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unravelling before our eyes
July 22, 2013 10:51 PM   Subscribe

A female asylum seeker comes to terms with the fact she won't be settled in Australia

The ongoing issue over unauthorised arrivals by sea continues to serve as political debate in Australia.

Australia's resurgent (pdf) PM Kevin Rudd has lurched to the right and has put the issue out of reach of the right by ruling that all future unauthorised arrivals will be settled in PNG - where according to the latest advice, should exercise a high degree of caution.

The department's own website has taken the highly unusual step of releasing pictures of unauthorised arrivals contemplating their future in PNG.

Over the weekend the Australian government took out full page advertisements in all the nation's major papers warning potential asylum seekers of the change in processing rules. Some have claimed that the ads are actually party political advertising.

Meanwhile asylum seekers who are being processed as off shore as part of the re-introduced Pacific Solution continue to wait.
posted by mattoxic (213 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
PNG=Papua New Guinea
posted by hal_c_on at 11:04 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is horrible, and it demonstrates a complete lack of compassion toward people that disgusts me. I'm actually voting Green because of this. There have already been several rallies and protests by voters, and a (justified) riot at a detention centre caused $60 million dollars in damge.

I was hoping Rudd being leader would reverse Labor's fortunes, but I don't care anymore. Australia is huge, and can easily settle all the refugees that come in, but xenophobic politicians keep trying to keep them out.

Also, I made a thing.

There's some vicious commentary at this blog.

Thank God. Australia’s thumping, grinding immigration machine has finally spat out a system that works. We’ve created a strong bilateral agreement which both debases the world’s most vulnerable people and abnegates Australia’s responsibilities toward them with the militaristic efficiency that we both crave and deserve. The boats will be stopped, not by solving the root problems of their plight, but by diverting their course to a politically and socially unstable micronation where they will rot – finally out of our collective sight and mind.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:08 PM on July 22, 2013 [21 favorites]


re: the tag, "Tony Burke"
posted by Wolof at 11:09 PM on July 22, 2013


Wow, what's happening on Narau is startling, terrifying, heartbreaking. And doesn't PNG feel like a schmuck for basically being called by Australia a hellhole that no one in their right mind would want to get sent to?

Terrible, tragic, one wonders what the fear of the boats must be.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:10 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Look, lots of refugees read The Australian.
posted by pompomtom at 11:13 PM on July 22, 2013 [16 favorites]


thanks Wolof

I just love the way these people's lives are pawns in the Australian political game.

need to neutralise Tony? - sure, lets fuck on these people so much that there's nothing left for him to fuck on. I hate Rudd, utterly and completely (more that I think I hate Abbott) - and yes, I will one day probably be confronting the fact that I wrote this comment while being worked over by two goons underneath the benevolent and beaming official portrait of one.k.rudd.
posted by mattoxic at 11:21 PM on July 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nah, all the Goons vote Green.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:25 PM on July 22, 2013


Over the weekend the Australian government took out full page advertisements in all the nation's major papers warning potential asylum seekers of the change in processing rules.

That stupid ad is already being reworked to make the meaning plain.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:39 PM on July 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


And then you've got DIAC's Iraqi Information minister spokesperson, Sandi Logan...

I can't believe this fucking nutcase - every pronouncement from this supposed "frank and fearless" public servant seems to be a thinly veiled expression of his internal monologue that these raghead bastards are finally getting what's coming to them, particularly on the night of the riot on Nauru. Well actually, the last day's worth of tweets have been half-moderate and professional. But yesterday, someone asked him to confirm whether Australia's per-capita refugee intake in recent years is the second lowest in the world, and this was his response.
posted by Jimbob at 11:43 PM on July 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


And doesn't PNG feel like a schmuck for basically being called by Australia a hellhole that no one in their right mind would want to get sent to?

It's got the second-lowest HDI in the entire Asia-Pacific region. If you're an asylum seeker fleeing Iran, which is a relatively developed country, PNG would probably seem like a disastrous place to end up.
posted by 1adam12 at 11:46 PM on July 22, 2013


Australia is huge, and can easily settle all the refugees that come in, but xenophobic politicians keep trying to keep them out.

This (that Australia is huge and has plenty of room) isn't necessarily true, as we have discussed before.

Not that that is an excuse for Australia to ignore its treaty obligations regarding refugees.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:48 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's got the second-lowest HDI in the entire Asia-Pacific region. If you're an asylum seeker fleeing Iran, which is a relatively developed country, PNG would probably seem like a disastrous place to end up.

Well, it's in a select club
posted by mattoxic at 11:50 PM on July 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm embarrassed by my country & apologise to the extent that my weary inertia may have contributed, in any way, to the emergence of a poisonous class of soulless fucktards across the spectrum of political leadership.
I swear they'll be arming the citizenry with machine-guns and paying out bounties for 'reffo' scalps if  when the next so-called "solution" implodes.
posted by peacay at 11:56 PM on July 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


And doesn't PNG feel like a schmuck for basically being called by Australia a hellhole that no one in their right mind would want to get sent to?

I think PNG is well aware of Australia's opinion.

On the off chance that anyone desperate to reach Australia's shores is reading MetaFilter, and manages to get here without being indefinitely detained elsewhere, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Victoria does great work, and their blog is pretty good too.
posted by gingerest at 12:01 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Not sure what is going on, but the main link for me goes to David Marr's article, which, although interesting and a good summary of the history of asylum seekers by boat in Australia, doesn't seem to match the description you've given (which implies the view of an individual female asylum seeker). That would be an interesting article to read too.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:01 AM on July 23, 2013



Not sure what is going on, but the main link for me goes to David Marr's article, which, although interesting and a good summary of the history of asylum seekers by boat in Australia, doesn't seem to match the description you've given (which implies the view of an individual female asylum seeker). That would be an interesting article to read too.


It may have been intended to be a link to a picture that was released of a female asylum seeker crying because she won't be settled in Australia; out of respect I will not be posting that picture but it was all over the local media.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:02 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


This whole thing is even more moronic when you consider that only about 50% of asylum seekers arrive in Australia by boat.

The half that arrive by plane get treated completely differently. Most air arrivals do not end up in detention centers, which are 96% populated by maritime arrivals. Why? Who the hell knows.

Worse, between 70-97% of maritime arrivals are found to be genuine refugees, but only about 20% of those who arrive by plane are found to be genuine refugees; see here (PDF).
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:04 AM on July 23, 2013 [24 favorites]


The half that arrive by plane get treated completely differently. Most air arrivals do not end up in detention centers

Given the width of the Torres Straight, how long before TURN BACK THE CESSNAS?
posted by Jimbob at 12:12 AM on July 23, 2013


Athanassiel said: Not sure what is going on, but the main link ... doesn't seem to match the description you've given (which implies the view of an individual female asylum seeker). That would be an interesting article to read too.

Charlemagne In Sweatpants is right - here's a piece titled "Release of footage of distressed asylum seekers angers advocates" that talks about the whole photo debacle. (It includes a still from the video but the lady's whole head is blurred so it's not quite the same thing.)
posted by gingerest at 12:15 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are protests being organised against Rudd's policy for Saturday right around Australia. I will be at the Melbourne one. We must stand up against this.
posted by cilia at 12:23 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Rudd's a genius and has just solved the world's refugee problem.

All we need is for every rich country to find a suitably dreadful cholera-ridden ex-colony/dumping-ground to use as a deterrent and, hey presto - no more arrivals!

