The fundamental reason people seek asylum in Australia: because we tell them they can.

19 Feb

Both the ALP and LNP governments have, for more than a decade now, chosen to ignore the fundamental reason why people seek asylum in this country: we are signatories to the UNHCR Refugee Convention, and as such, we currently offer asylum to anyone who seeks it, no matter what their method of arrival.

Instead of withdrawing from this Convention, the “honest” thing to do as apparently we no longer consider it to have any validity whatsoever,  the current Australian government has issued a comic book, explaining to potential refugees why they should not come to this country in the belief that we will honour our commitment, because, quite simply we will not.

We will not speedily assess their claims for refugee status in Australia. We will, in fact, transport them to hideous off-shore processing centres where they will languish in indefinite detention with no certainty at all about their futures, and if that is not enough, they will be subject to violence resulting in serious injury and death from sources that as yet remain unidentified, because we do not adequately protect them.

This is what we do, instead of honouring the obligations we undertook when we first signed the UNHCR Convention in 1951, then ratified it in 1967.

We are despicable. Our politicians have made us a despicable, lying, obfuscating nation without the courage to withdraw from a commitment we have no intention of honouring. Australia enjoys the kudos of being a civilised signatory to the UNHCR Convention. At the same time, Australia has no intention of honouring our voluntarily undertaken commitments to that Convention.

This is our primary shame. Our hypocrisy. Our disgrace.

And both the ALP and the LNP have brought us to this.

37 Responses to “The fundamental reason people seek asylum in Australia: because we tell them they can.”

  1. hudsongodfrey February 19, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more, its the lowest point of my shame at being Australian.

    Yet there’s still the question as to whether having some kind of extant humanitarian program that does take around 14,000 people per annum makes us better than some other countries that don’t similarly struggle with the moral complexities of unassailable human deprivation or exercise their consciences as we’re challenged to do now.

    Abbott is hopeless as is Morrison. We knew that, some of us even tried to warn people. What then is the hope for the future?

    They will I think be seen to have failed in circumstances that might otherwise bring us pleasure to see. How we get back from there won’t I would suggest be a step change, but a gradual process of putting the dog whistle’s genie back in its bottle.


    • Marilyn February 19, 2014 at 4:37 pm #

      Oh for god’s sake, shut up about the bloody humanitarian program, it is nothing to do with the refugee convention, it is a voluntary hoax that we think absolves us from the law.

      How can you possibly still be so stupid.


      • hudsongodfrey February 19, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

        Its basically the only way you’ll get anyone into the country as a refugee these days so like it or not I think we’re stuck with it and we’d do a lot better to improve our voluntarism, voluntarily so to speak, than to keep banging on about whatever the heck you think you’re entitled to under a law we’re clearly ignoring.


        • Marilyn February 19, 2014 at 6:15 pm #

          Wrong, when governments break their own fucking laws they must be forced to obey them or we are rogue lawless state worth nothing to anyone.

          Remember Neimoller, next it could be you.


          • hudsongodfrey February 19, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

            So okay then you go and arrest John Howard for war crimes and they pick up George W Bush.

            Whether you like it or not, for the umpteeth time, people don’t want to force the government to obey this law. The fact that we’re prepared to enforce almost every other law pertinent to not being a rogue state. It may have escaped your notice, but we are still arresting the odd rapist or murderer. We can even manage to nail Craig Thomson for being the only politician known to be able to organise a root in a brothel, so I suppose that’s for being overqualified in his job. But it’s still not quite hell in a handbasket just yet!

            The Niemoller adage is a perfectly good analogy for many things but not one to be wasted on hyperbole such at this. You’re verging on invoking Godwin’s law with that one. Casting Tony Abbott in the role of Fuhrer might seem clever, and I know the joke goes that it would be insulting Adolf, but seriously the gap between your rhetoric and reality is measured in light years.


  2. paul walter February 19, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

    You know, in addition to the harshness of asylum seeker policy and the deliberate and sadistic physical abuse of these as a sop to the fearful,ignorant and bigoted, there is a shrewd exploitation of the issue as a means to divert public attention from other aspects of Abbott
    Government criminality, such such as the role of the IPA and Murdoch in the formation of economic, environmental and social infrastructure policy.


  3. 8 Degrees of Latitude February 19, 2014 at 4:59 pm #

    Right on the nail! See my blog post, Clumsy Confections of All Sides, that discusses the situation from the perspective of necessary (but missing) Indonesian-Australian cooperation and the sickening politics behind it.


  4. hudsongodfrey February 19, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    I sense you may approve…..

    Take it down if not:)


  5. doug quixote February 19, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

    Quite so. Although the fact is that under Labor we accepted virtually everyone who presented themselves, after processing, and that this was the case until the system was apparently overwhelmed a year or two back.

    The legislation is still the same and the Convention and the Protocol that we signed in 1967 have not changed.

    This current government seem to think that you have to be kind to be cruel, putting would-be asylum seekers into lifeboats and towing them back towards Java. And they think this will Stop The Boats.

    Perhaps it will, but at the expense of our international reputation, our relationship with Indonesia and our self respect.

