum seekers that casts them as less worthy of care and concern than anyone else in our community. They have deliberately created a scapegoat. It is inevitable that the scapegoat will be treated horribly. They are now holding the scapegoat hostage as an act of “deterrence” to others desperate enough to risk their lives at sea.

It means nothing that most of the 47,000 boat arrivals assessed in the last five years have been found to be refugees. Australian politicians are happy to take people whose lives are already in trauma and turmoil, and exploit them even further to achieve their own dubious ends. PM Rudd and LOTO Abbott are upping the stakes. Their increasingly hard-line policies will result in asylum seekers being treated more badly than they have been to date, as the message filters through to the Australian public that these people do not matter. Their lives and their experiences are as nothing compared to the country’s allegedly precarious sovereignty, and the winning of government. They are nothing more,  in the constructed reality of Rudd and Abbott, than scapegoats, and a means to a political end.

139 Responses to “When politicians create scapegoats.”

  1. Teresa July 26, 2013 at 9:43 am #

    You make it sound so simple. So black and white.
    It’s hard to be sympathetic to the plight of those who come to Australian shores seeking shelter, if you are in the (growing) marginalized class that is struggling just to get by. Being concerned about an influx of uninvited migrants does not equal xenophobia.


    • Jennifer Wilson July 26, 2013 at 10:33 am #

      No, you are right, it doesn’t. But the two situations shouldn’t be positioned as either/or. Refugees are not responsible for marginalised Australians, & “stopping the boats” won’t help them either.


      • Teresa July 26, 2013 at 11:25 am #

        I’m not suggesting it’s an ‘either/or’ predicament. That would be a plain stupid view to take. Just saying it’s natural to want to take care of your own needs first. That might be selfish, but that’s how it is for most people.

        It isn’t just two camps – those who welcome refugees with open arms and those who barricade the shores – either. Having concerns about what effect a sudden influx of refugees might have doesn’t mean you see the refugee as less worthy or less human. It’s natural to want to protect what you have. Few individuals would, on a personal basis, sacrifice what they have to help the poor refugees.

        I really don’t get the ‘scapegoat’ allusion. Seems like politics as usual to me.


        • Poirot July 26, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

          I think that the new “open slather” rhetoric being unleashed from both sides of the political spectrum does reinforce the feeling that it’s okay to dismiss the plight of these refugees…..and to refuse to entertain notions of their misery.

          Carr ramped up the imperative when he began to intone the “economic migrant” mantra. It was a softening process for the next announcement of Manus for everyone (an equal opportunity gulag)

          The bipartisan attitude and rhetoric we’re hearing lately does go someway to dehumanising refugees who arrive by boat. It
          seeks to plant the seeds that we’re the ones who are being put-upon. That we are somehow deserving of our good fortune – and that those who come “uninvited and in need” are somehow of lesser value than our own in human terms.

          We’re actually victims of our first-world circumstances. We’re wealthy and fortunate, which sometimes makes for a shallowness that sees us unable to grasp the more common human experience as mirrored in the desperation of the boat people.


          • Teresa July 26, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

            It’s easy to ‘talk the talk’. My personal experience is that middle-class liberal greenie-types (sorry to generalise – can’t find a more succinct way to express this – and I actually have encountered a number of genuine liberal-greenie types!) love to do that. But when it comes to the more difficult task of having to put themselves out and act – within the confines of their own society – on their humanitarian ideals they become self-centred, selfish and protective of what they have (worked for!). Like I said, my personal experience. I’m pretty cynical about ideals but I have nothing against boat-people. And I think most working-class Australians accept people as they find them.


            • Poirot July 26, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

              “…middle-class liberal greenie-types…..” was that directed at me because I can string a few words together?

              How do you know I’m middle-class?

              Most working class Australians are led by the nose like everyone else – by the media and pollies and the whole kit and kaboodle of Western excess….unless we take
              the time for a little self-reflection.

              Most people tend to side with one end of the political spectrum and be guided in general by the prevailing attitudes contained therein.

              At present, unusually, we’re confronted by two equally odious propositions regarding asylum seekers from our two major parties…. in both cases delivered amidst hysteria as a vote-buying response.

              You don’t suspect that this asylum seeker solution frenzy has been whipped up by the pollies and the media and that good old ordinary Aussie folks can’t help but be carried along for the ride?


        • hudsongodfrey July 26, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

          What’s this about protecting what you have? Who ever said that a country like ours can’t do two things well at the same time.

          If you just want to ask the question as to whether it’s you or Gina Reinhart who I expect to share a little more I can offer you the obvious answer if you like! But when even the least of wage earners pay some taxes I think we ought to have a say in whether we’re the kind of country who budgets for more and more detention centres and non productive refugees stuck on TPV’s. Maybe instead we could stop wasting money on ethnocentric antipathy and get these people working and producing something to support their presence here.


          • Teresa July 26, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

            Don’t get the reference to Gina Rhinehart. You see to be inferring something but it makes no sense to me. You just seem irate.


            • hudsongodfrey July 26, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

              No not irate, I’m just saying that your case for wanting to protect what you have isn’t very well grounded.

              Those at the opposite end of the socio-economic scale from the Rineharts of this world have no real reason to feel threatened by what is after all a rather modest intake of refugees in historic terms. It’s those in the middle and above who we mainly have to question as to why they’re so keen on begrudging refugees a fair go.

              There’s very little evidence I can see to suggest why a country that entertains an NDIS and paid parental leave has to sent refugees to one that has third world rates of AIDS and Tuberculosis and lacks a health system sufficient to deal with either in its own population. In relative economic terms that comparison illustrates how things really don’t add up.

              The fact is that even in privilege is relative, it is the privilege conferred by accident of birth we seem to find ourselves defending here whenever we choose to argue that we can’t afford to help by doing our part.


          • freya July 27, 2013 at 11:46 am #

            Well said HG. I think it is about perceptions and how those perceptions are manipulated. As Jennifer suggests we’re in the nightmare of those seeking power for themselves here.


            • hudsongodfrey July 27, 2013 at 12:39 pm #

              Yes this real is politics at its most venal. The part I really struggle with is that they seem to imagine we can’t see it.


              • Poirot July 27, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

                It seems they don’t care how obvious it is.

                If it gives people an excuse to jettison empathy and not to give a hoot about suffering humans or to accede to the papering over of our international obligations, then (apparently) that’s okay.


                • hudsongodfrey July 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

                  I suppose in that regard then we have to acknowledge a darker aspect of people’s impulse to pump themselves up at the expense of being able to dominate anyone that they can. It would always be my hope that in recognising that what we see is a trait not to be indulged.


              • freya July 27, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

                Yes. What is that about? Perhaps it’s more than just perceptions then, and also about what we can talk about? If the public debate is always about others and oncoming disasters, not much room for anything else. And certainly no time to think or check facts?


                • hudsongodfrey July 27, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

                  Maybe it’s the only journalistic don’t let facts get in the way of a good story effect.


    • Mindy July 26, 2013 at 11:40 am #

      There is not an influx. Compared to what other countries experience this is a mere trickle. If the Government and Opposition stopped spending ridiculous amounts of money on trying to stop people we should be helping then there would be more money for welfare programs for everyone. More people = more demand for services = more jobs = more taxpayers. These people just want to come here to be safe and see their children grow up. These people need houses, clothes, food and jobs. This all helps the economy grow.


      • Teresa July 26, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

        So, by your reckoning, population growth should help our economy?


        • Marilyn July 26, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

          Oh jesus Teresa, 6 million people a year come here and we beg for more. Why scapegoat the few thousand refugees.


    • Marilyn July 26, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

      Yeah, the good old it’s ok because some Australian’s are doing it a bit tough. Try looking at where they come from Teresa.


      • Teresa July 26, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

        You are making assumptions. I wonder why. Try reading what I said with an open mind. I simply suggested reasons why some Australians might not be as ready as others to ’embrace’ the refugee problem.