(Seriously, I think Le Pen etc will be taking notes)
posted by moorooka at 12:25 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are protests being organised against Rudd's policy for Saturday right around Australia.

Who's organizing them? Where's the Hobart one?
posted by Jimbob at 12:27 AM on July 23, 2013


I've been in a numb rage since this news broke on Friday.

I grew up in PNG, my family finally leaving in 1985. I have some fairly incoherent and scared memories of Port Moresby, and i can only imagine what conditions are like over there now. I am torn between disgust at the proposal to dump these poor people like so much trash into what is essentially a failed state, and disgust at it apparently being A.OK for us to treat another nation and former territory as a dumping ground for our "problems".

If I wasn't equally terrified about what Abbott would do with control of both houses I would look forward to the destruction of the Labor party in the next election.

Fuck you Rudd, you hypocritical prick, but nice job making Abbott almost look like the sane one here.
posted by arha at 12:32 AM on July 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


Charlemagne, gingerest—thanks for the clarification. I frequently use Metafilter to filter the actual news, so hadn't run across that photo yet.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:33 AM on July 23, 2013


"Or if the hypothesis were offered us of a world in which Messrs. Fourier's and Bellamy's and Morris's utopias should all be outdone, and millions kept permanently happy on the one simple condition that a certain lost soul on the far-off edge of things should lead a life of lonely torture, what except a specifical and independent sort of emotion can it be which would make us immediately feel, even though an impulse arose within us to clutch at the happiness so offered, how hideous a thing would be its enjoyment when deliberately accepted as the fruit of such a bargain?"
posted by moorooka at 12:40 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]



Who's organizing them? Where's the Hobart one?


I got an e-mail from the Refugee Action Coalition about two in Sydney:

12pm Sunday 28 July
Sydney Town Hall

12pm Sunday 28 July
Dawson Mall, Mount Druitt
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:45 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Vice tries very hard to be even-handed
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:51 AM on July 23, 2013


First they came for the boat people, and I did not object,

Because my family haven't arrived in Australia on boats in like 5 generations.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 1:14 AM on July 23, 2013 [26 favorites]


I am pretty disgusted about this as well, particularly as Rudd made a big show of his Christian compassion whilst in opposition, even writing an article for I think it was the Monthly about our moral duty to help those that are fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries, violence that we had a hand in in a couple of well known cases.

I have seen some analysis that the ALP expects this to fail when it is inevitably challenged in the High Court, but frankly I think that is given the weasels too much credit.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 1:14 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Isn't that Vice article way off the mark? There is a definitely good reason for prioritizing political refugees over economic ones, namely the political ones sometimes improve things. So, even if your economic refugees are suffering more, the political ones help more people over the longer run. As noted up thread, that's not what's going on here though.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:22 AM on July 23, 2013


*waves to arha* \o/'
posted by peacay at 1:25 AM on July 23, 2013


Hello, I'm David McGahan: particularly as Rudd made a big show of his Christian compassion whilst in opposition, even writing an article for I think it was the Monthly about our moral duty to help those that are fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries
Another great challenge of our age is asylum seekers. The biblical injunction to care for the stranger in our midst is clear. The parable of the Good Samaritan is but one of many which deal with the matter of how we should respond to a vulnerable stranger in our midst. That is why the government's proposal to excise the Australian mainland from the entire Australian migration zone and to rely almost exclusively on the so-called Pacific Solution should be the cause of great ethical concern to all the Christian churches. We should never forget that the reason we have a UN convention on the protection of refugees is in large part because of the horror of the Holocaust, when the West (including Australia) turned its back on the Jewish people of Germany and the other occupied countries of Europe who sought asylum during the 30s.
-- Kevin Rudd, Faith in Politics, The Monthly, October 2006.
posted by curious.jp at 1:26 AM on July 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


First they came for the boat people, and I did not object,

Because my family haven't arrived in Australia on boats in like 5 generations.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 1:14 AM on July 23 [+] [!]


That's the thing, isn't it? As far as I know every branch of my ancestral tree turned up here at one time or another in a boat, going all the way back to the first three waves of European settlement/invasion at the end of the 18th Century.

Where is the hand wringing about the asylum seekers that come in via planes? Or the tens of thousands of UK backbackers that have overstayed their visa?
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 1:27 AM on July 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Athanassiel thanks - I did meant to link to the Guardian link that Charlemagne linked. The Marr piece was meant for the later in the post.
posted by mattoxic at 1:39 AM on July 23, 2013


When Gillard was PM and was set for a catastrophic loss I thought - fuck it, I'm going to vote for Abbott, just so the dummies can really see what a truly awful prime minister is like, but now I don't have to bother!
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 1:44 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another great challenge of our age is asylum seekers

not to mention climate change being the biggest moral challenge of our age
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 1:47 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


the political ones sometimes improve things. So, even if your economic refugees are suffering more, the political ones help more people over the longer run.

Could you explain this, jeffburdges? Can economic migrants not contribute anything?
posted by knapah at 2:52 AM on July 23, 2013


Thoroughly confused by that statement, too.
posted by panaceanot at 3:14 AM on July 23, 2013


There is a definitely good reason for prioritizing political refugees over economic ones, namely the political ones sometimes improve things. So, even if your economic refugees are suffering more, the political ones help more people over the longer run.

One would think that the people emigrating specifically to make more money would contribute more to the economy. Political refugees are often radicals who may not prioritize earning a living.
posted by empath at 3:17 AM on July 23, 2013


One would think that the people emigrating specifically to make more money would contribute more to the economy.

Someone made a comment the other day (and it might be total bullshit, I haven't checked), that the US offers "Business Visas" to anyone who shows up at immigration with $50,000 to invest. If we're really that fucking adverse to helping people here, seems handing asylum seekers $50,000 and putting them on a flight to LAX might get them to a country who understands people have value.
posted by Jimbob at 3:19 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Could you explain this, jeffburdges? Can economic migrants not contribute anything?

I think the point is about the contributions they make to the situation in their country of origin. Many political asylum seekers continue to work as activists on behalf of the country they've left behind.

Someone made a comment the other day (and it might be total bullshit, I haven't checked), that the US offers "Business Visas" to anyone who shows up at immigration with $50,000 to invest. If we're really that fucking adverse to helping people here, seems handing asylum seekers $50,000 and putting them on a flight to LAX might get them to a country who understands people have value.

It's a lot more than that, and it has to be arranged in advance. You have to prove that you're creating a certain number of new jobs. I think it's $1M, except if it you're investing in certain depressed areas where it's only $500k. You certainly can't just show up at the airport with a bunch of cash.

Australia also has these types of visas.
posted by atrazine at 3:29 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


An E-2 Visa can theoretically be gotten for an investment of as low as $50,000 (although that is not typical, it's normally higher), in a small business you want to start that you can demonstrate would provide benefits to the community. But your business has to be pretty much ready to go before you even apply - you can't just show up with money - and it's a temporary visa that must be renewed every few years, with no current mechanism for making it permanent. If your business fails, you have to leave. If your children turn 21, they have to leave.

