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Was the Pacific solution necessary ?

June 22nd, 2005

As the cruel policy of mandatory detention is gradually relaxed (though we should remember that Nauru is still holding prisoners on our behalf), it’s worth considering the claim that the policy was necessary in the crisis situation of 2001, and can be relaxed now because of the Howard government’s border protection measures. To respond to this, it’s necessary to consider what would have happened if we had pursued a different policy, without reliance on mandatory detention or exploiting our neighbours as prison camps.

As an alternative, I’ll consider the option of seeking to discourage boat arrivals through negotiation with Indonesia, and using a system akin to bail, in which only asylum-seekers judged to be at risk of absconding would be subject to detention.

What can we say about this policy? First, the large flow of refugees that caused the crisis in 2001 would have ended anyway, because the fall of the Taliban regime greatly reduced both the flow of refugees from Afghanistan (in fact, many went back) and the chance of making a successful claim. Similarly, although it appears that there is still a net flow out of Iraq, the fall of Saddam has made it very difficult for Iraqis to claim political asylum. It seems reasonable to suppose that we could have obtained the co-operation of the Indonesian authorities with a commitment of diplomatic and financial resources no greater than that required for the Pacific solution, though of course without the kind of instant compliance available from a dependent client like Nauru.

Overall, I’d guess that an alternative policy would have resulted in perhaps 10 000 more boat arrivals, and maybe a similar number of people arriving in other ways. Given that the direct cost of the Pacific solution has been estimated at $500 million, that means that the cost of deterrence is about $25 000 per person, or $100 000 for a family of four. Of course the moral cost of the crimes committed in our name, and with our electoral endorsement is far greater.

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  1. June 22nd, 2005 at 22:18 | #1

    How would you track the people that were on the bail system though? Some of them would be likely to try to dissappear and the government wouldnt know which ones they were.

  2. zoot
    June 23rd, 2005 at 00:45 | #2

    Yeah, they all look the same don’t they.

  3. June 23rd, 2005 at 03:58 | #3

    Back in Sept 2003, I had a look[2nd PDF] at what the Pacific Solution achieved. From the Immigration Fact Sheet from back then, the detention practices, and shrinking of the migration zone only stopped ten boats between the Tampa Affair and Sept 2003. They were carrying a total of 1396 people.

    The figures before that time were about 8000 refugees a year. So even if you tack on the 1396 that were stopped, that is 9300 or so. Back then the Pacific Solution cost $77.4 million not including aid packages. Which came out to $55,400 per stopped refugee. For that cost to the taxpayer, it is cheaper to give them a one year work visa while they are waiting. Even if they go on the dole, they are cheaper to tax payers than the “deterrent”

    The Pacific Solution had a political goal for the incumbent, and was not based on policy in the slightest. So the cost to taxpayers doesnt matter to the government. I expect they will be shameless on that front.

  4. MB
    June 23rd, 2005 at 09:02 | #4

    It sounds like a good alternative (i.e. detaining only those who are likely to abscond). But wouldn’t it be extremely difficult to determine this?

  5. anon
    June 23rd, 2005 at 09:57 | #5

    As an alternative, I’ll consider the option of seeking to discourage boat arrivals through negotiation with Indonesia, and using a system akin to bail, in which only asylum-seekers judged to be at risk of absconding would be subject to detention.

    Not a bad idea John, especially as we now know the Indonesians are very open to “negotiation”.

    $500,000 to get up on appeal.

    Going to retract your “basically fair” assessment of Corby’s trial, or you going to continue to toe the unthinking politically correct line?

  6. observa
    June 23rd, 2005 at 10:36 | #6

    “What can we say about this policy? First, the large flow of refugees that caused the crisis in 2001 would have ended anyway, because the fall of the Taliban regime greatly reduced both the flow of refugees from Afghanistan (in fact, many went back) and the chance of making a successful claim. Similarly, although it appears that there is still a net flow out of Iraq, the fall of Saddam has made it very difficult for Iraqis to claim political asylum.”

    What we can say about John’s preferred policy is apparently its predicated on having taken out Saddam and the Taliban. Lucky the preconditions were met I suppose.

  7. June 23rd, 2005 at 10:46 | #7

    Pr Q strains at gnats and swallows camels again:

    Of course the moral cost of the crimes committed in our name, and with our electoral endorsement is far greater.

    He is forgetting, as always, the moral cost to potential asylum seekers of not taking prompt “repulsive & disruptive” action to shut down the illegal and unsafe people smuggling trade. A sin of ommission can cause as much evil as a sin of commission.

    In the years before the Tampa/Siev-X scores of people making the hazardous passage accross the northern Indian Ocean were drowning every year as a result of the rampant proliferation of this unregulated and unauthorized practice. No one made a fuss then because it was difficult to pin this on-going tragedy on Howard.

    Howard, by stopping people smuggling smartly, saved lives of exploited and endagered asylum-seekers in the long term. (Unless of course Pr Q shares Tony Kevin’s fever-swamped image that Howard ordered the SIEV-X to be sunk. In which case he should be presenting his evidence to the Hague rather than this blog.)

    And there is the 800 lb gorilla the refuses to be budged from the centre of Australian living rooms: the political cost to Australia of letting the Wets get back in the drivers seat of alien settlement policy. The institutionalization of the Wets settlement policy posed a danger to the Australian polity and had to be stopped if we are to negotiate Globalization and the Clash of Civilizations without coming to civic grief ala the USE and USA.

    Bodgy asylum-seekers and dodgy migrants are not, by themselves at this time, a threat to Australian political culture. Although some have caused problems enough so far – ask a policeman on the street. It is the people who organize these rorts that are the problem.

    So I do not think that Mandatory Detention or Outsourced Processing were particulary efficient or equitable solutions in themselves. (Although anauthorized aliens need to be detained for a minimum period to check their credentials and person for evidence of criminal, political or physiological harm-potential). I am glad that these policies are gone.

    But I am also more glad that the Wets have been knocked for six over the past decade, as a result of Howards fair and foul politic. I also am happy to see the native Wets (from the LP) resume this issue, since the expat Wets (in the ALP, DEMs or GREENs) are either ineffective or incorrectly aligned.

