Home > Oz Politics > Bail for asylum-seekers

Bail for asylum-seekers

August 25th, 2004

In response to previous posts on asylum seekers, various commenters have suggested that there is no alternative to our current brutal policies, including the detention of children. A striking feature of these comments is that they treat the problem as if it is utterly new and unprecedented. In fact, we have lots of experience in dealing with people subject to judicial processes (such as criminal trials) and also with unauthorised residents such as visa overstayers.

Looking first at what should be done when someone arrives in Australia without authorisation, and claims political asylum, I’d suggest the obvious model is that of bail for people accused of criminal trials. That is, asylum seekers should be allowed to remain at liberty unless it can be shown, on the balance of probabilities, that they are likely to abscond or that they represent a danger to the community/

The comments seem to take the view that this is unacceptable because, inevitably, some people will abscond. But they don’t, I assume, take the same view in relation to criminal offences. At this moment, there are thousands of people at large in Australia who have outstanding warrants for offences ranging from speeding to crimes of violence. These people represent a much greater threat to the community than do illegal immigrants. But no-one suggests that everyone charged with an offence should be locked up until they have been tried.

And even within the category of illegal immigrants, there are tens of thousands who have jumped the queue the easy way, by overstaying a tourist or student visa. Most, though not all, of these turn up in the end, but quite a few manage to squeeze into one of the legal categories, for example by marriage.

If you read the discussion of this issue from supporters of the government, the general impression is that even the slightest breach in our immigration policy would be a national catastrophe, and that to avoid such a catastrophe we are justified in the kind of extreme measures we have seen, things that would normally be rejected outright in a democratic society. This is simply untrue, as should be obvious when you consider comparable issues like bail or proceeding by summons for (alleged) criminals.

This is only part of the issue, the other part being our general policy on refugees, which I will discuss in a later post.

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  1. August 25th, 2004 at 11:43 | #1

    Marriage and the birth of children are no longer guaranteed reasons for a resident visa, due to widespread abuse. Most overstayers have been backpackers (given work permits to do tasks that unemployed Australians are too lazy to) and Chinese “english language” students brought in for dodgy language schools which are fronts for labour providers, mainly in the textile and hospitality industries. This class of visa was introduced by Labor and almost immediately was swamped with bogus applications- I believe it is still in force. Overstayers on these classes of visa are detained and deported- as an Australian would be if they breached their visa conditions anywhere else. Our system is no different to anywhere else in the world- parts of Europe which had a low level of enforcement of immigration law are tightening the same due to unsustainable inflows. As to bail, the issue of flight risk would feature highly, also lack of substance in the community; however assorted activist magistrates seem to regularly give bail to foreign nationals on major drug charges, who then decamp, so it would be luck of the draw.
    The previous system of deportation and the requirement for an application to be made offshore was more equitable, easier and less costly than the current arrangements.

  2. August 25th, 2004 at 11:54 | #2

    >Our system is no different to anywhere else in the world- parts of Europe which had a low level of enforcement of immigration law are tightening the same due to unsustainable inflows.

  3. MB
    August 25th, 2004 at 14:45 | #3

    It would be interesting to hear from overseas experience of alternative systems. I know for a fact that in Italy the system has become so chaotic that it has become a major political issue. It is estimated by the government that there are 3 million illegal immigrants in Italy, only 1.5 million of which are registered. It is common knowledge [in Italy] that the textile and other industries thrive off illegal labour. From personal correspondence, many people are fed up with the situation (my father was there at the time of the Tampa incident and, while some Italians condemned the Howard position, 4 in 5 people he spoke to wished the Italian government would do the same). While I cannot be sure, I suspect the situation is similar elsewhere.

  4. Martin Pike
    August 25th, 2004 at 15:43 | #4

    The UK generally allows its asylum seekers to roam free (unless the law has changed in the past year or so since I was there). Obviously a few go to ground, especially in a place like London, but on the whole they are seen as an economic boon.

    Many of the same issues, and much of the same rhetoric, arise in debate over there, however despite being much more overcrowded than us, and having more overt ‘race issues’ in places, they take a more benign approach than Australia. Poms I spoke to (and not just the lefty latte sippers) were usually baffled as to why a sparsely populated immigrant nation would get so riled up about a few hundred people in the odd boat…

  5. Steve Edwards
    August 25th, 2004 at 16:17 | #5

    Martin Pike posits:

    “Poms I spoke to (and not just the lefty latte sippers) were usually baffled as to why a sparsely populated immigrant nation would get so riled up about a few hundred people in the odd boat…”

    It doesn’t surprise me that much. Australia’s relatively high living standards are founded on a fairly small population having access to abundant land resources and investment opportunities. We have a lot to lose. To just give it all up and follow the European example would be a needless self-injury.

    MB has written:

    “It is estimated by the government that there are 3 million illegal immigrants in Italy, only 1.5 million of which are registered. It is common knowledge [in Italy] that the textile and other industries thrive off illegal labour.”

    In the US, some estimates put the illegal population up to 15 million. If Australia had a figure proportional to America, we’d have 1 million illegal immigrants. That is a colossal underclass of foreign helots, and for some reason the American Left doesn’t see anything wrong with this.

    JQ has written:

    “At this moment, there are thousands of people at large in Australia who have outstanding warrants for offences ranging from speeding to crimes of violence. These people represent a much greater threat to the community than do illegal immigrants. But no-one suggests that everyone charged with an offence should be locked up until they have been tried.”

    This is a non-sequitur. Because X aspect of public policy is a problem and Y aspect isn’t, one doesn’t conclude that we can therefore allow more problems in Y to make it equal with X.

    What the Open Borders lobby need to prove is that their Open Borders policies are in the interests of Australians as opposed to the interests of non-Australians. If the Left really wants to turn this country into a balkanised Sparta, then they should stop pretending they support equality.

  6. Fyodor
    August 25th, 2004 at 16:58 | #6

    Steve Edwards,

    I didn’t think it’d take you long to weigh into this one, and you rarely disappoint in providing the voice of the hysterical Little Australian.

    You’ve totally misread JQ’s original post, and turned the issue into a contest of extremes: immigration controls versus Open Borders. JQ did not suggest an “Open Borders” policy, just the option of bail rather than mandatory detention for illegal immigrants. Please argue this point rather than raving on.

    As a final point, you’ve referenced Lacedaemonic history, and ballsed it up as per usual. Here’s some pointless nit-picking to accompany yours:

    1) You can’t “balkanise” Sparta, as it’s already in the Balkans (it was in Greece the last time I checked);
    2) The helots were actually native to the Laconic region, not foreigners. They just didn’t belong to the military caste of Spartiates, who most probably WERE foreign invaders;
    3) The Spartans excluded foreigners from their lands, and ended up a fossilised unchanging society eventually defeated by their more dynamic (and populous) neighbours.

  7. Steve Edwards
    August 25th, 2004 at 17:32 | #7

    Fyodor writes:

    “As a final point, you’ve referenced Lacedaemonic history, and ballsed it up as per usual. Here’s some pointless nit-picking to accompany yours:

    1) You can’t “balkanise” Sparta, as it’s already in the Balkans (it was in Greece the last time I checked);
    2) The helots were actually native to the Laconic region, not foreigners. They just didn’t belong to the military caste of Spartiates, who most probably WERE foreign invaders;
    3) The Spartans excluded foreigners from their lands, and ended up a fossilised unchanging society eventually defeated by their more dynamic (and populous) neighbours.”