Also, giving Visas to people with money to start a business is not so much an understanding that "people have value" so much as an understanding that $50,000 has value.
posted by kyrademon at 3:35 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, as pointed out by the Guardian, PNG criminalises homosexuality, what about the people who are fleeing similar laws in their home countries?
posted by ellieBOA at 3:43 AM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Worth adding to the debate that part of the issue why Australia is a destination of choice for asylum seekers is that the other major economy of the region, Japan, barely takes any refugees:
The 2011 statistics concerning asylum application were released on 24 February 2012 by the Immigration Bureau* of the Ministry of Justice of Japan. According to the report ‘The number of recognised refugees, etc. in 2011’ (‘Heisei 23 nen ni okeru Nanmin Ninteishasuu tou ni tsuite)’, 2999 decisions were made (2119 on 1st instance and 880 on appeal), among which 21 applicants were granted recognition (seven on 1st instance and 14 on appeal). An additional 248 people were granted leave to stay on humanitarian grounds. Japan, signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention since 1981, has been known for its restrictive asylum system, and last year proved to be no deviation from the trend, with a shocking 0.7 percent recognition rate. [Source]
posted by MuffinMan at 3:47 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


An E-2 Visa can theoretically be gotten for an investment of as low as $50,000 (although that is not typical, it's normally higher), in a small business you want to start that you can demonstrate would provide benefits to the community. But your business has to be pretty much ready to go before you even apply - you can't just show up with money

Yeah, I guessed it might not be that simple. However, it seems to me the US still has a prouder history of welcoming immigrants in the knowledge that people perform labour, grow the economy, are useful, rather than just being "drains on the system".
posted by Jimbob at 4:00 AM on July 23, 2013


One of the frustrating things for me is that I live in an area of Melbourne where the majority of the population are refugees, their children, and grand children. It is an awesome place to live, and while it has its problems, like any community would, this city would not be the city it is without it, and all the other areas like it.

Immigration, of both the managed and the unmanaged kind, have made Melbourne what it is. Which before the boatloads of Southern Europeans in the 50's and 60's was something of a suburban backwater from what I understand. Then there where the people on boats from SE Asia.

You know what. To hell with these Southern Cross jokers. I want MY country back, the one that has a second verse to its national anthem about having space for those that will come here in good faith and common toil to build a commonwealth.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:08 AM on July 23, 2013 [18 favorites]


To be honest,the Aussie system is only unique in how blunt it is, not in its disdain for refugees. No western country has agood track record here. Mine frex routinely locks up minors in prison despite repeated court injunctions against.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:15 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's like they heard about Flinders Island but didn't bother to find out how it turned out...
posted by titus-g at 4:29 AM on July 23, 2013


Its all very dismaying. This Papua New Guinea announcement has me feeling much like I did in 2003 when Howard was dead set on taking us to war. The same sense of anger, the same sense of futility in protesting. At least then it wasn't a party I had voted for (or given my preferences to at any rate).
posted by adamt at 4:35 AM on July 23, 2013


It's not the usual kind of MeFi meetup, but if anyone else was thinking of going to the protest in Melbourne on Saturday please send me a mail. We can always go for a beer afterwards.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:38 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Anyone watching Dateline right now? special on Dateline about Manus Island. Depressing, disgusting stuff.
posted by smoke at 4:41 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hello, I'm David McGahan

I'm not sure that country ever really existed.

As David Marr pints out in his peace, there has never really been a time when either white Australia policy or the abhorrent treatment of native Australians wasn't government policy. The only reason the country accepted Vietnamese "boat people" was that they were fleeing Communism. I'm old enough to remember the racist shitstorm around that. Back then we didn't really have the awesome evil power of News Limited and talkback to amplify the hate.

This is a racist backwards country and most people are drooling dumb bogans. Mahathir is right, we are the poor white trash of Asia, we just haven't realised it yet.
posted by mattoxic at 4:46 AM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Very emotional testimony by the whistleblower. Dude who has worked in prisons all over the country, resigns from Manus after a month.
posted by smoke at 4:49 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


mattoxic, yes you're probably right. I want to move this stuff forward though. At some point the fact of immigration of all kinds being a net positive to this country might get through to those whose only concern seems to be roads, roads, and more roads. And why can't I drive to work in 20 minutes even though I live 20km from where I work.

I use my parents as a bell-weather. I knew Howard was done in 2007 when they both started doubting his arguments. My father of all people is equivocating on Abbott's policies, of which I use the term lightly.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:54 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


how much are the Salvation Army getting from running Nauru? $87 million a year I've heard.
posted by mattoxic at 4:54 AM on July 23, 2013


This is a racist backwards country and most people are drooling dumb bogans. Mahathir is right, we are the poor white trash of Asia, we just haven't realised it yet.

How does this add to the discussion?

As an Australian, I am also embarrassed and disgusted by this mess. But this type of blanket dismissal is counterproductive.
posted by Salamander at 5:04 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


As an Australian, I am also embarrassed and disgusted by this mess. But this type of blanket dismissal is counterproductive.


It adds my opinion - ok with you?
posted by mattoxic at 5:21 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


As an Australian, I am also embarrassed and disgusted by this mess. But this type of blanket dismissal is counterproductive.


It adds my opinion - ok with you?
posted by mattoxic at 5:21 AM on July 23 [+] [!]


Nope, it's not.

Calling the situation a mess is a far cry from calling an entire country 'drooling dumb bogans'. Oh, sorry, just 'most' of us.

Way to dumb things down.
posted by Salamander at 5:24 AM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


[Yup, maybe let's not paint entire nations with too broad a brush, our own included.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:28 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


One of the frustrating things for me is that I live in an area of Melbourne where the majority of the population are refugees, their children, and grand children. It is an awesome place to live, and while it has its problems, like any community would, this city would not be the city it is without it, and all the other areas like it.

Fuck yeah.

I'm in Footscrazy, which is, as glibly as I can generalise, an African neighbourhood built on a Vietnamese neighbourhood built on a Serbian neighbourhood. Where I grew up was more Mediterranean.

I always thought, as a Melbournian, that there might be something to "with courage let us all combine" and "boundless plains to share" and all that shit, because that's what I was seeing. I remember fondly the time VicPol brought out the horses so that marching neo-nazi wankers weren't murdered by right-thinking people (who outnumbered the skinhead knobs significantly), and ended up supplying the horseshit missiles with which those knobs were pelted.

Crap like the Cronulla embarrassment bewilders me. The idea of xenophobic Australians bewilders me. But the fault is apparently with ME, if this dog-whistle competition is to be believed. Who are all these fuckers?
posted by pompomtom at 5:50 AM on July 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


Let's be honest, there are a lot of racist backwards drooling dumb bogans. Sometimes they're lurking inside of otherwise perfectly nice people.

And they're everywhere, most certainly not just Australia.

Bigot shaming has slowly been changing the way many people think, generation by generation, but it's not just going to stop. There's a lot of bigotry out there; it takes many forms and is excused for many reasons.

People against bigotry need to make our voices heard just as loudly and/or pervasively as the arseholes who rant about reffos and queue-jumpers and other slightly less polite pejoratives.

I'll vote Labor in the next election because the thought of Abbot and the LNP gaining power is intolerable but I urge every lefty in Australia to bombard the Labor party with reminders about who they're actually supposed to be representing and what the Labor party is supposed to stand for.

Our government should be spending the money currently being thrown away on pointless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on properly funded, efficiently run immigration processing, focusing particularly on refugees so that desperate people can actually find a queue to join without being sent to prisons.
posted by h00py at 5:53 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


The whole 'fuck off we're full' sentiment makes me angrier than is possibly healthy.
posted by h00py at 5:56 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'll vote Labor in the next election because the thought of Abbot and the LNP gaining power is intolerable

I'll give a higher preference to Labor than to the Libs. I don't consider that voting 'for' them.

