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Good all round

August 15th, 2006

The withdrawal of the Howard government’s legislation aimed at recreating offshore prison camps for asylum seekers is good news all round. The Liberal MPs who crossed the floor to vote against the bill (along with Family First’s Steve Fielding who indicated a vote against and Barnaby Joyce who threatened to abstain) have helped to revive the idea of Parliament as a place where laws are decided and debated rather than a rubber-stamp for the executive. Substantively, the failure of the bill reduces the likelihood of children being kept in detention centres again, though this is still, I think, possible under existing laws.

Despite the usual posturing, the outcome is not a bad one for Howard, as was shown by the rapidity with which he dropped the bill. There are no more votes to be had from anti-refugee demagogery, and the government was happy to back away from its past policies last year, and return to a process in which we implemented, at least in part, our legal obligations to deal fairly with asylum seekers. The problem was the inconsistency between the government’s rhetoric and actions in 2001, dealing with refugess from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the admission last year of refugees from West Papua (note to those who seek to use non-words like “illegals” in this context – those I refer to have had their refugee status confirmed by the standard legal process).

Not surprisingly, the Indonesians were upset by this inconsistency, which implied that the position of West Papuans was worse than that of people escaping from the Taliban or Saddam Hussein, so the government was pushed into yet another reversal. But now, Howard can go the Indonesians and say he has done his best and that the problem is with the Parliament. Not surprisingly, Downer has already done this.

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  1. August 15th, 2006 at 07:54 | #1

    Yudhoyono can probably the tell the TNI the same.

  2. Terje (say tay-a)
    August 15th, 2006 at 08:42 | #2

    I think it would have been good if the bill was decided on the floor rather than been withdrawn.

    I think Howard gains a lot by having an opposition party within the coalition. Much better for Howard than letting the ALP have credit for defeating such bills. Maybe.

    Slightly off topic I saw David Hicks lawyer interviewed by Andrew Denton last night. A very compelling guy. And clearly a poor show for the Australian government.

  3. taust
    August 15th, 2006 at 09:29 | #3

    Assuming:
    that both sides of Parliament would vote for maintaining control over who comes to Australia;
    that our legal system would mean several years between entry and final decision in those cases fought through to the end;
    that there is money to be made in bringing people to Australia by non-official means; and
    Indonesia no longer prevents the non-official means.
    what number of non-official means people would we find acceptable?
    How would we manage them in Australia? (refugee camps unacceptable?)
    How many deaths at sea would we find acceptable?

  4. still working it out
    August 15th, 2006 at 09:32 | #4

    “the idea of Parliament as a place where laws are decided and debated rather than a rubber-stamp for the executive”

    I wish this would happen more often. Parliament can actually be entertaining and worth paying attention to when there is real debate and the issues are genuinely undecided.

    I am a bit envious of New Zealand’s MMP reforms. From what I have heard they have had the effect of turning parliament back into what it should be. It would be nice to have something similar happen here.

  5. Terje (say TAY-A)
    August 15th, 2006 at 09:37 | #5

    Taust,

    I think that we need borders that are more open. If there is a black market in moving people to Australia it is because the official channel is too difficult. However more open border is not compatible with a high minimum wage, universal social welfare and all the other things that Australians apparently hold dear. If we had borders that were as open as say the US border with Mexico then we would probably have social policy more like the USA.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  6. Paul Kelly the footy player and journo
    August 15th, 2006 at 09:44 | #6

    Yes, you can’t blame the Indonesians for finding a discrepancy between Howard’s “I don’t want people of that type coming into this country” (as he repeated several times in 2001, and his relative friendliness to non-Muslim Papuans insulting.

  7. Terje (say TAY-A)
    August 15th, 2006 at 09:51 | #7

    Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the Papuans didn’t cross 10 countries that could have offered then asylum before landing here.

  8. Peter E
    August 15th, 2006 at 10:44 | #8

    I dunno. I think Howard has rationalised that if the Indonesian governement retaliates by letting more refugees transit through Indonesia to Australia (the latter is almost wholly dependent on the former for halting the flow of refugees), then there’ll be a sudden increase in boats of asylum seekers arriving right in time for the next election campaign. Perfect. I think we all know the script. I think you are too kind, JQ, in supposing the demogoguery of refugees is passe.

    On the other hand, he can pontificate about what a fabulous democratic institution the Liberal Party is, and a compliant press will stay right on message with him (and conveniently ignore and forget how he has gutted the party of almost all dissent). After he finally toddles off, we’ll get to see how open to change the party is. It will dismember itself with the fight for the spoils, which the press will exacerbate in its keenness to report all news as a variant of sport.

    -peter

  9. August 15th, 2006 at 11:49 | #9

    Peter E,
    Try doing what Judi Moylan and the others did if you are in the Labor Party and see what happens. Instant removal from caucus, membership withdrawal, not chance whatsoever of re-endorsement. Ostracism. That is true supression of dissent.
    The reason the Libs have had to be sterner on this than they used to be years ago is the block voting on the other side of the House. If the ALP actually allowed some freedom in their own ranks that would open up the debate on both sides. No need for MMP and the resulting instability (One Nation may actually have had to be added in to the government, as NZ First was).
    Get rid of the Pledge and see what happens.

  10. Peter E
    August 15th, 2006 at 13:25 | #10

    Andrew,

    Oh, I quite agree with you – the ALP is truly pathetic on the question of public dissent. Behind closed doors in another matter, but it ought to be possible in parliament too. But the reason the libs are sterner on it than in the past is not to counter the ALPs block voting (there was plenty more Liberal dissent in the Menzies era, for instance). The reason is a combination of contempory media scrutiny, which, in the sporting adversarial model that is all the dimwitted fourth estate can manage, tends to vastly overstate any differences inside the “teams”; and, perculuarly to the Liberal Party, the school prefect system they like where the leaded has a very great deal of power in the party, so a personality cult tends to develop within the parliamentary party itself (this has never happened in the ALP – members themselves were never under any illusions about, say, Whitlam or Hawke). The cult tends to reflect the leader of the day, and in Howard’s case, he defines himself by a deep-seated loathing of the other side, rather than the patrician model of Menzies, Peacock, or Fraser. So everyone in the party has to have a similar loathing, and parrot the message, or they are never granted any favours by the leadership. That’s why the modern Libs toe the line so strongly.