    Ahem… YOU were the one who stuffed up Balkans history not me. That’s a pretty rich claim from someone who thinks that Yugoslavia was a “socialist creation”.

    Now if you refer back to my comment, you’ll find I referred to

    a) “Balkanised Sparta”
    b) “foreign helots”

    The term “balkanised”, as you know well but chose to ignore, describes a fractious country with tribal, ethnic and religious divisions. It does not require the subject to be actually in the Balkans.

    The term “foreign helots” precisely recognises that the helots were an indigenous serf class, that’s why it requires the qualifier – “foreign”.

    You’re the one who is debating a strawman – I got my history right, that’s why I used the appropriate adjectives to make the comparisons hold.

    Take a country that has a colossal military establishment and a large and growing serf class, reverse the origins of the respective classes and you have our future Sparta – the US.

  8. Steve Edwards
    August 25th, 2004 at 18:03 | #8

    On the asylum debate – JQ acknowledges that there can be a problem with people absconding and proposes bail as an option. I think Paul Bickford (who has experience with this) provided the appropriate response:

    “As to bail, the issue of flight risk would feature highly, also lack of substance in the community; however assorted activist magistrates seem to regularly give bail to foreign nationals on major drug charges, who then decamp, so it would be luck of the draw. The previous system of deportation and the requirement for an application to be made offshore was more equitable, easier and less costly than the current arrangements.”

    Bail would be great news for economic “refugees”. All they need to do now is get some more money together, perhaps from sympathetic refugee organisations, and they’re free. From there, all they have to do is not turn up if/when it looks like their applications will be rejected. I don’t see how this can be in Australia’s interest.

    There is also a large underground network of escaped asylum seekers. How do I know? Because in 2002, a number of refugee groups proclaimed this and held a referendum at UWA to give several thousand dollars to this clandestine network, paid for by the students – ipso facto, to sponsor a criminal organisation. I don’t see why we need to follow the doomed path of Western Europe and the US by needlessly creating an illegal underclass.

    All the arguments of the Soft On Borders Lobby seem to return to this theme – “Australia has worse problems than asylum applicants, therefore it doesn’t really matter if we loosen our control, besides, things aren’t as bad as Western Europe or the US yet”. What they are trying to do is to find an excuse, ANY excuse, to abolish our border controls and allow as many people to apply onshore as nature allows.

  9. John Quiggin
    August 25th, 2004 at 18:27 | #9

    Steve, this kind of argument can be formulated for any law you care to name. Most obviously, Paul’s fact-free claim about magistrates could be used to justify refusing bail to all drug offenders.

    Similarly, the need to stage manhunts to capture (alleged) racist criminals like Jack van Tongeren could be used to justify indefinite detention of anyone accused of a crime such as inciting racial hatred.

    If you are willing to attack the general principle of bail, you should be prepared to see the same reasoning applied in cases where you might not think imprisonment was justified.

  10. August 25th, 2004 at 18:40 | #10

    From a purely economic perspective I don’t see how we can justify the expense of mandatory detention. From a policy perspective there are many ways in which we prefer options which will enhance the economy and the taxpayer rather than options which will cost the taxpayer money. See for example bail, but also work for the dole, community based service rather than custodial sentences and incentives for retirement planning.

    If we are spending millions on a closed border policy (as we are) how can we justify also spending millions to house people who are not contributing to society and are actually actively costing us money by accessing legal processes.

    Surely electronically tagging them for release into the community would even be cheaper than housing them 24 hours a day particular if combined with stringet slave labour type work conditions.

    Now I am not advocating this as the best solution, but regardless of your view of open/closed border policies, this has to be a better solution than mandatory detention.

  11. August 25th, 2004 at 19:08 | #11

    It’s no fact-free claim; while in the job I had five different absconders, all on major import charges, all foreign nationals with no property/ties in Australia and all bailed by Labor appointed magistrates, despite strong objections from the DPP. If I didn’t think the magistracy is above corruption, I’d put it down to back-handers; as it is I put it down to ineptitude. Granting bail to a person with a network of overseas (criminal) contacts and a history of using dodgy travel documents, who is cashed up and has no family ties here seems a little generous.

  12. DM
    August 25th, 2004 at 19:09 | #12

    PB must have dozed off for a while. Dodgy language schools and floods of mainland Chinese students are a thing of the past – about 10 years past. And I worked briefly in one of the dodgy schools and still work in the industry, so do have insider knowledge.

  13. DM
    August 25th, 2004 at 19:11 | #13

    Oh, and happy birthday to me – 61 today.

  14. August 25th, 2004 at 19:37 | #14

    Happy birthday. Haven’t been involved in immigration law for just about exactly ten years. Spot on.

  15. Steve Edwards
    August 25th, 2004 at 20:00 | #15

    JQ suggests:

    “If you are willing to attack the general principle of bail, you should be prepared to see the same reasoning applied in cases where you might not think imprisonment was justified.”

    If we really got to the root of this, we’d discover that I am arguing that foreigners should not have access to the same rights as Australian citizens. JQ seems to think we should give foreigners the same rights as Australian citizens.

  16. DM
    August 25th, 2004 at 20:15 | #16

    Perhaps what JQ is suggesting is that we should treat all people, of all nationalities, as we would expect to be treated.

    Just as a matter of interest, exactly what “rights” do you assume we have as “Australians”?

  17. John Quiggin
    August 25th, 2004 at 21:26 | #17

    Steve, I don’t know about you but I travel overseas reasonably often.

    I can’t say I feel too happy about being the subject of the view “we will decide who to imprison without trial indefinitely, and under what conditions”, which is what you now seem to be proposing we should apply to foreigners here.

  18. August 25th, 2004 at 22:43 | #18

    Try turning up somewhere without a passport or valid visa; Molly Meldrum was booted out (didn’t even make it past the harridans at Honolulu) because he didn’t have a working visa and was travelling to the US as a “journalist”. Even lawless dumps like Somalia havs immigration restrictions and required paperwork (usually printed with In God We Trust, tucked in whatever you hand over to the thug on the airport gate). Indefinite detention is a crock- detainees are free to leave at any time, and the commonwealth will cough for the fare. The concept of hordes arriving by ‘plane is also a furphy; the Immigration Act was ammended in the early ’90s, and any undocumented arrival results in a A$5,000 on the spot fine for the carrier; check-in staff overseas give thorough vetting to embarkees, but the odd one slips through and turfs their travel docs in the dunny. Airlines aren’t keen on handing over a wedge when margins are already thin. Australian visas are very difficult to forge, with over twenty security factors built in to them. Border protection is expensive and ugly- I think a better solution is to remove the need for people to flee their country, but the left hates pre-emptive action against recalcitrant and truculent states more than throwing asylum seekers in the pokey.

  19. Michael Burgess
    August 25th, 2004 at 23:35 | #19

    Steve, what the ‘get tough with asylum seeker lobby’ ignore is the moral obligations western countries have to offer greater assistance to refugees both on the grounds that we are rich in comparison to other countries and because of our past interference in other countries. One does not have to be a naïve lefty, and think that virtually all the problems in the non-western are the result colonial and post-colonial explotation to recognise that we do share a good deal of the blame for the problems that exist.

