25 Oct 2011

How Bowen Lied About Malaysia

By Nick Riemer
Last night's Four Corners revealed systemic problems with mandatory detention. Chris Bowen's deplorable public deception on the entitlements of asylum seekers is typical of the distortions in refugee policy
There are many ways to lie in politics. Politicians can lie directly, by saying something that is untrue. Lies can also be indirect, through omissions, ambiguity, false implication, or by failure to set the record straight when it is necessary to do so. Some may prefer different terms: "misrepresentation", "deceitfulness", "manipulation". Whatever the label, all these acts are morally equivalent. In direct and indirect lies alike, a politician could tell the truth, but chooses not to.

In daily life, lies are commonplace and not always blameworthy. But in relations between the citizens of a democracy and its government, any kind of dishonesty should be intolerable. By misrepresenting facts, politicians rob the public of the ability to judge them accurately. Lies demonstrate what the 19th-century radical William Cobbett memorably called the "insolence of power".

In areas of intense public scrutiny like refugee policy, it is essential that debate be based on facts, presented clearly and unambiguously. But a review of media coverage of the most recent instalment of policy history, the Malaysia "solution", shows that the Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, systematically and deliberately lied to the public, both directly and indirectly, about the terms of the agreement. Bowen's statements about the deal's education provisions specifically allow a detailed documentation of the Government's manipulation of the public on this highly controversial issue.

Mostly — but not exclusively — Bowen did not lie overtly about education. Instead, he lied and misinformed subtly. Occasionally he even told the truth outright. Bowen's cleverness does not make the fact that he deceived the public any less scandalous — Bowen's acts were an outrageous assault on the principles of probity to which he is quick to appeal in other contexts like, most recently, over the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

The impact of refugee policy on children has always been a particularly sensitive issue, and access to schooling is central to it. In the lead-up to the signing of the Malaysia agreement, Bowen repeatedly emphasised that any deported children would be educated. "How [returnees] are cared for and catered and educated of course, they are issues that we would be working with Malaysia on," Bowen told Tony Jones in a 2 June Lateline conversation — how deportees would be educated, not whether they would be.

The Minister didn't reveal details, but the tenor of his interviews was clear. People didn't need to worry: Australia would make sure that innocent refugee children were properly educated once transferred.

These assurances were repeated after the deal was signed. According to a joint media release from Bowen and the Prime Minister on 25 July, deportees would have "work rights, access to education and health care": this mantra was repeated ad infinitum by both Bowen and the media.

But even before it was confirmed by the High Court, inspection of the short "Operational Guidelines" annex to the agreement revealed the hollowness of the Government's claims. Under the arrangement, children weren't getting "rights" or "access" to education as most people understood it — formal schooling in proper schools.

The guidelines simply stated that children would "be permitted access to private education arrangements in the community, including those supported by UNHCR" (OG, 3.3.(a)), and that "Where such arrangements are not available or affordable, school age Transferees will have access to informal education arrangements organised by IOM." (OG 3.3.(b)). There was no other mention of education in the guidelines.

Australia hadn't, then, "negotiated", "ensured" or "guaranteed" that children would have "access" to education. As the Operational Guidelines confirmed, the government wasn't itself doing anything to give children proper schooling. The second clause showed that it couldn't even guarantee that "private education arrangements" would be accessible. The agreement did not secure anything different for deportee children from what already existed in Malaysia.

This was not what the public understood when Bowen insisted that children would have education "access" or "rights". Had they known that nothing would change in education arrangements in Malaysia as a result of the deal's signature, people's attitude to it and to the government would have been even cooler.

To present the arrangement, as Bowen consistently did, as providing new negotiated measures to educate refugees, was a scandalous attempt to deceive the public. Again and again following the deal's publication, on 3AW, on 5AA, on PM, on Sky, on Radio Australia, on Channel 9, on JJJ, on al Jazeera, on the BBC, Bowen said the government had negotiated returnees "rights" or "access" to education and health, thereby perpetuating the impression he had carefully built up that the education available to deportees' children was only there as a result of the government's efforts. He also said that the education arrangements in Malaysia were ones that had to be paid for:

"The cost[s] that we are paying for are not exorbitant, they're not; they're appropriate — they're quite basic access to education and health and they're appropriate access to education and health. It's the standards that the Australian people, I think, would expect us to pay for."

