For more than a decade I have argued two key propositions in relation to attempted illegal migrant entry to Australia. Both have aroused intense criticisms:
- (i) Softening the approach to so-called asylum seekers will definitely attract many more attempts at illegal entry.
- (ii) Almost all so-called asylum seekers are economic migrants seeking a better economic life not escape from persecution.
Proposition (i) is now self-evidently true. A trickle of intake during the Howard years has been replaced by an expensive avalanche. We now face not a minor discomfit but a major difficulty in handling illegal attempts to enter Australia. The inane response to proposition (i) was to say “Where’s the evidence?”. But evidence is unnecessary. It is now beyond being arguable that demand curves do slope downwards – reduce a price and you will increase quantities demanded. But if you do want evidence the experience of the last 3 years delivers it unambiguously. Proposition (ii) is now confirmed by Bob Carr – his claim that 100% of recent arrivals are economic migrants contrasts with the fact that recently 95% of such migrants are now assessed as being genuine refugees. But Carr’s observation is saying nothing new. In the 1990s when I worked on migration issues I was stunned to find that almost all of those migrants seeking entry to Australia (mainly from IndoChina) under the refugee and humanitarian program already had family ties here – they were effectively gaining entry under the family program.
There is absolutely no reason to accept queue-jumper claims for entry to Australia ahead of correctly processed legitimate claims. The Labor Government may lose office mainly on the basis of its disastrously inept policies on border protection. Whatever the misled crybabies on the left in Australia may say, Australians are concerned with the issue of controlling entry to Australia and so they should be. Economic migrants to Australia are not unwelcome but it is reasonable to select them with weight given to the benefits that current residents of Australia get from such migration. This means a highly selective intake not a whoever-turns-up intake that reflects phoney humanitarian claims. Howard was right – Australians should have an absolute right to determine who settles in Australia.
Nor (as Adrienne Millbank correctly argues) is this any of the UN’s business either. Whatever its original intentions the UN Convention on Refugees fails to define a sensible and fair role for a country like Australia. It should be revised by the UN or explicitly repudiated by Australia. Moreover the bleating of the over-paid UN hacks about Australia’s alleged lack of humanitarian concern should be rejected as the codswallop it is. This bleating has helped worsen the difficulties of maintaining a reasonable Australian humanitarian program. Neither the UN or leftwing intellectuals who treat Australia as a social experiment should determine Australia’s humanitarian and refugee intake – the people of Australia should. They will register their vote later this year.