    It was the expat Wets (particularly in the ALP) who stuffed up large bits of the settlement program for the better part of the 1983-1996 generation, riding the two-tracked idiocies & inquities of multiculturalism (for public consumption) and ethnic lobbying/over-lawyering (for private interest). It was evident all along that the public were awake up to this, but were constrained from expressing disapproval due to various partisan alignments and conspiracies of silence.

    The Wets were given the mother of all wake up calls by Howard in 1996, which they promptly ignored. Another one was given by Hanson in 1998, which was acknowledged alright, by demonisation. It was only Howard’s Pacific Solution et al, in the course of the 2001 election, which finally knocked some sense into them. A crude but effective policy solution to a vital political problem.

    Instead of blaming the Dries for the wickedness of the world the Wets need to take a good long hard look at themselves for the self-indulgent and self-interested exploitation of the settlement program. They need to ask themselves why the Australian public turned against their preferred cultural model in tis (and much else beside) in not one, not two but at least three polls in serial. Until that period of soul-searching and political adjustment is finally done with the Wets will remain on the back foot on their home ground.

    You see in democracies it is the populus, not elites, who should call the tune in both politico-economic and politico-cultural matters.

  8. Fyodor
    June 23rd, 2005 at 11:22 | #8

    No, JQ.

    Observa raises a good point, however: asylum seeker applications dropped off because of a war that you supported and a war that you opposed. However, that doesn’t obviate your point about the cost-effectiveness of the scheme, which is non-existent, as you show. A waste of money on an unnecessarily cruel regime, supported by both the Liberals and the ALP.

    I’ll do everyone a favour and summarise Jack’s voluminous contribution:

    1. The analysis should include the moral cost of “allowing” people smuggling.

    JQ’s offered an alternative that might have achieved the same goals as MD, for less cost and less moral hazard.

    2. The analysis should include the political “cost” of letting the wets “back in the drivers seat of alien settlement policy”.

    This “cost” is worth a bit less than zero, and therefore doesn’t affect the analysis.

    JQ’s analysis stands.

  9. michael.burgess
    June 23rd, 2005 at 11:36 | #9

    Jack is engaging in a bit of historical revisionism here. Certainly, many critics of Howard were indiscriminate in their criticism and at times gave the impression that they opposed any border protection policy and any discussion on any negatives associated with immigration. However, Howard did not simply advocate tougher border protection he defamed desperate people (children overboard, etc) and fanned the flames of hatred in the community against refugees – which at least in my past office reached disgusting levels. He also mislead the Australian people into believing that there was some kind of orderly refugee que existing.

    At one stage, Helen Hughes went on lateline representing the government and actually insisted that, as a Jew who left Nazi Germany just in time, she would not have done so if it had meant jumping a que and breaking the laws of the country she fled too. Furthermore, if Howard was seriously concerned about cutting refugee flows he would be spending far more time (relative to that spent on border protection issues) advocating increased aid to developing countries and criticising the EU (chiefly France) and to a lesser extent the US and Japan for their protectionist agricultural policies which prevent developing and Eastern European countries from exporting their agricultural products and consequently encourage migration.

  10. observa
    June 23rd, 2005 at 11:37 | #10

    What staggers me is how the luvvies like to delude themselves that their lifestyle is not predicated upon closed borders. We largely want middle class, educated citizens, preferebly with business capital as immigrants, in order to continue that lifestyle. An open border policy would collapse everything they hold dear, from subsidising single mums, the unemployed, the aged, Medicare, minimum awards,etc, etc. To pretend otherwise is to ignore the situation in the majority of countries, particularly those from where country shoppers emanate. The luvvies refuse to face the fact, that with a world full of political and economic refugees, their numbers about the population of Australia, it would be impossible to accommodate them all, without turning Oz into a third world country. Govts and Oppositions are as acutely aware of this as are the majority of citizens and hence we have bipartisan support for secure borders and mandatory detention, offshoring, interception, etc.

    This established bipartisan policy has worked in stopping country shoppers paying people smugglers to get here. Some previous arrivals have been held in detention for long periods and we are now in the phase of deciding when to let them out after a successful deterrence policy. Clearly we as a society were never going to keep them locked up forever. Peter Qasim is one of the most recalcitrant, but at some stage we will say OK, that’s enough, you can come out now, even though the likes of Laurie Ferguson have recognised the game he’s playing. We can expect Qasim to make a remarkable recovery as soon as he gets what he wants. Nothing surer. Of course the luvvies would have folded to his and similar demands years ago and as a consequence, the boats would be coming in ever increasing numbers.

    I’ll declare a personal interest here: I am a modest capitalist and could handle open borders. Third world taxation, social security and cheap labour would suit me fine. I could compete with China and servants would be nice. In fact for the price I pay for monitored security at my factory, I could pay an average Chinese worker round the clock, to keep the villains out and I’ll get a damn sight more work out of them than monitored security.( Bye bye cleaning contractors). You just say the word luvvies.

  11. Katz
    June 23rd, 2005 at 12:26 | #11


    “Of course the moral cost of the crimes committed in our name, and with our electoral endorsement is far greater.”

    It’s perhaps worthwhile to attempt to unpack the components of the “moral cost” of MD which JQ asserts is “far greater” than the unit cost of packing illegals off to Nauru.

    In reverse order of abstraction:

    1. Australians who refused to vote for the Greens may find that there is an “exclusion zone” waiting for them on some offshore islet of Heaven. Cost: indeterminate.

    2. The cost noted in Fyodor’s rebuttal to Jack Strocchi’s benefit of keeping the Wets away from the levers of state: perhaps neglible, largely dependent on taste.

    3. The cost of the resentment of people detained and turned away: small.

    4. The cost of the resentment of people detained but eventually admitted into Australia: some alienation, resentment and traumatisation, several “Australian Story” episodes in fifteen to twenty years’ time. Tolerable.

    5. The cost of twisting the arm of the Indonesian Government with its attendant consequences of encouraging anti-Australian sentiment: local but perhaps episodic for some time to come. Perhaps Schappelle Corby is paying for that at the moment.