    -peter

  11. Terje (say tay-a)
    August 15th, 2006 at 13:44 | #11

    I quite like the instability of MMP.

  12. August 15th, 2006 at 13:47 | #12

    Pr Q says:

    The problem was the inconsistency between the government’s rhetoric and actions in 2001, dealing with refugess from Iraq and Afghanistan, and the admission last year of refugees from West Papua…

    ….Not surprisingly, the Indonesians were upset by this inconsistency, which implied that the position of West Papuans was worse than that of people escaping from the Taliban or Saddam Hussein, so the government was pushed into yet another reversal.

    I think this is a naive reading of INDON foreign policy. The INDONs are more concerned with keeping a lid on seperatism, esp West Papuan independence movement. Seperatist movements are now vying for the control of disputed mineral resources all over the world. This is the economic back story to most ethnic conflict.

    The Javanese elite care more about profiting from the mountain of gold out in Freeport than any supposed adverse comparison to Saddam Hussein’s civil rights record. We are talking about the same folk who run the TNI here.

    Recognising the political legitimacy of Papuan boat people by granting them refugee status is half-way towards recognising the seperatist movement as a government in exile. Howard wants to keep sweet with the INDONs as he has ruffled enough Javanese feathers by liberating ETIMOR and threateing pre-emptive strikes against regional jihadis.

    I dont expect the Wets to give him any credit for this, but they should at least recognise that real politik requires a bit of give and take. (Personally, I am happy enough that the bill failed. Although I still think Howard did the right thing by being tough on border control.Howard’s tough policies on border control saved children’s lives. )

    note to those who seek to use non-words like “illegalsâ€? in this context – those I refer to have had their refugee status confirmed by the standard legal process.

    Most border-protectors now favour the phrase “suspected unauthorised non-citizen” or SUNC. This is better than “illegals” but still kind of unfortunate considering what happened to many smuggled people until Howard clamped down on this lethal practice. It is reasonable to call people smuggling boats “illegal” (SIEV) considering the un-seaworthy condition and improper procedures they follow.

  13. Seeker
    August 15th, 2006 at 14:29 | #13

    Andrew Reynolds: at 11:49 am.

    No argument from me about the ALP’s ruthesslessly enforced policy on this issue. While it may have some immediate political survival value, it hurts both them and the broader political process much more in the long run.

    I do think it is also fair to say that, while in the Liberal party it is technically legitimate to cross the floor, and it is no grounds for being thrown out of the party, the tribal bully-boy response from the ‘hard men’ of the party toward dissenters is no better than the way the ALP behaves. They are both hypocrites on this issue.

  14. sdfc
    August 15th, 2006 at 14:40 | #14

    Fat, comfortable westerners like Terje pontificating on refugee etiquette are absolutely hilarious.

  15. Michael H.
    August 15th, 2006 at 15:27 | #15

    Jacks take on Howards ‘liberation’ of ET never ceases to amuse.

    Howards response to the Papuan asylum-seekers just demonstrated how incongruous it was. Keeping things sweet with the Indonesian govt remained the guiding principle (thru a combination of realpolitik and false perceptions of national interest), action on ET finally occurring becuase there was simply no longer any option.

    It’s also quite a leao to describe Howrds policies as having “saved childrens lives”. They did just the opposite. One of the drivers of increased boat arrivals (loaded with women and children) was that the new ‘tough laws’ (ie TPVs) prevented family re-union. So women and children could not join their husband/father in Australia who had been recognised as a refugee. So, they jumped on boats (SIEVs) with the known consequences.

    I think Howard deserves more credit for this.

  16. Michael H.
    August 15th, 2006 at 15:29 | #16

    “leao”=leap, if that wasn’t obvious.

  17. August 15th, 2006 at 15:51 | #17

    And how was Parliament’s court jester (wilson tuckey) blaming Labor for any future asylum seekers landing in Australia. Surely the people the asylum seekers were fleeing deserve to be blamed?
    Tuckey really is a silly man and his longevity in parliament is an embarassment to his electorate.

  18. observa
    August 15th, 2006 at 16:16 | #18

    If you say it loud enough and often enough Michael you might convince yourself which view of economic refugees causes more drownings. You wont convince rationalists. Howard’s stance has been a consistent one in my view. He sees what the electorate sees, that these boat people are largely economic refugees. Yes the ME ones were refugees originally, but that ceased when they went country hopping and shopping. The West Papuans are direct economic refugees, although Joe Public tends to think of them as fleeing nasty Muslim Indos aka ETs. Howard is more astute than that and so will the public be if hordes of WPs and PNG economic refugees start heading this way. Bugger WP separatism then as they come round to Howard’s way. Howard also has offshoring of all boat arrivals as an election issue now don’t forget. He could ask for a mandate in the Senate to push that legislation through and the wets would be obliged to fall in line if he won. We may yet see some economic refugees in boats to make this an election issue. Whatever we think, the weekend polls show the Howard govt in front again on 2PP voting trends. This despite all the IR scare campaign, petrol prices, more terrorism and a ‘tired’ fourth term govt. The ALP must be positively thrilled this far out from the election.

    Funny how a Senate that passes legislation you don’t like is a rubber stamp, yet if the same Senate opposes similar legislation, then this is democracy at its best and pollies with conscience. Personally you have to think the odd ALP Senator is voting against something he/she believes in with the offshoring aka Latham’s view. Are they all being railroaded by their Party to conform here for the sake of political point scoring? Probably!

    My own view is we elect our 2 Houses of parliament back to front. A proportional vote for the Reps and govt, would see the end to marginal seat pork barrelling and stop branch stacking. The political parties would put their best candidates at the front of their national ticket to protect them and run their cabinet. The Senate would be popular local member seat based with these members having rigorous investigative/committe powers to keep the political bastards honest. Our govt (cabinet and PM) would often be beholding to other parties for a majority, and be more representative. The lunar fringe parties would have to get real policies to participate in power sharing naturally enough. Much of politics these days is a lot of hooha about what is agreed upon (or bleeding obvious in spite of ideology), rather than the small nuances of disagreement. Labour and Coalition politicians could easily form satisfactory govts from time to time as needs be. I’ve ceratinly seen that with the first Rann govt, before its second term clear majority.