When there are stories on US or UK electoral politics on the blue, I get weirded out by the compromises one must make for FPTP - the Nader/Gore/Bush fiasco, the present British strange-bedfellows schmozzle, and so on. Then I feel a bit smug about having used a sensible preferential system. After all that, then people use that sensible preferential system to STOP THE BOATS!!!1!1!eleventeen.

So yes, I suppose there are a lot of racist backwards drooling dumb bogans. And I suppose that I insist they vote.

I wonder could we go back to pretending that the PM decides your mortgage repayments?
posted by pompomtom at 6:11 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


The whole 'fuck off we're full' sentiment makes me angrier than is possibly healthy.

I don't know a ton about Australia... but aren't you one of the lowest-population-density countries in the entire world? It seems like there's plenty of space!
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:16 AM on July 23, 2013


There's a lot more to living than space. We're also one of the most urbanised countries in the world. Almost everyone lives in a state capitol.
posted by pompomtom at 6:20 AM on July 23, 2013


As an American, I can certainly sympathize with the feelings of disgust as I see my nation's core values betrayed for political and economic expedience. I haven't read Australia's national anthem till now, and was struck by

"Boundless plains to share"
The assumption that something is boundless just because there's a lot of it is our culture's undoing.

"In History's page let every stage advance"
We have a peculiar mythology of progress that claims our society is somehow exempt from the cycles of advance, disintegration, and reorganization that every other civilization we know about has followed.

Who wrote such words had so little understanding of the way ecologies and civilizations go. The population pressures and mobility that are bringing refugees to Australia depend on elevated global consumption of limited resources that have been severely depleted. Golden soil and wealth for toil are both commons, and fragile ones, and our civilization has not done what's necessary to sustain them long term. In my opinion, trying to understand the increasing waves of racist and other types of oppression around the world outside that context is futile.

Are the likes of Kevin Rudd morally reprehensible? Of course. But finding a humane and decent way through this civilization's decline phase will require greater moral fortitude than our species' public policy has been able to muster during the comparatively undemanding decades of abundance in which we've grown up. To imagine that fortitude will just show up when it's really needed (like, now?) is the same kind of magical thinking as the popular conception that some fabulous new alternative energy scheme will replace petroleum.
posted by maniabug at 6:21 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


aren't you one of the lowest-population-density countries in the entire world?

Yes, but mostly in the same way as Antarctica. Very little of the country is really inhabitable, less of it is comfortable.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 6:22 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


The whole 'fuck off we're full' sentiment makes me angrier than is possibly healthy.

I don't know a ton about Australia... but aren't you one of the lowest-population-density countries in the entire world? It seems like there's plenty of space!
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:16 AM on July 23 [+] [!]


Yes, but as someone has already mentioned up thread a lot of that space is not well suited to supporting large populations. That said though, we're a long, very very long way from being full. What we are lacking is sensible government policy to regionalise our population.

Or, on preview, what pompomtom said.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:23 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


but aren't you one of the lowest-population-density countries

Oh dear... devil's (proper) advocate time.

The thing about 'Australian isolationism' is that there's (obviously) some geographical sense to it... it's a huge land-mass with a very small habitable zone based on western non-subsistence concepts.

That said, this is a story about capitalism, not about arable farm land or fairness, or sustainability.
posted by panaceanot at 6:27 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Australia is huge, and can easily settle all the refugees

Most of Australia is a desert, and it's water resources are already pretty stressed. Not making a statement refugees either way here, but the idea that Australia can easily absorb many more people is false.
posted by spaltavian at 6:29 AM on July 23, 2013


Or, on another tact, a couple few generations of politicians unwilling to invest in the kinds of infrastructure that would support our growing population. It's a lot easier to point to some outside group and say it's their fault, rather than actually doing the work to plan and build public transport capacity for instance. And we keep on letting them get away with it for some reason.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:32 AM on July 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


aren't you one of the lowest-population-density countries in the entire world? It seems like there's plenty of space!

Yes, but it's practically uninhabitable out-to-kill you type space (Australia has its own section, so it must be true).

But echoing what everyone else has said - we're a long way from full. However, in the long term, it would mean that people will have to live further away from the capital cities (which would be doable if we had more population to support cities away from the capital cities!) or get used to living in a more densely populated area. Which people aren't willing to do. This is also partly a cultural thing and not *just* an inherently xenophobic attitude.
posted by pianissimo at 6:34 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Australia is huge, and can easily settle all the refugees

We're only talking about 15000 arrivals in the last year - and yes many will be found not to have a strong enough case for resettlement. It's really only a small number. But the debate can't move on while we have opportunists like Abbott dog whistling up the issue - remember Scott Morrison a few months back demanding locals and the police are alerted when asylum seekers are housed nearby? What chance a debate.
posted by mattoxic at 6:39 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cities require more than just population to support them. Where are the enormous natural resources going to come from? This recent contemplation of Detroit (and Phoenix and Las Vegas) seems relevant.
posted by maniabug at 6:39 AM on July 23, 2013


Oh, water in particular will be a huge problem. Which is why I think the issues are more complex than "not taking refugees = racist". But at the moment, fears of overpopulation and draining resources are not the reasons given for "stopping the boats". After all, they're still paying the baby bonus.
posted by pianissimo at 7:12 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


pom and david,

I live in the same Melbourne as you.

none of the waves of immigration, the Anglo, then Mediterranean, then South East Asian, and on and on, have been the glorious ascendancy to the bountiful welcoming utopia that we sang about in primary school, but those people stayed, they raised kids here, and year by year groups that began as alien cultures have relaxed in each others company, and raised a shitload of mutual grandkids.

I don't accept the claim that is a 'racist country'. of course we have racists, we have people, but racist country compared to which other non-racist country?

I would like to see Australia dramatically increase our humanitarian intake, particularly from Iran.
but it is also important that the caution some people feel about large numbers of refugees arriving, should be handled in a more sophisticated manner that just branding them racist.

there are:

people who have relatives they are trying to bring to Australia through legal channels, some of whom are in refugee camps, who are scared that the available place with get used up.

people who take a law-and-order perspective, who believe that if you crack down hard on drugs, prostitution, people smuggling etc, the problem will stop, and if it hasn't stopped you didn't crack down hard enough.


these people haven't come to these positions through racism.

(and its now past my bed time.)
posted by compound eye at 7:13 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


@salamander: Calling the situation a mess is a far cry from calling an entire country 'drooling dumb bogans'. Oh, sorry, just 'most' of us.
It's perfectly acceptable around here to call "the (US) South" (or one of it's constituent parts, like "Texas") uniformly racist, uniformly ignorant, uniformly violent gun nuts, etc. Why should you Aussie blokes expect better treatment? Demonizing entire groups because of the failings of some of it's members, or because of their history, is stock and trade demagoguery. It's just not called that if you agree, however broadly, with the demagog.
posted by kjs3 at 7:32 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


@salamander: Calling the situation a mess is a far cry from calling an entire country 'drooling dumb bogans'. Oh, sorry, just 'most' of us.
It's perfectly acceptable around here to call "the (US) South" (or one of it's constituent parts, like "Texas") uniformly racist, uniformly ignorant, uniformly violent gun nuts, etc. Why should you Aussie blokes expect better treatment? Demonizing entire groups because of the failings of some of it's members, or because of their history, is stock and trade demagoguery. It's just not called that if you agree, however broadly, with the demagog.
posted by kjs3 at 7:32 AM on July 23 [+] [!]