    6. The cost of strong-arming Nauru. Perhaps neglible, but perhaps the whales of the world may be victims after the next round of the International Whaling Commission.

    7. The cost of establishing John Howard’s reputation as an unlovable but highly efficient political manipulator: the end of the Arbitration System, which may appear to be highly damaging or highly beneficial, again according to taste.

    [There may well be more that I couldn't think of.]

    Certainly, the circumstances surround MD have brought about a change in Australian identity and an eclipse of the tolerant slackness that informed much public policy. But are these constituents of a “far greater moral cost”?

  12. Bill Posters
    June 23rd, 2005 at 12:50 | #12

    The cost of people like Katz no longer understanding the meaning of the word “moral”: incalculable.

  13. conrad
    June 23rd, 2005 at 13:38 | #13

    I think you can negotiate with Indonesia as much as you want, and for a short time they might even listen.

    However, since it seems reasonable to suspect that the issue of small amounts of refugees crossing their borders is likely to be rather insignificant to them (versus, say, poverty, after-tsunami-rebuilding, ethnic conflict, etc.), I doubt they are not likely to care much about it, and hence they are probably not likely to do much about it in the long term. I think they probably just see it as whinging Australians complaining about relatively trivial problems.

  14. Ian Gould
    June 23rd, 2005 at 14:28 | #14



    Somehow our criminal justice system seems to cope reasonably well with these problems.

  15. Razor
    June 23rd, 2005 at 14:43 | #15

    So the ‘moral cost’ of encouraging people to put themselves and their innocent children at risk under-taking the services of people smugglers is less than that of stopping them? I don’t think so.

    JQ estimates about 10,000 were stopped attempting a boat crossing – what was an acceptable casuallty rate?

    Or, was it Australia’s responsibility to mount a massive continual air-sea rescue operation just outside Indonesian territorial waters in order to minimise casualties – fiscal cost about the same as the current regime.

    Your moral relativism sucks.

    The mojority of Australians support the policy and many around the world envy us for our forthright management of this issue.

    Finally – they are not held against their will – they may leave anytime they wish, return to whereever they came from and apply through the proper channels.

  16. June 23rd, 2005 at 15:56 | #16

    Nice to know, suitably deterred, they could all return to the safety of their homes.

  17. Hal9000
    June 23rd, 2005 at 16:14 | #17

    The total number of unauthorised arrivals of asylum seekers, including the Vietnamese, would not fill the Gabba. They represent a tiny fraction of immigrants to this country. There never has been any flood, other than in the fevered imaginations perhaps of some of the posters. The vast majority are eventually discovered to have been genuine refugees all along, and the reason for their extended incarceration turns out to be obdurate bureaucracy in DIMIA. Given they are in fear of their lives in their country of origin, the line about how they are free to return is nothing more than a union debating night throwaway.

    Dostoevsky’s Ivan Karamazov asks whether it is morally ok to torture just one child if this advances the happiness of the rest of humanity. Given there is no proof the Howard policies have had any effect on arrivals and people smuggling (post hoc ergo propter hoc being a fallacy), it is surely up to the policy’s cheer squad to first demonstrate its efficacy and then answer Karamazov’s question. If locking up and tormenting innocent people for long periods cured some other social evil, would it be ok?

  18. rog
    June 23rd, 2005 at 17:02 | #18

    Hal9000 says “If locking up and tormenting innocent people…” but offers no evidence that they are innocent people despite the fact that they are legally classified as illegal aliens.

    We all want to live in a harmonious friendly world of brotherly love committed to higher purpose but unmfortunately others dont share our vision.

    Thats why you have dead locks on your doors, insure against theft, worry if your kids are home late and cross check your invoices with your bank statements.

  19. observa
    June 23rd, 2005 at 17:16 | #19

    “The vast majority are eventually discovered to have been genuine refugees all along”

    Well that’s always been the bone of contention. They were genuine refugees when as John points out, those fleeing the Taliban and Saddam fled those regimes. Go country shopping and the UN no longer defines them as refugees and permits countries to protect their borders from such activity. We of course have a policy of selecting and settling about 12000 of such refugees, from first country of call. Pitifully low as that figure may seem to some, it is a cost of about $40,000 each to taxpayers to settle them here. Rather than responsibly advocate an increase in such humanitarian intakes, and the added costs to taxpayers, the luvvies are dishonestly arguing that country shoppers should be allowed to take as many of those precious positions as they please. The vast majority are clearly not impressed at this ‘only in my back yard’ compassionatte’ view of the world, along with the people smuggling rackets and shenanigans of the queue jumpers and occasional would-be kebab shop owners, it encourages.

  20. Razor
    June 23rd, 2005 at 18:18 | #20

    That is one thing I have never understood – draw a straight line on a map between where the illegal entrants have left and Australia and quite a lot of countries are passed over – why? What is wrong with the countries in between – welfare system not good enough?

    Why, should we have to take anyone who can afford the long trip, possibly destroy any useful paperwork, spin a heart wrenching story (Bahktiari anyone?) and bring the children along – because western nations don’t like locking up children, and get your women pregnant – because the children are Australian citizens which makes it ugly deporting them, and learn as much as you can about depression so that you can tell the shrinks exactly what they need to hear to diagnose depression, and a bit of self harm goes a long way (I used to bang my head having a tantrum as a toddler – fortunatley my Mother ignored it so I gave up on that tactic).

  21. June 23rd, 2005 at 18:42 | #21

    Observa has got it right. But for years now the issue has been misrepresented to the public by the luvvies and their compliant media supporters who steadfastly refer to all illegal immigrants as ‘asylum seekers’, knowing full well that most are not. It’s not really about truly caring and showing compassion for genuine refugees – it’s about any means being used to justify the end game of ‘getting at that bastard Howard.’ It’s the old adage in play again – If you are going to lie to achieve your ends, make it a big one, and and keep asserting it long and loud, so that it will eventually be accepted as the truth. Hitler had a fair bit of success using that very methodology.