  19. jquiggin
    August 15th, 2006 at 16:42 | #19

    The really evil feature of the government’s policy was that of turning boats around. This created a powerful incentive to travel in boats just seaworthy enough for a one-way journey – this was the case with the ‘children overboard’ boat, about the same time as the SIEV-X tragedy.

  20. Terje (say TAY-A)
    August 15th, 2006 at 17:02 | #20

    Fat, comfortable westerners like Terje pontificating on refugee etiquette are absolutely hilarious.

    Sdfc,

    I am not sure on what basis you decided that I am fat. You have never met me (as far as I know). You don’t publish your real name but you hurl personal abuse at people. Some might regard that as the hallmarks of a coward.

    Above I stated quite clearly that I am personally in favour of a more open border policy. I can articulate the exact details of what I believe in this regard if you actually ask, however you seem to prefer the hurling of personal abuse.

    How my views on a more open border policy makes me a pontificator of refugee etiquette is beyond me. Perhaps you can explain your logic that leads you to such an accusation. And maybe you can also explain your need for rudeness. If not I look forward to a prompt apology.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  21. August 15th, 2006 at 19:02 | #21

    jquiggin Says: August 15th, 2006 at 4:42 pm

    The really evil feature of the government’s policy was that of turning boats around. This created a powerful incentive to travel in boats just seaworthy enough for a one-way journey – this was the case with the ‘children overboard’ boat, about the same time as the SIEV-X tragedy.

    No, Pr Q’s assertion and conclusion are the opposite of the truth. He provides no evidence or source, this is simply unfounded speculation.

    The really evil feature of public policy on this issue was that the dastardly trade in people-smuggling was allowed to continue for so long, against the interests of the unwary assylum-seeker and against the wishes of the Australian public. And that the one man who did anything useful about it has been demonised by elite opinon.

    Throughout the nineties hundreds of boat-people died when unseaworthy vessels sank on the way to Australia. The same thing still happens in Europe today. This report from late 2000 shows how mass drownings of boat-people was business as usual people for the people-smuggling trade well before Howard cracked down on it.

    Up to 163 illegal immigrants are feared to have drowned off Australia’s north coast after attempting to travel by boat from Indonesia during a tropical cyclone, the Australian government said Wednesday.

    Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock said two boats that were operating as part of a people-smuggling racket had left Indonesia last week for the remote Ashmore Reef, a deserted Australian-administered territory 200 kilometers south of Kupang, West Timor.

    Steve Ingram, a spokesman for Ruddock, told Kyodo News it was likely the boat people were of Middle Eastern background due to the pattern of large numbers of refugees from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan traveling illegally to Australia on Indonesian-skippered boats.

    Up to 350 people were feared drowned in March when a boat carrying Middle Eastern refugees disappeared on its way to Ashmore Reef from Indonesia.

    But there was nary a peep from the left-liberal press at the time, because there was no Howard-hating angle on that story. The Wets only got up in arms when Howard quite rightly made border-protection and cultural identity a major political issue and won votes on it.

    Howard’s tough border-protection policy stopped the Indian ocean people-smuggling industry in its tracks. He stopped the boats from coming and that stopped the boat people from drowning.

    Also, Howard’s national security policies helped to liberate Iraqi Shiites and Afghani whatnots from the oppression that was driving them from their homeland.

    So Howard saved the lives of the huddled and oppressed masses yearning to flee, both going and coming.

    Also, Pr Q perpetuates old myths about the SIEV-X. The SMH points the finger at INDON authorities as the proximate culprits:

    SIEV-X, which was unseaworthy and grossly overcrowded after Indonesian officials forced people on board at gunpoint, sank on October 19, during the election campaign.

    Apparently elements of the TNI and regional governors were still smarting from Howard’s liberation of ETIMOR. Tony Kevin, somewhat recovered from fever-swamp speculation about Howard’s role in the sinking of SIEV-X, acknowledges that the INDONS wanted payback.

    There is credible evidence that in those years, elements in Indonesian national security agencies may have encouraged and assisted a sharp upsurge in numbers of Middle-Eastern-origin boat people seeking to reach Australia: perhaps as Indonesian payback for Australia’s role in the independence of East Timor in 1999. Some of the biggest people smugglers clearly enjoyed covert Indonesian agency protection.

    So to summarise the facts and their logical sequence:

    1. The people-smuggling boats were sinking (and hundreds of people dying) well before Howard made border-protection a political issue. The Wets ignored the problem most of the time.

    2. Howard’s national security and border-protection policies stopped the boats from coming, both at exit and entry points. His policies saved lives.

    3. The sinking of the SIEV-X was caused by INDON authorties who had profited from an industry that gave the Australian state some grief. They were probably motivated to do this as pay-back for Howard’s assertive policies in liberating ETIMOR.

    4. The liberal-left narrative of the whole assylum-seeking, border-protection debate is driven more by a desire to hurt Howard than help refugees.

  22. taust
    August 15th, 2006 at 20:32 | #22

    Terje;
    your LAD might have confused you for me I will own to being fat.
    I also believe that there are as many advantages to a free mobility of labour as for capital. I agree that the definition and administration of social welfare becomes a nightmare but I suspect only so because there is an organised defence of current status ignoring the perpetual discovery of scandels in health, childvare etc etc.
    Perhaps the more open support of free mobilty of labour would produce some advance towards defining workable ways forward.
    I must admit I do not look forward to leaking boats arriving but if it was Ok to arrive perhaps a better class of vessel would become the norm.

  23. Terje (say tay-a)
    August 15th, 2006 at 20:53 | #23

    Taust,

    At a minimum I think we should be having more mobility with selected nations such as we already have with New Zealand. Why not a labour mobility agreement with the UK, USA or Singapore? We spend lots of political energy pursuing freedom for capital and trade but it seems that we prefer our citizens captive.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  24. sdfc
    August 15th, 2006 at 22:55 | #24

    So being a fat comfortable westerner is personal abuse is it Terje? I find it far more offensive that people like yourself decide you are experts on the circumstances that drive refugees (mainly Iraqis and Afghanis) to make such a dangerous journey.