        • freya July 27, 2013 at 11:51 am #

          I get your argument Teresa, we can all be scared by the boogeyman of scarcity and threat and want to huddle-in. That’s how scapegoats work. They take away our fears and put them onto someone else who is cast out of the fold. Then we can all relax again. I think it’s human, but it helps to question the appearances of things as HG suggests.


    • Marilyn July 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm #

      And I take real exception to your stupid use of the term uninvited migrants, they are refugees invited by our own laws.

      If you have an uninvited guest do you abuse and torment them and jail them for years in the back shed.


  2. hudsongodfrey July 26, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    I agree, particularly with the parts that deal with the appalling process of dehumanisation which occurs whenever it seems we deign to let xenophobia off its leash. I wonder if the lines along which it divides are not set in terms of whether we perceive ourselves as loyal to a national identity or a greater human whole. Whether in effect seeing beyond the rhetoric involves the ability and experience to imagine oneself in another’s shoes.

    When I do that exercise of pondering what I’d do if I was stuck in Indonesia as a refugee, I may not be able to imagine the persecution some have endured, but I understand the choices that are arrayed before them quite clearly. The mistake Australia has made in setting up deterrents that respond solely to domestic fearfulness of difference is that they think too tough is never tough enough while nobody who’s not thinking like a refugee might can imagine what it might take to destroy the hopes of somebody who’s already travelled half way around the world in a bid for a second chance at a decent life. Of course they’ll keep trying to come, I would too! Giving up isn’t an option because along with hope of reaching a destination it boils down to giving up any hope of recovering a sense of dignity that seems essential to humanity itself.

    If you think of it that way then what we’re asking of these people is an indecent thing.

    The question that remains is how to do a decent thing, and on that score I think we can’t presume that we could take huge numbers in an orderly fashion that would properly meet people’s needs, but then nor should we get carried away with the assumption that so many are coming that we can’t help a proportion of them in ways that have some kind of positive impact.

    It isn’t sufficient simply to argue that what we’re doing seems like any array of cruel and unnecessary deterrents aimed at making the consequences of claiming asylum less palatable than persecution. We also have to overcome good arguments about preventing deaths at sea and about weighing the fortunes of Syrians against African refugees. When we do so I think we’ve all become quite aware that those good arguments are pressed into the service of some very poor conclusions having to do with an irrational fear of boats from the north, an ethnocentric distaste for certain segments of humanity or a more encompassing form of xenophobia that simply wants to cling to ideas about Australia as an white Eurocentric enclave in the Asia Pacific region.

    We’re challenged in those terms to go well beyond where political correctness has currency and head towards actually adopting a different view about what kind of country we’re trying to be here and whether we’re able to reject the temptation to draw what I would regard as being unacceptable distinctions that would have us divide humanity into subclasses. But the reasons why we’re faced with that choice are themselves a product of the fact that the circumstances we find ourselves in do in fact reflect that kind of unseemly reality wherein privilege is determined to some considerable extend for Australians by a fortunate accident of birth. So that what we’re really faced with in very basic terms are the haves who exercise control over the fortunes of the have nots and will probably only concede the ability for others to advance themselves upon receipt of cast iron assurances that it won’t come at any cost to them and their continued privileged existence.

    That’s why we find ourselves agreeable to a refugee intake only to the extent that it can be managed in an orderly and sustainable way whereupon having arrived people will ideally take their place quickly as productive members of the community who make a positive contribution to our society.

    It may not be the ideal some refugee advocates apply, but I will say what is clearly needed to be recognised here, that there is a huge chasm between the standard that dog whistling anti-refugee driven politics is pandering to and the middle ground at the point where an orderly system with minimal impact on the public purse would be able to do a heck of a lot of good and move us most of the way toward dealing with obviating the need for dangerous boat journeys.

    Those tricky questions have answers and the majority of Australians feel better being told that than they do being associated with tropical gulags where children are incarcerated without committing any crime and they very people our humanitarian remit is aimed at assisting are protesting and rioting.

    We have to do something to help genuine refugees in our region simply because if they’re claims compare with those of any person who we might equally like to resettle from further afield then the pressing need is still greater because they’re psychologically transfixed by a need to complete a long journey that will see them risk their life at sea if some form of foreseeable access to processing isn’t made available to them. On last accounts I was given we’re taking around 600 people through processing in Indonesia per annum. We need to increase that by at least an order of magnitude if we’re to expect people to wait in line. Otherwise lacking hope we know that many will drown.


    • Marilyn July 26, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

      But we don’t save them at sea, that is why they drown and that is just a pathetic waste of time argument because for every 1 that drowns because we let them 47 survive to be brutalised by us.


      • hudsongodfrey July 26, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

        It is shocking if you mean to accuse both our Navy and Indonesian responders of neglecting their duties, but it isn’t something I was really discussing.

        My thoughts are that people shouldn’t have to come by boat. We should be taking more directly from Indonesia to relieve pressure on them to pay the unscrupulous ferrymen who take them to sea in the kinds of vessels that do so often flounder and cause lives to be lost.


        • Marilyn July 26, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

          But they did let them drown. Go to sievx.com and see for yourself. They then covered it up.

          IN fact every refugee who drowned did so because we let them. And what the hell is wrong with coming by boat? Julia Gillard came by boat in the 1960’s, everyone did before commercial airlines and even then the Bee Gees went back to England in 1967 because the fare was prohibitive.


          • hudsongodfrey July 26, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

            What are you on about. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong about coming by boat, we just happen to know that it is really dangerous to do so; If an alternative were to be made available then that would have to be preferable to taking a grave risk. And that alternative is indeed what I have consistently advocated.

            As for the notion that every refugee that drowns is our fault, that is ridiculous and hyperbolic nonsense.

            Things that happened under Howard government policies a decade ago are indeed regrettable, but there’s no evidence that has happened since. And even if we’re occasionally late responders to disasters that we failed to anticipate I don’t see how a master of a vessel that isn’t up to a journey should not be held responsible for its unseaworthiness.

            The problem with arguments overstating your criticism of current policies is that even if I agree with your sentiments I know the content of your claims to be inaccurate and that undermines the expression of well placed concern that I know you would wish to make.


            • Marilyn July 27, 2013 at 6:13 pm #

              It is not ridiculous and hyperbolic nonsense, you just do now want to know the truth.

              Well go to sievx.com and read or are you too much of a coward to read the lies and cover ups.

              Here is another set of truths, the US really is setting part of our so-called refugee program and it is nothing to do with need or danger.


              • hudsongodfrey July 28, 2013 at 12:02 am #

                I already explained to you that although the Siev X incident was a tragedy, it was also one that occurred a long time ago under a different government with different policies. And while can’t always rescue the survivors of such disasters in manner of weather and locations there has been recognition since that whose responsibility it is to be a first responder shouldn’t be treated as a matter of demarcation between ourselves and the Indonesians. There is in fact some evidence in the way that it is reported to say that our expectations have changed in relation to rescues quite contrary to your inferences about the Navy’s role.

                Nor is one reporter stating an opinion about the presumed agenda for Bhutanese refugees evidence of anything, much less the US setting our asylum policies for us.

                In short Marilyn I insist on hearing the truth, which is to say something you’ve evidence of rather that a set of assertions you’ve chosen to believe. I think we’re more on the same side of this debate than not, but you really do have to stop doing the humanitarian cause more harm than good with this hyperbolic ranting at those who’re trying to navigate sensible solutions.


        • Marilyn July 28, 2013 at 12:36 am #

          Read it Hudson, they just dó not care. They deliberately leave people to die and then cry crocodile tears as an excuse to be ever more brutal.

          All the people on SIEVX were murdered by us, we paid a man named Waleed Sultani $250,000 plus immunity and citizenship to work with Abu Quessay, a man the government knew in Februrary 2000 was a dangerous criminal and the AFP.

          You cannot blame the fucking Indonesian ferry men who put their own lives on the line for a few bucks so they can feed their families.