Incredibly, Bowen even included education "access" in a list of significant steps forward for the protection of refugee rights in Malaysia:

"Those commitments to treat people with dignity and respect, with human rights standards and with work rights and access to health and education; these are all big steps forward and in terms of better protection outcomes across our region."

On three occasions only (on PM, Lateline, and 6PR), soon after signing, Bowen admitted the truth: Australia wasn't actually doing anything to guarantee schooling. Instead, in his own words, deportee children would "simply be able to access the voluntary education system that's currently run for refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia".

This admission was never explicitly repeated. On the rare occasions he was challenged, Bowen acknowledged — ambiguously — that the levels of health and education provision were "basic", but he never again admitted that the only "education" in question was the kind of makeshift volunteer-run classroom seen on SBS's Go back To Where You Came From or mentioned in this 2010 UNHCR media release.

The fact that the government wasn't doing anything real to give deportees schooling didn't stop Bowen criticising the Opposition for its plan to turn boats back to Indonesia. The grounds of Bowen's criticism were that Indonesia gives "no guarantees about schooling or access to health or education", clearly implying that the Malaysia plan was superior on exactly those criteria. This was, quite simply, untrue. There was no difference between Malaysia and Indonesia. In neither country was Australia doing anything new to help refugees with education.

In a Sky interview on 25 September, Bowen reiterated the claim that the Government had taken steps to ensure that refugees would be properly educated:

"But we said to Malaysia very clearly from the start, we'll need to negotiate in protections in this arrangement to ensure appropriate treatment: non-refoulement, that people won't be returned to danger, that they'll have access to school and education and health rights, that they'd have work rights, for example. Now it was a big call for Malaysia but they sat down in good faith with us and negotiated those protections in and made commitments to Australia."

This was not the first time Bowen had explicitly allowed people to think that education meant real schools. In the original press conference announcing the deal, the Malaysian Home Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, had answered "yes" to a question about whether returnees would have a legal right to work, "to school and to healthcare". At no stage then did Bowen choose to correct the inevitable impression that what this meant was that children would be going to "school" in the ordinary sense.

Tacit corroboration of an erroneous statement has been a characteristic Bowen technique. It reflects his subtlety that public attitudes to the Malaysia deal were shaped in no small part through his consistent failure to correct favourable misinterpretations by a credulous media. On Radio National, for instance, Alison Carabine repeated Bowen's claim that returnees would be given access to education and health, and, incorrectly, but understandably, added that they would be "treated better than other refugees" in Malaysia. Far from correcting this, Bowen accepted Carabine's mistaken presupposition, and congratulated himself on the level of protection the agreement offered:

"If people want to criticise us for having built-in too many protections into this agreement, for having negotiated that too well, okay, I'll cop that criticism because all the criticism has gone the other way."

At a time where public attitudes were crucially dependent on the details of the Malaysia agreement, even a single major misrepresentation is a serious matter. The facts documented here reveal a far more systematic campaign of public deception.

In his lies about the education of deportee children, Bowen has spectacularly failed basic standards of honesty and integrity — the same standards that he, as Immigration Minister, is supposed to apply through the "character test" to asylum seekers themselves, and the same standards that are regularly used to attack refugees as duplicitous economic migrants without genuine protection claims.

Everything suggests that Bowen's tactics over the Malaysia agreement are typical. Last night's Four Corners showed shocking visual confirmation of what observers, Bowen included, have known for a long time: Australia's mandatory detention policy brutally destroys innocent lives.

During the interviews excerpted on the program and published on the Four Corners website, Bowen made the following declarations about children in detention: "We've achieved [the moving of] the majority of children and families into the community" (5:22); "Do I agree that children are better off in the community? Yes I do, and that's what we've done" (36:15).

