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refugees: the parliamentary impasse « Previous | |Next »
June 29, 2012

What surprises me about the Gillard Government is that it hasn't done very much to work towards a regional solution to the flow of refugees through South East Asia. It appears to be locked into the frame of border security and deterrence and stuck in its Malaysian solution, and unwilling to put money into helping the UNHCR process asylum seekers or increase the refugee and migrant intake.

So we remain stuck in the parliamentary impasse over the means to ensure order security and deterrence without a regional solution; an impasse in which the debates in Parliament have become circular and cliched with little awareness of the role that Australia's border control policy has played in stranding large numbers of people in transit countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.


Jessica Irvine reminds us:

The evidence shows, after all, that most people who arrive unlawfully by boat are eventually settled in Australia on protection visas - 83.3 per cent of the ''irregular maritime arrivals'' in 2009-10, according to the latest figures from the Department of Immigration.

So why not increase Australia's humanitarian intake? If asylum seekers were allowed to travel here legally, wouldn't that help to make a dent in the people-smuggling model?

Surely that is better than Australia shouting at Indonesia and the political parties shouting at one another over who is to blame for the parliamentary impasse? It was Gillard herself who identified a workable regional refugee policy as one of the goals of her leadership. So why not take active steps to get the ball rolling?

After all there is a consensus that a regional solution is a good one. Australia, as a wealthy nation with strong economic growth, should be the one making the running on putting a regional solution in place.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:01 AM | | Comments (16)


The Coalition refuses to budge, saying it is their policy or nothing.They say it works as a deterrence, even though the Immigration Department advised the government and the Coalition last year that Nauru and the rest of the old Pacific solution had worked once but would not do so again.

It said that Nauru was considered no more a deterrent than Christmas Island

It is a political truism that the Coalition garners support from the electorate at large when asylum-seekers are front and centre of the political debate.

This explains the Coalition’s current intransigence. Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison negotiating position is that everybody else has to accept Coalition policy in its entirety and to the exclusion of any other policy.

The Greens continue to stand on their ground of on-shore processing with increased humanitarian intake and providing additional funding to the UNHCR with a view to facilitating refugee processing.

Fair enough... the UNHCR and Australia have done very little to establish an accessible and orderly asylum seeker "queue" in the region. That's what makes the popular image of "queue jumpers" so ridiculous.

But I suspect, even if an efficient system existed, the boat would keep coming. There will always be some desperate enough to risk the voyage.

Leanne Weber in The Conversation highlights the issue of non arrival policies that have been put in place to prevent asylum seekers from reaching a place of safety. She says:

The reason that others cannot travel legally and safely is because an elaborate network of visa regimes and offshore interception programs has been put in place specifically to prevent their arrival. Visa applications from asylum seekers from “high risk” nationalities are routinely denied. Networks of Immigration Department liaison officers are posted throughout South-East Asia to prevent “inadequately documented passengers” from boarding flights. This is a significant part of the reason there are such large populations of asylum seekers concentrated in Malaysia and Indonesia.

The politics of border control has continued to be part of the problem, not a pathway towards a solution.

The problem i have with accepting the 83.3% is that in doing so are we putting those that have $10,000(?) to get on the boat ahead of those that don't.

One of the biggest hurdles (maybe THE biggest) faced by politicians of good-will, is the years of hysteria and disinformation spread by those who went before them. The continuing demonisation of asylum-seekers limits the palatable options for real progress.

The poison dwarf's pandering to the swinging electorates and Labor's opportunist grab for the same important electorates has backed them into a corner.

Both major parties are locked into appearing "tough" on boat arrivals. Any sign that they are willing to relent on deciding "who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come" will cost them votes.

Sad, so sad.

Les... I suspect that many of those getting onto the boats are the very same people who have given up on joining the short and/or elusive queue.

Hence the call for Australia to "put money into helping the UNHCR process asylum seekers or increase the refugee and migrant intake."

Very little doubt that ordinary people CAN be up to speed on the issue. Gary described current state of play word perfectly, the responses indicate comprehension, although Les'scepticism ought not to be dismissed without consideration.
Les, I think the trouble goes back to the excising of certain groups from normal processes; usually the groups are from the worst affected war zones, yet are given the hardest time, as to access.

Those on the Right who are deeply opposed to asylum seekers, increased humanitarian intakes and large immigration express a particular blend of nationalism and xenophobia, as well as strong anti-elite attitudes.

Since 2001 concerns over immigration in this right-wing populist politics have been joined by a cluster of anxieties over security-related issues – such as crime and terrorism – and more specific discomfort over settled Muslims.

On immigration and identity the centre-left has been outflanked. The fact that the populist right is delivering a more resonant narrative is reflected in the way in which this politics and the Coalition have made their most striking inroads into the traditional core base of the centre-left: blue-collar skilled workers.

the right wing backlash to refugees, humanitarian intake and immigration is premised on a perceived sense of threat to the cultural unity of the nation – rather than economic threat – that is the strongest driver of prejudice, and also the desire for more restrictive immigration and asylum policies.

There are deep fears fears about a loss of cultural unity, national identity and ways of life. These concerns are not rooted in individual experience: they are concerned mainly with the impact of diversity on the wider national community.

As with most thing political if it isn't sold well there is problems. In this case the emphasis tends to be on the ethnic origins of the boat people.
But the reality of the situation is that Australia needs births so immigration is necessary. The children of these immigrants will be mostly westernised by the time they reach the workforce when they will be needed to sustain our aging population.
So the veiw from marketing is to change the emphasis to "Australia needs children"

"...they are concerned mainly with the impact of diversity on the wider national community"

Ironic innit??? The wider national community IS diverse. That's been the case for at least a century. So it's essentially a diverse community objecting to it's own diversity.

Hardly any votes in adopting a sane and humane approach to refugees, and since Tampa, terror at what might happen to anyone deemed soft on border protection. Emotion rules and sensible policy is impossible because of the history, as Mars says.

Let's face facts.... elections these days hang on... ah, let's say 10% of the votes being cast. These are the folks who can/will swing the balance of power. These are the voters being frightened/courted by the major parties.

In these times of financial uncertainty, and facing a fragile job environment... self-interest rules the mortgage belt more than ever.

Gillard has adopted a rudd solution to all problems. Form a commitee.