          • hudsongodfrey July 28, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

            I definitely can blame the master of any unseaworthy vessel who puts it to sea for any sum of money and I will. The amount of money or reasons behind the need for it don’t excuse the loss of human life. So on the one hand you’re trying to moralise to me about neglect on the part of Australian authorities which has yet to be fully investigated, while at the same time you’re failing to make the moral distinction between economic hardship and justification to manslaughter. That’s just ridiculous!

            I say we should bring more here as part of a resettlement program so nobody comes here by boat because clearly it is too dangerous regardless of whose responsibility it collectively is to manage the risk. You’re still stuck in some kind of mobius loop arguing for open ended solutions that don’t begin to address that risk, can’t work anyway and are generally unpalatable in political terms whether we’d like people to be more compassionate or not….

            It seems to me that nobody is ever going to persuade reasonable people to even the very best of causes if the only weapon in their armory is unreasonable idealism.


            • Marilyn July 28, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

              For Christ’s sake, why blame the fucking captain, the refugees would have died where they were or been sent home to die.

              If you had that choice would you trust the sea or the fucking gun behind your back.

              The problem with Australian’s is they flatly refuse to see the facts in front of their eyes.

              And it is not unreasonable idealism, I am one of the most cynical people on the planet, I just happen to think if you know people are going to die you fucking save them.


              • hudsongodfrey July 28, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

                You’re being an idiot and I’m sick of it.

                Unacceptable as leaving them in Indonesia for an indefinite period may be they don’t have guns at their backs while they remain stuck there. If you can’t see what’s wrong with operating a ferry service with vessels that are unseaworthy and sink on a regular basis then you probably lack any meaningful sense of right and wrong to begin with.

                Stop defending the indefensible and blocking sensible solutions with inanities and hyperbole.

                The only pressing concern for refugees dying in our region centres on dangerous boat journeys…. period. So stopping those journeys and the unscrupulous operators who facilitate them is a necessary step in the right direction. Conflating stopping the boats with stopping the people from claiming asylum would also be the wrong thing to do. So what has to be argued, and I what I have been advocating are strong arguments for processing and taking more people directly from Indonesia, bringing them here by plane and resettling them as part of our humanitarian program. I am in effect saying that the way to stop boat deaths is to take customers away from the so called “people smugglers” by ensuring viable alternatives (known colloquially as queues) actually exist.

                Argue against that logical proposition if you will but otherwise, you don’t have a solution all you have is dogged and quite disjointed insistence upon non solutions that we know have already failed because people are ignoring your kind of rhetoric in droves.


  3. Elisabeth July 26, 2013 at 10:59 am #

    Much of these issues deal in perceptions. It’s the perception of the ‘marginalised’ that their jobs and security is threatened by boat arrivals, when in fact the inequality that exists in our society is far more complex, and not a consequence of those who arrive by boat or air.


    • Teresa July 26, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

      The ‘marginalized’, too, appreciate complexity. But it’s harder to care when you are suffering hard times yourself. Conversely, those who have the security of middle-class comfort are in the easier position of being able to consider only the ‘moral obligation’ question.


      • hudsongodfrey July 26, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

        This again is the very scenario that I think really works the other way around. I think middle Australia defends it’s privilege, whereas the battlers have little by way of it to be so concerned about. There’s a good deal of ignorance that stokes fears that run counter to that analysis, but then you have to ask where that misdirection comes from to truly get to the bottom of the dog whistle politics.


        • Teresa July 26, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

          I don’t know what ‘dog-whistle politics’ is.


      • Marilyn July 26, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

        Most of the people who care the most are pretty poor themselves but don’t believe they are in any danger of being slaughtered tomorrow.


        • Teresa July 26, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

          Are you one of these ‘poor’ people who care?


          • Marilyn July 27, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

            Yes dear as a matter of fact I am on a disability pension as is my friend Paul Walter who also cares. IN fact if you went to a refugee rally you would find poor students, pensioners and low paid workers mingling with war vets. – I once met a 94 year old WW11 vet at a rally for refugees I organised – you will find that the Woomera lawyers all went broke working for free or donations from the public, you will find millionaires from the richest suburbs alongside homeless people.

            They all turn out Teresa because they are all human beings how simply care.


  4. paul walter July 26, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Is it any surprise that politicians will exploit them when it becomes clear that it suits their own narrow interests?
    If it is the case, it seems to be a move toward the use of a new scapegoat to win over previous scapegoats previously excluded, in generating critical mass within Australia for support of a particular narrative that also benefits certain elites and their operatives.
    The message is reinforced by the plight of asylum seekers; “See what happens if you are powerless.This is what will become of you if you don’t support us”.
    There seems an implicit threat in their presence, in the narrative, that is somehow the means to the undermining of ourselves also.
    But advocates themselves don’t help when they can’t or won’t describe how a more humane system would work and make the mistake of allowing asylum seekers to be used as a threat and a punishment by conservatives.
    To say that asylum seekers must be allowed to come without any monitoring ignores the questions locals ask about the implications of plans themselves very unclear in the detail; overrules in a way similar to the gas fracking rules that allow companies to walk into your own home and drill regardless of how you feel about it, making it seem a punishment.


    • Elisabeth July 26, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

      Julian Burnside has some excellent suggestions about how to deal with asylum seekers more humanely. He’s not just saying let anyne in willy nilly. See: http://theconversation.com/four-steps-to-more-humane-refugee-processing-10945


      • hudsongodfrey July 26, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

        Thanks Elizabeth. Julian Burnside always makes a great argument for his cause and this is no exception.


        • Teresa July 26, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

          Yes … I agree … Julian Burnside sounds like a sensible calm in the emotional storm


          • hudsongodfrey July 26, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

            I’m glad you saw that because it makes a better economic case than the knee jerk reticence to share that you referenced earlier. I think its sad that there’s so much ignorance about this issue and so little effort from within political ranks to frame the debate more reasonably. They have it seems to me abandoned the task of leading the country to a set of opinion polls and their MSM handlers.


            • Teresa July 26, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

              Appreciating that there is an opposing point of view – different to your own – is a good basis for genuine understanding.


              • hudsongodfrey July 26, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

                Indeed. Please don’t think I’m ignorant of that fact. But nor am I under the illusion that some of the opinions we may encounter can only be appreciated insofar as that involves recognising how deeply they’re flawed. If I’m somehow compelled to point this out at any stage I only hope I can do so constructively. However this is not a new debate wherein we’re likely to encounter fresh objections, so if some of them are dismissed rather summarily it may be because they reflect the familiar mindset of entrenched positions it is only fair to imagine any reasonable person may long since have tired battering against.


                • Teresa July 26, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

                  Yes, those bogan opinions – concern about diminishing jobs and such – are really tiresome, aren’t they? Because, in Australia, we’re all so egalitarian. Aren’t we????


                  • hudsongodfrey July 27, 2013 at 12:13 am #

                    This may well be viewed as a source of difference of opinion along a left-right political divide with the left identifying more with egalitarianism than the right.

                    Wikipedia will I think provide definitions that broadly support that terminology.

                    I doubt that we’re entitled to assume that either side are entitled to operate without due consideration of the facts on their merits or some kind of moral compass. As somebody who tries as best I might to respond to both I think it is a pity that Australia seems to me to have become less egalitarian in my lifetime. Perhaps we have drifted away from the moral high ground, but alternately it may simply be the case that we’ve gradually come to realise we were never really on it. Either way I would hope that most of us prefer to follow our better angels than not.

                    I am perfectly willing to disabuse you of you illusions about whether jobs have actually declined, in which industries and why, because there is no real evidence that any of it has to do with migration of any kind. But when put in what appears to be a sarcastic tone then the very use of what’s known as the lowest form of wit tends to convey the sense that even with the best egalitarian intent it is a waste of time casting pearls before bogans….


    • Marilyn July 26, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

      Who ever said a word about no monitoring? They are hunted and tracked by the AFP in Indonesia, watched when the boats leave, jailed on arrival.

      Where is the fucking monitoring not happening Paul? Jesus men in this country are whining process driven cry babies.