But there were, according to the program itself (35:39), still 369 children locked up in "alternative places of detention" at the start of October — a number that Bowen apparently felt insignificant enough not to mention.

According to the most recent statistics released by DIAC, at the end of September there were 440 children in detention, with only 446 in the community. In other words, there were almost as many children locked up as not. The figures mentioned last night on Four Corners do not suggest a greatly changed situation. Malaysia, it would seem, is far from the only topic on which Bowen has openly lied.

That Bowen is responsible for a "character test" makes a mockery of the very notion: he has consistently lied — and is still doing so — both subtly and directly, to the Australian public, the only legitimate source of his power.

As Four Corners made abundantly clear, the urgent issue confronting Australian society today is not the probity of an individual government minister, but the systemic torture and brutalisation of innocent people who have committed no crime, but are asking Australia for protection.

Nevertheless, any hopes of progress in policy debate are predicated on the truth being told. Bowen, as the person in the best position to tell the truth, has betrayed that duty in the most singular and scandalous fashion.

The truth matters. In a world where political integrity had any meaning, the only honourable course would be for Bowen to resign his portfolio. The fact that there is no realistic prospect of his doing so will surprise no one, but speaks volumes about the alienation of our political culture from the elementary standards of honesty on which a functioning democracy depends.

Bowen's concerted exercise in public deception fits into the chronic pattern of distortion and lies on which Australian refugee policy has been sustained for more than a decade. It matters that Australia is senselessly inflicting untold suffering on thousands of people. It matters that the public is being consistently lied to by the highest levels of government in order to maintain support for this policy. People should not tolerate Bowen's contempt for the truth, for human suffering or for them any longer.

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Neil James - Au...
Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 13:52

Nick's article is a good one, especially on the detail of the proposed execution of the flawed "Malaysia solution". But again the ADA stresses that this is not just an Australian issue alone.

See the updated comprehensive discussion paper at http://www.ada.asn.au/Comments/RefugeeConvention.htm

And its not just the renewed welter of simplistic political point scoring between Labor and the Coalition about asylum seeking that continues to ignore or deny the strategic security issues actually and intimately involved.

And ignoring that refugee matters centre on the practical issue of controllability and the principle of national sovereignty, not our supposed xenophobia, any lack of compassion or odd belief that it should be Australia’s burden alone.

Most Australians understand that the relatively low numbers of asylum seekers currently arriving appear manageable now.

But what seems to concern them instead is the risk these numbers might increase significantly ― perhaps at short notice ― and their perception that Australia is losing or has lost control of the situation.

Especially if the initiative might now be held by the people smugglers and our buck-passing regional neighbours, not us.

Simplistic or denialist arguments based only on stressing the current numbers of unauthorised arrivals do not assuage such public concerns or restore public confidence.

It is time our politicians concentrated on the national interest and not just even more partisan point scoring.

It is also time that many refugee activists stopped treating Australians as supposed fools, racists or uncompassionate just because they might disagree about where and how compassion should be best directed.

All our political parties and most refugee activists are ignoring that first and foremost a real, universal protection mechanism is needed across our region.

Not just unilateral deals by Australia with neighbouring countries ― most of them buck-passing non-signatories to the Refugee Convention ― solely about regulating eventual entry to Australia.

Swapping unauthorised arrivals for larger numbers of confirmed refugees might be correct in principle, but Malaysia as a non-signatory is the wrong country in practice to start.

Not least because there is no motive for Malaysia and other strategic shirkers to sign the Convention and begin treating refugees properly.

The Government and the Opposition are both wrong not to compromise so the people smugglers lose, the genuine refugees win, and controllability and therefore public confidence are restored.

The Greens are wrong because purely onshore processing plus an open-door policy will just repeat the marked demand-pull effect of the UNHCR centre on Indonesia’s Galang Island throughout 1980s and 1990s.

And let our shirking neighbours off the hook again.

Many Australians are also confusing our responsibility to provide temporary sanctuary to refugees with our honourable habit and history of offering permanent resettlement as an immigration outcome.