  22. June 23rd, 2005 at 18:47 | #22

    Hell, I’ve fallen behind on this issue. I wasn’t aware the UN had changed its position to meet Australia’s self serving first port of call policy. Last time I looked the UNHCR thought it was a load of crap- please enlighten.

    I note that the UK has abandoned mooted plans to commence a limited version of our internment camps after asylum seeker numbers fell significantly of their own accord.

    Hal’s right about the numbers too, what is it Hal, about 50,ooo people arriving by boat since the mid 70s?

  23. June 23rd, 2005 at 18:51 | #23

    -”refer to all illegal immigrants as ‘asylum seekers’, knowing full well that most are not”-

    So they don’t seek asylum? What do they do then, call up customs and ask for permission to circumnavigate our wide brown land and choof off again? Or seek business visas?

    Once again I’m out of the loop, I thought most did seek asylum, and further than the bulk of recent detainees have been found to be genuine. Fire away with links, happy to be edumacated…

  24. June 23rd, 2005 at 19:29 | #24

    The cost of people using the word “moral” as a substitute for a decent argument: infinite.

    And Razzor, its good to see that someone has been so completely fooled by the Howard government rhetoric that he speaks it as his own words. Boring.

  25. Elizabeth
    June 23rd, 2005 at 19:30 | #25

    Cameron writes: “Back in Sept 2003, I had a look[2nd PDF] at what the Pacific Solution achieved. From the Immigration Fact Sheet from back then, the detention practices, and shrinking of the migration zone only stopped ten boats between the Tampa Affair and Sept 2003. They were carrying a total of 1396 people. ”

    What if it wasn’t 1396, but say 139,600. Would that have meant any different policy? May well happen, with PNG’s state structure corroding under the heavy weight of corruption and lawlessness.

    What then? I guess if the scenario occurs, we would let 139,600 people freely in the country, and move where? Sydney? Which is already crowded, and placing pressures on limiting urban sprawl and the environment.

  26. June 23rd, 2005 at 19:54 | #26

    Cut it out mp – do you seriously think that anyone who has deliberately and carefully destroyed all personal papers and all evidence of traceability a lá Qasim, and thousands of others like him, as instructed by the despicable traders in human trafficking for enormous personal gain, will announce on interception that he wasn’t a genuine asylum seeker ? And after very deliberately arranging to pay the equivalent of many years of income to jump the queue with funds that any genuine refugee or most genuine asylum seekers could not possibly possess? It’s just amazing how the flow of ‘asylum seekers’ suddenly stopped when the aspiring illegal immigrants learned that the promised land will definitely put illegals in jail, with no cash on arrival and no free housing and ongoing welfare, and no free mobile phone with the calls paid for as often handed out in EEC countries. ( Try Ireland for one if you want to check). Ah… the welfare state. What a vision it must be for someone in those countries which provide no such system. Give me a break, mp.

  27. Razor
    June 23rd, 2005 at 19:57 | #27

    mp – perhaps we should just assist them with their voyage and point them in the direction of New Zealand – I believe they would get a better reception there? Or, provide them with transport to any other country they so desire? I mean, obviously Australia shouldn’t stand in the way of anybody who wants to live wherever they want to. Why stop in Australia? OUr tax system sucks compard to other developed Nations high on country shoppers’ priority lists.

    All bow down to the moral highness of the UN and all their bodies – I love being lectured to about human rights by countries like Syria and Libya.

  28. June 23rd, 2005 at 20:09 | #28

    -”It’s just amazing how the flow of ‘asylum seekers’ suddenly stopped when the aspiring illegal immigrants learned that the promised land will definitely put illegals in jail”-

    Amazing! And it’s also amazing how a very similar pattern in falling asylum numbers was experienced by other ‘destination’ countries like the UK who didn’t stick them in gaol.

    -”we would let 139,600 people freely in the country, and move where?”-

    Hmm, take your pick:


  29. observa
    June 23rd, 2005 at 20:23 | #29

    “Hal’s right about the numbers too, what is it Hal, about 50,ooo people arriving by boat since the mid 70s? ”

    Too cute mp when you can ignore the trend before the govt put a stop to it described here at

    “The number of unauthorised boat arrivals has decreased significantly. As at 31 March 2004 there has been no boat arrival on the Australian mainland since December 2001 with the exception of a vessel carrying 53 Vietnamese unlawful arrivals that arrived in July 2003.

    In contrast more than 9500 people, mainly from Afghanistan and Iraq, arrived in Australia unlawfully by boat between July 1999 and December 2001. A further 1544 were intercepted en route to Australia from August 2001 – December 2001 and were processed in Papua New Guinea and Nauru under offshore processing arrangements in place with those countries.

    Against the background of high numbers of illegal boat arrivals, the Federal Government passed a series of laws in September 2001 designed to further strengthen Australia’s territorial integrity and to reduce incentives for people to make hazardous voyages to Australian territories with the assistance of people smugglers.”

    In other words more than 11,000 came in an 18 month period, when we budget for 12000 pa for humanitarian reasons. This of course doesn’t include drownees like the 353 we know that perished on SEIVX. Presumably if our navy wasn’t asleep at the wheel, you could add them too.

  30. observa
    June 23rd, 2005 at 20:30 | #30

    Err, 30 month rather than 18 month period of course.

  31. June 23rd, 2005 at 20:46 | #31

    Of course =p

  32. zoot
    June 24th, 2005 at 00:12 | #32

    Why do we discriminate between people who arrive by sea and people who arrive by air?

  33. June 24th, 2005 at 00:48 | #33

    Damn good question.

  34. observa
    June 24th, 2005 at 02:12 | #34

    We don’t Zoot, It’s just that we don’t give travel visas to fly to persons likely to seek asylum after arriving here, although some do like Chinese Diplomats. Those overseas who need asylum have to apply through the 12000 pa channel, which also includes those who do fly here.(offshore and onshore humanitarian program)

    From http://www.immi.gov.au/facts/61asylum.htm

    “The Refugees Convention

    Australia is one of 142 signatory countries to the United Nations 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees.