What? 'Perfectly acceptable' to whom? Personally, I don't condone calling a group of people from any part of the US those things.

Also, the person I quoted was talking about 'Australians' in general....as in, the whole country. Calling 'most' of the population of Australia 'dumb drooling bogans' is like calling most of the population of the US 'dumb drooling rednecks', or most of the population of the UK 'dumb drooling chavs'. It's highly offensive, and just gets the whole discussion on to a nasty derail (...like this one.)
posted by Salamander at 7:43 AM on July 23, 2013


[Sweeping generalizations are not okay here, whether about Australia or the American South. Further metadiscussion should go to MeMail or MetaTalk.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:56 AM on July 23, 2013


Is the reason why refugees by boat are treated differently than refugees by plane a form of de fact economic discrimination, i.e. poor folks take the boat, better-off folks take the plane?

This isn't an accusation. I'm asking. Are the people who come by plane different in some way that doesn't set off people's anti-refugee panic? Ethnically? Economically? Is it strictly a perception issue/blind spot?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:01 AM on July 23, 2013


The ostensible reason for 'getting tough on boats' is to stop people from profiting from the desperation of others and sending them across incredible distances in vessels that aren't sea-worthy and are mostly extremely overcrowded.

It must be incredibly uncomfortable and is without a doubt extremely dangerous and yet more and more people live in such intolerable situations that this is seen as a viable way to escape what life has brought them and a way to live a life that isn't filled with fear and hunger and abuse.

If they could all catch a plane they would, without question. But financially that's out of the question for so many people. The 'people-smugglers' who run the boats and pack them to the gills with asylum seekers are able to offer a price, per person, that would be much, much cheaper than the costs involved in getting passports and visas and plane tickets. They overload the boats in order to make as much money as possible and with little regard as to the risks involved.

Basic economics, right? Supply and demand. Desperate people will do desperate things and there's always someone out there with a cash register in place of a heart willing to cut costs as much as possible in order to provide a dodgy and potentially lethal service for all the money these desperate people are capable of paying.

The government says that they have to throttle the market by making this a non-viable alternative. What they don't recognise is that this does nothing to stop the demand because asylum seekers and refugees still exist, still want a chance at a better life for themselves and their children, still believe that if only they can escape then things will get better.

Shuttling them all off to somewhere else for other people to deal with is wilful cruelty and painful ignorance. Shutting your eyes doesn't make it go away.
posted by h00py at 8:48 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm filled with despair when I hear people say things like "x is a big country! It's not full yet!" (x usually = 'the U.S.' in the conversations I stumble upon, but here, of course, it = 'Australia'.)

As others have, basically, noted: it's not (mostly) about how much space you have. You can't simply have one person standing on every square meter of ground. It's about the carrying capacity of the land. Even the U.S., which is rather sparsely populated by many standards, has a population that is higher than it should be ideally. Throttling back on population growth should be a high priority for everyone who takes the environment seriously...but it isn't anymore.

I think everybody should be interested in helping political refugees (and, to a lesser extent, economic ones)...but it's gut-wrenching to me to see so many otherwise right-thinking people acting as if it's all very easy and only racists would think otherwise. (Many racists have begun using the population-growth issue as a stalking-horse....which further alienates liberals. But that doesn't mean that it's all just an easy choice between more-or-less open borders and racism...)

None of this means that the folks pushing the policy under discussion don't have reprehensible motives... Nor that concerns about population always trump our obligations to refugees (of course they do not). It just means that concerns about population growth are serious, and that "we have lots of land upon which no one is currently standing" is not the right way to think about it.

Finally, we don't want countries that are "full"--that is, right at the carrying capacity of the land. What we want is a population that is reasonable, not one that is right on the brink of being too big.

Again and of course: we've got to balance costs and benefits. None of this means that we turn everybody back into the hands of despotic regimes...just that we need to understand what the real issues are.

(Finally, of course, it's weird to consider turning away legitimate refugees on population grounds while citizens still get tax breaks for having babies...but that's another can of worms...)
posted by Fists O'Fury at 8:56 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


DirtyOldTown, it's tied up in the myth of "queue jumping": that asylum seekers are cutting in line ahead of all those people patiently waiting to migrate to Australia (who will inevitably arrive by plane, because only the desperate arrive nowadays by boat). This goes hand in hand with the idea of "illegal immigrants". Both notions ignore the entire premise of asylum seeking and granting refugee status. When it comes to asylum seekers, there is no queue: a country could get a dozen a year, or it could get a million, but either way it's duty bound to assess their claims to refugee status in a timely and humane manner and, if they're upheld, to take them in or, if it's overwhelmed by refugees (as some poorer countries are), to arrange their resettlement elsewhere.

Australia is nowhere near "overwhelmed" by refugees compared with other countries, so the idea that its arrivals need to be resettled elsewhere is bogus from the outset. But this new policy is more offensive than that: it evades Australia's responsibilities under the UN Refugee Convention by picking and choosing who is an "acceptable" asylum seeker purely on the basis of their method of arrival, rather than the substance of their claim:

Australia’s Refugee Program has two components. The onshore component is for people who apply for refugee status after arriving in Australia. Most enter as visitors or students; some arrive without authorisation. The onshore component is a legal obligation which is part of Australia’s responsibilities as a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention. Applying for protection onshore is not a means of “jumping the queue” or bypassing the “correct” process of applying for protection. In fact, applying onshore is the standard procedure for seeking protection.

The myth that onshore applicants take places away from offshore applicants does have some basis in truth. However, this is ... the direct result of Australian Government policy. The onshore and offshore components of Australia’s refugee program are numerically linked, which means that every time an onshore applicant is granted a protection visa, a place is deducted from the offshore program. The linking policy blurs the distinction between Australia’s obligations as a signatory to the Refugee Convention (addressed through the onshore component) and our voluntary contribution to the sharing of international responsibility for refugees for whom no other durable solution is available (addressed through the offshore component). The perception that there is a “queue” which onshore applicants are trying to evade is created by a policy choice which could easily be changed. No other country in the world links its onshore and offshore programs in this way.

That's from the Refugee Council of Australia. I imagine that the people working for it have been having a miserable week.
posted by rory at 9:04 AM on July 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


Asylum cases should consider human rights overall, not the host country's economic status, knapah and empath.

We should prioritize a dissident author or activist over someone being persecuted for merely their sexuality, prioritize someone persecuted for their sexuality over someone persecuted for their ethnicity, and prioritize someone persecuted for their ethnicity over someone suffering from a famine caused by an ongoing war.

It's possible our hypothetical war creates extreme suffering, but longer term the author or activist will help more people, and our persecuted homosexual at least sets an example that indirectly pressures the country of origin.

There is zero moral conflict in this prioritization because the groups we should prioritize more highly represent smaller segments of the population and/or the lower priority cases represent problems best dealt with at the source, via humanitarian aid, sanctions, etc.

Australia isn't making this prioritization though. Instead, they're prioritizing asylum cases with the funds to buy an airline ticket.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:08 AM on July 23, 2013


We should prioritize a dissident author or activist over someone being persecuted for merely their sexuality, prioritize someone persecuted for their sexuality over someone persecuted for their ethnicity, and prioritize someone persecuted for their ethnicity over someone suffering from a famine caused by an ongoing war.

