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Border protection recycled « Previous | |Next »
March 16, 2010

With the increase in boats carrying asylum seekers arriving in Australian waters without prior authorisation the opposition has been sniping away on border protection and boat arrivals. They are claiming that the Rudd Government is "soft on border protection" and that this supposed softness is encouraging greater numbers of illegal arrivals, particularly by boats facilitated by the organized people smugglers.


The argument is that policy reforms instituted by the Rudd Government (dismantling border protection) are operating as a “pull factor”. The rhetoric is one of creating an image of an “invasion” by the world’s dispossessed, attracted towards us by a perceived weakening in our determination to keep them out, and that some unauthorised arrivals could possibly pose a threat to the security of the Australian community.

It's border security in the context of the war on terrorism.

The soft touch argument not much of one, given both the rise in the international movement of people from war torn areas (Sri Lanka and Afghanistan) the minor differences between the Rudd Government and the Howard government in border protection policy or practice, and Australia's low rank down the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees table.

It's all about being tough on border protection, given the public anxiety this issue has historically had in middle Australia, but there appears to be little indication of public groundswell for a harsher border security regime in a liberal society. Australia does not have refugee “crisis” or a border protection “crisis” and so we have experienced a sterile political debate about whether the recent increase in boat numbers is the result of pull factors or push factors rather than both.

Mandatory detention remains the default position for adult asylum seekers who reach Australian territory without a valid entry visa with mandatory detention being located on the offshore Christmas Island.What Labor has done is make processing of asylum claims far more efficient. A core problem is that people smugglers run a business and that business will expand where there are opportunities to make money. Peter Mares observes that today:

sovereignty is expressed more than ever in controlling the flow of people across borders. The primary organisational system in the world today remains the nation state, and in liberal democracies like Australia it is the citizens of those bounded territories who elect governments and shape policies. This makes the call for open borders a political impossibility. The citizens of an individual state have the power, through their elected representatives, to determine who comes into their country and the circumstances under which they come – though this power is not absolute [as it is] constrained by international agreements freely entered into – the Refugee Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The best way forward, Mare says, is for Australia improve its cooperation with Indonesia and other countries in Southeast Asia with the aim of disrupting smuggling networks and intercepting asylum seekers before they embark on a boat journey.

What then? Where do the intercepted refugees go?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 4:07 PM | | Comments (10)


The Libs have got nothing to lose by flogging this issue. It reminds a certain element of their base why they are worth supporting, and it's unlikely to turn off anyone who would have voted for them otherwise.

Labor should be able to tough it out. Regional stability is improving thanks to developments in Sri Lanka and the Middle East and the USA's failure to start any more wars lately, so one could expect the inflow of refugees to taper off of its own accord over the coming months. Plus the MSM seems to have grown bored with leaky boat stories and if the MSM stops running the stories with screaming headlines, the issue just goes away. It's not like a few thousand people were ever going to make the slightest impact on anything of substance.

Kevin will never get tough on border protection and refugees because post PM he sees himself with the U.N or some such group.

some say that his heart is too soft to get tough on border protection and refugees

Savitri Taylor in Australia's expanding borders that in:

most countries in our region will not easily be persuaded to contemplate local integration of refugees. As for resettlement, on a worldwide basis the need for resettlement places far outstrips availability.

The political argument here re responsibility for refugees is that Australia has a finite capacity to assist refugees, with the consequence that every place taken by an onshore asylum seeker is a place taken away from a person offshore. Few ask what 'finite capacity' means.

Something is definitely soft.

The issue doesn't have the same resonance it did when terrorism was also in the headlines. Not much of a vote changer. And this week the whole scary thing will be lost under the weight of Costello getting stuck into Abbott.

All Rudd has done is keep asylum seekers in a different place and speed up processing. The 'soft' thing is a sham. So is the 'pull factor' of getting rid of TPVs. They were a nightmare for the people who had them, and an unnecessary administrative burden.

yes I agree. Perhaps if some bombs or xmas crackers are found on one of these boats the media will be able to get a decent story out of it.

I am sure that most realize that Costello now has to earn his keep.

Some issues may look different next week after the elections.

So many of the old pollies have dragged themselves out of the mothballs this week. Costello, Keating, Howard, Hewson. It's like the media has been taken over by a retirement village.

Abbott vs Rudd is looking a bit lacklustre. Bit of a non event like this years cricket season. Abbott vs Costello has brand recognition and humour. Bet some big dollars are being discussed to get all that you mentioned and more on a panel to discuss the coming federal election. Everyone will be sitting on the edge of their seats Saturday night because the media will set the agenda next week based on those outcomes.
I am of the opinion that Rudd is close to the point where the Labor party can't win with him. But I am prone to crazy ranting opinions.........occasionally.

The whole "boat people" thing is totally bogus in a situation where both major parties are committed to large-scale legal immigration. I was delighted when Kerry O'Brien did a series of shows on the implications of immigration recently, but I've been bitterly disappointed by the lack of response.

"Boat people" are a drop in the bucket. We need to think about the implications of the "legals".