    For example, unlike many contributors to this blog, I support the war in Iraq (and US support for Israel) and I think that Blair et al have done a great thing getting rid of that murderous regime. However, the West (including France and Germany) has undoubtedly behaved appalling in this region and elsewhere in the past (past US support for Saddam etc) and should, among other things, be more generous to refugees.

    I would also take the tough on asylum seeker lobby a bit more seriously if they were a bit more sensitive to the plight of asylum seekers. After all, even the often despised economic refugees are simply doing what most Australians would do in their circumstances and seeking to escape grinding poverty and improve their lives. The other side of the coin is that Muslims who live in the west are hardly helping the cause of fellow Muslims seeking immigration to western countries by refusing to adequately come to terms with the problems within their own societies.

  20. craigM
    August 25th, 2004 at 23:51 | #20

    The concept of hordes arriving by boat is a “furphy”. The spike in boat arrivals was driven by an upsurge in Iraqi and Afghan refugees. Prior to 2000 they were almost, if not all granted refugee status. From 2000 on the Immigration Department neglects to provide a breakdown of the origin of those arriving by boat, although I suspect these were also largely Afghan and Iraqi.

    I wonder how many of the anti-refo crowd are also taking pride in our “liberation” of Iraq and Afghanistan.

  21. observa
    August 25th, 2004 at 23:53 | #21

    John’s bail solution assumes the general community is comfy with the legal loons that set bail now. In my travels today, I heard radio talkback presenter Leon Byner raising the ludicrous bail situation in SA courts. A family in the NE suburbs of Adelaide was seriously considering withdrawing a statement against a local gang member out on bail. This bailee was apparently also facing another charge of breaching previous bail conditions. Anyway the teenage son of this family had witnessed a serious bashing by this gang member and with the support of the family had made a statement to police who were charging the offender. Now apparently the offender gained the name and address of his accuser via his lawyer and the gang had made threats to the family including the younger son. The father, driving his car, was bailed up at the local shopping centre by the gang members carrying baseball bats. Dorothy Kotz the local member(opposition) was being interviewed and was decrying the outrageous lack of police protection for the family, as well as the release of the thug and provision to him of the accuser’s name and address. Still believe in lefty judges and Labor Govts rabbitting on about being tough on crime do you John? The community is fed up with such softcocks and their spin doctors already.

    Now we come to John’s suggestion of bail for illegal boat arrivals. Now we know that assesssment of their claim takes a minimum of 6 months and more generally 12 months due to deliberate obfuscation and identity obliteration. as well we know that it costs about $40,000 per humanitarian refugee to settle now. So for a family of 5 they would need to post minimum bail of $100,000, or more safely up to $200,000. The higher figure is most likely because we have already witnessed the efforts of John’s mates in travelling to and breaking into Woomera in order to help illegals abscond. They led authorities a merry dance to round them all up again. Consequently, what do I think of John’s bail solution? Bingo, same result as at present. Into Baxter with you all until either you or the great unwashed come up with $40k a pop.

  22. August 26th, 2004 at 00:54 | #22

    “Indefinite detention is a crock- detainees are free to leave at any time, and the commonwealth will cough for the fare.” Is that a crock when most of the people concerned are ultimately determined to be refugees – that is, at genuine risk at home? In what sense “free to leave”?

    “The concept of hordes arriving by ‘plane is also a furphy” is interesting and I’d love to have reliable evidence since I use the fact in debate and I don’t want to promulgate untruths. But I understood the problem to be people who arrive with papers in order (thus not a concern to the airlines) but don’t leave. So the fines to the airline is more likely to encourage them to be suspicious about papers before arrival, but not to reduce the actual numbers.

  23. observa
    August 26th, 2004 at 02:44 | #23

    David, as far as ‘free to leave’ goes, I believe at last count there were 74 illegals still in detention, who have been assessed as not genuine refugees. They are playing the waiting game with authorities now. They could be repatriated as soon as they agree to go voluntarily.

  24. Steve Edwards
    August 26th, 2004 at 03:28 | #24

    While Michael’s intentions are no doubt clean, the implications are monstrous.

    “One does not have to be a naïve lefty, and think that virtually all the problems in the non-western are the result colonial and post-colonial explotation to recognise that we do share a good deal of the blame for the problems that exist.”

    This is the point – the elites of the western world are responsible for their foreign policy preferences. Just ask Noam Chomsky, who is endlessly telling us that public debate is rigged by a corporate/political cabal intent on restricting our choices to varying shades of empire. There is an element of truth to this, of course, or at least there was.

    Elites were responsible for colonialism. But the elites are not affected by immigration. Indeed, their position is bolstered by immigration due to the growing political constitutencies for Big Government that are created by immigration.

    On the other hand, ordinary people are effected by immigration. To argue that those who weren’t responsible for a whole history of evils should bear the costs of righting the wrongs… that’s just appalling. It gives the elites great comfort to know they will never have to bear any of the costs of their decisions.

    DM has asked what rights do Australians have? The rights we have are the laws of the land and the goods we get for obeying the law and pledging allegiance. I don’t see why foreigners should get the same rights as Australians, especially as they have no obligations to Australia. Hence, when someone has decided to come to Australia without a visa, I don’t see why we should accord them the same rights of bail as an Australian citizen – even an Australian criminal.

  25. Fyodor
    August 26th, 2004 at 10:27 | #25

    Steve,

    You seem to be asserting, yet again, that immigration is bad for Australia. At the risk of receiving another blast of cobbled anecdotes and obscure weblinks, could you please demonstrate why immigration is so bad for us, given that we’re all immigrants, or decendants of immigrants?

    As for the rights of foreigners, you’ve taken a very hard line that few of your countrymen would agree with. Foreigners have legal rights in Australia because of the treaties we have signed with their home countries, and because of the pragmatic reality that we would wish our citizens’ rights to be respected in other countries. Moreover, most Australians would agree that we have a moral obligation to respect the rights of other human beings, regardless of their origins. You’re clearly out of touch if you think otherwise.

  26. Michael Burgess
    August 26th, 2004 at 10:27 | #26

    Steve, anyone who takes Chomsky seriously needs to radically expand their library and possibly also get their head examined.