    It is disgraceful and appalling.

    In going from Labor to Liberal we have gone from the frying pan into the fire, and I’ll say to those who sought the destabilisation and destruction of Gillard’s Labor government those four words again : I told you so.


    • hudsongodfrey February 19, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

      I think you’re right in that History will record the clash between Rudd and Gillard as disastrous for this country. Indeed it is time for a few of us to say I told you so, but it’s still leaving a bitter taste!


      • paul walter February 19, 2014 at 9:26 pm #

        Not as bitter as what’s to come.


        • helvityni February 20, 2014 at 9:56 am #

          Only too true, Paul. I think Australia is reaching its all time low…
          Every day something ugly happens, yet according to the latest poll Abbott is the preferred PM….what is there to say.


          • Marilyn February 20, 2014 at 7:15 pm #

            Why quote stupid push polls? The Fairfax media ran weeks of supposed corruption by the unions, then asked push polls questions about corrupt unions to get the result they wanted.


    • Marilyn February 20, 2014 at 5:57 pm #

      They were granted protection because they were refugees under the law, that has not changed and cannot change.


  6. katykay2010 February 20, 2014 at 2:00 am #

    Wow, would I love to hear this type of admission from so many official offices, FAT CHANCE……like my country’s bunch of corrupted leaders, on so many fronts. Let’s just be honest for a change and get rid of the myths and lies that the U.S. is a land of freedom and justice…..We should erase the words on our Statue of Liberty, for sure……..


  7. paul walter February 20, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    katykay, it has gone downhill right across the western world since the beginning of this century.

    Wrong sort of globalisation, wrong sort of people in charge.


  8. iODyne February 24, 2014 at 5:09 pm #


    • paul walter February 25, 2014 at 6:38 am #

      Enjoyed this, over a cuppa and lambingtons.


  9. paul walter February 25, 2014 at 11:12 pm #

    Back to the thread topic. Others no doubt caught the segment and interview on Manus, on Dateline.

    All I can say personally is, must watch it gobsmacked!

    “Macabre” will have to suffice at the moment, as to a response.


    • Marilyn February 26, 2014 at 3:38 am #

      Entirely predictable, Gillard wrote the law so that no person could ever escape death island.


  10. paul walter February 26, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

    Marilyn why DO you have to write rubbish when you can do so much better?

    The current problems are caused by the Abbott government politicising the thing, not the ALP, who only inherited the mess from Howard anyway.

    How does harping on ancient history deal with the current set of issues? Is there not in enough happening in the current circumstances to refocus you back to reality?

    Or will your fixation; your grudge, prevent you from recognising reality before it collides into you like a truck into a cow?

    Rudd and Gillard, as thousands of people have told you a thousand times, had to live with the mess imposed on them by the Tories and Murdoch.


    • doug quixote February 26, 2014 at 8:45 pm #



    • Marilyn February 28, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

      Rudd and Gillard did not have to do anything of the kind, you are getting silly in your old age.

      Look at the timeline and it will show you where you are stupid and as wrong as Doug.

      Hawke started whining about refugee queue in 1989 when Cambodians didn’t like the deal struck with Thatcher, Reagan and Evans to declare the Khmer Rouge naughty boys instead of mass murderers, a whole 194 arrived here so Hawke started the prison in Port Hedland so they could not apply for asylum.

      1992 Keating started the refugee prisons, 1994 the High Court deemed them valid so long as they were not for punishment.

      1996 Ruddock took over and privatised the whole mess, 2001 as the TAMPA which the ALP allowed to happen without any real dissent from Beazley.

      2004 HREOC reported showed children were being tortured, 2005 we stopped jailing them. Also 2004 the High Court found Bolkus’s abomination now called Al Kateb was legal, it is legal to jail people for life without charge simply because they cannot be deported to any country.

      2007 Rudd closed Manus and Nauru simply because they were empty, 2008 he cancelled TPV’s which the ALP had actively supported under Beazley in 1999.

      He also cancelled bills people had to pay for their own prison, also a Bolkus initiative.

      2010 Gillard gives stupid Lowy speech advocating prison on East Timor for refugees.
      2011 Gillard comes up with trading humans off to Malaysia, an idea our High Court found to be illegal.

      2012 she gets three racist old white men with no knowledge of refugee law to find a way around the high court ruling, which they duly did.
      September 2012 she and Roxon use a report from the three ignorant old white men to start Manus and Nauru with a 5 year dumping rule, no advantage for pesky people who fled the Taliban, let them rot. She signed 15 and 20 year leases without taking it to parliament.

      April 2013 she goes one step further and makes the prisons permanent,
      June 2013 the cross party parliamentary committee found the whole thing to be illegal, lawless, unreasonable and disproportionate in a 100 page report almost no-one bothered to read.

      It was Gillard who gave the order for forced deportations without process for Sri Lankans and then Vietnamese.

      And she did not have to do any of it.

      I repeat again for Paul and Doug – Morrison is acting off laws Gillard and Roxon had pushed through the parliament to appease the racists.

      And it is legal to now steal tax payers funds because of the same two bitches.