    • Marilyn July 26, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

      A humane system is not to jail them Paul, the rest of the world manages.


  5. paul walter July 26, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    In the meantime, we see the opposition continuing rather than ceasing the race to the bottom, this time sabre rattling over the use of the military and asylum seekers.
    Now, the question I ask is, would not this have been a good time for the opposition to let up on the hysteria.
    I have not the slightest doubt that what others here say is perfectly true, as to perceptions.
    We know the thing would have been handled differently if the situation involving asylum seekers was better framed, for the general public and large sections of it that are still unnerved about asylum seekers.
    The anxieties have not been dealt with well by politicians and the media, rather they have exacerbated the thing.


    • Teresa July 26, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

      Politics is a joke! Liberal or Labour seem pretty much the same to me – and I actually forgot the other day that Rudd is now Prime Minister (it seemed funny until I really thought about it). The more they market themselves, the more ridiculous they seem.
      But re: asylum seekers. The hysteria is with the politicians, not with the people.


  6. doug quixote July 26, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    I’d always thought I was superhuman; it’s nice to have it confirmed. 🙂

    I’m happy for Australia to admit as potential citizens many thousands of those who are genuine refugees. But open borders are not an option for the foreseeable future.


    • Teresa July 26, 2013 at 7:57 pm #

      Open borders – worldwide – would be a great thing – If it was possible. But it will only work if we are ALL on the same page. Openess maintained depends on openness from all round. The moment one withdraws – through suspicion or fear – the other will follow suit. That’s just the way it is. I reiterate that, at base, we want to protect what is ours. Whatever we tell ourselves.


      • hudsongodfrey July 26, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

        That would be true if openness were what was being argued here. But it isn’t.

        What’s being argued is the difference between taking something like 600 people from Indonesia per annum and adding at least an order of magnitude to the quota before we can even begin to say that we’re doing our part to release the pressure on people who’ve travelled so far and will otherwise get onto a boat and perish at sea.


        • Teresa July 26, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

          Really? That’s what’s being argued? Sorry, didn’t realise digression was forbidden. But, anyway, what’s an ‘order of magnitude’?


          • hudsongodfrey July 26, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

            An order of magnitude means adding a zero to the end of any number.

            Digression is not forbidden but being wrong about the facts is something I think ought to be challenged, and I simply don’t see even the most earnest of refugee advocates proposing infinite numbers. I find it somewhat frustrating that in a debate that has been as long running as this one anyone who proposes that we could do a little better has to defend against the kind of hyperbolic allusions to opening the floodgates that evoke the irrational fears of White Australia era politics.

            Can’t we please have a middle ground whereby we can do our bit and stop trying to out persecute the persecutors whom refugees fled from in the first instance. A discussion about how we do our part in an orderly humanitarian response would be most welcome.

            On the other hand I’ve already heard the selection of arguments designed to steadfastly refuse refugees who’ve made their way towards us via countries to our north and it is plainly clear that they defend a position that is motivated by anything but humanitarian concerns. That is why they can’t form any real part of discussion about our humanitarian aims.


    • Marilyn July 26, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

      But we have open borders. WE have to have open borders for one simple reason – WE DON’T FUCKING HAVE ANY.

      Today we have the ridiculous spectacle of Tony Abbott working to secure our borders so let’s examine what the fools are actually on about.
      WE have this information about the length of our coastline from the tip to the toe. Some almost 60,000 km.
      The only part of the waters around those 60,000 km we have vague sovereignty over are the 12 nm from the coast line but by law every vessel is allowed free save peaceful passage to the shore line.
      Over this vast coastline we have zero planes, zero boats, zero airforce or anyone else watching or doing anything so the entire world’s population could land and we couldn’t do a thing about it.
      Then we have this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_Island
      A tiny island some 2,600 km from our coast but where again our only rights are the 12 nm from shore, as shown here by the border protection folk.
      Senator Humphries asked the following question at the hearing on 16 October 2012:
      Senator HUMPHRIES: I understand. Have any Customs vessels intercepted or assisted boats arriving from Sri
      Lanka outside our territorial waters? If so, how many?
      Mr Pezzullo: We would not intercept vessels outside of the Australian contiguous zone. It is not practised and
      indeed it is not consistent with our international legal obligations to do so. We might have rendered assistance at
      the request of the master and, more often than not, under AMSA tasking, outside of the contiguous zone.
      So we have this tiny piece of soil thousands of km away that is Australian territory that we are not about to cede to anyone but we have the navy, coast guard, planes and all manner of vessels out their hunting refugees and calling it protecting our borders.
      Of course the only way people get to the mainland is on an Australian jumbo jet.
      WE we are spending $1 billion to protect one tiny speck of dirt and $0 to protect 60,000 km of coastline and call it border protection.
      And not one of our lazy media ever think to question how ludicrous they are.


      • doug quixote July 27, 2013 at 5:13 am #

        HG might have the patience to keep correcting you but I don’t.

        You are simply wrong.

        See our last 200 exchanges for details.


        • Marilyn July 27, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

          A line in the water is not a boundary for innocent passage of anyone on the water. Which part of that are you simply too frigging lazy to understand.


          DONALD ROTHWELL: All vessels of any country have a right of what’s called ‘innocent passage’ to be able to sail through the Australian territorial sea. If those vessels then seek to stop at an Australian port, then depending on the type of vessel, they may need to receive clearance from the port authority, and even Commonwealth authorities, but in other instances such as small yachts, they would not necessarily need to receive clearance. But of course they would still need to go through customs and immigration procedures.

          SIMON FRAZER: Donald Rothwell is a law professor at the Australian National University, specialising in international law, including the law of the sea.

          In simple terms is there any difference between this case of these people arriving at Geraldton yesterday and say, a family from Europe on a yacht sailing around the world and arriving at Geraldton?

          DONALD ROTHWELL: No, not necessarily, other than that, on the face of it, these persons arriving from Sri Lanka could arguably be seen to be a vessel in distress. They were clearly displaying signs indicating that they were seeking to travel onwards to New Zealand, that they were needing assistance to that end.

          SIMON FRAZER: Immigration officials are taking the arrivals to Christmas Island for processing, but the department has not said they’ve requested asylum in Australia. Professor Rothwell has questioned that course, though he says Australia does have a right to stop some boats leaving its ports.

          DONALD ROTHWELL: Australia’s Migration Act has mechanisms built within in it to provide temporary visas for persons in precisely this type of situation, so to that end, they’re really no different from persons on a cruise ship who might be rescued at sea and then brought to Australia on a temporary basis.

          However if they were to continue their journey using the vessel in which they arrived in Geraldton, that would raise some issues in terms of whether or not that vessel is seaworthy.

          SIMON FRAZER: The treatment in this case is very different to that of 10 Chinese nationals who arrived in Darwin Harbour a year ago en route to New Zealand. In that case, negotiations convinced them continuing their voyage was too dangerous and they agreed to instead seek asylum in Australia.

          With the Senate considering laws to excise the Australian mainland from the country’s migration zone, Professor Rothwell says asylum seekers heading elsewhere may become a trend.

          Now which part don’t you understand Doug? INnocent passage applies to every person on earth who sails anywhere on the seas – EVEN DIMWITS.


          • doug quixote July 28, 2013 at 8:24 am #

            Yes, that is correct, as far as it goes. The vessel would be entitled to sail on, but the second they instead seek to enter and claim asylum they are under our jurisdiction.

            If they have appropriate identification they will be returned to their home country, or deported, unless they are genuine refugees – on an individual basis.

            You simply do not understand what is being said, Marilyn; or is it deliberate misunderstanding?


            • Marilyn July 28, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

              There is no logic or reason behind you is there Doug? Why on earth would they just be returned to the own country/ We don’t do that for any other of the 800,000 people who come by sea.

              Being in our jurisdiction doesn’t mean we get to treat them like criminals.


    • Marilyn July 28, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

      You still don’t get it do you? The people are fucking genuine refugees and they are all genuine human beings with the same rights as your scabby self.