  27. August 26th, 2004 at 13:51 | #27

    Fyodor,

    I write in trepidation, as any statement that contains a positive reference to Howard’s etnic settlement policies is likely to get one branded as a “disgusting” and “shameful” supporter of “crimes against humanity” who should “freeze in hell”.
    The frustrating thing, for me, is that Howard policy-haters refuse to acknowledge the domestic political context of migrant settlement, or the fact that Howard policy-supporters may have good will towards the settlement of non-Natives.
    This is intellectually silly as the Howard policy-haters are blind to real problems. It is also morally nasty as it portrays the conservative side of the debate as mindlessly sadistic racists whose main aim is to get power by “playing to prejudice”.
    So in, intellectual and moral, self-defence, “let me say this about that”:
    INTEGRATED MIGRANTS ARE GOOD FOR THE COUNTRY: A high-flow, and race-neutral, immigration settlement program is a Good Thing, so long as the selective process is based on the national interest ie seeking people with good attitudes and capable aptitudes.
    FAIR-DINKUM REFFOS DESERVE A FAIR GO: A high-flow, and more liberal, asylum-seeker settlement program is a Good Thing, so long as the assessment process is based on accepting people who are in genuine political distress.
    What people such as Steve find objectionable is the politicisation of these processes by the Cultural Left, from about 1975-1995. This institutional politicisation of ethnic settlement is Very Bad. It has, in other countries, led to the proliferation of crime gangs, ethnic lobbies, rotten boroughs and, in some cases, ethnic seperatism and civil war.
    Over the eighties I had a lot of vague uneasiness about this country’s ethno-politics as practiced by Cultural Leftists, especially:
    Pee-Cee bureaucracies, of somewhat dubious use, sprouting up at state and federal level;
    National progressive ethnic-integration replaced by tribal-regressive multiculturalism.
    My uneasy vibe about Cultural Left politics crystallised into vehement opposition after I spent a year in the US and then read Sheehans book on return. He had spent a decade in the US and could see Australia heading down the same track, and spotted the devils lurking in the details:
    ALP-Factionalisation of Australia’s immigration program.
    Left-Lawyerisation of Australia’s refugee program;
    Increased numbers of unskilled migrants associated with the emergence of centres of chronic ethnic urban disadvantage;
    Ethnic crime gangs becoming a serious problem, left alone by a pee-cee cowed police;
    Evidence of alarming levels of welfare-dependence in the immigrant family re-union scheme;
    Australia’s first and second political assasination, courtesy of ethno-criminal gang politics;
    Australia’s first cabinet minister jailed, copurtesy of immigration corruption;
    This is not to beat up on non-Caucasian ethnics, or to demonise asylum-seekers, who are just people trying to make a go of things like every one else. But these problems, in the context of Cultural Left politicisation, were bound to generate an adverse political reaction in a country where non-Cultural Leftists also have the vote and trust their own lyin’ eyes.
    The Cultural Left politic was never very popular to begin with, but people, like me, were prepared to suck it and see. By the mid-nineties I had had a gut-full and felt that the Cultural Left was a political albatross for social democrats. I find it bizarre that self-proclaimed social-democrats, who are always saying how bad American political culture is, can be blase about such stuff.
    It was Keating, contra Pr Q’s interpretation, who suffered politically from his (1993-6) attempt to hook his political coat-tails to the Cultural Left agenda. This is why, in 1996, the ALP got the biggest primary electoral backlash in its history. The rise in Hanson’s support was part of a massive grass-roots trend, not some “temporary panic”. But the Cultural Left refused to heed the wake-up call which is why popular discontent with Cultural Leftism simmered until Howard, in 2001, stole (a part of) Hanson’s fire and most of her vote.
    Anyone with humnitarian sentiment was uncomfortable with the unsavoury aspects of Howard’s Tampa Election and Pacific Solution. But they supported Howard so long as he could get ethnic settlement insitutions on the right track.
    Howard has done some good. He killed two political birds with one stone, by breaking the Cultural Lefts grip on ethnic politics and the Nativist Right political reaction.
    Howard also improved ethnic settlement policy in two key areas. He has stopped the dangerous and unpopular people-smuggling trade. And he has instituted a higher-flow, more diverse and more popular immigration program.
    The Coalition’s crack-down on Cultural Left rorts and tightening of intake regulation has enabled a more moderate political consensus on ethnic settlement, as typified by Costello. Howard et al are easing up on the asylum-seekers which is good to see.
    I acknowledge that Howard used Bad political means in running this issue. Will Pr Q, or anyone else for that matter, at least acknowledge that Howard has done some good to both cultural polity and institutional policy?

  28. Steve Edwards
    August 26th, 2004 at 14:17 | #28

    I’m not “anti-immigrant” at all. My partner of 2 1/2 years left the vulture-picked remains of the former Yugoslavia in 91 and came to Australia through legal channels via Germany. I certainly don’t oppose immigration. However, immigration has costs and benefits. I believe we should cut the streams of immigration that do not benefit Australians, and emphasise the streams that do.

    I’m against the law-breakers and border-wreckers who are trying to sell us snake oil in the name of false “humanitarianism”. On that point, I don’t see why people who have come to Australia illegally should be allowed the same rights as Australians. Indeed, contra Fyodor, this was put to a vote in 2001. John Howard won an increased majority.

  29. August 26th, 2004 at 14:46 | #29

    One problem with that analysis Steve is that asylum seekers are not “coming to the country illegally”, they are seeking a refuge which we are legally obliged to provide.

  30. PB
    August 26th, 2004 at 15:25 | #30

    If you arrive without a passport and valid visa for Australia, you have committed an offence under the Migration Act. How much more illegal can you get? Emotive terms may work with the more feeble-minded and easily influenced, not in a rational argument. Lets stick to facts. No boat arrival in the last ten years was been fleeing immediate danger (except perhaps for their chosen means of conveyance).

  31. Fyodor
    August 26th, 2004 at 15:42 | #31

    Jack,

    I think you would receive a less hostile reception to your views if you didn’t characterise opponents of various aspects of the Howard government’s immigration policy as “Howard Haters”. Yes, I know you’ve refined your comments on this thread to “Howard policy-haters”, but that’s not how you’ve referred to them in other threads. You don’t score any points by pigeon-holing and mischaracterising your opponents. Arguing with a straw man doesn’t prove anything, and isn’t much fun either! That said, I absolutely hate Howard, but many other opponents (e.g. PrQ) don’t.

    I agree 100% with your views that:

    1) INTEGRATED MIGRANTS ARE GOOD FOR THE COUNTRY; and
    2) FAIR-DINKUM REFFOS DESERVE A FAIR GO

    I also agree that we need to control our borders and have the right to choose who we accept as immigrants.

    So far so good. What I, and a lot of other people on this blog, object to, however, is the needlessly cruel persecution of illegal immigrants. If we’re going to process illegals, let’s do it quickly, cheaply and humanely. Let’s NOT vilify them or exploit their plight to win elections. JQ’s proposed an alternative to the expense and cruelty of mandatory detention. Why doesn’t it deserve a fair hearing?

    The whole Howard thing we’ve argued ad nauseam elsewhere, and I won’t push it any further here.

  32. Fyodor
    August 26th, 2004 at 16:00 | #32

    Steve,

    JQ never proposed giving illegal immigrants the same rights as Australian citizens. He suggested allowing them the right to bail. There’s a big difference.

    Instead of focussing on the issue at hand you raved on about balkanisation, the rising class of “helots”, “Open Borders” and the motivation of the “elites”.

    You seem to treat any change of the current immigration policy as an unacceptable dilution of border control and the beginning of the apocalypse for Australia’s society. It’s possibly because of your extremist arguments against any relaxation of current controls that you come across as intolerant and anti-immigration. We’ve yet to hear a positive comment from you on the benefits of immigration – all we get is doom, gloom and scare-mongering.

  33. Ken Parish
    August 26th, 2004 at 16:01 | #33

    The argument that onshore asylum seekers who arrive without a visa are “illegal” is circular and incapable of sensible resolution. It’s true that there is an offence under the Migration Act for entering the migration zone without a valid visa. But there are also some other strictly delimited provisions, most notably the protection visa provisions, entitling such people to make application onshore for a visa notwithstanding their initial arrival without one. Those people cannot be prosecuted for an offence under the Act until their protection visa application has been processed and determined. If it succeeds, they get a visa; if it fails they get deported (eventually, after exhausting appeal rights), and usually without being charged with any offence. So the most accurate answer one can give to the question of whether such people are “illegal” is that they may or may not be depending on the outcome of their onshore visa application.