    The Convention defines refugees as people who:

    are outside their country of nationality or their usual country of residence, and
    are unable or unwilling to return or to seek the protection of that country due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, and
    among other things, are not war criminals or people who have committed serious non-political crimes.
    The Convention does not oblige signatory countries to provide protection to people who do not fear persecution and have left their country of nationality or residence on the basis of war, famine, environmental collapse or in order to seek a better life for themselves or their family.

    Protection obligations may also not be owed to a person who already has effective protection in another country, through citizenship or some other right to enter and remain safe in that country.

    International law recognises that people at risk of persecution have a right to flee their country and seek refuge elsewhere, but does not give them a right to enter a country of which they are not a national. Nor do refugees have a right to choose their preferred country of protection.”


    “Until mid 1989, there were fewer than 500 refugee applications a year from people in Australia.

    Over the following two years there was an increase in people claiming refugee status due primarily to the Tiananmen Square incident in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in June 1989. Refugee status (PV) applications peaked at 16,248 during 1990-91, with about 77 per cent coming from PRC nationals.”

    What we have to consider now is that a lax Hawke Govt let in a heap of Chinese 6-10 spies with this lot, according to some defecting diplomats.

  35. David Lim
    June 24th, 2005 at 08:28 | #35

    The last time I tried participating in a debate here regarding Asylum seekers, I was racially abused and told that I wasn’t really Australian because I had the wrong skin-color – and I was accused of cowardice, because why didn’t I use my real name anyway? So I’ll restrict my comments to reminding people that, contrary to racist propoganda, not all migrants that come to this country are subhuman unintelligent criminal layabouts that can’t speak a word of english. My parents come from an affluent middle-class background, and settled here without any problems. It’s unfortunate that people’s hysteria and fear regarding Asians, Arabs and other non-whites are inflated to such a degree, that they forget that not all “subhuman non-whites” can make a useful contribution to society.

    But I guess that gets conveniently ignored, because it’s much more fun to racially abuse people.

  36. David Lim
    June 24th, 2005 at 08:30 | #36


    not all “subhuman non-whites� can make a useful contribution to society.

    should read

    not all “subhuman non-whites” are criminals, rapists or welfare junkies. Some of us can “assimilate” into Australian culture just fine.

  37. Elizabeth
    June 24th, 2005 at 08:59 | #37

    I thought that the word ‘assimilation’ had been thrown out long ago. Replaced by multiculturalism.

  38. observa
    June 24th, 2005 at 11:45 | #38

    Relax David, because if you listened to the compassionatte’, you’d think this heartless, racist Govt had closed the borders altogether. as Jack Strocchi points out on the next thread-

    “Australia took the largest number of migrants and refugees in a decade over the past financial year.
    More than 110,000 people arrived and settled in Australia in 2003-04 – an increase of nearly 20,000 on the previous yearly total of 93,914.
    Australia’s migration intake is now climbing back to the highs of the Hawke government’s days, when the planned migration program reached a peak of 145,000 for 1989-90.
    The number of people granted refugee and humanitarian visas during the past financial year was 13,851 visas – the highest in eight years.
    Senator Vanstone said that commitment maintained Australia’s place as one of the top three countries with a dedicated refugee and humanitarian resettlement program.”

    The Dick Smiths, Ian Chappells, Julian Burnsides, etc are basically pissed that they have to apologise for the perceived sins of the smoko room crowd and their elected representatives, when they’re sipping chards with their OS elites in their 5 star hotels on hols. ‘Why can’t they see what we can?’ they wring their hands ruefully.

  39. observa
    June 24th, 2005 at 12:06 | #39

    “I thought that the word ‘assimilation’ had been thrown out long ago. Replaced by multiculturalism.”

    Well Elizabeth, that has been somewhat challenged since the Dreamtime became some people’s worst nightmare and some literal interpretations of the Koran became far too problematic, but that’s a challenge to multiculturalism that’s unfolding and will no doubt generate much heat in future.

  40. June 24th, 2005 at 13:03 | #40

    Zoot, we do, obviously given that it’s boat people we lock up.

    We do it because we’ve got a history of paranoia about seaborn invasion- it’s the one frontier I guess Australia could be mass invaded through. Hysterical, really, given that the likes of students who overstay visas would be equally capable of being terrorist sleepers or whatever else we fear is coming in off the boats.

    Oh that’s right, disease, plague, locusts whirling out of their bottoms. Only thing is, we don’t hold legitimate visa holders in quarantine in most cases either, and given flights are much faster they’re much less likely to have manifested visible symptoms if they contracted Rabies or Ebola in their country of origin than someone on a boat.

    But still, it makes sense. The tyranny of the majority says so.

    David I’m sorry to hear that. This thread has been civilised and interesting, and Quiggin’s place is usually pretty well moderated for flaming.

  41. David Lim
    June 24th, 2005 at 14:54 | #41

    “David I’m sorry to hear that. This thread has been civilised and interesting, and Quiggin’s place is usually pretty well moderated for flaming.”

    Thanks to you and everyone else for the measured responses. That unpleasant incident was quite hurtful, and did punctuate just how paranoid some sections of the population have become regarding immigration.

  42. Ian Gould
    June 24th, 2005 at 14:58 | #42


    In the case of Afghanistan, many (the majority?) of the refugees were Hezaras.

    The Hezara are an ethnic minority within Afghanistan. They are also a religious minority. While they are Sunnis, they don’t accept the traditional Pathan interpretation of islam and the restrictions it places on women.

    The Hezara were subject to persecution by the Taliban specifically because they believed women should be allowed to work outside the home and shouldn’t be compelled to wear the Burqa.

    Given the rising islamic extremism within Pakistan their reluctant to settle there is understandable.

    You might also want to consider that relatively few Afghans were fluent in, for example, Bahasa or Arabic whereas English was psoken there relatively widely since Britain was the former colonial power.

  43. June 24th, 2005 at 15:44 | #43

    This was a letter to Kevin Andrews, regarding the Howard government’s ‘changes’ to Mandatory Detention:

    Dear Kevin Andrews

    I appreciate you taking the time to send me a copy of the changes that the government is making to Immigration Detention. No doubt these changes, when bedded in, will lead to questions regarding the efficacy of the detention system and the cost-effectiveness of locking up people who are unlikely to find it in their best interests to abscond anyway.