That is not how it works. At all. Please don't represent how you think determination of refugee status should work as reality.
posted by Salamander at 9:23 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


On second reading, I apologize - maybe you are saying how you think it should be.

But since that's not the what's in the UN convention that Australia signed on to, I don't know why you'd be surprised that it's not the protocol we're following. ?
posted by Salamander at 9:27 AM on July 23, 2013


We should prioritize a dissident author or activist over someone being persecuted for merely their sexuality, prioritize someone persecuted for their sexuality over someone persecuted for their ethnicity, and prioritize someone persecuted for their ethnicity over someone suffering from a famine caused by an ongoing war.

If you're using a human rights perspective, why are you prioritizing people who do certain things over people who are certain things?
posted by Etrigan at 9:34 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


We should prioritize a dissident author or activist over someone being persecuted for merely their sexuality, prioritize someone persecuted for their sexuality over someone persecuted for their ethnicity, and prioritize someone persecuted for their ethnicity over someone suffering from a famine caused by an ongoing war.

I am really glad that this isn't how refugee status is determined.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:36 AM on July 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


> Even the U.S., which is rather sparsely populated by many standards, has a population that is higher than it should be ideally.

Can I ask how you're coming to this conclusion? I don't doubt that there's a formula that says so, just curious what that formula is. On the face of it, it would appear that America can fit a crapload more people, especially in the flyover states, and it doesn't seem like we use anywhere near all of our arable land.
posted by savetheclocktower at 9:38 AM on July 23, 2013


Yeah, I don't see the logic at all. Luckily, I don't think the people who formulate refugee policies would, either.
posted by Salamander at 9:38 AM on July 23, 2013


We should prioritize a dissident author or activist over someone being persecuted for merely their sexuality, prioritize someone persecuted for their sexuality over someone persecuted for their ethnicity, and prioritize someone persecuted for their ethnicity over someone suffering from a famine caused by an ongoing war

Why should this be the order? Logic would seem to dicate we prioritize based upon how grave a threat they face, how immediate that threat is, and what if any danger they would post to the host country.
posted by spaltavian at 9:47 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wiggum: Okay, guys, here's the order of deportations. First we'll be rounding up your tired. And then your poor. And then your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
Lou: Breathers. Got it.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:03 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Even the U.S., which is rather sparsely populated by many standards, has a population that is higher than it should be ideally.

That's such, excuse me for being blunt, fucking bullshit. The US and Australia and Canada are immensely wealthy countries and can certainly take more refugees than they do. I would say that the US has a much better track record regarding resettlement than either of the "white" dominions, Canada and Australia.

God, I hate reductive Malthusian arguments.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:17 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is part of a much longer-term and larger trend, the conflict between capital and labour. We've only had free movement of capital between countries for a few decades, and tariffs and protectionism are still in place in many countries and are still argued for in those that don't have them. Immigration is about free movement of labour, and while the rights of labour trail the rights of capital, the rights of labour to move country have increased enormously over the last fifty years or so.

In other words, the outrage over denial of freedom of immigration from those who don't see much moral difference between one human and any other based merely on their randomly-allocated place of birth, and the fear of free immigration by those who feel that they have an advantage and for some reason deserve to retain that advantage, is the conflict at hand.

This resettlement policy is a type of economic protectionism, a tariff if you will, and it is primarily motivated by fear of change. In my lifetime the demographics of Australia have changed dramatically, becoming much more ethnically diverse, however at the same time it has become more culturally homogenous - the more barbaric cultural practices get left behind, the more appealing and practical cultural practices get taken up.

This is a long-term view and obviously of little comfort to any individual denied freedom of immigration for irrational and selfish reasons.

Regarding the motivations of Kevin Rudd, I can empathize with him and I see the awful position that he has been put in with regard to making policy on refugees and economic migrants, which is a distinction I believe to be largely irrelevant - persecution on the basis of, say, sexuality or ethnicity certainly interferes with one's ability to live a fulfilling life, and that is itself the underlying reason to have an economy as such. Rudd is in the position where he could produce a policy that defies the massive groundswell of fear-driven racism, and the upshot of this would be that the ALP would be electorally wiped out, the ludicrous Abbott would be elected, and the policy reversed. This seems to be the strong preference of the short-term, superficially focussed, Greens voters and refugee activists who are organizing anti-Rudd protests and kicking up a massive fuss over this policy of Rudd's. They (and there are plenty in this thread) seem to want Rudd to deliberately commit electoral suicide and abandon our country--and the refugees, among everybody else--to the claws and fangs of Abbott's Coalition that is infinitely worse on every issue. You people want Rudd to destroy all practical hope of helping refugees, in order to maintain a principle that would not survive past the election.

This policy does a number of good things. It diverts a huge amount of money from Serco to PNG. It wedges Abbott so hard his ears will stick out. And it creates a direct conflict with Australian law, historical precedent, and UN treaty obligations. This means that in the long term it will be struck down. (And in the long term the trend of free movement of labour is increasing anyway.)

But in the short term it will win the election, and that, much as I hate having to spell this out to people who really should know this, is in the long term better for every Australian and prospective Australian, than letting Abbott and his gang of shit-flinging malcompetents get their filthy paws on the levers of our nation.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:42 AM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


As an 100% Greens voter for years I find this a very difficult topic, I've had two passionate arguments since Friday on the subject. I'm finding it easier to just not talk about this with people in my social group at all. It's difficult.

I support Rudd in instituting this difficult harsh policy. I think it will stop people getting in leaky boats and drowning. The number of risky boat arrivals have greatly increased in the last few years. How do we sit back and watch people being taken advantage of and dying in the process.

I've read The Greens policy and think it has some holes. http://greens.org.au/policies/immigration-refugees (I haven't read Labor's policy)

There needs to be protocols put in place to stop people being taking advantage of by people smugglers, The Greens policy seems to encourage people to travel to Indonesia and get on a risky boat or wait for Australia to come pick you up. Encouraging Indonesia to be a jumping point is going to annoy the Indonesians when they start to get more and more over stays. Point 16 doesn't have limits on refugee intake, I agree that we should increase our refugee intake, even become a world leader in the matter, but there needs to be limits.


That said I want to see Rudd implement a few other actions ASAP.

- increase the refugee intake to above the new 27000+ a year quota. I want to Australia become a world leader in refugee intake, I want to see planes landing filled with people in need of resettlement. If you say there is no line, work with NGO's to start some.

- I think within a few weeks the boats will stop. Though still the PNG resettlement facility needs to be upgraded to a better standard. Don't just dump the people who do still try to arrive, in PNG out of sight. I think very few people will end up staying on PNG, I think people will be asked to be flown to their original home countries.

- Depart from being a signatory to UN Refugee Convention, and work with other nations on a new modern standard.

- Refugees that are here should be allowed to work while their status is being determined.

- I support of lot of the Greens positions on immigration, but not a free for all that encourages a risky death trip along the way, and prioritizes refugee applicants who can afford the journey by plane or boat over those who can not.
posted by Burgatron at 11:53 AM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


[Again, if you want to have a metadiscussion about how stuff goes on Metafilter that is fine but it needs to be over in Metatalk, not in the middle of a thread on the blue.]
posted by cortex at 12:29 PM on July 23, 2013


savetheclocktower: On the face of it, it would appear that America can fit a crapload more people, especially in the flyover states, and it doesn't seem like we use anywhere near all of our arable land.