    As Dan pointed out, the Refugee Convention specifically requires signatories not to “refoule” refugees (return them to their homeland where they face persecution). It was implemented as a direct but limited response to the WWII phenomenon where vessels carrying Jewish refugees from the Nazis were turned away from a succession of Allied ports until they were eventually forced to return to Germany where many were then sent to the death camps. However much people like Steve prefer to portray them as just “illegal” arrivals shopping around for a better life, the stark reality is that there are many people even today in a situation not dissimilar to Jewish refugees from the Nazis. That is, they would be liquidated if returned to their homeland.

    The salient distinction in many cases is that they have often already found a tenuous, insecure form of refuge in an overcrowded refugee camp adjacent to their homeland, and then launched out from there towards a better life in Australia. But that in turn raises a range of further issues. Can they actually return to the country of first refuge if their protection visa application in Australia is refused on a “safe third country” basis (many third world countries refuse to accept the return of asylum seekers in that situation, on the not unreasonable basis that wealthy first world countries ought to be carrying their share of the refugee burden, instead of expecting the poorest coutries to accommodate millions of refugees within their borders)? Is it fair to treat this as “safe third country” refuge where any “right” of refuge is itself tenuous and insecure (e.g. it’s a country with close links to the regime from which the refugee originally fled)? Is asylum in a first world country remote culturally and geographically from the refugee’s homeland the best solution (because it deprives poor countries permanently of their best and brightest citizens), or would it be better in many cases for the first world to provide much more generous support to countries of first refuge to enable refugees to be housed in more congenial conditions until it’s safe to return to their homeland?

    And so on. They’re all difficult issues not susceptible to the sort of shallow sloganeering that mostly characterises this discussion thread (and most other popular debates about refugees).

    BTW I agree with a significant part of Jack Strocchi’s observations. A good part of the 1990s backlash was indeed a result of the corrupted family reunion and multicultural agenda pursued under the Hawke government. Where I would differ from Jack is to point out that at least some of the worst aspects of those policies were already being wound back under Keating. That is, the family reunion program had already been somewhat rejigged, and emphasis shifted to skilled migration programs. Howard mostly just continued the reform process already begun under Keating.

  34. snuh
    August 26th, 2004 at 18:58 | #34

    David, as far as ‘free to leave’ goes, I believe at last count there were 74 illegals still in detention, who have been assessed as not genuine refugees. They are playing the waiting game with authorities now. They could be repatriated as soon as they agree to go voluntarily.

    in order for them to leave, you need:
    (a) a place that would take them, and
    (b) a place they would be willing to go, which is preferably not
    (c) the place they from which they have fled

    until you have this, there is no chance of them leaving “voluntarily”.

  35. Brian Bahnisch
    August 27th, 2004 at 01:15 | #35

    It is a while since I looked at the issue of refugees in detail, but I understand that the wave of boat arrivals from the Middle East from the late 90s was the fourth or fifth wave, depending on how you count them, since 1975. Each time the government of the day reacted from the outset and took steps to resolve the problem according to the circumstances further up the supply chain. We worked with the countries of first refuge and the intermediate countries. In one case (China) we worked with the country of origin.

    So we set up an offshore processing centre for the first wave of Vietnamese, from memory in Bangkok.

    With the ethnic Chinese who had fled Vietnam to Southern China we paid the Chinese considerable sums to take them back and settle them there.

    Beazley as Cabinet member had been involved with several of these exercises. On 6 September, 2001, 11 days after the arrival of the Tampa, he addressed the Asia-Australia Institute, giving the 23rd Asia Lecture. Much of the talk detailed the strategy Labor would adopt to resolve the issue of Afghani and Iraqi refugees. It was all about working with the countries of first refuge and the intermediate countries. There was no mention of detention centres.

    At that stage the Howard government had been asleep at the wheel, allowing over 220 boats in without taking any remedial steps.

    Those who blame the refugees for SIEV 4, SIEV 6 and SIEV X should consider that there was a well-established pattern and that the refugees had a reasonable expectation of getting to Australia. Those who think that we can solve it all after arrival without working futher up the supply chain should think again.

    Ruddock and Howard choked that wave off suddenly and brutally from 26 August 2001. They then changed immigration laws to tilt the balance firmly against asylum seekers and set about making us the most punitive of all advanced countries in how we treated them.

    MB asked whether there were other ways of going about dealing with arrivals. I found two that were far more principled, ethical and humane than ours.

    Canada established in the 1970s what is known as an adjudicative system. It is administered by a quasi-judicial body, intentionally removed from the politicians, with judicial appeal rights. It is based firmly on the human rights of the applicants and applicants are assisted with interpreters and legal help. I described it briefly here in October 2001 (see the last section A fair go.)

    Another approach is that adopted by Sweden. Grant Mitchell who runs the Hotham Mission’s Asylum Seekers Project worked in Sweden for years in the 90s and did a masters thesis on the topic at Stockholm University. He wrote a 6,500 word essay available at The Australian Fabian Society website. For a shorter account see his conversation with Terry Lane.

    The outstanding feature of their approach is the appointment of a case worker to each case with the aim of facilitating an outcome and then preparing the asylum seeker for a smooth integration into Swedish Society or accepting the ruling if unsuccessful.

    They tried the punitive approach, found it caused anger and division and turned it around.

    We would never accept the Canadian system because we don’t believe sufficiently strongly in human rights. Nor would we ever trust the judiciary.

    In Sweden I understand they have identification cards (like the Australia card) which facilitates tracing. If we don’t want to go down that path, John’s idea of a bail-like system has merit IMO.

    btw I don’t think any-one locks them up the way we do. If not now, some day it may be classified as a crime against humanity and we may be obliged to pay reparations. I think we should.

  36. Steve Edwards
    August 27th, 2004 at 02:26 | #36

    I have suggested ID cards as an acceptable alternative to mandatory detention in the past, however it unfortunately will not be accepted by whoever is the opposition at the time.

    I was alarmed by this statement:

    “btw I don’t think any-one locks them up the way we do. If not now, some day it may be classified as a crime against humanity and we may be obliged to pay reparations. I think we should.”

    Why on earth should we be obliged to pay reparations to people who broke Australian law? And who will “oblige” us to pay these ridiculous reparations anyway?

  37. tipper
    August 27th, 2004 at 03:39 | #37

    Surely the simplest solution to the refugee problem is to scrap the convention all together. It’s an anachronism from WWII, which is twisted in so many ways that it’s ridiculous.
    What we have today is a phenomena that has occurred many time in history, a population blow-out amongst barbarian tribes who can no longer feed their expanding population. Just think about the migrations of the Huns, Mongols, Vikings etc.
    The West is going through a strange period when self-loathing seems to be the order of the day. Women no longer want to breed, intellectuals are so disgusted, that the nicest thing they can say is that their countrymen are nothing but a load of racists. To the barbarians at the gate, the scene is one of decadence and effeteness. They know that they only need to walk in and the whole edifice of degeneracy will collapse. Of course it helps if they are promised their choice of 72 white raisin complexioned virgins and 36 boys with alabaster thighs.They are being wasted on the thoroughly effeminate males of the West at present. It’s the fall of Rome all over again.
    So fatten up your sons and daughters, and retreat into your City Of God illusions of being in control of the situation, whilst all around “The centre cannot Hold”

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.
    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of “Spiritus Mundi”
    Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again; but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

  38. Brian Bahnisch
    August 27th, 2004 at 07:48 | #38

    Steve, I thought Ken Parish had explained the issue of whether asylum seekers are breaking the law pretty well. In any case we have obligations under the UN refugee convention.