    Your comment repoduced below is what makes you a pontificator on refugee ettiquette.

    “Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the Papuans didn’t cross 10 countries that could have offered then asylum before landing here”.

    Clear enough?

    However if you are rather large and sensitive about your weight I do apologise.

    If not, your feigned outrage at being called a fat comfortable westerner is extremely unimpressive.

  25. Terje (say tay-a)
    August 16th, 2006 at 08:53 | #25

    My comment was merely speculation on why the government is more sympathetic to some asylum seekers. I did not indicate either way whether I agreed with the governments position.

    I don’t regard myself as fat. However I still find your slur insulting. You clearly infer that I am some type of self serving slob and you clearly do so with malice. I would expect an apology or else a decent explaination as to why you think personal abuse has any place in this discourse. So far you have offered neither contrition nor meaningful explaination.

  26. MichaelH
    August 16th, 2006 at 09:43 | #26

    Jack, that’s another reality defying take on recent immigration policy.

    Howard the hero, nobly concerned about the fate of poor refugees, in stark contrast to the evil Indonesians motivated only by political consideration.

    Again, one of the primary reasons that boats loaded with women and children started coming, was the TPV regime, instuted by the govt in their selfless concern for others, according to Jacks version.

    It was a cruel policy, motivated by perceived political gain, constructed on the run, with barely a thought as to whether it saved or lost lives.

  27. sdfc
    August 16th, 2006 at 14:54 | #27

    Terje,

    I’ll deal with both paragraphs separately;

    1. Back-pedalling bollocks.

    2. It appears someone referring to you as a fat comfortable westerner (and lets face it pretty much all of the commenters on this website are, including me) is far more important to you than the plight of refugees. Self-serving is bang on the money isn’t it.

  28. Terje (say tay-a)
    August 16th, 2006 at 15:21 | #28

    Surely it is not that hard to say “I was presumptious about what you think and it was unnecessarily rude of me to refer to you as a hilarious fat comfortable westerner who pontificates about the plight of refugees. I’m sorry.”

  29. August 16th, 2006 at 16:38 | #29

    Sdfc, what on earth makes you think westerners can’t be refugees? I myself was briefly a refugee as a child. Although I didn’t have to stay in a camp for a prolonged period, I did have to endure a siege for some days while our particular lot were being shot at.

  30. August 16th, 2006 at 17:34 | #30

    MichaelH Says: August 16th, 2006 at 9:43 am

    Howard the hero, nobly concerned about the fate of poor refugees, in stark contrast to the evil Indonesians motivated only by political consideration.

    I dont care what Howard’s motivation is. I am interested in sociological outputs, not pyschological inputs. So far as I know he does the things he does because he likes the view from Kirribili. Can’t blame him for that.

    Again, one of the primary reasons that boats loaded with women and children started coming, was the TPV regime, instuted by the govt in their selfless concern for others, according to Jacks version

    It was a cruel policy, motivated by perceived political gain, constructed on the run, with barely a thought as to whether it saved or lost lives.

    I don’t think so. People smuggling was going on right througout the nineties, well before the TPV regime was introduced. As was the sinking of unauthorised, unseaworthy and unmonitored vessels and associated mass drownings. Not a peep from the Wets those vessels that sunk.

    There was also rorting of the refugee rules, by lawyered up lobbies, for asylum-seekers who made it on-shore. Peter Walsh summarises the way popular resistance to these actions built up:

    “People smuggling” has become a global industry organised by criminals and said to yield up to US$1 billion a year. Orderly processing of asylum applications from these people, many of whom have thrown away all evidence of identity, is obviously difficult.

    Most Australians resent this incursion. Illegal arrivals are placed in detention pending determination of their status. Some are granted visas for up to three years, which do not have any entitlement to family reunion or automatic access to social security payments. Unless the Minister uses his personal power — which he and his Labor predecessors have rarely done — those who fail the tests are deported.

    But due principally to a vain and meddlesome judiciary, the process can be extended for many years, during which a self-aggrandising minority, almost always supported by the media, tries to build up enough political pressure to overturn policy. These activists describe Australian detention centres as “concentration camps” of the Auschwitz and Dachau variety. For them, no lie is too monstrous, no misrepresentation too great.

    Much of this should be dismissed as typical rent-a-crowd moral vanity. Those who take it seriously should be obliged to spell out their preferred policy. For them, the only policy logically consistent is an open door policy. In a liberal democracy people are entitled to such a belief. Pity though, they do not have the intellectual honesty to advocate it.

    Refugee politics as practised in Australia has produced a pernicious homo sapiens mutant known as an “immigration lawyer”, dedicated simultaneously to displaying their moral superiority while padding their wallets with public money by abusing legal processes.

    In the 1990s they have applied a new device for generating income while subverting the public interest — class actions. Recruit a thousand or so asylum seekers at $200 each for a class action. Some of them succeed in getting “bridging visas”. This fact is then used to encourage and recruit other people to join class actions.

    The TPV regime was brought in by the Howard government under pressure from the Hansonite Right to curtail this kind of rorting. It may have been harsh, as mandatory detention was draconian. But the net effect of these policies, plus the Pacific Solution, was to stop people smuggling.

    The smuggling boats stopped coming. The boat-people stopped drowning.

  31. Tom Davies
    August 16th, 2006 at 19:43 | #31

    Westerner? Aren’t the Lawrences from Arabia?

  32. sdfc
    August 16th, 2006 at 23:02 | #32

    When did I say that no westerner has ever been a refugee? Take your time, you’ll need it.

    Jack, the spike in the number of refugees trying to make it to Australia by boat during the late 90′s and early this decade was overwhelmingly caused by an increase in the number of Afghanis and Iraqis trying to make the trip. In case you missed the inconsistency, these were also the people our government has been saying we liberated when the Taliban and Saddam were overthrown.

    To suggest the safety of the boat people was a consideration of the border protection policy is strange to say the least.

  33. Terje (say tay-a)
    August 17th, 2006 at 08:07 | #33

    Sdfc,

    Even if you had infer it you qualified it by limiting yourself to hilarious, fat, comfortable, pontificating westerners. Your nastiness is obviously well under control. Not!

    Regards,
    Terje.