      When the man in Queensland won the constitutional challenge of cash being taken to fund chaplains, the bitch Roxon as AG simply rushed through new laws to over ride the high court.

      So while MOrrison is vile, and Rudd’s campaign was torture porn, it is only building inexorably on what fucking Gillard did and you have to stop the fucking denials of that fact.


      • doug quixote February 28, 2014 at 8:07 pm #

        You really have no idea Marilyn.

        You think you do, and that is the worst possible combination.

        No changes to the Migration Act since 2004.

        Not a one.



  11. doug quixote February 26, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

    It seems to have escaped some people’s attention that Julia Gillard ceased to be Prime Minister in June 2013, and that Anthony Abbott has been Prime Minister since September of 2013.

    It also seems beyond their comprehension that no changes have been made to the Immigration Act since 2004.

    Not since 2004, dear reader, under John Howard.

    I’ll do a Tony Abbott and say it again : No changes to the Immigration Act since 2004, dear reader.

    Not a one.


    • paul walter February 26, 2014 at 11:54 pm #

      Why should refugees, or Australians, or anyone or anything else matter against the opportunity for personal gratification for one individual that comes of “getting even”, for not offering unquestioning obedience.


    • Marilyn February 28, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

      There have been hundreds of changes to the migration act since 2004, do you live in wonderland? Why do you think there are so many high court challenges to changes in the migration act?


  12. zerograv1 February 27, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    Jennifer makes the statement in the original post….”we are signatories to the UNHCR Refugee Convention, and as such, we currently offer asylum to anyone who seeks it, no matter what their method of arrival. Instead of withdrawing from this Convention, the “honest” thing to do as apparently we no longer consider it to have any validity whatsoever….”

    Maybe thats the option? Sure its not palatable but it does get rid of the demonisation, the hideous detention system, the cost to the begrudging taxpaying bogan, the endangering of relations with Indonesia. the inappropriate and costly (IMHO) deployment of naval personnel to policing the policy, and the iresistable baiting and invitation by unfortunates to try your luck by sea (Cruelly if you have no genuine intention of taking them in)….all in one swoop. Comments?


    • hudsongodfrey February 27, 2014 at 11:07 am #

      The situation as it stands seem to be that we have one set of laws that protect the right to claim asylum and another that protect against any such approaches being made. Its a sort of catch 22 whereby you can make a claim once you arrive you’re just not allowed to arrive in any kind of irregular fashion.

      The issue of asylum seekers has come to be a such divisive one that we’re applying our own laws inconsistently at the point where the question as to what community standards of justice are has become too highly politicised for comfort. It becomes a matter of policy as to how the government claim the law needs to be enforced.

      We don’t have to change laws to break free of the catch 22 we just have to issue visas at the discretion of a policy driven immigration ministry.

      The coalition claim they have a mandate to act, but clearly if the example was of a mandate to get rid of graffiti, then possible means of enforcement would not condone shooting Banksy in the head. The current situation may not be quite that starkly defined but pressure is growing against the extreme actions being taken under cover of secrecy by this government.

      So unless we use our democratic system to give our politicians their marching orders I’d suggest they lack anything like sufficient authorisation to act. In overstepping that mark Morrison’s days may already be numbered.

      Similarly the law may be applied when asylum seekers have representation and recourse to the courts as they did when processed on the mainland. It won’t apply in places like Nauru where it seems the justice system appears to have been deliberately scuttled. And we can’t make new law because we clearly lack the political will to act decisively where the moral hazard is non-refoulement.

      If we even considered dropping our commitments to the UN refugee conventions now then clearly we’d not only be an international pariah, but we’d still have thousands of people in our care both in detention and awaiting outcomes in the community. The principle of non-refoulement is such that every single one of these we fail to protect becomes a potential Reza Berati.


    • doug quixote February 28, 2014 at 12:20 am #

      No, I don’t think that would work. Australia is still as at February 2014 a desirable destination. (Give Tabbott and his Australian Vandal Party a year or two and it may not be).

      Besides that :

      It would completely destroy our international credibility on human rights issues and damage our international reputation to withdraw.

      We have to give one year’s notice of our intention to repudiate the Treaty, under international law.

      One year of intense international pressure from USA, Britain, Europe, India and even China, to force us to “reconsider”.

      I can’t conceive of a worse move to damage our reputation, can you?


      • hudsongodfrey February 28, 2014 at 9:01 am #

        Not even if Tony turned up to the G20 in the smugglers!


      • zerograv1 February 28, 2014 at 11:37 am #

        I agree it is bad reputationally (is that a word?) however it aligns with what both the major parties are actually doing and as Jennifer points out our membership is hollow given we dont adhere to the agreement at all. I was more thinking in the lines of appeasement of the many and the saving of the seeker, a kinder message than the cruel and misleading invitation the world thinks we put out to seekers currently. The current situation is probably the worst arrangement we could dream up, its at the bottom of options, either we adhere to the agreement completely or walk away in my opinion. (Also I dont think Australia is very highly regarded internationally anyway (maybe even a pariah although not to the Idi Amin level) because of the earlier stories of our treatment of the indigenous population)


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