      • doug quixote July 30, 2013 at 2:08 pm #

        They are not all genuine refugees.

        Jennifer may continue to tolerate your insults to anyone you care to address, but I give you fair warning that I will ignore you from here on if you insult me again.

        I have had enough of your insults.


  7. hudsongodfrey July 26, 2013 at 10:44 pm #


    How many times need I correct this point with you. Of course we have borders. They’re called Maritime Boundaries, because as the song would have it we’re “girt by sea”….


    Your post itself shows a working knowledge of this, probably because I’ve hounded you about this previously. So why open your post by alienating the reader with shouted capitals and foul language. You don’t need to do that if your point is well enough made.

    Interestingly enough I just now posted the Wikipedia definition of dog whistle politics for another poster and was reminded in so doing that it does indeed denote a heavily coded political rhetoric rather than a literal one. I think we all know that in the phrase “border protection” the word to criticise isn’t “border” it is the use of “protection” to connote avoiding our humanitarian commitments. The notion, as you may well agree, that some of the most powerless people set adrift in the world actually represent any real and concerted threat to this country is obviously patently ridiculous beyond all estimation.

    If there is an interesting argument to be had about borders then on a reading consistent with the description of Maritime Boundaries a refugee advocate might choose to argue that some portion of territorial waters up to 12 Nm from the coast should really be considered part of the “migration zone” in a way that would make the idea of borders clearly work to refugee’s advantage.

    Homeopaths could I suppose argue anything that gets wet qualified, up to and including amniotic fluid with any luck. I don’t think we’re likely to take any of these views seriously, but I’m keen to point out they’re no less stupid that the bizarre charade of excising the entire country from the migration zone.

    Anyone sensible would have to question how they serve just principles before entertaining the kind of serious legalistic debate about oughts and obligations. I suspect that the one area of agreement I have with some of the asylum seekers worst detractors would be in that the refugee conventions are seeming more and more inadequate as time passes and numbers simply seem to keep increasing. We’ve reached the point where participants in humanitarian efforts already have to rely more on their sense of what’s right and fair than anything else when it is clear that they each interpret their responsibilities quite differently. So insistent bluster gets us nowhere while all around us people are arguing that everything’s a grey area and those black and white interpretations no longer exist.


    • Marilyn July 27, 2013 at 3:48 am #

      For fuck sake, everyone has the right to land peacefully because we cannot by law turn them away, sea boundaries are less useful than lines in sand.

      There is no problem, I have no idea why people are so fucking dumb.


      • doug quixote July 27, 2013 at 5:11 am #

        Would you like a fence? No? Then STFU.


        • Marilyn July 28, 2013 at 12:38 am #

          I don’t have a great big fence around my place to keep out the plebs, do you? What a pathetic bunch the men in Australia are as they cower from men, women and kids who need help.


          • doug quixote July 28, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

            Sea boundaries are very effective. Just ask the British who survived without being invaded in the 1940s;
            ask the Taiwanese who fled the Chinese Communists in 1949, and on;
            ask the hundreds of thousands who might fancy coming to a suburb near you.

            What stopped them? Certainly not a line in the sand.


      • hudsongodfrey July 27, 2013 at 9:47 am #

        No not everyone, asylum seekers perhaps, and then only if we interpret UN agreements in the magnanimous spirit in which they were drafted as opposed to the mean spirited sense of recent domestic politics. Which is why I suggest that what might well find appropriate to argue through the courts tends to lack traction in terms of persuading reader’s to change their political opinions.


        • Marilyn July 27, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

          No it’s nothing to do with the refugee convention,, it’s about the law of the sea that applies to everyone on the sea.

          For Christ’s sake, you better hope the rest of the world is more intelligent than you if you are in danger on the sea.


          • hudsongodfrey July 28, 2013 at 12:29 am #

            The farthest I plan to go out to sea is the odd fishing trip so I should be okay, but that’s probably beside the point because it would take a very stupid sailor to call his lawyer for advice when his vessel started taking water.

            If you want to get change to happen in the interests of bettering our humanitarian response for refugees then arguing the legality is about as useful as the hapless sailor’s phone call. People aren’t in a discussion about what the law is so much as what it should be or how we collectively choose to interpret it. The task before us is to persuade others to consider acting with their best intent to help refugees. It would simply be repeating old mistakes to attempt to bully them into following legislation that they’ve already thumbed their noses at.

            Again you really won’t help anyone with this, including the refugees, no matter how well intentioned you are, until you realise that ideals are not achieved in single uncompromising bounds but by taking a series of smaller more achievable steps towards reasonable outcomes. Otherwise you’re just going to keep sounding like somebody who is insisting something so idealistically open ended that it scares people, stops them from listening any further and becomes highly counterproductive.


            • Marilyn July 28, 2013 at 6:55 am #

              But legality is all we have left because when we murder refugees in cold blood we sure have no morality left.

              Read this and fucking weep.



              • hudsongodfrey July 28, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

                When the Age and Smh carry the same article with the same text and pictures that does not two articles make!

                If anyone has committed murder then the primary LEGAL responsibility falls upon the owners and operators of the vessels.

                Secondly legality is not the only tool we have left nor even the best one available. The best and most effective tools are persuasion compassion and a sense of ethics without those even law itself is valueless. Those of us who think Rudd and Abbott wrong need to make those objections felt politically, If that’s the only thing that matters to them and the only way to change what matters to us, putting up unpersuasive legal arguments doesn’t even figure in the equation!


                • Marilyn July 28, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

                  Grow up you frigging loser. When they people are just off our border and we let them drown it is down to us.

                  The SOLAS is to rescue everyone in trouble at sea and whining about poor Indonesian fishermen is pointless. The refugees are not out for a frigging holiday cruise.

                  Your brutal stupidity is just insane.


                  • hudsongodfrey July 28, 2013 at 3:54 pm #

                    It’s like trying to a reason with a child that’s throwing a tantrum because it can’t get it’s own way. Lacking the wit or the inclination to listen to reason and work incrementally towards solutions you resort to insult and hyperbole time and again. How irresponsible does a person have to be willing to destroy any future for Australia’s humanitarian program by emphasising all it’s flaws at the expense of those it nonetheless manages to help? Seems to me that it doesn’t matter which side of the debate you’re on if you lack perspective on anything larger than your own solipsistic views then it leads us nowhere trying to discuss solutions.

                    You’re rude and I suspect you’re also trying to be mildly insulting, though you’re not really any good at even that. It ceases to even matter what your intentions are because being the impediment to progress that you clearly are simply means that you take your place alongside racists, xenophobes and several politicians in the list of folks who need to be ignored if we’re ever going to solve these problems.

                    So let’s just say it always disappoints when the list of people who refuse to be persuaded by perfectly good reasoning has it’s numbers added to even to the tune of one Marilyn.


                    • Marilyn July 28, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

                      WE don’t have a humanitarian program, what the fuck are you talking about.

                      You are talking utter crap, that is not reasoning it is utter crap.

                      Everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution, the rest of the crap written is lies and garbage.

                      Letting people drown is murder and does not help any refugee anywhere.


                    • hudsongodfrey July 28, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

                      We have a humanitarian program that accepts at least 20,000 refugees per annum. Stop trying people’s patience with your hyperbolic ranting. It approaches biting the hand that would feed you!


  8. doug quixote July 27, 2013 at 5:27 am #

    If anyone thinks we are unique they might look at this site :


    It is skewed towards a certain view, but the text and stats seem accurate enough.

    Read between the lines, dear reader.


    • Elisabeth July 27, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      Good stuff. Thanks for the link.


    • freya July 27, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

      Thanks too!


    • hudsongodfrey July 28, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

      Interesting link and worth being reminded of, but I think the context that we have to be mindful of in reading these things is one whereby somebody else detaining people should never be allowed to lull us into a two wrongs make a right kind of argument.