    I welcome the changes as a sensible first step in dismantling a system that is unnecessary and has caused a great deal of suffering and harm. All children are minors and are entitled to enjoy a childhood. Any parent should be aware of this. Keeping children and their parents in detention has never made any sense. I welcome the release of these people. I am less happy with what I hear about ‘Community Detention’ and fear that this could alienate the asylum seekers from close contact and friendships in the community.

    Our ‘Residential Housing Projects’ should more closely resemble the normality practised in Sweden, where the acceptance of refugees per head of host population far exceeds ours. I am of the view that people seeking our protection should be given what we are easily able to afford. They are not a threat to either our national security or our national identity, and generally make a tremendous contribution to our culture and knowledge of the world, academia, the arts and the economy.

    This said, I am aware that the Minister for Immigration, Senator Amanda Vanstone, has been making some suitably compassionate decisions in recent times. I find this entirely welcome. I do have concerns that the micro-management of the department is falling so much on the shoulders of the Minister that could hinder visionary reform of DIMIA. I am also concerned that the refugee aspect of the Minister’s responsibilities is ‘shouldering-out’ the grave neglect of Australia’s responsibilities to indigenous citizens. Aboriginal health and life expectancy does not seem to be improving.

    Whilst I note the role of the Commonwealth Ombudsman, whose recommendations were previously ignored, I think more attention will have to be given to addressing what the Minister herself has referred to as a “bad culture” within DIMIA. I note that the present and previous Ministers have not accepted responsibility for this according to the rules of the Westminster system. I trust that, by remaining in office, they now intend to be ‘part of the solution’.

    I would particularly draw attention to the case of Peter Qasim, and, for once, agree with the Prime Minister, that decisions of this kind were “long overdue”. I am sure that Peter Qasim will become a very useful and law-abiding citizen of this country, if he can ever recover from the damage that has been inflicted on him. People cannot live without hope and without the possibility that they can plan to make something of their lives. It is most welcome that the Temporary Protection Visas will be reviewed and will receive a decision within three months.

    I do not think that the people of Australia would be able to say that we got good value for the money it has cost to lock people in detention camps, behind razor wire fences, guarded by privately employed custodial officers, subjected to indignities, put into solitary confinement and worse. Nor do we want to wear the opprobrium of the rest of the media-connected and developed worlds. This issue has painted Australians with shame and guilt and we want this to end.

    Please press on with reform. This is only a start. But it is a start that I welcome.

    Willy Bach

  44. Razor
    June 24th, 2005 at 21:15 | #44

    Dear Willy Bach

    Your views do not represent the majority of the Australian population.

    Kind Regards


  45. June 24th, 2005 at 21:52 | #45

    Perhaps Pr Q’s title “Was the Pacific Solution necessary?” is an allusion to Alec Nove’s great work on Soviet economic history: “Was Stalin necessary?”?
    If so, the answer to both questions is: it depends on what ones political goals are. In the case of Stalin, the proximate goal to strengthen the Red Army so it could deal with a Wermacht attack. The ultimate goal was the consolidation of the power of the USSR. Certainly Stalin’s policy was effective in both proximate and ultimate goals.
    In the case of the Pacific Solution, the proximate goal was the shutting down of the people-smuggling trade. A number of border-protective policies were tried – mandatory detention, people-smuggler disruption, boat-people repulsion and regime-changing. Some part of the Howard govt’s policies in this area were in general successful in this goal. But PrQ is correct to say that the Pacific Solution in particular was evidently neither efficient nor equitable towards the end of constraining people-smuggling.

    The question remains: what was the ultimate goal of border-protection?
    Assylum-seekers by themselves were no great threat to the Body Politic. So both Wets and Dries agree that Bo-Pro was political, rather than policy, driven: it was aimed at changing the balance of power for those administering settlement policy.

    The Wets believe it was all about consolidating the power of Howard’s faction. This Dry believes the basic aim of Bo-Pro was the disempowerment of the Wet political faction, particularly in the ALP. This good political end justifies the bad policy means.

    In some sense, the fact that the political mood has changed towards mandatory-detainees is a sign that Howard is a victim of his own success. The people smuggling trade is in abeyance so citizens are “relaxed and comfortable” about the remaining asylum-seekers. And the freefloating Wets have been driven either out of business (eg DEMS) or underground (eg ALP) so that the remaining Wets are operating back in their natural habitat: the liberal wing of the Liberal Party.

    Howard has in effect restored the late Menzies political status quo, with a liberal Liberal Party, a conservative Labor Party and a statist Country Party. The re-settlement of the AUstralian polity along traditional lines is Howard’s legacy.

  46. June 24th, 2005 at 22:19 | #46

    “Howard has in effect restored the late Menzies political status quo, with a liberal Liberal Party”

    where do you get your mescaline, Stroppy Jack, and can I have some?

  47. Bai Ren
    June 25th, 2005 at 01:13 | #47

    “and get your women pregnant – because the children are Australian citizens”

    Actually, they are not, Razor.

    Persons born in Australian after 20 August 1986 are not citizens unless at least one parent is either a citizen or legal resident.

    Ireland had a problem with foreign women coming to Ireland to give birth, and thus get EU citizenship for their children. So Ireland had a referendum in 2004 to change the constitution so that birth in Ireland no longer gives citizenship. From 1 Jan 2005, a child born in Ireland to non-national parents is not automatically a citizen. The child can apply for citizenship if the parents have been legally resident in the country for 3 years prior to the birth.

    Britain changed the laws on 1.1.83 so that birth in UK does not give citizenship automatically to children of non-nationals.

  48. observa
    June 25th, 2005 at 02:18 | #48

    “My parents come from an affluent middle-class background, and settled here without any problems.”
    Well David that was exactly my point about the general thrust of our immigration policy which has widespread community support when I said-
    “We largely want middle class, educated citizens, preferebly with business capital as immigrants, in order to continue that lifestyle.”
    Our immigration system is now firmly culturally based(middle class) rather than racially based as it once was. That works well in terms of ‘settling here without any problems’ ie ease of integration and assimilation.