    It is possible that some of our laws are in conflict with our convention obligations, but I’ll leave that to the lawyers.

    Ideally, I would hope that we may at some future time consider it appropriate to pay reparations ourselves. Quite simply it is unethical to damage people instrumentally to deter others from coming here. It is also not in our own interests. The Swedish approach seeks to preserve the mental health of asylum seekers whether the stay or go.

    tipper, I do think we need to control our borders and be in control of our population policy. We have an obligation to the land we occupy to live within the limits of its carrying capacity. We also need to be more serious about aid to poorer countries, as we do about limiting the greed of the very rich.

  39. August 27th, 2004 at 10:43 | #39

    Brian

    At that stage the Howard government had been asleep at the wheel, allowing over 220 boats in without taking any remedial steps.

    Given that the main sources of the 2000-2001 wave of boat people were Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s more than a little difficult to imagine how the Howard government (or any other government) could have worked with the countries of origin (i.e. Saddam and the Taliban).

    I went and read Kim Beazley’s speech (that you linked) to see whether he had any dazzling insights inot how we could have worked more constructively with countries of first asylum or intermediate countries to resolve the problem. Beazley’s speech was egregious waffle, and illustrates why he lost the 2001 election better than just about anything else I’ve read.

    Howard/Ruddock had actually been working with countries of first asylum in the Middle East (and still are). In fact an opinion piece I read in one of the newspapers in the last couple of days was actually complaining that they had drastically realigned Australia’s foreign aid away from Africa and towards the Middle East. It’s a “no win” situation with people determined to find fault.

    As for working with intermediate countries, we’re essentially talking about Malaysia and Indonesia. The Hawke/Keating governments hardly distinguished themselves in their relationship with Malaysia, and few would now suggest that their Indonesia policy was a model to be admired or emulated. What actually happened in 2000-2001 was that Indonesia punished Australia for intervening in East Timor, stopped preventing people smugglers from operating and began actively assisting boats to get to Australia. Beazley’s studious aversion of his gaze from this factual background, given the Hawke/Keating government’s responsibility for creating the toxic relationshiop with Indonesia and perpetuating the shame of our treatment of East Timor, is contemptible.

    Refugee policy for the last twenty years and more has been almost entirely driven by the DIMIA bureuacracy. Successive Immigration Ministers both Labor and Coalition have been captive to the DIMIA view of the world and its proposed policies for dealing with refugee flows. Had Labor been in power in 2000-2001, precisely the same problems would have arisen (assuming, as I hope is the case, that Labor would also have intervened in East Timor). What happened in 2000-2001 was that DIMIA and DFAT’s previous policies (which did, as you say, involve working with countries of origin, first asylum and intermediate countries – at least Indonesia) were rendered ineffective by large-scale events in the Middle East and Indonesia that they were powerless to deal with. It DID necessitate drastic policies to stem the flow, although one can certainly dispute the wisdom of what was actually done.

  40. August 27th, 2004 at 10:45 | #40

    Brian – BTW thanks for all those links. They are extremely useful (with the exception of the Beazley one, which is useful only in the pejorative sense that I commented).

  41. John Quiggin
    August 27th, 2004 at 11:14 | #41

    “a population blow-out amongst barbarian tribes who can no longer feed their expanding population. Just think about the migrations of the Huns, Mongols, Vikings etc. ”

    Tipper captures what I think is behind the views of most of those who have supported Howard, not to mention Howard himself. Would anyone from that side of the debate care to comment?

  42. August 27th, 2004 at 11:39 | #42

    I think he’s a bit of a fruitcake, personally. A certain number of asylum seekers are fleeing actual persecution, a sizeable number are hoping to imporve their situation in a western nation where there is no such state as actual poverty (contrary to what ACOSS et al would have us believe). Word gets around pretty quickly when factors such as financial incentives for large families, subsidesed housing etc are on offer if you can get past the hurdle of having to have a required skill of qualification to score a resident visa. Welfarism is a powerful magnet to people who don’t have a rosy future in their current domicile. As I have stated previously, the only way to get a more-or-less permament solution to the problem of wandering populations is to make the situation in their country of origin such that the urge to decamp is not there- precisely what is being attempted in Iraq ans Afghanistan, much to the chagrin of the left.

  43. Brian Bahnisch
    August 27th, 2004 at 11:52 | #43

    Ken, I’ve got no real difficulty with your comment. On the whole I agree. Relations with Indonesia post Keating/Suharto prevented any real cooperation, but on the whole Howard’s ineptitude in international affairs before he latched onto Bush’s coat tails and his total subsuming of international relations to domestic politics leads me to think no-one would have performed worse.

    Beazley’s aversion of his gaze from the factual situation may be contemptible, but is pretty much standard political practice of putting the best gloss on your own position and being selective in representing your opponent’s.

    Two sources I found helpful in filling in the history of 1975-2000 are Don Masters “Asylum Seekers”, MUP, 2001, based I think on his PhD thesis and Marion Le’s “Migrants, Refugees and Multiculturalism: The Curious Ambivalence of Australia’s Immigration Policy” Alfred Deakin Lecture, 14 May 2001. (I can’t believe the ABC has deleted this from their archives, but I can’t find it.)

    The most principled approach was taken by Malcolm Fraser and Michael McKellar. Things seem to have deteriorated gradually from there. Labor’s introduction of madatory detention was a major step backwards.

    Kukathas and Maley did an interesting piece on the influence of Hansonism back in 1998.

    Drastic action no doubt was required in 2001, but whereas most governments in the past, according to Marion Le, said and thought some dreadful things about what should be done, by and large they then behaved reasonably well in terms of international obligations and human rights. Howard/Ruddock constituted a clean break from this tradition.

    Your comment about DIMIA’s influence on policy is interesting. I had a long talk to a retired officer who was at the pointy end of assessing refugee applications for asylum. He maintained that the system had integrity up to Al Grasby, who mucked it up and it never really recovered.

    Certainly Bob Hawke’s response to Tiannamin Square put them into a flat spin.

    I’m inclined to think whatever approach is taken in practice there are going to be some necessary but unpalatable compromises.

  44. August 27th, 2004 at 12:10 | #44

    Brian

    Yes, Tiananmen Square is a major exception to my hypothesis that refugee polcy has been mainly DIMIA-driven. Note that I dodn’t extend that proposition to migration policy generally, although you can make that case as well as long as it’s heavily qualified. Thus, for example, the corrupted family reunion policies of the 1980s were politician-driven (Theophanous, Hand, Tickner etc and ultimately Grassby if you go back far enough) rather than emanating from DIMIA.

    And the Hwake/Keating governments didn’t just say and think dreadful things about refugees – they did them. They implemented mandatory universal detention in desert concentration camps in the first place, choked off access to lawyers and social welfare support and, in the the case of the Sino-Vietnamese wave of 1994 or thereabouts, statutorily deemed them not to be refugees at all (in flagrant breach of the Convention) and shipped them all back to Beihai. Hawke/Keating also implemented the first wide-ranging privative clause in the Migration Act (designed to prevent unsuccessful applicants from accessing the court system), and in general implemented every single anti-refugee initiative that DIMIA suggested to them. I’m not saying anything here about whether this was right or wrong in a policy sense, simply that it was relevantly indistinguishable from the Howard government. And if you read what Marion Le used to say back in the days of the Hawke and Keating governments, you’ll find it was equally scathing. One suspects she’s simply engaging in selective memory.