  34. MichaelH
    August 17th, 2006 at 13:45 | #34

    “I don’t think so. People smuggling was going on right througout the nineties, well before the TPV regime was introduced. As was the sinking of unauthorised, unseaworthy and unmonitored vessels and associated mass drownings. Not a peep from the Wets those vessels that sunk.”

    And the peaks in people-smuggling occured from late 1999.

    You posted this, not surprsingly noting the increase of arrivals and mass drownings coinciding with, among other events, the change in policies; “This report from late 2000 shows how mass drownings of boat-people was business as usual people… ”

    When was the TPV introduced? – 1999.

    “I am interested in sociological outputs, not pyschological inputs. ”
    Yeah, me too. That’s why the policies were so bad.

  35. sdfc
    August 17th, 2006 at 14:57 | #35

    Give it up Terje, no matter how hard you try you’re not going to be able to take the spotlight off your own prejudice.

  36. Terje (say TAY-A)
    August 17th, 2006 at 15:13 | #36

    sdfc,

    Still no apology for refering to me as a hilarious fat western pontificator. Now you add further insult by refering to me as prejudiced also. You love this personal abuse game don’t you. It really is pathelogical. Any other rude names or insults while you are at it?

    Regards,
    Terje.

  37. August 17th, 2006 at 20:14 | #37

    Sdfc, you were jumping in with an abuse of your correspondent based on the idea that, as a westerner and thus having no experience of being a refugee, he was in no position to comment. I provided a counterexample. If you wish to suggest that you only meant those westerners who were also fat and comfortable, well, I will gladly accept that stipulation for the sake of argument.

    BTW, although I did spend my early childhood years in Iraq (before the Congo, which was were we were attacked), I am actually of Scottish and Irish ancestry.

  38. sdfc
    August 17th, 2006 at 22:45 | #38

    PM it is as it reads.

    Its a pity you don’t show as much outrage at the treatment by our government of refugees as you do to me refering to someone as a fat comfortable westerner, surely the most priviliged class on the planet.

    As a person who has experienced being a refugee yourself I find your lack of empathy toward other refugees quite mystifying.

  39. August 18th, 2006 at 09:11 | #39

    MichaelH Says: August 17th, 2006 at 1:45 pm

    You posted this, not surprsingly noting the increase of arrivals and mass drownings coinciding with, among other events, the change in policies;

    When was the TPV introduced? – 1999…And the peaks in people-smuggling occured from late 1999.

    No. For a start there were plenty of boat people drowning right the way through the nineties before the Howard govt even got to power and before border-protection became a big issue. No one cared much about them then because there was no Howard-hating angle.

    You have got the direction of causation between the volume of boat-people arriving and TPV issuing exactly back-to-front. The number of boat people arriving started to rise in early 1999. The TPVs were introduced in late 1999 in response to a spike in smuggled boat people.

    This is clear from the official chronology.

    The number of unauthorised non-citizens entering Australia unlawfully by boat increases significantly in 1999. At 20 May, 440 have arrived, compared with 200 for the entire 1998 calendar year.

    But the Temporary Protection Visa regulation came in to effect as of October 1999. Well after the increase in boat people arrivals.

    Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) were introduced by the Australian Government in 1999 in response to a surge of unauthorised boat arrivals who had used people smugglers to travel to Australia illegally.

    So tell me again, how did the surge of boat people in early 1999 get caused by a law passed in late 1999 – by means of time travel?

    Obviously TPV’s did not do much to stem the flow of boat people, which was being driven by external forces. Mainly the political persecution in SW Asia (Howard did something to stop that in Afghanistan and Iraq.) And the adverse attituded of certain SE Asian govts towards Australia. (Payback for Keating’s “recalcitrant” comment and Howard’s E Timor liberation.)

    Yeah, me too. That’s why the policies were so bad.

    Wrong. The Howard govts border-protection policies may have had a bad psychological input but they had a good sociological output. They helped to curb the number of boat people setting out in unseaworthy unauthorised vessels. This reduced the number of boat people who drowned.

    The refugee activists no doubt had a good psychological input but they had a bad sociological output. Throughout the earlier part of the nineties their well-intentioned polemics and policies encouraged risky behaviour by boat people and their exploitation by people smugglers – a form of moral hazard.

    This is what happens when moral vanity runs public policy.

  40. MichaelH
    August 18th, 2006 at 09:43 | #40

    “You have got the direction of causation between the volume of boat-people arriving and TPV issuing exactly back-to-front. The number of boat people arriving started to rise in early 1999. The TPVs were introduced in late 1999 in response to a spike in smuggled boat people.”
    Not at all, as I said “the increase of arrivals and mass drownings coinciding with, among other events, the change in policies;”

    And those other events were of course the large increase in refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan. These were the ‘push’ factors that were exacerabted by the TPV regime which became a ‘pull’ factor’ for boat arrivals. This was a policy that increased, not decreased, arrivals. The other change occuring from this point was the increasing number of women and children aboard the boats, facing the inreased danger resulting from another policy -that of turning boats around and sending them back.

    The outcomes of the policies in this period were entirely logical and to be expected, should the enacters of the policies have ever thought about the actual consequences of them. They didn’t, becuase ‘saving lives’ was never a factor in their calculations, and so losing lives was the predictable outcome.

    “So tell me again, how did the surge of boat people in early 1999 get caused by a law passed in late 1999 – by means of time travel?”
    In case you missed it, it’s extraordinarily simple. Instead of one person (male) making the journey, being found to be a legitimate refugee (as 90% of boat arrivals were), then being joined by their family under family re-union, their wives and children now found themselves having to make the same journey to Australia.

  41. August 18th, 2006 at 11:43 | #41

    MichaelH Says: August 18th, 2006 at 9:43 am

    Not at all, as I said “the increase of arrivals and mass drownings coinciding with, among other events, the change in policies;�

    This is a slippery and evasive use of the rubbery term: “coincided”. We are interested in causation, not vague wishy-washy forms of correlation. The spike in boat-people was prior to, and caused, the introduction of TPV’s. Not the other way around. You cannot change chronology by ideology, unless you are a using Orwellian memory holes.

    Also, the escape clause of “other events” is big enough to drive a truck through. Have you ever thought of a career in the law?