  9. Freya July 27, 2013 at 11:28 am #

    Hi Jennifer,
    This is it I think. Somehow we have to stop talking about others and start talking about ourselves. The LNP have been setting the terms of the debate for too long?
    (If you noticed, I barged in here like an angry bopeep a couple of posts back. Sorry for that, very rude. I liked what you said. )


  10. Maria July 27, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    And let’s not forget the hundreds of refugees in my community, (& maybe yours), without a roof over their heads tonite. Mainly women & their children escaping family violence.Many battered & sexually assaulted. Homeless in their own bodies, refugees in their own communities. I know of a woman fleeing family violence in my community who was sleeping in the cemetery with her 3 children. Where’s the outrage & empathy & actioning & advocating on their behalf. How about some acknowledgement of the systemic terror they’re trying to escape. Their need to remain anonymous, invisible, hidden, silent. Their vulnerability, the risk they take to escape, the courage to try to escape a nightmare, often to find themselves in another nightmare. By the way, Julian Burnside’s passion for human rights doesn’t seem to extend to females murdered by their violent ex-spouses. The brilliant book, ‘Getting away With Murder’, by Phil Cleary, was put out of print & Allen & Unwin publishers were sued for the biggest defamation payout in Victoria’s history because of a few lines in the book which suggested that one of Julian’s big wig mates, Dyson-Hore Lacy QC, helped wife murderer, James Ramage, fabricate a defence of provocation. I’ve never heard a word come out of Julian Burnside’s mouth about the violations of the basic human rights of hundreds of thousands of females in our communities.


    • Marilyn July 28, 2013 at 12:40 am #

      Maria, you seriously don’t think that refugees with nothing are preventing the government of this country from protecting them do you?

      Jesus wept.


      • Maria July 28, 2013 at 10:35 am #

        I support refugees coming from other countries to Australia & I support, advocate for, empathize with & fight for refugees within my own community, who have not come from overseas. And I feel the systemic shaming & blaming stigma & the systemic denial & fear that provides the protective environment for the most prolific & violent & unconvicted crimes committed against the most vulnerable & innocent within the context of family violence,also need to be acknowledged & acted upon as rigorously by anyone who advocates human rights. That is all.


        • Maria July 29, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

          My apologies for not including violated males who are homeless in their bodies & refugees in their own communities.


      • Poirot July 28, 2013 at 12:32 pm #

        Jesus Wept.

        Indeed he did – and he would again at the two ponces leading Australia’s major parties identifying as followers of his doctrine.


        • doug quixote July 28, 2013 at 1:20 pm #

          Yes, Christians do hypocrisy very well.


        • doug quixote July 28, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

          Add in any number of other Christians : Morrison, Hockey, Pyne, Abetz, Bronny Bishop, Katter, the roll goes on. There are too many of them and they do not represent Australian society and thought.

          Any ideas for a cull?


          • Marilyn July 28, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

            Let me suggest they all spend a year on Manus Island with Afghan and Iraqi guards.


    • hudsongodfrey July 28, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

      Thanks Maria, some badly needed perspective certainly doesn’t go astray here.

      Here’s a little more. Would it have hurt us to try setting up a functioning queue for the 6,000 or more people we might have processed and taken from Indonesia at a fraction of the cost of detaining them while at the same time giving any who remain a pause to consider waiting a viable option compared with risking life and limb at sea? I’m just wondering why trying to motivate people with a solution that’s all stick and no carrot doesn’t seem as ludicrous to others as it does to me.


      • Marilyn July 28, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

        And of course accepting 6,000 from Indonesia is what we have been saying for years.

        Do you know why we don’t or don’t you even bother to care?

        We don’t accept refugees from Indonesia because we are paying to jail them and claim they are safe even though they are being tortured and killed.

        Why all this bullshit, we just have to allow them to fly here on their own will instead of banning them in case they dare to ask us for protection.


        • hudsongodfrey July 28, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

          I don’t care who pays for the airfares but people just can’t be allowed to board planes and rock up without visas. It wouldn’t be my preference and nor would it be favoured by most Australians. I think we need to process them to verify their claims in an orderly manner and grant them visas as well as travel assistance if they need it to come here once they’re accepted.

          Nor do I accept the assertion that if you can find one refugee who gets murdered in Indonesia you can’t find several Indonesians on a per capita basis. It is never acceptable if loss of life occurs, but unless it exceeds homicide rates in populations elsewhere to a degree that represents an overwhelming risk to all other refugees awaiting processing in that country we have to be realistic about where the guilt that applies to the murderer really lies. When we set out to act compassionately it is by no means possible that we can accept liability for all crimes and abuses that others commit. The business of being a refugee involves so few ideal aspects that I think we have to treat it as the kind of circumstance where all care no responsibility is often the best that can be managed. Australian people are not such mugs that we cannot recognise those circumstances exist even if we are usually too politically correct to articulate our concerns.

          It is necessary to try to do better, but it may not be possible to ask for anything more idealistic than a better quota and winding back some of the more xenophobic rhetoric. And yet it doesn’t seem to matter what I say, you still seem hell bent on frustrating that offer. Only an idiot fails to take the bread he is first offered before asking for more!


          • Marilyn August 4, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

            You are a complete fool. Asylum seekers cannot get frigging passports and don’t need them.

            Do you seriously think the 2.1 million refugees from places like Syria had fucking passports?


            • hudsongodfrey August 4, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

              No I assume many asylum seekers don’t have passports having fled in something of a hurry without due preparation. I nevertheless expect that as part of a well ordered system we as accepters of humanitarian cases for refugee status would provide people with visas whenever we’re in the process of signalling our intent to protect or resettle people. Is that so hard to fathom?

              Then again I suppose we learn new things every day. I for example didn’t know that you needed a passport to fuck!


              • doug quixote August 5, 2013 at 11:26 am #

                Marilyn is right on this point. When a refugee is fleeing an oppressive regime, the last thing they want to do is seek travel documents/passports from their oppressors.


                • hudsongodfrey August 5, 2013 at 3:32 pm #

                  Which I agreed with. But in the full context of what was being discussed I suggested something earlier about the grant of visas by Australia as means to facilitating an orderly humanitarian response to the needs of refugees in our region an beyond.

                  The problem here is that we can’t even seem to acknowledge that boat journeys are dangerous and therefore a bad idea. I’m effectively saying we ought to go over to Indonesia and grant visas to as many people as we can see our way clear to taking. Any reasonably significant number would give some people who might otherwise have taken boats pause to consider the prospect that they may not have as long to wait as was previously feared and therefore help to save many of the lives the seas would otherwise have taken.

                  What’s wrong with that?


                  • doug quixote August 6, 2013 at 12:29 am #

                    A few things. The main one is after we take say 30,000, does that not give encouragement to the next 100,000 to get themselves to Indonesia? If we then take 100,000, how many would then seek to get there?

                    I don’t normally like “floodgates” arguments, but I think this one holds some water, so to speak.

                    You may say it is worth a try, and perhaps you are right.


                    • hudsongodfrey August 6, 2013 at 9:27 am #

                      I’m kind of similar to you but opposite. I don’t hold with “pull factor” arguments or the use of terms like “economic migration” in the case of people who’re able to meet the “well-founded fear of persecution” criteria. However I do realise how given the numbers adrift in the world and the overwhelming failure of other nations to do their part how it may occur that more people come here being funnelled towards fewer and fewer options for sanctuary. My argument would be a two pronged one that you can’t deter from one kind of behaviour unless it is towards a viable alternative, and that in terms of providing an alternative we have ample capacity to do so. In the case of the latter it isn’t that we set a limit of 20,000 or so that concerns me, its that in terms of anyone coming from the high risk problem areas in Indonesia we’re taking far too few directly even while we are taking significant numbers of boat people.

                      In other words it is about asking why they have to come in boats.

                      I’ve argued the “all stick no carrot” thing repeatedly, so from a capacity point of view what still needs to be understood is how small the intake really is in relation to our population given efforts of the past, and how large the permission we’ve given through dog whistle politics to xenophobic attitudes and irrational fears of northern arrivals. These domestic political sensibilities are sickeningly selfish from a populace who enjoys the luxury of its splendid isolation from many of the world’s political problems, but it is well understood how easily evoked that tribal mentality is.