Such confusion and short-term thinking largely abandons all the refugees marooned overseas without the resources to fly and/or sail here or to other Convention signatories.

Finally, for safety, security and international law reasons, and to take the politics out of it, decisions to turn people smuggler boats back to Indonesia can only be made by the commander of our intercepting vessel alone.

While necessary as a general deterrent to people-smuggling, it is hard to do in practice. As are many border control duties.

Sensationalist, ignorant and ideological criticism of our naval and Customs personnel must stop.

Just put yourself in their shoes before gobbing off every time a boat sinks.

Neil James
Executive Director
Australia Defence Association
execdir@ada.asn.au
(02) 6231-4444
www.ada.asn.au

jbiggs
Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 13:57

jbiggs

Thank you for this important article, especially for coming soon after the four Corners programme. Bowen's performnace there was appalling. He had the grace to look unomfortable, if not guilty, but then had the gall to repeat ad nauseam that the government policy was "to move people into the community". This is indeed the govt policy, but only by default. What the programme was about was what had been happening for the past ten years, and Bowen is only the latest of Liberal and ALP politicians to have endorsed. There was no recognition of his responsibility in this systematised torture.

The following programme Media Watch showed what we are up against. The appalling lies and propaganda of Today Tonight in demonising asylum seekers. Bowen's stance suggests that he covertly agrees with that sort of propagandising, otherwise the govt surely would have specifically tried to counter the lies. This is the really ugly side of Australia, and it's happening now, not in Gold Rush days.

john-tons
Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 14:55

Excellent observations - I have worked with refugees over many years - what they all seem to have in common is that they do not decide to go somewhere but rather they have reached a point that anywhere has to be better than where they are - planning is rare. Australians need to ask themselves what would it take for them to make the decision to leave Australia, taking with them just some hand luggage and without any exact knowledge where they will go? What would be the circumstances that would put you in a situation where you are prepared to leave literally everything behind: friends, family, possessions? Would you be prepared to do this even if you had no idea where you would be going? What do you take with you? Identity papers? They are a risk for if you are caught escaping in many instances there will be reprisals on your family. How much can you carry - 5, 10, 20 kilos? Clearly your priority will be to take those things which can be used for bartering purposes - even if you have paid a people smuggler you have no idea hoiw much you will need. (I met one guy who had paid a people smuggler to guide them through the sahara - the guide walked them into the desert and after 2 days left his group stranded - he was the only one of the 30 who had paid the people smuggler to get out. He spent three years in detention because he had no means of proving who he was - he had sold hbnis passport to cameleer who took him out of the desert.)
Why do people get in a situation where they seemingly have no choice? Ask yourself which countries are responsible for the co0nflicts that generate refugees, which coiuntries are responsible for the economic policies that empoverish nations and provide opportunities for tin pot dictators, which countries are responsible for climate change which turns fertile land into a wilderness and may be just maybe you see that it these policies to which we are a party that have created the problem in the first place.
At the same time ask yourself why we continue to promote Australia as a destination for migrants when we are busy demonizing refugees.
By all means stop issuing visas to new migrants and restrict entry to refugees and family reunion programmes - makes our population more manageable and we are at least behaving as responsible global citizens.

David Grayling
Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 14:56

"This is the really ugly side of Australia, and it’s happening now, not in Gold Rush days."

I agree, jbiggs! Just look at the second last paragraph of the comment preceding yours if you want further proof.

Big Brother is here!

www.dangerouscreation.com

pamelac
Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 15:03

The minister said that the MAJORITY of CHILDREN would be released from detention by JUNE 30Th so
Half the number of children in detention PLUS FIVE were released - that is a Majority.

There were 1500 people released by JUNE 30th to Community detention. Now there are only 1100 plus in Community Detention.
This program which worked, which improved peoples medical and physical health, which cost one tenth of the cost of detention is now going backwards. At the Same time the Minister says that he will release more people into Community Detention?????

LIES AND SPIN.

Frank from Frankston
Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 17:04

Nick is so correct in so many places:
"Lies can also be indirect, through omissions, ambiguity, false implication, or by failure to set the record straight when it is necessary to do so. Some may prefer different terms: "misrepresentation", "deceitfulness", "manipulation". Whatever the label, all these acts are morally equivalent."