    What creates problems for acceptance of immigrants, is when well meaning dickheads, whose only contact with a particular cultural group(eg moderate muslim, middle class, Malaysian students), extrapolate that experience to supporting immigration of feudal muslims from wherever. Welcome to the Shufti Mufti and his flock, or the Skaf boys who think skippy girls should be f***ed Leb style, while the Mufti reckons they deserve it for the way they dress. Dump that lot in the Western suburbs of Sydney, which the compassionatte’ never inhabit and suddenly good folk like yourself experience a wee modicum of unwarranted resentment. That’s why the majority of us believe we should be careful about who comes here by screening wisely and for those who can’t come and suffer privation and tyrrany, we provide humanitarian aid for the former and the benefit of our military for the latter. It’s a multidisciplinary approach, which is not always appreciated by those with tunnel vision, who incidentally enjoy much of its policy benefits, but nevertheless are into self-flagellating guilt trips for being part of this Lucky Country. Really it’s good management rather than luck, which is no doubt why your clever parents approached DIMIA in the proper manner and brought you here. Welcome aboard David and perhaps I have in some small way helped you understand the meaning of the Aussie colloquialism,’dickhead’, which the smoko room crowd understand only too well. Their Government does too.

  49. June 25th, 2005 at 08:31 | #49

    Jason Soon Says: June 24th, 2005 at 10:19 pm

    “Howard has in effect restored the late Menzies political status quo, with a liberal Liberal Party�

    where do you get your mescaline, Stroppy Jack, and can I have some?

    Okay maybe a “liberal Liberal Party” is probably pushing it. But lets say the pre-Whitlam political settlement does show signs of re-formation under the influence of Howard’s wicked ways.
    Gough Whitlam reshaped Australian politics in the sixties and seventies and in so doing forced both the ALP and non-Labor parties into total realignment.
    He destroyed the DLP by bringing the Catholics back into the ALP-fold through his support for state-sponsored Catholic education.
    The ALP, in its pursuit of the bourgeois-bohemian vote, got Left-Wetter which pushed the LP to the Right-Drier on culture. Thus the LP Wets morphed into the Democrats in the late seventies-early eighties.
    The CP morphed into the NP, which abandoned rural statism and embraced free-market principles.
    That was then. The post-Whitlamite settlement has shifted quite abit. (The Hawke-Keating period of Right-Dry economics now stands out as a factional aberration.)
    The ALP’s Catholic electorate are getting richer and trickling back to the conservative side of politics, or not Catholic anymore. The rest of the ALP has been shell-shocked back into a Drier cultural politics by Howards relentless attacks.
    The NP + rural Liberal Party candidates, under the influence of Hanson, have re-embraced rural statism.
    The expat Wets have either turned belly-up (the DEMs), Dried out (in the ALP) or are returning to the Liberal Party fold (Georgiou et al).
    The LP on economics is now well and truly the party of private home owners, small businesses and national infrastructure projects. On cultural matters it has returned to the Opperman-era compromise: an uneasy coalition of conservative Dries and constructive Wets.
    In short, it is more or less “forward to the Menzies past” as far as Australia’s partisan alignments to ideologies and electorates.

  50. Katz
    June 25th, 2005 at 12:37 | #50

    I think Jack Strocchi’s analysis misses both the big picture and the small picture. It is difficult to compare the ALP ofthe 1950s with the ALP of today. It is even more difficult to compare Menzies’ Libs with Howard’s Libs.

    Menzies wouldn’t have dreamed touching the IR system. He witnessed first-hand Stanley Melbourne Bruce trying to do just that in the late 1920s and being destroyed politically by Billy Hughes and then electorally by the Australian electorate, more specifically, the good folk of the electorate of Flinders, who took enormous pleasure in voting Bruce out of parliament altogether.

    Menzies understood that memories ofthe great Depression were too fresh to propose that Australian workers might enjoy a bracing experience of labour market economics.

    Menzies also understood that prosecution of the Cold War required that the Australian working class be pampered. Menzies was prepared to ensure that Australian employers pay a ransom to the working class to buy their compliance. Given that most of the big employers of labour in Australia were branch offices of British and increasingly US corporations, Menzies was quite happy to defend domestic tranquility with the money of foreigners.

    Time moves on. Memories fade. The Soviet Union collapses. Australian secondary industry collapses.

    Howard no longer needs to bribe the working classes.

    But Howard is not averse to bribery. He invents a new demographic group — Howard’s battlers. With exquisite timing and with an actuary’s accuracy of measurement, the Liberal Party machine identifies the critical demogaphics of the critical swing seats and buys a series of electoral victories.

    Thus, the political parties are compelled to adjust their identities to changing social realities. they also need to fine-tune their appeals to voters according to transient vicissitudes.

    The ALP is fitfully engaged in the first project. The ALP’s institutional structures make this effort difficult and conflictual.

    Meantime, Howard has proven himself the master manipulator of transient vicissitudes, something that Menzies believed it was undignified to do.

  51. Razor
    June 25th, 2005 at 15:14 | #51

    That nasty Mr Howard, how dare he be good at politics!

  52. June 25th, 2005 at 18:19 | #52

    Jack Strocchi, Stalin’s policies were not good for the proximate purpose of strengthening the Red Army against a Wehrmacht attack. In fact they weakened it almost to the point of disintegration in the time scale involved, though they might have eventually made it stronger on a longer time scale than history in fact allowed.

    However, that was not Stalin’s proximate purpose for the Red Army; he wanted it loyal first, strong second – and this he achieved even in the short term.

    For what it is worth, the informal structure – unwriten constitution – of the USSR rested on the interplay of the communist party, the KGB under its various names, and the Red Army; other elements were not significant while this balance endured. All these elements were artificially created and relied on Stalin type or Augustus type control to keep them in a sort of bicycle balance by central control; that is, mild instability, sufficiently small not to overwhelm the central rebalancing effort and detract from other central efforts but responsive to changes of direction with no natural inertia resisting them.