    MichaelH Says:

    the TPV regime which became a ‘pull’ factor’ for boat arrivals. This was a policy that increased, not decreased, arrivals…
    …Instead of one person (male) making the journey, being found to be a legitimate refugee (as 90% of boat arrivals were), then being joined by their family under family re-union, their wives and children now found themselves having to make the same journey to Australia.

    Here you suggest that the TPV’s had a perverse effect, unintentionally increasing the supply of assylum-seekers. Even if this were true (which is doubtful given the existing trend was apparent before the TPVs were introduced) this is at odds with your latter claim that increased assylum-seekers was a predictable consequence of the TPV regime:

    MichaelH Says:

    The outcomes of the policies in this period were entirely logical and to be expected, should the enacters of the policies have ever thought about the actual consequences of them.

    So Ruddock should have known TPV’s would increase assylum-seeker flows. Despite the fact that this increased flow was already well in the works. And despite the fact that TPV’s were designed to deter undocumented and unauthorised assylum-seekers. And despite the fact that the Howard govt, of all govts in the world, seems to have been most sucessful at deterring people smugglers ie they know what they are doing.

    How does one describe a tightening of visa rules as a “pull” factor? What kind of passive construction is “their wives and children now found themselves having to make the same journey to Australia”?Common sense suggests that TPV’s were a “push-away” factor.

    If the TPV’s were such a strong “pull” factor then why did the influx of people smuggling boats dwindle later on, after the govt put in place other measures (boat repulsion, pacific solution) specifically aimed at reducing people smuggling. Obviously if TPV’s were the main factor in pulling assylum-seekers towards AUS then the retention of them during the latter period would have swamped any other changes. But it did not. The boats stopped coming.

    MichaelH Says:

    They didn’t, becuase ’saving lives’ was never a factor in their calculations, and so losing lives was the predictable outcome.

    Again, you invert the common sense interpretation, this time getting the direction of culpability exactly back-to-front. Are these people puppets being pulled by the Minister’s strings? Even when these strings are going in the opposite direction?

    L/NP ministers did everything in their powers to stop unseaworthy boats from coming. Did Ruddock run around telling assylum-seekers to take their families on unseaworthy boats. He did exactly the opposite. He is not responsible if more come in knowing violation of the law.

    The TPV’s were one small part of the L/NP’s total border-protection policy. This policy eventually succeeded in reducing the flow of people-smuggled boats. It therefore reduced the number of people smuggled boats that sank and boat people who drowned. Ruddock’s policy saved lives, what ever his intention.

    If anyone in Australia is to blame for the mass-drownings it is the “refugee activists” who are culpable. They incited assylum-seekers to come in unseaworthy boats and offred them dubious processes to sidestep the law, designed to thwart Parliaments intention.

    If you can tear your face away from the moral vanity mirror you might see reality more clearly.

    To summarise: flow of people-smuggling boats started to increase before TPV’s were introduced. And they started to decrease even though TPV’s were retained.

    The inductivist would conclude that TPV’s were a weak factor, if a factor at all, in regulating the flow of refugees. But obviously you are not one of those people who abide by inductivist epistemology, since you already have the answer worked out in your head.

    Obviously we will have to do away with Occams Razor and other such foolish principles when we just use Occam’s Blunt Instrument to bludgeon the facts into our preferred interpretation.

  42. MichaelH
    August 18th, 2006 at 13:57 | #42

    “This is a slippery and evasive use of the rubbery term: “coincidedâ€?. We are interested in causation, not vague wishy-washy forms of correlation. The spike in boat-people was prior to, and caused, the introduction of TPV’s. Not the other way around. You cannot change chronology by ideology, unless you are a using Orwellian memory holes.
    Also, the escape clause of “other eventsâ€? is big enough to drive a truck through. Have you ever thought of a career in the law?”
    I said “coincided” because to say “caused” would have been wrong given the other factors involved. Fortunately you are able to come to up with a conveniently mistaken understanding of this.

    TPVs unarguably contributed to the increased numbers.

    I’m sorry that my reasonable caution so distresses you.

    “Here you suggest that the TPV’s had a perverse effect, unintentionally increasing the supply of assylum-seekers. Even if this were true (which is doubtful given the existing trend was apparent before the TPVs were introduced) this is at odds with your latter claim that increased assylum-seekers was a predictable consequence of the TPV regime”
    Huh?
    This can only be a problem for you if you think that govt policy is always rational, with the consequences clearly thought out and the outcomes entirey in keeping with the intent. Such sudden naivety!

    In this case TPVs were just another knee-jerk response, one in a long-series, that was hoped to have a particular effect, but which had the opposite. One that would have been obvious if the poicy-makers were looking at the impact of the policy on the direct subjects of it, rather than public opinion.

    “So Ruddock should have known TPV’s would increase assylum-seeker flows. Despite the fact that this increased flow was already well in the works. And despite the fact that TPV’s were designed to deter undocumented and unauthorised assylum-seekers. ”
    Yes, it was logical, unless you think that families would prefer to be seperated. The logic was that the TPV would have a punative effect on legitimate refugees, ie. that being seperated from their families would deter them.

    “How does one describe a tightening of visa rules as a “pullâ€? factor?”
    The well known phenomenon of perverse outcomes.

    “If the TPV’s were such a strong “pullâ€? factor then why did the influx of people smuggling boats dwindle later on, after the govt put in place other measures (boat repulsion, pacific solution) specifically aimed at reducing people smuggling. Obviously if TPV’s were the main factor in pulling assylum-seekers towards AUS then the retention of them during the latter period would have swamped any other changes. But it did not. The boats stopped coming”
    Isn’t it a pity that I wasn’t arguing that TPV were the “main factor” in arrivals. Besides that, you nailed it.

    What stopped the boats coming was stopping the boats leaving. D’oh.
    Changes in policy within Australia are a lesser indirect factor, as they primarily act on those who have already arrived.

    Clearly the ‘pull’ factor of TPVs was going to be strongest at it’s introduction.

    “Again, you invert the common sense interpretation, this time getting the direction of culpability exactly back-to-front. Are these people puppets being pulled by the Minister’s strings? Even when these strings are going in the opposite direction?”
    Again, you distort my point for your own satisfaction.