And the Omission, the Ambiguity, the Failure to Set His Story Straight, includes His policy plan of On Shore Processing. Writing a brochure for people smugglers to sell to their next round of victims.

Leading to: How many more thousand drowning victims at sea?
Leading to: The deliberate choice of parents to place their children in the hands of organised crime figures and lawyers.
Not Solving: The world's refugee problem. Not by an iota.

Labor denied any downside to their policy changes.
Labor denied any predicted flood of ocean crossings.
Labor denied any possibility that their victims were drowning at sea.
Until Christmas Island brought the truth home. Even managing to squeeze past the hubris, the ego, the preciousness of these shameless political operatives.

One more victim of this whole policy debacle is the widespread awareness, that this whole deadly scenario was created out of the minds of the Left. For the Left's own mysterious workings. And for the benefit of the Left.
They are the true killers of boat people. They are the true people smugglers.

billie
Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 17:28

I thought that all children in community based accommodation went to school but the 4 Corners program showed that these families were locked up in suburban houses.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. NewsGooJake
Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 21:29

Labor needs to be told - get rid of offshore 'solutions' and end mandatory detention, or kiss goodbye to government for good.

If there is no difference between their policies and those of the Coalition - and in essence, on asylum, there is none - then to a large extent democracy is invalidated.

Labor supporters need to tell their local MP or candidate - not this time, matey. Rather a spoilt ballot than another re-run of the asylum policy trajectory of recent years.

Most Australians oppose inhumane policies towards asylum seekers. They only remain in force because ignorant swing voters in marginal seats can be induced to project their grievances on to the vulnerable.

This outrage is, in other words, an artifact of Australia's electoral system, and the cynical calculation the big parties make, that no matter how appalling they are, their supporters will ultimately preference them over the other side.

Of course you have to fill in the form all the way down if you want your vote to be counted - what a stitch-up.

That must cease forthwith. Let's make the forthcoming federal election the point of no return:

No Choice, No Vote!

lukeweyland
Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 23:00

Well said!

It is time people realise that there is no significant difference between the Australian Protectionist Party, the Liberals Nationals and Labor in regards to refugee policy. A vote for any of these parties, is a vote against the UN Charter on Human Rights, a vote against the UN Declaration on the rights ofRefugees, and a vote against the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child.
Both major party's policies against Aboriginal communities, are equally disgusting.

Check out where the Democrats, Greens and various Socialists stand. On this issue at least even Nile's Christian Democrats are better than Labor and the Lib/Nats!

hlewers
Posted Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 08:24

Nick - thank you for your very important article. I am aware of squirming uncontrollably in my seat (and if alone, occasionally shouting) whenever I hear or see Bowen interviewed, and you have articulated the reasons professionally and accurately.

Yes - he is quite subtle, and also has the technically ability - much sought after in Labor and Liberal politicians - to talk on and on at enormous speed, inserting clause after clause without a break, thereby taking up as much air time as possible. This reduces the time an interviewer has available to ask him hard questions. He can also steer his answer to any topic he decides to. Why waste an opportunity to get "the message" out there?

It is good to see how thoroughly you have analysed Bowen's ministerial "speak". May there be more of it in relation to people who are supposed to represent us.

Once, quite some years ago, Chris Bowen spoke up in parliament in response to Howard's attempt to excise the whole of Australia (I kid you not!) from Australia's migration zone. He spoke about the human rights of asylum seekers and Australia's obligations under the convention! That more humane aspect of Chris Bowen has been completely torn asunder. My question is what happened to him? Was he just willing to sell his soul on becoming the Minister, or do people in the Dept of Immigration coach him? Or have Labor Party minders coached him in the art of deceit?

roma
Posted Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 09:46

Thank hlewers, and nick reimer, I too was appalled at the Four Corners programme and Mr Bowen's mealy-mouthed responses. I am so fed up with cringing at most of our pollies' responses, on far too many issues. I must hang onto the dream that common decency will eventually assert itself.