The long-term ecological carrying capacity of an area is nowhere near the number of people that can be physically stuffed into that space. I'd argue that the US is easily 3x or more over its long-term carrying capacity right now, but that is something of a guess. Keep in mind that we do all kinds of unsustainable stuff right now involving energy production and agriculture, which will eventually have to end.

Oh, and using all of the arable land for agriculture eliminates habitats and reduces biodiversity, which is something that can never be fixed. So that's pretty shortsighted, and in the long term, damages the ecology as well.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:53 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


aeschenkarnos, I appreciate hearing your views although I'm not sure I totally agree. While you have described it in economic terms (the movement of labour in recent decades/protectionism), I'm apt to view our current situation in more venal terms. I believe there has been an active fomenting of hate/xenophia since, say, Howard came into power (obviously tapping into a perpetual vein of nationalism) and the great failing of Labor has been its abrogation of duty to push back against the tide.

Sure, getting Rudd reelected is likely the "best" outcome overall and, as polls and timing stand, a head-turning policy announcement was always going to be necessary to contribute to that aim. But if Rudd really had any backbone, if the caucus and ministry held any reasonable (not even particularly left wing) convictions, then that head-turning policy announcement ought to have been a mea culpa for past behaviour and an announcement of a u-turn from previous sadistic policies that both major parties have been pushing.

--Rudd is in the position where he could produce a policy that defies the massive groundswell of fear-driven racism, and the upshot of this would be that the ALP would be electorally wiped out--

I don't accept that as a forgone conclusion. Rudd should be making an argument to convince the majority of Australians that we are prepared to treat potential refugees fairly and that it is the right and moral policy for the country to follow. His future, his government's future, should rest (at least partly) on the ability of the Labor leadership to make that case. He (and every other member of the Labor party) should be persuading, not kowtowing to the base instincts of (what in normal circumstances is) a minority racist viewpoint. Fair go for all &c. Rudd's basically a political coward and a hypocrite against his supposed religious convictions.

I don't want this government reelected on their ability to wedge or undermine Abbott, particularly (he's quite capable of most of that on his own); I want them to earn it by convincing the citizens that we have the resources and capabilities to easily take in a lot more refugees or immigrants, and that a change in policy will help us meet our international obligations. (Imagine trying to successfully negotiate trade deals or UN security council edicts or nudge developing nation leaderships on human rights when "piss off you fucking facists" is thrown back in the face of any Aussie govt. representative!)
posted by peacay at 1:20 PM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is not about stopping "drownings".

The reason that the boat journeys from Indonesia are so dangerous is because they are criminalized.

They cannot use proper boats because the boats are confiscated on arrival. So they use basically disposable vessels. They cannot be professionally crewed, because the crew will be jailed for years.

Decriminalizing boat travel from Indonesia would stop drownings, but would increase the number of people arriving safely, and for this reason is not considered an option.
posted by moorooka at 2:56 PM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hi peacay! And thanks for saying that much better than I could.
posted by arha at 3:06 PM on July 23, 2013


It's sad that the country's only hope for semi-rational economic policy, education policy, health policy, broadband policy and environmental policy seems to depend on out-Boating Tony Boats Abbott. The whole future of the country is being held hostage to this one issue. Blame the voters, blame the media, blame Abbott for making it the centrepiece of his campaign and blame Rudd for actually playing to win.
posted by moorooka at 3:11 PM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


> I'd argue that the US is easily 3x or more over its long-term carrying capacity right now, but that is something of a guess.

I phrased my question the way I did because such a nebulous question ("can we fit more people") is prone to high subjectivity unless we define some terms. I'm happy to believe people when they tell me that the US can't continue its current practices indefinitely (with regard to energy, agriculture, waste disposal, whatever) in a sustainable manner; I'm just looking for more detail.

I share KokuRyu's concern, if not his vehemence. This is both a moral issue and an ecological issue, and I'd have to give heavy scrutiny to promises of eventual ecological ruin before I let them trump the right of asylum of a person who's standing here right in front of me. (This applies to Australia just as much as it applies to the US, even if we all agree that Australia is the less habitable of the two.)
posted by savetheclocktower at 3:25 PM on July 23, 2013


If we're going to talk about this from an ecological carrying capacity perspective (and I'm happy to do so, as an ecologist) then surely we have to consider not just the sustainability of the destination country, but of the source country. What's the carrying capacity of Iran, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka looking like? Why should we prioritize the environmental resources of Australia over another part of the world, except out of blind nationalism?
posted by Jimbob at 4:01 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]



To be honest,the Aussie system is only unique in how blunt it is, not in its disdain for refugees. No western country has agood track record here. Mine frex routinely locks up minors in prison despite repeated court injunctions against.


Australia does that too, including 'unaccompanied minors'. Its horrible.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:37 PM on July 23, 2013


We need more population density in Australia... there's large areas with nothing built on them, and even in the cities we need to build up, not out.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:39 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


John Nguyen was campaigning outside my local railways station today. Good to see he was attracting some heat over tow the boats back.
posted by mattoxic at 4:52 PM on July 23, 2013


We need more population density in Australia... there's large areas with nothing built on them, and even in the cities we need to build up, not out.

And you'll be the first volunteer to head out to Woomera and develop it, will you?
posted by Jimbob at 4:55 PM on July 23, 2013


Not that I completely disagree with you - I've always felt the Australian trend of having just ONE MASSIVE GREAT CITY in a state, rather than developing regional industries and cities, was a mistake. But the idea that all that "empty" land in Australia needs something "built" on it, otherwise it's pointless and worthless? That kind of shit will get you preselection in the Liberal or National Parties. I'm sure Clive Palmer would be happy to have you on board, too.
posted by Jimbob at 4:57 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


If they could all catch a plane they would, without question. But financially that's out of the question for so many people.

This is not actually true. It is much, much cheaper to get an airfare. Asylum seekers typically pay thousands to ten thousand dollars to people smugglers. This issue is not one of finance, but one of ease. Try getting a visa, even a tourist visa, to Australia, if you are coming from or citizen of a country that is deemed risky - you won't have a chance in hell. We are super strict about it, so you will never be able to get on a plane in the first place. This is why they have to use boats.

I support Rudd in instituting this difficult harsh policy. I think it will stop people getting in leaky boats and drowning. The number of risky boat arrivals have greatly increased in the last few years. How do we sit back and watch people being taken advantage of and dying in the process.

The problem I have with this perspective, Burgatron, uttered with more and more frequency of late, is that it completely robs asylum seekers themselves of all agency, and I feel that at heart, it's fundamentally a racist perspective. Much like talking about "push" and "pull" factors, it posits asylum seekers as a kind of helpless human flotsam, drifting up on our shores when conditions are right. Helpes and hopeless, and dependent on a powerful West to look after them. I feel like it reduces them to animals.

Obviously, I think the deaths are a tragedy, and I think our complicity in responding so slowly to them is very bad. However, these desperate people are making a choice to risk everything by attempting the journey (and I wish there was a little more public reflection about why that might be). That choice is theirs.