    My point was simple, your acclaim for immigration policy ‘saving lives’ flies in the face of what actually happened. Being ‘tough on immigration’ was not quite as important as being seen to be tough. The TPV policy was bound to be problematic, it was a poorly thought out response and the Govt would have known this if its concern for saving lives was a factor.

    Does sending people back to Afghanistan also demonstrate this life saving bent?

    “If anyone in Australia is to blame for the mass-drownings it is the “refugee activistsâ€? who are culpable. They incited assylum-seekers to come in unseaworthy boats and offred them dubious processes to sidestep the law, designed to thwart Parliaments intention.”
    You’ve ceased to exist in the land of reality. Unless ‘refugee activits’ were busy pushing people at gun point onto leaky boats.

    Oh, sorry that would be taking you seriously, when you were just making a churlish swipe for the fun of it.

    “If you can tear your face away from the moral vanity mirror you might see reality more clearly”
    Yes, it does produce a wonderful feeling of smugness and self-satisfaction to ascribe the motivation of others to nasty things like’moral vanity’ etc.

    Isn’t it curious how people doing this, seem quite enamoured of their own judgement in the matter?

    “To summarise: flow of people-smuggling boats started to increase before TPV’s were introduced. And they started to decrease even though TPV’s were retained.
    The inductivist would conclude that TPV’s were a weak factor, if a factor at all, in regulating the flow of refugees”
    The flow increased because of the increasing ‘push’ factors and started to decrease for exactly the same reasons.

    Govt policy superimposed on this both reduced and exacerbated the flows, for at times perverse reasons, as well as intended. Policy wasn’t made out of concern for the welfare of the refugees themselves, but out of domestic policy considerations, with the Govt being partly hostage to it’s own hysterical rhetoric on the matter. And the result was clear and obvious harm to the people at the pointy end of the policies.

    It’s comforting to repaint the whole sorry episode as a touching story of ‘saving lives’, but that really does require a preordained conclusion arrived at by ignoring what occured.

  43. August 18th, 2006 at 18:54 | #43

    MichaelH Says: August 18th, 2006 at 1:57 pm

    TPVs unarguably contributed to the increased numbers. I’m sorry that my reasonable caution so distresses you.

    Don’t bother apologising for making a proposition that cuts no ice. You have made an assertion, not a “reasonable caution”. You give no reason for believing that the increased numbers would not have occured anyway. Occams Razor implies that, since the assylum seekers were increasing before TPV, so we may infer TPV was not a strong factor in the increase.

    In this case TPVs were just another knee-jerk response, one in a long-series, that was hoped to have a particular effect, but which had the opposite.

    Then why did the govt retain them for so long afterwards if it was so obvious that they were counter-productive to its aim? And why did assylum-seeker numbers fall back to pre-1999 numbers when TPV’s were maintained. Still waiting for you to fix these holes in your theory.

    Isn’t it a pity that I wasn’t arguing that TPV were the “main factor� in arrivals. Besides that, you nailed it.

    So now you concede that they are a “minor” factor. Thats a start.

    Clearly the ‘pull’ factor of TPVs was going to be strongest at it’s introduction.

    If you say so. You give no statistical model to back up this assertion. We are expected to take your model on blind faith. In statistics the typical growth curve of a trend sees the largest absolute growth in numbers in the middle, not beginning, of its lifecycle.

    You’ve ceased to exist in the land of reality. Unless ‘refugee activits’ were busy pushing people at gun point onto leaky boats.

    Right, so now its the INDON authorities who are responsible for the drownings. Not the boat-people who made the choice to go, or the people-smugglers who expedited this process. At least this is an improvement on the perverse theory that blames the increase of people smuggling on the agency doing the most to curb them.

    Perhaps you believe that responsiblility for the tragedy should be parcelled out to anyone who had anything to do with the process. Rather than attirbuted to those who were directly involved on the spot. This is an intelligible moral philosophy. Unfortunately this theory will sweep some unlikely suspects its net.

    Refugee activists gave boat people false hope that a journey could or should be be made with a prospect of safe landing. And they encouraged them to test Australian law with some prospect of success. So, by your own moral logic, the refugee activists should definitely share part of the blame with Ruddock.

    Govt policy superimposed on this both reduced and exacerbated the flows, for at times perverse reasons, as well as intended.

    So govt both increased and reduced assylum-seeker flows. Because they intended to and did not intend to. Well I’m glad you cleared that up.

    Policy wasn’t made out of concern for the welfare of the refugees themselves, but out of domestic policy considerations, with the Govt being partly hostage to it’s own hysterical rhetoric on the matter.

    I am unmoved by morality plays about the supposed intentions of govt ministers. For all I know Ruddock may have been motivated by a desire to annoy refugee activists. Having spent considerable time debating with one this is a motivation that makes some sense to me.

    And the result was clear and obvious harm to the people at the pointy end of the policies.

    It’s comforting to repaint the whole sorry episode as a touching story of ’saving lives’, but that really does require a preordained conclusion arrived at by ignoring what occured.

    No, the result was that the boats stopped coming, which reduced the clear and obvious harm of people smugging. And, overall, govt policy caused fewer people smuggled boats to come than otherwise would have occurred.

    The key word is “overall”, since border-protection is a multi-faceted package. Even if one concedes that TPV’s may have encouraged more people to make the journey (which I think is arguable) one cannot deny that the govt overall reduced numbers incoming. And this fact alone implies that Howard saved lives.

    Its comforting for refugee activists to paint the Howard govt in the blackest possible terms. However his govt has never made much of an effort to wear a white hat. Howard is a machiavellian. is policies are to be judged by his consequences not his intentions.

    Less people smuggling = less drownings. This is the very simple equation that you have been thrashing about trying to avoid.

  44. August 18th, 2006 at 20:18 | #44

    Sdfc, whatever I may feel is not what drives me just here. I am far more concerned with the truth, and as such I am confining myself with shooting down an error I can identify from first hand experience. You cannot extrapolate from my first hand comments to a hypothetical about my feelings – which I do try to keep connected with reality when it comes to this sort of forum. Simply, I cannot comment on their suffering outside Australia but I do know that it no more entitles them to enter Australia than Jewish suffering elsewhere entitled them to enter Palestine. I see too much scope for a two wrongs thing. As for charity on our part – well, just here they are talking entitlement, which puts any claim to our goodwill out of court.