                      Worse than that though I begin to suspect, and hope I’m wrong, that Indonesia may be part of the problem too. If they’re responding to the same thinking you were then Australia’s ability to deter refugees is the one thing that stands to stop them congregating in Indonesia. And of course we’d never hear a word spoken out of place about this because Australia wants to remain on good diplomatic terms with her neighbour.


                    • doug quixote August 6, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

                      I am not discussing genuine refugees here.

                      We can and will accept all of them, as we are required to do by the Migration Act and the Refugee Convention.


                    • hudsongodfrey August 6, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

                      What are you supporting then Doug? Because my reading of the PNG solution and indeed several of the policies that predated it (including those of the NLP) is that anyone who comes by boat gets rejected, detained or sent elsewhere quite to the contrary of the refugee convention.


                    • doug quixote August 6, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

                      The Convention requires non-refoulement and that arrangements be made for their welfare and support. The PNG scheme does just that, whilst removing the pull factors.

                      Of course, genuine refugees will have no objection to relocation to a safe place. Economic country shoppers will on the other hand be less than gruntled.


                    • hudsongodfrey August 7, 2013 at 12:55 am #

                      You’re kidding yourself Doug. This thing is set to blow up in Rudd’s face for any number of reasons due to tensions between Papuans and the new arrivals and the complete ongoing failure of this scheme to address concerns from within Australia that we’ve simply lost our moral compass when it comes to humanitarianism.


                  • Marilyn August 8, 2013 at 6:27 am #


                    Because it is completely ludicrous, Indonesia do not want us having prisons on and invading their country anymore than anyone else does.

                    Perhaps the people in Dadaab might give you some perspective.

                    There are over 7 billion people on the planet and just 1:208,000 claimed refugee status in Australia last year, I reckon we could stop whining about now.


                    • hudsongodfrey August 8, 2013 at 9:33 am #

                      I think we can look at an almost constant stream of articles like the one you’ve presented with all the empathy in the world. It may help us frame a humanitarian intent but taken too far it also brings on compassion fatigue. Whatever the case we’re no closer as individuals to having any real capacity to deal with the real volume of suffering in the world on a personal level beyond what we’re able to do in terms of charitable acts. There’s always going to be a shortfall there when others in our society don’t share our concerns and political action is needed to get beyond band aid solutions.

                      The idea that regional cooperation between ourselves and Indonesia has to be about balancing tensions between national interests or merely a matter of political posturing on the part of political figures rather than trying to find ways to help at least some of the refugees in question is itself the very disgrace we’re bemoaning here. Your characterising any proposal to process Indonesia, as you have, in terms of invasion rhetoric and something about prisons is beyond ridiculous, it actually entrenches the very ideological stances that create obstacles to change.

                      You leave room for nothing other than people to try to come in boats, despite the inevitable loss of life that entails. A stance that itself represents the most destructive aspects of your ideology about this issue. It ceases to matter what I or anyone else says, and you’ll probably resort to abuse rather than accepting the fact that if you keep on in this vein that nobody will be helped by it. If anything people will keep dying at sea, Australians will become increasingly divided and politicians who choose to respond to the basest side of that divide will continue to pursue draconian measures that fail to produce anything other than more suffering at great expense.

                      You talk about perspective, but you fail to realise the kinds of ideological positions you’re taking are among those most lacking when it comes to being open to different perspectives. We need humanitarian values, but we also need pragmatic and incremental solutions that are less ideologically inflexible.

                      I find it disappointing that people on boths sides, but especially our side of this issue, would refuse to see taking greater numbers directly from Indonesia as a good thing. The advantage to those who are included in that number seems beyond dispute, and if some left to queue in the knowledge that a process exists that offers some hope beyond the risking boat journey then that also saves lives.


    • Maria July 30, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

      I failed to add that Julian Burnside QC, acted for Dyson-Hore Lacy QC. One has to ask, why Burnside would risk getting involved in such a sensitive case, given that he is worshipped unquestionably for using his legal skills to champion human rights. And given that Phil Cleary had been a fairly high profile passionate advocate against violence towards women for decades. His efforts helped to abolish the defence of provocation plea which enabled men to literally ‘Get away With Murder’, because, “she was a slut & she drove me to it”. A desperately needed advocate for basic human rights for women. I think it says a lot about how Aussie culture, (including the ‘progressive left’), colludes in providing a protective environment in which violent unconvicted crimes against females, ( & males but predominantly females), in the context of family violence prevail. Include, the most vulnerable in this environment, being children & the violations of basic human rights are atrocious & in desperate need of courageous advocacy thro’ out the system & culture. So why would JB go out of his way to defend someone who was siding with a wife basher & murderer? I don’t think he needed the money. I think it was a case of protect your own no matter the moral & ethical considerations. And let’s show this ex-politician upstart from the northern suburbs who thinks he can dictate the law who the heavy-weights are. I think he was fairly confident that there’d be no back-lash & that’s what I found/find v. disturbing. And that’s why I think he’s a phoney.


      • hudsongodfrey July 31, 2013 at 10:22 am #

        So you’re characterising Burnside as having gone out of his way to defend the indefensible in a case that has nothing whatsoever to do with the issue to hand here, and doing so presumably on your own rather original interpretation which he hasn’t the opportunity to defend against, and all for what? Is this some kind of lame defence of the PNG solution or what’s being going on at Manus Island?

        Even if Burnside was 100% wrong in some other matter, the case he argues on behalf of asylum seekers is well reasoned one. he lays bare a few of the facts of the matter for the reader to examine knowing that the conclusion to be drawn about them by most fair minded people should be unavoidable. We’ve made a mess of things by veering too far to the right. We’re relying on deterrents that won’t work for a range of reasons best understood from the refugees’ point of view, whereas their intent relates not at all to outcomes on that front but instead upon the political fortunes of the dog whistlers who’re spitting out these vitriolic policies.

        And once you see these policies for what they are then I shouldn’t imagine Burnside has a particularly difficult brief to refute them. Blind Freddy could see them for cruel and particularly useless instruments of political expediency. The question for Australians is whether we’re willing to go along with that kind of xenophobic rhetoric and if so why?


        • Maria August 3, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

          Who/what is preventing Julian Burnside from defending himself, responding, whatever? He is worshipped as a champion of human rights abuses, so what’s wrong with questioning that when he uses the same weapons to tear down a tireless advocate fighting against the most atrocious violations of basic human rights right here under our noses. It is the most courageous who fight grass roots against family violence. V. few males take a stand. They are a rare breed indeed. Correct me if I’m wrong. I know you’d like to keep the issue of violations of human rights of refugees & victims of family violence separate, but I think it’s time the connections were made.


          • hudsongodfrey August 3, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

            Nothing I am aware of is stopping Burnside from responding to anything, anywhere as far as I know.There may be some aspect of lawyer client privilege that is, but I’m not aware of it and I certainly don’t think it likely that he’ll be logging in here to respond to you.

            Without hearing the facts from both sides of the story I see no reason whatsoever to consider Burnside in any way discredited on one side alone of an account about a completely separate matter. Especially as it has no bearing on Burnside’s views about Asylum seekers. I take those views on the strength of the case he has presented about our mistreatment of them. And I find the case persuasive.

            I don’t know what it is you expect out of this but one would hope that the kind male who knows he has to own his own behaviour towards makes up the majority of society. Yet the kind of value system that affords those considerations to others within our narrower community will also quite naturally extend to humanity as a whole and would not permit such a person to twist arguments so that distinctions might be made to exclude and mistreat asylum seekers if only one of their staunchest defendants were to be discredited.

            As I said before,

            The question for Australians is whether we’re willing to go along with xenophobic rhetoric and if so why?


      • doug quixote July 31, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

        Cannot agree with that. Hore-Lacy may have been a friend of Burnside; if a friend was accused I would try to defend him too.

        Alternatively, barristers are required to defend/act for anyone who asks, that is their ethics.

