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Labor gets tough too late on asylum seekers

I have posted repeatedly in the past on the foolishness  of the Labor Government’s solution to the asylum seeker problem and the virtue of the Howard Government’s “Pacific Solution” which meant almost no illegal arrivals  (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and particularly here, here etc).  For my troubles I have been labeled a racist (and worse) and been told that my concerns over the  “trickle” of illegal migrants lacked balance.  But it is no longer a trickle – over the last 8 weeks 7,500 asylum seekers have arrived.  This is about half the legal annual refugee and humanitarian migration intake in recent years and, admitting these queue jumpers, will displace those seeking legal resettlement. It is grossly unfair outcome to the citizens of Australia (who have the right to determine who comprises their population) and to those seeking legal resettlement.

 The problem is “moral hazard” there are millions seeking resettlement somewhere and “soft” past Labor policies have encouraged more to take the plunge.  While current policies are close to those of the Howard Government expectations have changed.  Offshore processing is now failing  – in fact now asylum seekers will be placed on bridging visas in Australia for periods of up to 5 years.   During this period they will not be permitted to work and will draw Australian social security benefits. What a mess!

Whatever other problems the Gillard Government – they are severe – this will destroy any possibility of their re-election in 2013.  The refugee and humanitarian lobby in Australia that have repeatedly urged the Government to soften its stance do not reflect the views of more than a tiny minority of Australians.

Those who said “ignore this problem, it is inconsequential” were wrong.  A manageable difficulty has been turned, through poorly thought through policies and glib responses, to a policy disaster. The policy panic is obvious in the Labor Government itself.

10 comments to Labor gets tough too late on asylum seekers

  • JB Cairns

    only problem Harry the boats did still come as shown by Possum.

    you have catallaxied yourself.

  • I think this is unfair given the way the situation developed.

    In the lead up to the Rudd election, I reckon there was clearly a mood within the public that the Howard regime had become unnecessarily tough, expensive and cruel given the number of arrivals and the fact that most asylum claims were successful. Labor went to the election promising to be more humane, and voters got what was promised.

    That people smugglers would take some advantage of the situation was predictable, although the scale to which they would was never clear. And anyway, if the voters want to take a “suck it and see” approach, I find that hard to fault.

    The government’s “Malaysian solution”, an idea cynically pilloried by the Liberals despite it being devised by the same public servant they used to trust, and which actually had promise for leading to true more regional solution for the bigger picture, was not able to be implemented via a court decision that I don’t think either side anticipated. The Greens, truly the side most deserving of criticism in this matter for their “oh well accidents happen” approach to hundreds of deaths via boat arrivals, then also stuffed up the possibility of the government having a free hand to deal with this.

    It’s all very unfortunate the way it has panned out, but I think an Abbott government will have no great instant cure either.

  • hc

    Homer, During the 6 years of the Pacific Solution 24 boats arrived with 1129 seekers. That’s by my reckoning a fair bit less than 7,500 arrivals in 2 months.

  • JB Cairns


    I tend to think those numbers are a tad on a small side but that is neither here nor there.

    The boats kept on coming.

    Getting tough neither worked back then nor now.

    I agree with Steve.

    The Malaysian solution looks to be better than anything else proposed.

  • rog

    The situation on Nauru is quite untenable and its my belief that Aus is in breach of UN Convention on Refugees to which Aus is a signatory (1954 Menzies). Certainly detention without trial is unjustifiable on many levels.

    It’s a shameful situation.

  • rog

    Article 31

    “1. The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article i, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.”

  • Jim Rose

    If you are a bona-fide refugee, being in Australia on any terms is better than the horrors back home. This can be in detention onshore or offshore or on a bridging visa.

    Bona-fide refugees will not be deterred by the Pacific solution, which is overwhelmed by numbers now in any case

    I attended a public meeting long ago with a official from the UNHC for refugees. He made the point that if you are in Australia even in a legal limbo you are safe for now.

    Even without the right of family reunion, being in Australia illegally on any terms can be a good gamble for an economic migrant. You can remit money back home and you might be able to bluff your way through to residency.

    A problem without obvious solutions.

  • Jim Rose

    the 1951 refugees convention was signed three years after the UK passed the British Nationality Act 1948.

    this allowed the 800 million British subjects in the British Empire to live and work in the United Kingdom without needing a visa. Commonwealth citizens were not subject to any immigration controls until 1962.

    Back in the 1950s, international travel was a luxury for the few so uncontrollable borders and mass economic migration from poor countries far away was not foreseen.

    Many people can now save up to travel a long way by air, sea and land. This leads to a screening problem caused by economic migrants lying about their backgrounds.

    This gives countries an incentive to evade obligations by raising standards of proof. this results in ‘more refoulement of refugees to their place of persecution’.

    See ‘The Economics of International Refugee Law’ by Ryan Bubb, Michael Kremer, and David I. Levine, Journal of Legal Studies (June 2011) for more discussion.

    Their suggestion that developed countries pay poor third countries to take refugees from persecution just shows how bare the policy cupboard appears to be.

  • I wonder if the will grow into a world-wide trend. My personal speculation is which by the passing of the the coming year, this is an enormous trend. Awesome in out-reporting the MSM about this one.

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