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

and so it returns « Previous | |Next »
October 16, 2009

There is a sense of deja vu in the asylum/refugee/immigration debate as both political parties have rammed up the hardline rhetoric against Tamil asylum seekers fleeing the detention camps and summary executions in Sri Lanka. Will history turn full circle and we return to the bad old days under the Howard Government and the manipulation of fears that Australia faces a massive influx (flood) of nonwhite refugees in a country that has limited order control and protection.


So what is the Rudd Government going to do with the 260 or so Tamils who refuse to disembark at Merak and are on a hunger strike. Asylum seekers are not illegal arrivals ---as both Rudd and Turnbull claim---because under the UN convention, which Australia has signed, they have a right to arrive and make their claims. Will Rudd continue to use Indonesia---which has not signed the UN Convention on Refugees --- as an instrument?

Realistically, the Indonesian options are to imprison the Tamils or send them back to Sri Lanka. They will be provided with food and shelter but little else, since Indonesia will not allow them to work or study, let alone stay permanently. Why cannot Australia process those whom Rudd sent back to Indonesia?

A faction within the Coalition (ie., headed by Philip Ruddock and Kevin Andrews) is now talking in terms of the Rudd Government "laying out the welcome mat'', the Pacific solution (ie., the old processing on Nauru) and temporary protection visas.Theirs is a return to the hardline Howard position that reduces asylum seeker to illegal immigrant and so not really different to the "criminals" running the people smuggling trade.

This position is based on, and appeals, to fear and xenophobia about the Asian hordes swamping Australia. A xenophobia that turns its back on refugees, and which is being used by the Coalition to wedge the divisions within the ALP.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:36 AM | | Comments (13)


I for one don't want to be part of an Australia that adopts such a pedantic selfish, nasty, mean spirited, inhumane attitude to people in desperate need and I have no intention of leaving.
So people who espouse such contemptible attitudes should be told to keep their mouths shut.
Directly, bluntly.
I'm looking firstly at the COALition, partly at the ALP, but mainly at the media and public commentaters.

And I think I detect a slight maybe even significant change in the presentation of this issue this time around.
ABC TV News actually showed the Sri Lankans as human beings, real live people, rather than just ciphers for fear.
ABC Radio National has just presented a factually and ethical analysis of the legal refugee issue and Australia's generally deplorable response.

I suspect the disgraceful COALition wedging just might not succeed this time.

Or am I being optimistic?

It looks like the Coalition is going back to iron walls around our borders. Turnbull is saying that Rudd has ''lost control of Australia's borders.'' He is "scratching the redneck nerve'' in a desperate attempt to prevent his electoral decline.

Politicians (from all corners of the paddock) treat the Australian public like a bunch of frightened sheep. Oh, they know us sooo well.

I agree with Fred. Rudd is pathetic in ignoring the hunger strike of the Sri Lankan Tamils. Does he think he is Maggie Thatcher lording it over the hunger strikers are IRA prisoners at Long Kesh? We should be doing something substantive at source to address the issues of reconciliation and peace in Sri Lanka. The flow of arms to the Sri Lankan Government has the upper hand in the war, but they do not win the peace. Surely, we can take some refugees,and save them both money and the boat trip.

Political skirmishing has already intensified about who is tough, tougher or toughest on border protection. The term "illegal immigrant" is being bandied about. Refugees are being labelled "back-door" immigrants, vulnerable people are being used as political football.

How long before the Coalition is calling for the razor wire, innocent people indefinitely detained, abuses of those detained, lip-sewing, and self-harm?

Xenophobia runs deep in the national psyche. One of the very first acts of the very first Parliament in 1901 was to legislate against a supposed ''yellow horde''.

Well over a century ago, the pollies were feeding the public's paranoia that they'd be swamped by the tide of Irish-Catholic undesirables. The overblown "border protection" silliness is part of our tradition.

You you reckon some Eora people, around Port Jackson, would have been concerned when the first bunch of boat-people showed up?

Most of these people are dumb. They have been conned into thinking coming here in a boat will work. Putting the onus back on the country that they are coming from is a good move.

The tropical storm season will start soon, the boats will stop coming, and Rudd will be able to claim success just like Howard did.

'Queue jumpers' will continue to arrive by plane, all year round, but we won't mention them.


Still, while Rudd is making all those sickening Howard noises at least he's ditched Howard's policies.

re your comment:

"Still, while Rudd is making all those sickening Howard noises at least he's ditched Howard's policies."

It looks as if Howard's Pacific solution is metamorphosing into Rudd's Indonesian solution. James Hathway says:
Just as the Howard government dumped refugees in Nauru, a place where refugee law did not apply, so too has the Prime Minister decided that people exercising their international legal right to seek protection should be forcibly held in Indonesia, another country that refuses to sign the United Nations Refugee Convention. In the result, people fleeing truly dire situations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka – many, if not most, of whom would under Australian standards qualify for protection as refugees – have been (albeit indirectly) stripped of their rights. By us.

Hathway adds that Rudd is absolutely wrong to suggest that he is entitled to force refugee claimants into detention in Indonesia on the grounds either that they are travelling with aid of people smugglers, or because they are "illegal" immigrants.

News reports are saying that Jakarta and Canberra are locked in talks over who would take 78 boatpeople, understood to be Sri Lankan, rescued off the Sumatra coast on Sunday by HMAS Armidale after a request from the Indonesian Search and Rescue Authority.

The asylum-seekers, who included five women and five children under the age of seven, were transferred to Australian Customs vessel Oceanic Viking after crew aboard the patrol boat judged their vessel unseaworthy.

It is understood the Rudd government expects Jakarta will eventually accept the asylum-seekers because the boat was intercepted in the Indonesian zone.

So we have the Indonesian solution. We pay Indonesia to detain asylum seekers that we have rescued.

Q. Why cannot the Sri Lankan refugees currently on the Australian Customs vessel Oceanic Viking come to Christmas Island for their refugee claims to be assessed?

A.It is all about intercepting vessels of asylum seekers from coming to Australia to maintain the "integrity of our borders" and our immigration system.

sublimal message--we don't want them here.

Spending money in an effort to use Indonesia as a holding pen so refugees don’t risk their lives on boats coming to Australia may work for a while, but it is untenable in the long term if refugees waiting in Indonesia are not able to find safe resettlement within a reasonable period.