        Everyone is entitled to a trial that is not unfair; that includes legal representation whether the Defendant is Mother Theresa or Ivan Milat.


        • Maria August 3, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

          Yes, but what is unfair, is that people who can afford heavy-weight legal representation can get away with murder, anything really.


          • doug quixote August 3, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

            Ask Andrew Kalajzich about that. It does not always work that way, Maria. No-one is above the law.

            Perhaps many who are convicted would walk free if they had better representation, but the problem is, who would foot the bill?

            Trials are too long and complicated as it is, and it will probably get worse. As the saying goes, Justice delayed is justice denied.

            I wish I could devise a better system.


  11. Teresa July 28, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

    I’ve lost track, a bit, as this seems to have developed (undertandably)into quite a heated argument … at the end, I think, we just have to be nice to each other. If enough people genuinely care, and want to find a solution, a solution will be found. We all deserve the same consideration. Peace and love, everyone.


    • freya July 28, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

      I’m counting on the idea that most people really do care, and it’s just the bozos at the top who are playing to the marginal electorates and scaring the rest of us into polarised positions!


      • Poirot July 28, 2013 at 11:44 pm #


        You sound like a caring person.

        I’m getting the opposite impression, notwithstanding the bozos are making hay with media hysteria. I don’t think the average Aussie gives much of a stuff at all about the fate of “foreigners” from a different culture landing on our shores with the clothes they stand up in.

        Unless they have close contact and see the raw human misery, their empathy isn’t really turned on in a way where they truly engage with the plight of these people.

        So, in a way, the relationship on this issue between the pollies and the voters, is one of an “I’ll scratch your back if your scratch mine” arrangement……translated….”I’ll scare the bejesus outa you on the subject of “invasions” and “border control” and you have permission to go ahead and regard these people as a threat”

        Empathy doesn’t get a look in.


      • hudsongodfrey July 29, 2013 at 10:49 am #

        Freya and Poirot,

        I think you’re both right…. potentially.

        If empathy exists then maybe it is one of our better traits, a bit of an acquired quality if you like, rather than one of our baser instincts that comes down to us from having evolved to survive short brutal lives or cluster together into a tribal existence. Surely the question for modern Australians relates to what we’d do in a so called civilised society.


        • Poirot July 29, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

          Of course, empathy exists. We’d be lost without it. It’s one of the qualities that defines us as functioning humans in society. (A profoundly autistic person doesn’t display empathy, hence can’t interact well or often at all)

          As I mentioned, the lack of close contact and the demonisation of these people is assisting to override empathy….notwithstanding that other people outside our “tribe” are less likely to receive our empathy.

          I think we fool ourselves that a so-called Enlightened, civilised society doesn’t fall back on basic instinct and related attitudes and behaviours, especially when that behaviour is encouraged.


          • freya July 29, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

            Thanks Monsieur and HG, I agree with both of you. We are tribal herd-like creatures and we seek safety in the herd for survival. So empathy is a survival skill for fitting into the herd which needs to be encouraged perhaps, as HG says. As you say Poirot, by close contact, which is certainly hard to achieve in a media world where everyone is screaming for attention. I think if people keep trying to talk civilly to each other they can start influencing the bozos. It is a relief to find good conversation anywhere these days I must say!


          • hudsongodfrey July 29, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

            In my experience travel really does broaden the mind. You can’t imagine yourself in another’s shoes until you’ve some basis for empathy. That may be part of the problem.


        • freya July 29, 2013 at 4:46 pm #

          Potentially, yes.


  12. doug quixote August 7, 2013 at 11:21 pm #

    Speaking of Housekeeping, I think Jennifer needs to do some cleaning of the filters.



  13. paul walter August 8, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

    Actually, just reading an article from the Courier Mail Marilyn mailed me about a hate campaign against an Irani couple, also reading about the astonishing ignorance of a One Nation candidate some where. .Really quite sad to see what the effects of the starvation of information and massaging of fears looks like when Cronulla-ised into tangible form by media.
    I think the Iranians will be waiting for another millennium or two before we have quite climbed down from the trees and stopped walking on our knuckles.


    • hudsongodfrey August 9, 2013 at 9:27 am #

      My take on the question of whether we buy into the degree of ignorance parts of the MSM would seem to wish upon us is that individuals are probably only as ignorant as they want to be. Granted that the yellow press has a business model and reactionaries have a following otherwise they wouldn’t exist, but then so do conspiracy theorists and some more progressive politicians. If the conversation you choose to have on social media and beyond is quite different from the one being conducted in the so called mainstream then who’s to say which is valid anyway?

      So when the question arises as to whether we’re walking on our knuckles both in new and old media, then if the answer is the same I think we have a problem. Believing the opinions of friends and acquaintances over those of some journalists naturally steers me towards thinking the opposite may be the case because I don’t tend to get on with your common or garden bigot and thus my circle’s opinions don’t tend to be like that.

      I wonder if we don’t suffer from a kind of “great unwashed” syndrome whereby it does seem easy to think of the huddled masses as more ignorant than oneself to a greater extent than I suspect is actually true. I also think that being more or less evolved to deal with community sized groups rather than massed consciousness we’re limited within the scope of our own self interest in ways that can tempt us to take permission from mainstream conventionality to do the isolationist thing. Knuckle dragging? Perhaps not quite, a limitation of our capacity to emphasise beyond direct interpersonal relationships maybe……


      • paul walter August 9, 2013 at 5:59 pm #

        Marilyn’s ‘plaint, I think. We could see the truth if msm allowed it, but..


        • hudsongodfrey August 9, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

          As Brian was wont to opine “You are all individuals. Think for yourselves…”


      • Debra O'Brien August 10, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

        “I wonder if we don’t suffer from a kind of “great unwashed” syndrome whereby it does seem easy to think of the huddled masses as more ignorant than oneself to a greater extent than I suspect is actually true. ” I think you might be onto something here. My position is that blaming the masses for government policy buys into the Divide-and-Rule strategy that leaves us all less powerful. I wrote about this just yesterday. Read it if you want:



        • paul walter August 10, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

          Absolutely relevant to this conversation, that inclusion by Debra O’Brien.
          Context is all and complexity abounds.
          We are still an incomplete species dealing with the mess left of our own history and evolution, trying to deal with today and prepare for the tricks and turns of the outcomes of what happens now in response to all else.
          And the reality is, we DO have a global hierarchy and (democratic) “government” is an illusion when its aims conflict with the hierarchy.
          There is the essence of Wedge, with all its emotional blackmail and counter-blackmail and the big irony is, this is such a Heart of Darkness that we don’t recognise the real savages, the people running things rather than our hapless comrades, the refugees.


        • hudsongodfrey August 11, 2013 at 1:05 am #

          I think that it’s a worthy consideration that we don’t want to victim blame and populace for the sins of its leaders, unless of course you’re in a functioning democracy where at some point it becomes a chicken-and-egg kind of argument. Do we get the politicians we deserve or is any muted failure of democracy a failure of politicians to remake us in their own image?

          I am aware though that there does seem to be a little bit of divide and rule politics going on together with their usual machiavellian tactics. To excuse it with apologetics must surely be to argue that the ends justify the means I suppose, but you nevertheless don’t have to be that much of an analyst to see when they’re angling for certain marginal electorates..There’s a difference I suppose between pandering to peoples basest instincts with dog whistle rhetoric and leading either in a statesman like fashion or just rallying the usual suspects in the race to the bottom. Either way I ask why should we care? I see policy that is unacceptable to me and judge it as I think I ought to. It seems to be the least any of us is expected to do in terms of how we participate in this democracy to hope it ends like the Who’s classic lyric “We won’t be fooled again” rather than Bush’s classic blooper, “Fool me once, shame on — shame on you.”



  1. The 63rd Down Under Feminists’ Carnival | can be bitter - August 6, 2013

    […] of shame, while Jennifer at No Place For Sheep looked at how it had come to this, with our recent history of scapegoating asylum seekers, and wonders how we will measure whether the policy […]


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