    This sort of balance has applied elsewhere in history, notably in muslim Spain when it was united, but it is not the same as the interplay that underlay the stability of the Westminster System, which proceeded naturally (in a technical sense of “naturally”) from social developments, so they did not require routine central rebalancing. That underpinning has now passed from the Westminster System wherever it is currently in use.

  53. June 25th, 2005 at 18:20 | #53

    Katz Says: June 25th, 2005 at 12:37 pm

    I think Jack Strocchi’s analysis misses both the big picture and the small picture. It is difficult to compare the ALP ofthe 1950s with the ALP of today. It is even more difficult to compare Menzies’ Libs with Howard’s Libs.

    Maybe so. Here for once I do not claim to have all the answers. But there is something underway – a the partisan re-alignment of the AUS polity, which I referred to a little while back as “the Great Convergence”. Shanahan has also cottoned on to it in todays Australian.

    Its not a replica of Menzies Australia – the Catholic DLP is gone which removes the sectarian element. But it is suprisingly similar given recent statements by the L/NP on political economy and the ALP on political culture.

    We have a new Cold War of sorts emerging, with the Anglosphere aligned against jihadist powers in all shapes and forms. There is not alot of daylight between the major parties on that issue on political-culture: identity and civility policy. There is also considerable major party consensus on consensus on political-economy: fiscal, financial and industrial policy. There is a bit of a dispute on national security, but this cuts accross, rather than along, party lines.

    The LN/P have become economicly Wetter, as I suggested two years ago and Pr Q later concurred. The ALP has become culturally Drier (as everyone now concedes) and the expat Wets in the DEMs and the ALP have shrivelled up and died or returned home to the LP in 2004. (I cant say I am sorry about that.)

    The plates started to shift when Hewson’s Eco-Rat and Keatings Pee-Cee got the boot in 1993 and 1996. The change started to take formal shape when Hanson burst on the scene in 1998 which more or less put an end to the NFF’s influence on the Coalition. Then “Bomber Beazley” started to act like the born-again moral-equator-of-re-armament that his father was. Finally, Howard started to tax-and-spend like a drunken sailor on leave. His-hatefulness’ monomaniacal centralism is another hearkening back to Menzies.

    So there is some kind of (crypto) late-Menzies nationalist-statist partisan realignment occurring at the Federal level, which is being counter-valed by the complete hegemony of the ALP at the state level. Somethings up but I havent yet come up with a Grand Unifying Theory to explain it. Any suggestions?

  54. Mick M
    June 25th, 2005 at 18:37 | #54

    Well, I have nothing to say, except that there are so many ugly Australians in this world.

  55. rog
    June 25th, 2005 at 23:51 | #55

    When Hitler broke the pact and invaded Russia it was said that Stalin spent 6 weeks in bed – in a state of shock – there was no direction given. Contrary to popular belief Stalin did not use the pact to buy time to strengthen the military. Reports tabled at 1941 Party Conference show a country being plunged into economic chaos by his failed policies. This chaos would made invasion attractive to the Germans and the failure of the Red Army to prevent this was Stalins fault entirely.

  56. June 26th, 2005 at 00:08 | #56

    It has also been suggested that Stalin had in mind attacking first, and had everything structured that way around with no plans for the alternative that actually happened. We cannot know, but that too would account for much of the moral effect on the USSR and its leadership.

  57. Molly Rowan
    June 26th, 2005 at 04:40 | #57

    My thoughts entirely Hal 90000 and Mick M. On the whole, what a thoroughly depressing read this thread is. Lets hope that none of you lot ever need the services of a lifeboat, or a good samaritan

    If Wet and Luvvie are the condescending terms for a person who believes in a ‘fair go’, and believe we are judged by the way we care for children, all children, then I’ll wear them with pride!

    If you believe that locking up people behind razor wire for years, guarded by the sort of people that dealt with Cornelia Rau; that crowding out our already much needed mental health beds for weeks at a time; that costing tax-payers hundreds of millions of dollars, when most have been now been designated ‘refugee’ and granted visas (but now with the probability of an ongoing mental illness), and in sending our good name down the toilet in the process, is good policy, then you’ve lost me!!

    PS If you think Menzies would have soiled his hands and despoiled his good name with such grubby tactics, then you didn’t witness him trolling round 1950′s Great Briton, dressed up a treat as Warden of the Cinque Ports, my word he was a sight!

  58. abb1
    June 26th, 2005 at 05:29 | #58

    It has also been suggested that Stalin had in mind attacking first, and had everything structured that way around with no plans for the alternative that actually happened.

    A controversial view enthusiastically promoted by one Viktor Suvorov, KGB defector, amateur historian and popular author. Interesting read…

  59. June 30th, 2005 at 08:59 | #59

    Razor wrote:

    “Your views do not represent the majority of the Australian population.

    Kind Regards


    But Razor did not explain why a majority is always right, without any consideration of the facts, nor did Razor manage to counter any of the argtuments I put forward. I would characterise this as ‘mindless sniping’ – nothing “kind” about it. Why not come back, Razor, and explain why Mandatory Detention and the so-called Pacific Solution are humane or make any economic sense, as in giving us good value for money. I would really like to see that. Give it to us, Razor.

    Willy Bach

  60. July 2nd, 2005 at 00:39 | #60

    WB, I think Razor was challenging your claim to speak on behalf of the Australian people, not the claim to be right (which, as you say, rests on other things – though you don’t have the chance to go into those). I’m pretty sure you tried to avoid that, using the pronoun “I” as much as possible, but the penultimate paragraph of the body of your letter starrts to make presumptions on behalf of the Australian people.

    In fact, there’s one in particular there I would want qualified: I don’t give a damn about the opprobrium of the rest of the world. But that’s because I respond to my conscience in these matters, not to peer pressure or bullying. The opinion of the rest of the world has sod all to do with it any more than your own measuring of the Australian majority. I for one wouldn’t take kindly to swapping one biassed assessment for another, one that doesn’t even err in our favour.

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