  45. Brian Bahnisch
    August 27th, 2004 at 12:12 | #45

    the only way to get a more-or-less permament solution to the problem of wandering populations is to make the situation in their country of origin such that the urge to decamp is not there

    We’d all say ‘aye’ to that!

    Paul, you’ve got some wierd ideas about the left. No-one in their right mind would object to helping the poor and oppressed like Afgahnistan and Iraq. Busting in and converting them to you beaut liberal free market democracies at the point of a gun seems to me a strange way of doing it.

    The other favoured way seems to be through trade. Here the practice has been too frequently to rob them blind, a practice which is alive and well if reactions to recent WTO decisions here and here are any guide.

    I think it was Michael Burgess above who said we must bear some responsibility for the parlous state of the poor of the world.

  46. Brian Bahnisch
    August 27th, 2004 at 12:37 | #46

    Ken I haven’t been involved in this issue at the same depth you have over time. It was largely below the radar for me before Tampa.

    Marion Le quoted some absolutely disgusting things said by Whitlam, Hawke and Keating in private. In the Deakin Lectures she was no doubt trying to achieve a balanced overview. I know she is a gutsy advocate for refugees and I’m sure she’ll never cover any administration with praise.

    The Sino-Vietnamese wave of the mid-90s illustrates the impossible dilemmas that are almost inevitable. From memory the action of statutorily deeming them not to be refugees at all (in flagrant breach of the Convention) was an act of desperation after a Federal Court judge had ruled that the Chinese ‘one child’ policy constituted persecution and sufficient to be recognised as a refugee.

    The Labor minister of the time (I forget which) no doubt had visions of Chinese triads, the toughest people smugglers in the business, organising literally millions of refugees to fill our empty spaces.

    A doctor once told me of another patient’s experience. This guy was in the AFP and riding shot-gun on trips taking refugees back from Port Headland to southern China. The distress of the refugees was heart-breaking enough. He said they dropped them off in southern China, kept the engines running and took off ASAP. The returning refugees were met by a contingent of stony-faced Chinese soldiers. The ex-AFP bloke said he always wondered whether they made it off the tarmac.

    I’ve often wondered what the best solution to this dilemma was. I still don’t have the answer.

  47. August 27th, 2004 at 13:13 | #47

    Brian

    The Sino-Vietnamese wave was distinct from the “one child policy” claimants. The former group were Vietnamese citizens of Chninese ethnic origin who had been expelled by the Vietnamese government and had settled in the Beihai region of southern China. Their dwellings were later bulldozed by Chinese authorities (from memory) and they were persecuted in all sorts of other ways. They began fleeing by boat to Australia and elsewhere with the assistance of people smugglers. Eventually the Keating goverment did some sort of shoddy deal with the Chinese government where the latter promised (sincerely or otherwise) to stop persecuting the S-Vs, and on the strength of that promise Keating legislated to deem them conclusively not to be refugees. Their cases (by and large) had nothing to do with the “one child” policy.

    In fact refugee “black” children from the “one child” policy can still successfully claim asylum in Australia, although generally their parents can’t. I won’t attempt here to explain in detail the High Court’s juridical basis for that distinction, however it didn’t depend on whether or not they were persecuted (because on any view they were), but rather on whether their fear of persecution resulted from race, religion etc (the required Convention reasons) or from the fact that they had disobeyed a legitimate (if harsh) law of general application. In any event, the practical result was that the feared Triad-driven floodgates never opened. Whether they would have done so had the High Court defined “refugee” less narrowly is something we’ll never know.

    I certainly agree that there are many difficult dilemmas involved in this whole area, and that any conceivable policy response is always going to involve uncomfortable compromises with which significant numbers of people will inevitably disagree. Thus my major disagreement with the Howard government is not so much with their policy responses as such (because, as I say, I suspect Labor in power wouldn’t have acted very differently), but with Howard’s calculated use of those policies as a divisive “wedge” strategy. That did significant damage to Australia’s social fabric in numerous ways, including giving licence for unashamed public expression of the sorts of previously subterranean repulsive, ignorant xenophobia of which “Tipper’s” comments above are a perfect example.

  48. August 27th, 2004 at 14:45 | #48

    Brian Bahnisch, on August 27, 2004 12:37 PM, complains that

    it is unethical to damage people instrumentally to deter others from coming here.

    A national utilitarian ethic, which is the default asumption of most policy makers, does not forbid exemplary deterrent measures – if not-deterring would significantly harm the interests of the majority.
    The vast majority of unauthorised asylum-seekers had the choice of repatriation to country of origin if they were unsatisfied with detention. This means that the attempt to characterise the Coalition Ministers as guilty of “crimes against humanity” should have been constrained by the invocation of Godwins Law.
    I would argue that the use of mandatory and comprehensive detention as an asylum-seeker deterrent is now superfluous, because:
    the high-flow of refugees was temporary, associated with upheavals in the tyrannical regimes (Iraq & Afhan – that Howard helped to change!)
    reliable disruption, apprehension, conviction and repatriation, rather than on-going incarceration, would be effective in deterring bogus asylum-seekers
    bail and bond would constrain aslum-seeker flight risks sufficently and efficiently
    I dont have a moral problem with Howards diversion of asylum seekers to the Pacific or whereever. Most maritime asylum-seekers are “secondary-destined”, the Pacific Solution simply made them “tertiary-destined”. Administrative inconvenience is, per se, not immoral.
    Nauru should have been made a more comfortable. Kids should not have been locked up.
    Hopward should not have lied about the throwing “children over-board”. It would have been true, and acceptable, to mention, as Tony Kevin did, the propensity of asylum-seekers self-scuttle boats. The general issue of the unseaworthy condition of boats used in people-smuggling is a relavant moral fact. Hundreds of those involved with people-sugglers have been drowned due to the unsafe nature of the trade.

    A boat heading to Australia from Indonesia in March disappeared and the 220 illegal immigrants on board were feared drowned. Australian authorities are closely watching the Christmas Islands region, but the government does not believe that the boat reached Australian waters. Earlier in the month, 57 suspected illegal immigrants and four crew were rescued from their sinking boat off Australia’s northwest coast. That boat was the 15th detected in 2000.

    Is Howards detention, disruption and diversion worse than the people smugglers mass drownings?
    I am not sorry to have voted for Howard. He was the man for the job in the midst of concurrent civic-identity and national-security crises. These crises have been resolved in a way consonant with majority preferences, with outcomes now trending to moral acceptability.
    He has, in the broad sense, improved Australias alien settlement culture:
    Right-Nativist and Left-multiculturalist political movememnts have been defeated;
    Refugee (asylum-seeker class-actions) and immigration (family re-union) policy rorts have been closed off;
    Proper, race-neutral, settlement asessement institutions are now allowing high intake levels of skilled migrant and genuine refugees;
    The people-smuggling industry, with its inevitable toll on human life, has been curtailed;
    The majority now feel “relaxed and comfortable” that aliens will be settled in a lawful and orderly way.
    A more humane treatment of those in detention is now indicated.