Brooza
Posted Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 11:28

I see Julia believes rich countries should help out poor countries showing she does really care! Perhaps she will have a word with the Minister, you know, do the right thing. Poor old Chris, I'm sure he didn't think it was going to be this hard......

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Marga
Posted Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 14:47

Neil James - if only you would write the blogs on "Boat people". So much more sensible.

Contrary to Kerry O'Brien the Four Corners programme did not move me at all (no crocodile tears wanted to come). I found it biased, but then that's how the ABC likes to push it.

The refugee/asylum seeker issue is a global problem and needs a holistic solution, a total revamp, and the realization that we cannot accommodate in western countries all those who seek a better life, which after all today's refugees are seeking.

Politicians are playing petty politics. The government could start by withdrawing from the Convention, establishing a population policy for Australia that takes account of our extremely limited resources and incorporates all categories of immigration into that policy.

We may be setting a precedent for other nations to follow and thus force the UN into action and hopefully put an end to the 7billion dollar people smuggling industry.

zeroxcliche
Posted Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 16:50

@ Neil James

There is a lot of "ends justifying the means" argument in the refugee discourse- you can have a humane version of ANY KIND of BORDER CONTROL policy but this country seems to think a raw form of deterrence is the only instrument on offer. I'm finding people's indifference to how low our standards can go quite depressing.The lastest instalment of the Malaysia solution (no longer any argument it will be the 'final' solution) is still treating people like livestock - the government trying to conjure up an abstract notion of compassion by swapping people like they are objects for another larger group of objects, I mean people. Are their limits to 'ends justifies the means' or do we just start shooting people to save them from drowning. I find that the comments from the right like your's and Marga's tend to reveal a shortfall in your emotional DNA, something you have in common with a lot of people in this country - Howard and Ruddock being the exemplars.

PS the reason for the capital letters is so I don't get some dreary and typical left/right dichotomy response

O. Puhleez
Posted Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 23:07

john-tons:

"Why do people get in a situation where they seemingly have no choice? Ask yourself which countries are responsible for the conflicts that generate refugees, which coiuntries are responsible for the economic policies that empoverish nations and provide opportunities for tin pot dictators, which countries are responsible for climate change which turns fertile land into a wilderness and may be just maybe you see that it these policies to which we are a party that have created the problem in the first place."

By far and away the bulk of the refugees are from the Islamic world. The conflicts there, which have a long history, are the great refugee generators. And yes, as I think Thomas Friedman argues well in his recent book 'Hot, Flat and Crowded' the global demand for oil is not only forcing the climate in the wrong direction, it is fostering the petroleum despots. (The US buys Saudi oil; the Saudis take a significant part of the money and use it to finance Islamism; so the US fight against Islamism is against that which financed from every US petrol pump. QED)

But far from impoverishing the populations of China and India, the two biggest populations in the world, global trade is rapidly increasing their wealth. However, India and Pakistan sit side by side as if in a controlled experiment on the effect of Islam on people of a given ethnicity, and the results could hardly be more stark. India's economy is growing rapidly, and Pakistan is a basket case. From there right across the Islamic arc to Nigeria, the story is much the same.

I put it to you that "policies to which we are a party... have created the problem in the first place" is a thesis that you are going to find hard to maintain.

Marymary
Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 05:15

When the Aust. Government goes to such extrordinary lengths to keep the Australian public from contact with the asylum seekers in detention in Australia, and when all staff at the detention centres are forbidden with threat of losing their jobs from talking to the media, it naturally raises suspicion that all is not right. If the Govt. was truly willing to allow open well informed debate and if (it) was willing to allow the Austalian public to see and hear for themselves the plight and responses of detained asylum seekers there would be an outrage of such huge prortions that the gates of the detention centres would be opened immediately to free these political prisoners from their chains, Charities use the sad and sicken faces of starving children from Africa to appeal for funds, 1 hour in an Australian detention centre filmimg would have an equal impact.
I know this from the inside