  45. sdfc
    August 18th, 2006 at 23:34 | #45

    PML,

    Are you saying you haven’t spent the exchange so far being more concerned with me saying Terje was a member of the most privileged class on the planet or to use the technical name, fat comfortable westerner, than the fact we have locked up Iraqi’s, Afghani’s and others who sought refuge in this country?

    And who was extrapolating to a hypothetical? I was merely telling you I found your attitude strange. Would you prefer I lied?

    Just what is it you’re shooting down again?

    You might want to flesh out your tenuous link between Jews entering Palestine and the boat people. Are you talking about the re-settlements last century or the Book of Joshua?

  46. MichaelH
    August 19th, 2006 at 01:21 | #46

    “Don’t bother apologising for making a proposition that cuts no ice. You have made an assertion, not a “reasonable cautionâ€?. You give no reason for believing that the increased numbers would not have occured anyway. Occams Razor implies that, since the assylum seekers were increasing before TPV, so we may infer TPV was not a strong factor in the increase.”
    Sorry to burst your bubble, but your interpretation is just a reflection of your preference.

    Here are some facts for you.

    Jan1 1999 – 31 Oct ’99 boat arrivals contained an av. of 1.8 children.

    For the rest of the year from Nov 1 ’99 (post intro of TPVs) that increased to 13 per boat, 10 per boat in 2000 and increased again in 2001 to 30. The number of people per boat had increased in 2000 but so did the percentage of children. Prior to Nov ’99 half of boats arriving carried no child passengers. By 2000-2001, almost all boats did.

    What now of Occams razor?

    “Occams Razor implies that, since the assylum seekers were increasing before TPV, so we may infer TPV was not a strong factor in the increase.”
    Increasing yes, but the most dramatic increase came post-TPV. Coincidence? Possibly.
    If you divide the arrival figures for ’99-’00 into the 12 months preceding TPV and the 12 months post, the figures are even more stark; approx. 2000 and 4000 respectively, with an increased percentage of child arrivals in the second 12 month period.

    Maybe the loss of family reunion under TPVs had nothing to do with this.

    “So govt both increased and reduced assylum-seeker flows. Because they intended to and did not intend to. Well I’m glad you cleared that up.”
    Yeah, damn tricky these phenomena that refuse to be described in either/or terms.

    “Less people smuggling = less drownings. This is the very simple equation that you have been thrashing about trying to avoid.”
    Yes, that would be convenient for you, if only it were true.

    Having actually been one of those awful sufferers of “moral vainity”, I know that we were very much in favour of stopping boats coming becuase of the risk to the people on them. It was a matter of how best to do it, and towing boats back out to sea and TPVs were not the way.

    Extreme utilitarianism may apeal to you, but your version assumes no other options; sure people died, but eventually the boats stopped, therefore it was all OK. Very convincing from a comfy armchair, feet up, sipping a latte.

  47. August 19th, 2006 at 11:22 | #47

    MichaelH Says: August 19th, 2006 at 1:21 am

    Here are some facts for you.Jan1 1999 – 31 Oct ‘99 boat arrivals contained an av. of 1.8 children.

    For the rest of the year from Nov 1 ‘99 (post intro of TPVs) that increased to 13 per boat, 10 per boat in 2000 and increased again in 2001 to 30. The number of people per boat had increased in 2000 but so did the percentage of children. Prior to Nov ‘99 half of boats arriving carried no child passengers. By 2000-2001, almost all boats did.

    What now of Occams razor?

    You have now dropped your claim that the increase in boat arrivals was caused by TPVs. Thats progress.

    You have now shifted to the claim that TPVs increased the child/adult ratio on board people smugglig boats. I concede that may have been true for a period, although there may have been other factors at work.

    The evidence shoes that from the late nineties onwards more people were coming per boat, due to a variety of reasons. So more people per boat implies more children per boat.

    Maybe the introduction of TPVs increased the ratio of children per boat. So maybe TPV’s increased child risk due to the prohibition of immediate family reunions. Or maybe there is someother factor at work, such as economies of scale on family transportation.

    But then why did the total number of boats and children drop off later, whilst TPVs remained in force? This proves that TPVs were a weak factor in conditioning the overall number and composition of people on people smuggling boats.

    Your claim that Howard’s policies increased the overall long term risk to assylum seekers is not proven on the evidence, and rests on anecdotal speculation based on ephemeral changes in the data.

    Extreme utilitarianism may apeal to you, but your version assumes no other options; sure people died, but eventually the boats stopped, therefore it was all OK. Very convincing from a comfy armchair, feet up, sipping a latte.

    Results appeal to me. People smuggling is a bad practice. It is against the law of nations, including Australia. It also violates maritime law. It is risky to the passengers. It is unpopular with Australian citizens.

    Howard/Ruddock has been more successful than any other minister in stopping it, one way or another. Overall, they put a stop to the practice, both by

    – liberating oppressed groups in source countries (Shia in Iraq, non-Pathan whatnots in Afghan),

    – disrupting mediating agencies in secondary countries and

    – putting proper border protection in the destination country.

    They deserve credit for this, not endless nit-picking on whether this or that aspect of policy may, or may, not have been the best course at the time. This is the acme of armchair policy makers.

    IMHO the govt should increase its intake of refugees. It should increase its off-shore facilities for administering and processing their claims. It should increase its foreign aid budget to afflicted areas taking masses of refugees.

    But it should keep our borders locked down. And it should keep the Wets right out of alien intake policy. I would not trust them after the mockery they made of selection and settlement policy over the past generation. All those over-lawyered rorts. And multiculturalism, what nit wit dreampt up that crack pot idea?

  48. MichaelH
    August 20th, 2006 at 20:17 | #48

    “You have now dropped your claim that the increase in boat arrivals was caused by TPVs. Thats progress.”

    I might have to leave you to debating your convenient straw men Jack. My first comment on TPVs and increased boat arrivals was -”one of the primary reasons that boats loaded with women and children started coming”.

    But please continue to amuse yourself rebutting arguments that weren’t made and bludgeoning the facts into your preferred interpretation.

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