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

‘turn the boats back’ « Previous | |Next »
December 10, 2010

William Maley in 'Fear, Asylum, and Hansonism in Australian Politics' in Dialogue (vol, 29 No 2, 2010) says:

In the ranks of the general public, there may well be a sense that unauthorised arrivals by boat cause a policy problem because the people coming in are typically not refugees. Within the ranks of government, policy makers know that the opposite is the case. Unauthorised boat arrivals cause a policy problem because the people coming in are typically refugees...People smuggling is essentially a black market response to the attempts by states to prevent refugees from making asylum claims in the first place.

He adds that states are arenas of competing political interests and forces, and refugees may weigh far less heavily in leaders‘ minds than the voters who have the capacity to eject them from office.

Thus from April 2010, Afghan asylum applications were increasingly rejected not because the situation in Afghanistan had actually improved, but because it had been made crystal clear to primary decision makers that this was what their political masters wanted. Acceding to right wing populism has proved to be electorally rewarding--as we saw in the last federal election.

Maley adds that:

The abandonment of the 1951 Convention would not put an end to the problem of refugee flight. It would simply offer a pretext for shifting the burden still more onto poor countries, adjacent to regions of instability, that are already bearing the bulk of the global refugee burden as countries of first asylum. Rather than an assault on the Convention, what is required is leadership from key political figures; leadership directed at rebuilding fractured elite consensuses in favour of refugee protection

I see little hope of that. It is more likely that there will be further concessions to right wing populism, despite Australia being a nation of immigrants. Conservative politicians have become adept at fomenting and exploiting the popular (almost enculturated) fear of outsiders as an electoral weapon. Electorally, this strategy is very effective that Labor is running scared of an electorate energised by Opposition rhetoric.

It is fear of the Other (aliens) that has helped shape this nation since the 1850s blocked Chinese immigration at the height of the gold rushes. The desire to achieve uniform measures to control immigration (to exclude non-whites) was a central factor that drove the colonies to federate in 1901. Fear is the dark thread that weaves itself through the discourse around immigration and it manifests itself in the racist assaults on foreign (mostly Indian) students.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:35 PM | | Comments (1)


Funy I should get to read this now, my mind is still having a silent grin over a remark in an article from a journal called "Reportage", coming from Julian Burnside:
"It has always appalled me to think that a person's fate could be decided by a process...not capable of being examined by the courts".