denise
Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 13:32

Excellent article that probably should have been entitled " Why Bowen should go."
You present a well documented argument for his resignation.
Through the Malaysia debacle he is dragging Guillard down even further in public opinion and his decisions can only be seen as opportunistic and naive at best and cold-hearted and badly calculated at worst.
His callous Malaysia policy is second only to Abbott's horrible idea of turning the boats around.
And I have no doubt the doubts raised about Malaysia's treatment of refugees were intentional and supposed to help deter even more boats.
However, the reality is he's only helped make the PM look even more foolish, and dare I say rudderless.
Especially in her desperate attempts to solve (thanks to the 'insolence of the media' and their imbalanced reporting and journalism) the great big boat problem, that should really be just a minor issue of following international conventions in the most humane way possible.
And of course the country we should be working most closely with about solving the 'boat problem' is Indonesia, the destination from where the vast majority of the boats depart.

denise
Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 13:45

And just another small point about the Labor Party.
They should bring back Kevin Rudd by installing him as the Deputy Prime Minister.
The public prefers him over Wayne Swan, who often struggles to communicate.
Julia Guillard is so low in the polls she has nothing to lose by appointing him and everything to gain.
It would show she is really prepared to do what is best for the ALP and therefore Australia.
That is, if they want to win the next election.
It would be the same ticket as '07, only the roles reversed!

Neil James - Au...
Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 15:48

For Zeroxcliche,

First, you obviously need to read the ADA's discussion paper at http://www.ada.asn.au/Comments/RefugeeConvention.htm

Second, you also need to widen your general reading if you somehow think the ADA is "right-wing".

Third, some key points in the ADA discussion paper cover your general laments. How, as but one of many examples from the paper does the following passage somehow lack 'emotional DNA' as you term it? You seem to be just another denialist as the paper notes:

"Due to inadequate understandings, party politics, short-term perspectives or narrowly-focused compassion, community argument in Australia often degenerates into either beating or puffing ourselves up morally and emotively over our national willingness, or not, to accept some or all asylum seekers and refugees. The overall geo-political, strategic and legal contexts are generally missing from such discourse."

"Public argument also frequently descends into the advocacy of simplistic and draconian pseudo-solutions. Such as trying to deter or punish every unauthorised immigrant or asylum seeker who might try to come to Australia or, alternatively, professing a willingness to accept everyone and anyone on an unlimited basis."

"Both types of behaviour are essentially arguing about the recurrent symptoms rather than the problem itself, usually emotively and illogically. They do little or nothing to fix the causes of why people become asylum seekers or refugees in the first place. Or little or nothing to help the vast majority of genuine asylum seekers and refugees not able to escape their predicament by travelling to Australia or other developed countries. Ignoring or denying this moral dilemma does not make it go away."

Neil James
Executive Director
Australia Defence Association
execdir@ada.asn.au
(02) 6231-4444
www.ada.asn.au

David Grayling
Posted Sunday, October 30, 2011 - 20:27

"They do little or nothing to fix the causes of why people become asylum seekers or refugees in the first place," says our home-grown sage, NJames.

Perhaps the increase has to do with American imperialism, with American invasion and occupation, with American murder of civilians in many parts of the world.

Should we therefore invade and occupy America, stop its warmongering and refugee-making?

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Marga
Posted Monday, October 31, 2011 - 09:36

David Grayling:
But they - the asylum seekers, refugees, migrants, illegals - are doing just that - invading the US and other developed countries, all because of overpopulation in their own countries.

They need (if need be with our help) change their agricultural practices, practice family planning and more family planning, educate and more educate, especially their women, let go of their macho (men) cultural habits (why do these men have so little confidence in themselves and at the same time fear women that they express it in macho culture?), organize themselves and take initiative.

They do little or nothing of that kind, but breed and then offload their excess numbers to other countries.

There was a very good article in the German newspaper "Die Zeit" last week, a conversation with ex-Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, now in his 90s. He recalled a visit as a young parliamentarian to Turkey, just after the guestworker agreement was signed. The then Turkish PM or President envisaged sending 10million Turks to Germany because Turkey was overpopulated. What a cheek!