  49. Brian Bahnisch
    August 27th, 2004 at 16:35 | #49

    Ken, thanks for that clarification. I’m getting over a heavy cold, now afflicted with hay-fever (always a problem in paradise in spring, and now I think I’m allergic to the cat!) In better times I had been aware of the distinction between the Sino-Vietnamese wave and the Chinese as such. I think they were basically concurrent, although there was an earlier Chinese influx relating to Tiananmen Square.

    I always think of the Chinese when people say that numbers are not an issue. Potentially they almost always are.

    Jack, gotta go mate, be back later.

  50. tipper
    August 28th, 2004 at 02:59 | #50

    Thanks Ken for your blind, bigoted, response.
    “including giving licence for unashamed public expression of the sorts of previously subterranean repulsive, ignorant xenophobia of which “Tipper’s” comments above are a perfect example.”

    I come from a culture that believes that you “do unto others as they do unto you”
    I also believe that the same concepts is central to Christianity, although I not an expert in that area.
    So Ken will you come with me to the barbarianians “Holy Land”, and I use that word advisedly, in the same sense that Pope John Paul and Silvio Berlusconi used it when they said the homicidal killing of “The Religion Of Peace” won’t take “us back to the dark ages of barbarity.”
    If you have a problem with that, maybe you should learn to grow and get out of your ivory tower a bit more.
    You remind me of a hippy, I saw in the pub the other night getting his gonads kicked in by an aboriginal. He held up his hand and indicated the peace sign. He got his gonads kicked in a second time for his stupidity.
    BTW I’m off to Saudi Arabia to set up my own church. Ya want to come along and share in the welcome we will receive?
    Don’t forget to put on your bullet proof sun screen.
    Never forget “Do unto others as they would do onto you.”
    Only do it first.

  51. Brian Bahnisch
    August 28th, 2004 at 13:54 | #51

    Ken, in my first comment on this thread I said that Fraser/McKellar acted in the most principled manner and that things had been on the slide from there. I think in most jurisdictions there has been what is euphemistically called a tightening of procedures. I don’t know the full detail, but Canada started in the 70s with their ‘adjudicative’ model firmly based on human rights, but were almost freaked out of it in 1986 to 1987 when large boatload of Tamils arrived, not from the Sri Lanka but from Germany, followed by a boatload of Sikhs. However, according to McMaster the original features of their model survived.

    Sweden is notable because they went the other way, from a restrictive regime to a more humane. In a sense they have it easy because they are seldom a country of first refuge. Under EU agreements any-one who is refused in one country is automatically refused in others, and for Sweden the return is often to another EU country rather than to the source country.

    We need to work towards the same arrangements in our own region.

    I was more favourably disposed to Beazley because I thought he understood this. Also post Suharto and Timor I believed Labor/Beazley would have been more successful in reestablishing relations with Indonesia and less likely to use megaphone diplomacy. So, yes, I do think Labor would have handled Tampa better. The stream would not have been cut off so quickly, but it would have been reduced to manageable levels in the course of time.

    On detention centres, Beazley is totally committed to the mandatory detention model. I understand that Julia Gillard talked to him, but not to Carmen, which was one reason why Carmen was so upset.

    Overall I think our commitment to human rights has been buckling under pressure of numbers and different cultures/identities using low-tech means of getting here. Under Howard and the pressure from Middle East Muslim populations our commitment to human rights has basically collapsed in that we are not prepared to extend it to non-citizens in need.

    Jack, Godwin’s law has nothing to do with it. I would have said what I said any time given half a chance. I’m still trying to frame a response to you. Maybe soon.

    btw Ken, I rechecked Don McMaster’s book on the Chinese one-child issue. He says (p92) that in 1994 Justice Sackville ruled that the one-child policy, in view of the likelihood of compulsory sterilisation on return, created a well-founded fear of persecution. In Feb 1995 Bolkus introduced legislation to overturn this ruling. I can’t find where he says anything about legislating the Sino-Vietnamese as ineligible, so that was new to me.

  52. Brian Bahnisch
    August 30th, 2004 at 00:33 | #52

    A national utilitarian ethic, which is the default asumption of most policy makers, does not forbid exemplary deterrent measures – if not-deterring would significantly harm the interests of the majority.

    Three comments. First, I believe we should go beyond utilitarianism as a default assumption. Desmond Manderson put forward an alternative jurisprudence specifically in relation to asylum seekers in an article ‘Care of strangers’ in the AFR of 26 August 2001. It’s worth retrieving from the archives if you have a subscription. I did a short exposition of it in the fourth section of this piece.

    Second, when you say the interests of the majority are being harmed, I assume you mean that it just means that the majority cannot achieve as well something they want to achieve, not that they are actually being harmed. If so this cannot be used as a reason to harm the few in a humane society.

    Third, I would contend that is in our interest to meet the need of others on our doorstep in distress irrespective of how they got there.

    The vast majority of unauthorised asylum-seekers had the choice of repatriation to country of origin if they were unsatisfied with detention.

    You have research to prove this? I thought the majority of arrivals were found to be genuine refugees, that is fleeing persecution as defined in the UN agreement.

    Furthermore, we know that some who had no reasonable fear of persecution before leaving the source country are likely to be persecuted, tortured or killed on return.

    I dont have a moral problem with Howards diversion of asylum seekers to the Pacific or whereever. Most maritime asylum-seekers are “secondary-destined”, the Pacific Solution simply made them “tertiary-destined”. Administrative inconvenience is, per se, not immoral.

    First, even if I agree, I would contend that we should be less coercive and more discriminatory about where we locate people, as the activity has the potential to change small island societies for the worse. This applies also to Christmas Island.

    Second, as with remote desert locations, we are preventing people in need and without the protection of a state from expressing their need, from claiming their human rights. This is surely reprehensible.

    It would have been true, and acceptable, to mention, as Tony Kevin did, the propensity of asylum-seekers self-scuttle boats. The general issue of the unseaworthy condition of boats used in people-smuggling is a relavant moral fact.

    The unseaworthiness of the boats was probably a cost-saving measure on the part of the people smugglers because the boats were unlikely to be returned. I don’t see that it reflects on the asylum seekers.

    No doubt scuttling boats did happen, and the SEIV 4 may have been scuttled. I don’t think this mum did any scuttling and doesn’t mention any. We should not blame the many for the actions of a few.

    Is Howards detention, disruption and diversion worse than the people smugglers mass drownings?

    Probably not, but that doesn’t absolve him does it? Presumably you are saying that at least his intervention put an end to their activities. Yes, but was it the only way of achieving that end. I’d suggest not.

    He has, in the broad sense, improved Australias alien settlement culture:…

    I’m not going to enter your usual argument about multi-culturalism etc and what you say may be true. The question is whether the means of achieving those ends is acceptable.

  53. Brian Bahnisch
    August 30th, 2004 at 00:36 | #53

    Sorry, Manderson’s article in the AFR appeared on 24 August, 2001. I think it was the Tampa that appeared on 26 August.

  54. wbb
    August 30th, 2004 at 17:18 | #54

    Ken Parish wrote
    “It’s true that there is an offence under the Migration Act for entering the migration zone without a valid visa.”

    Ken, for my education could you PLEASE quote me the relevant legislation. I have searched the Migration Act, but not being qualified am unable to locate the section you cite.

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