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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

The Australian: a neo-con flagship « Previous | |Next »
April 22, 2003

Robert Manne's Neo-cons get a powerful voice argues one what this weblog has suggested: that The Australian has become the flagship of the local neo-con crowd in Australian. It has become the space from which to launch further attacks on the left in the culture wars in Australia.

The Australian had always been hostile to postmodernism and the leftwing writing of Australian history. It has opened its pages to those who launched their attacks on the academic left in the name of conservative social values and cultural criticism that defended Western values. The front of the cultural war to destroy the intellectual and practical basis for socialism and social democracy has been broadened with national security and the war on Iraq.

Western values mean Anglo-American: the values of the market order such as negative freedom and prosperity; an opposition to collectivism and big government; a conception of the moral order of the free society that is opposed to social justice; an extremely limited role of the state in providing a minimal safety net; the role of the state is seen to sustain the market order not direct it; and a reliance on tradition;the intellectual elite knows better what the rules of the market should be than ordinary citizens.

Anglo-American values means preserving democracy as a method of choosing
governments whilst emptying it from any substantive content and disengaging it from the doctrine of popular sovereignty. This is done to ensure that the powers of government are exercised within strict limits.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:36 PM | | Comments (8)


The only point I disagree with is on the role of the intellectual Úlite. In Howardland the word just means those opposed to the Howard project, just as 'ordinary Australians' means those who support the Howard project.

A genuinely intellectual Úlite might notice Howard's habit of attacking Afghanistan while locking up Afghans and attacking Iraq while locking up Iraqis. Genuine intellectuals might even question why Iraqis and Afghans fleeing from the regimes Howard attacks deserve concentration camps.

A genuine person would recognise that there is a system in place to process refugee applications, and that those that are locked up chose to ignore said system.

It may not be intellectual, but we don't all claim to be.

Untrue. There is no system in place to process either Iraqi or Afghan refugees. It is dishonest to claim there is or to impugn the genuineness of those you disagree with by claiming that there is.

Yobbo/Sam is quite right. There IS a system in place to assess the protection visa applications of all asylum seekers, including Iraqis and Afghans. It involves a primary determination by a DIMIA officer, a right to independent merits review by way of a full rehearing by the Refugee Review Tribunal, then a right to judicial review by the Federal Court with an appeal to the High Court. This remains one of the most extensive (and fairest) assessment systems anywhere in the world. The success rate for Iraqi asylum seekers until now has been around 80%.

The success rate for Afghan asylum seekers was also around 80% until the Taliban were deposed (after which arguably most new applicants could no longer establish a well-founded fear of persecution on Connvention grounds). By comparison, the success rate for Afghan asylum seekers in the UK was around 30% during the same period i.e. Australia's system is MUCH more generous than Britain's.

The problem with our system is the interaction between the universal mandatory detention regime for illegal entrant asylum seekers, and the extensive review and appeal rights. Because it may take 2 years or more to exhaust appeal rights, applicants may remain in detention throughout that time. Note, however, that the success rate of applicants who don't succeed either on primary determination or RRT review (which is usually completed within 6 months of application) is quite low (from memory much less than 15% and probably more like 5%).

Given the fact that no illegal people smuggler vessels have arrived in Australia since November 2001, Yobbo/Sam is quite right that the vast majority of people currently in detention in Australia are ones who have been repeatedly found not to be genuine refugees, and who are at various stages of exhausting their appeal rights.

Before Alan scoffs at those expressing an opinion which disturbs his cosy prejudices, he might consider actually finding out the facts.

I am familiar with the the refugee determination process and you re right that it is the universal detention regime which drives the problems. My cosy prejudice is that it is wrong to lock people in order to create an artificial atmosphere of crisis and get yourself re-elected. Australia's refugee flows are modest.

the fall in the number of sea-borne arrivals can be attributed to increased cooperation with indonesia as much as to the policy of deterring refugee applications by subjecting applicants to a fairly harsh regime of mandatory detention. deterrence policies are contrary to UNHCR Guideline 2 Australia does not receive a very large number of asylum-seekers in comparative terms.

If the 9500 asylum-seekers identified by DMIA are a problem then it follows that the 65000 overstayed visitors be 6 times the problem or that overstayed visitors are less of a problem than asylum-seekers for some reason not yet argued by the government.

Moreover, it is wrong to say there is a system in place outside Australia because no such system exists. Individuals who find their way to an Australian embassy are free to apply. That is a method of processing individual applicants rather than a system. the only offshore processing arrangements identified on the DMIA website are the detention camps set up as part of the pacific solution. Representing asylum-seekers as queue-jumpers implies a queue. No such queue appears to exist.

Amnesty International's report: Offending Humand Dignity describes a number of other human rights issues flowing from the Pacific Solution.

I was wrong to use an acerbic tone and I apologise for that. My tone does not vitiate the propositions I advanced.


Thanks for the considered reply. I'm not suggesting that universal madatory detention is a wonderful policy. Far from it, although just about all countries utilise detention to some extent. My major point was simply that Australia's refugee (and general imigration) policies actually stack up very well by world standards but for the mandatory detention regime. In opposing that aspect of government policy, we should be careful not to resort to generalised hyperbole.

This statement also merits comment:
"If the 9500 asylum-seekers overstayers identified by DMIA are a problem then it follows that the 65000 overstayed visitors must be 6 times the problem or that overstayed visitors are less of a problem than asylum-seekers for some reason not yet argued by the government."

Although it's a point worth making (because neither Liberal nor Labor governments have mounted scare campaigns about vissa overstayers), it's not as strong a point as you seem to think. Overstayers are pursued vigorously too; and are detained and deported as soon as they're located. It's just that, unlike the prolonged detention of asylum seekers while they pursue their review and appeal rights, the treatment of visa overstayers is uncontroversial. No-one argues they shouldn't be locked up and deported, while many people argue that asylum seekers shouldn;t be locked up while their applications are processed and appeals pursued. Another point is that the vast majority of visa overstayers are just holidaymakers who illegally stay an extra few days or weeks. Almost all of them ultimately leave of their own accord anyway. The same is not true of asylum seekers. In Britain (where asylum seekers are not imprisoned as a matter of course), 70% of unsuccessful applicants abscon and remain in the country permanently and illegally. In that sense, asylum seekers do present a potentially greater long-term problem than visa overstayers.

I'm going to see what I can find on comparative outlays between asylum-seekers and overstayers. I strongly suspect we spend much, much less on overstayers. Even accepting the 70% absconding rate from Britain that would add less than 10% to the total pool of prohibited noncitizens and the price in terms of human dignity might well outweigh that. More later.

Britain has a particularly high level of asylum seekers who abscond. Others, like Sweden, manage to have very limited detention and low levels of asylum seekers who abscond. This suggests to me there are major problems with the British system overall rather than a flaw of non-detention systems generally. So, non-detained asylum seekers do not necessarily pose a greater long-term problem...well, not to the extent Ken is suggesting anyway.