Whilst I feel there is a very strong and clear moral obligation towards asylum seekers, the deaths themselves are not Australia's responsibility. And I find it very hypocritical when po-faced politicians try to position their policies as aimed at reducing the harm. There are innumerable, humane, ways we could reduce the deaths and harm that is coming to asylum seekers. We could reduce those deaths overnight, easily. Our policies have directly lead to their rise, the same way Howard's policies encouraged them to start scuttling the boats back in the 2000s. What's lacking is political courage and compassion to do it. We have not been forced into a corner over this - we have put ourselves in the corner, then turned around, then said "I can't see anything!"
posted by smoke at 4:59 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]



Not that I completely disagree with you - I've always felt the Australian trend of having just ONE MASSIVE GREAT CITY in a state, rather than developing regional industries and cities, was a mistake. But the idea that all that "empty" land in Australia needs something "built" on it, otherwise it's pointless and worthless? That kind of shit will get you preselection in the Liberal or National Parties. I'm sure Clive Palmer would be happy to have you on board, too.


What's wrong with development? Hell I drove from Sydney to Goulburn and there was all this empty space... I'm not just talking about the desert. And people in Sydney complain about high housing prices then bitch whenever there's high density development blocking their precious views. The country needs to take in more refugees for humanitarian reasons and part of the reason it doesn't is because of the blinkered, backward, old-fashioned 'keep Australia small' ideas. Its a very Wicker Man/Hot Fuzz/Leauge of Gentlemen "this is a local country for LOCAL PEOPLE" nimby idea.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:09 PM on July 23, 2013


there's large areas with nothing built on them

...and no water to supply them.
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:10 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


If we build on top of everything, how are we going to dig it up and sell it?
posted by pompomtom at 5:12 PM on July 23, 2013


We turn the open-pit mines into undeground cities.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:16 PM on July 23, 2013


I think the carrying capacity debate is a red herring. I don't like overpopulation either, but a few thousand asylum seekers (who, incidentally, tend to scrape by below the poverty line with a bare minimum of consumer goods!) is not making a substantial difference. Population growth from births and regular migration is, on the other hand, in the hundreds of thousands. Discussing ecological concerns as if that is the main obstacle to taking in asylum seekers and refugees is playing in to the "Fuck off we're full" attitude that is the actual obstacle.
posted by flora at 5:18 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


The top 10 mistakes in the PNG solution

Not Cracked, but the ABC.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:20 PM on July 23, 2013


aeschenkarnos: But in the short term it will win the election, and that, much as I hate having to spell this out to people who really should know this, is in the long term better for every Australian and prospective Australian, than letting Abbott and his gang of shit-flinging malcompetents get their filthy paws on the levers of our nation.

I think an important point of principle is being sacrificed here, and it is not necessarily about refugees - it is that, with the support of a toxic enough opposition, nothing will restrain the governing party from doing anything it likes because it knows that it's supporters are too frightened of the alternative. This is not a basis for responsible and responsive politics. Some points of principle are worth losing power over - that is the difference between staking out an ideological position and being 'in the business of winning government'. And if a party is only in the business of winning government, why should I vote for them?

With honest respect (because I sometimes feel this way too), I also find your (our) characterisation of the opposition as unfair. You might think they're imbeciles, but they appear to represent a large proportion of Australians (48% TPP or something similar according to the Australian). If 48% of the population is truly irredeemably stupid, perhaps we would be better served moving elsewhere...

Burgatron: I support Rudd in instituting this difficult harsh policy. I think it will stop people getting in leaky boats and drowning. The number of risky boat arrivals have greatly increased in the last few years. How do we sit back and watch people being taken advantage of and dying in the process.

If this really is a shift to a harm prevention model that is prepared to take scorched-earth responses based on a sufficient number of individuals harmed, I eagerly anticipate it being applied to domestic concerns. For example. 1,274 people died on the roads in the year through June 2013 (this figure is from BITRE). On the most recent figures I read (which I admit are very old - a 1998 DITA monograph on Alcohol and Road Fatalities), something like a quarter of road fatalities were in some sense alcohol related. I expect you can buy a really amazing policy intervention (perhaps suspension of due process and exile for drink driving) for that amount of blood.
posted by curious.jp at 5:33 PM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


What's wrong with development? Hell I drove from Sydney to Goulburn and there was all this empty space...

Just an idea, but was that empty space, by any chance, you know, farms? Paddocks? You didn't see any strange four-legged mooing creatures at all?
posted by Jimbob at 5:39 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's wrong with development? Hell I drove from Sydney to Goulburn and there was all this empty space... I'm not just talking about the desert. And people in Sydney complain about high housing prices then bitch whenever there's high density development blocking their precious views.


Impossible - that would require infrastructure and we don't do infrastructure in this country - unless it's to move coal or iron ore.
posted by mattoxic at 5:43 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Rudd is in the position where he could produce a policy that defies the massive groundswell of fear-driven racism, and the upshot of this would be that the ALP would be electorally wiped out, the ludicrous Abbott would be elected, and the policy reversed.

Unlikely. Relative to other issues, the electorate isn't overly concerned about aslyum seekers (see here and here).

The likely reason behind the policy is a repeat of Rudd's 2007 strategy, which was to be a fraction to the left of the Coalition on all issues with a few popular exceptions (i.e. Work Choices). This year I imagine it will be same-sex marriage that is chosen to be the point of differentiation.
posted by kithrater at 5:51 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


God, I hate reductive Malthusian arguments.

Me too, but Australia has a huge problem with its drinking water supplies already. Still, we're talking about a fraction of the overall Australian population.

One of the things that seems happens in this discussion is that people conflate migrants with asylum seekers. There are many more immigrants than there are refugees seeking settlement in Australia. Refugees are people who have reasonable fear for their and their families' safety in their home states, or whose home state has failed. Immigrants come into Australia under a wholly different process. I'm a would-be immigrant. I could return to my home state if I had to - my life would be more difficult, but I could do it. Refugees can't go home.

Australia limits the number of people admitted under the Humanitarian Program to about 13,800 a year. Compare that to 147,000+ new settlers in 2010-2011, about a quarter of whom seek permanent residency. The Humanitarian Program confers a big proportion of permanent residencies, but is dwarfed by Australia's short-term immigrant population. (Of whom I'm one.)

One way or another, though, the Migration Program and Humanitarian Program together account for less than a percent of Australia's population - Malthusian resource allocation arguments are dwarfed by the humanitarian issue.
posted by gingerest at 6:25 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are protests being organised against Rudd's policy for Saturday right around Australia. I will be at the Melbourne one. We must stand up against this.

I can't find anything about this, I would like to go and take my kids, any details?
posted by compound eye at 6:52 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Asylum-seeker boat bound for Christmas Island sinks after leaving Java, 18 still missing, feared dead

This is going to be used as an argument that 'stopping the boats' is a humanitarian gesture, but it isn't. Let's just let them all in.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:09 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


What's wrong with development? Hell I drove from Sydney to Goulburn and there was all this empty space... I'm not just talking about the desert.

If you somehow drove through desert on your way from Sydney to Goulburn, you got unspeakably lost.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:15 PM on July 23, 2013


I can't find anything about this, I would like to go and take my kids, any details?

Here's the facebook event for the Melbourne rally, if you scroll down there's pictures with information about other cities.
posted by flora at 7:18 PM on July 23, 2013


Every two days it seems I get an email from the ALP, asking me to join in them in their "grassroots" campaign by talking to my neighbours about a "new kind of politics" and to tweet about it with the hashtag #thisislabor . They really are fucking clueless.

There is no way in hell I will help them out now, and as far as the election goes, I will be voting for an independent candidate (probably the Greens candidate).

I remember handing out how-to-vote cards for the ALP in the "Tampa" election, and the anger towards me and the ALP from voters who would normally be considered ALP voters was a sight to behold. And this was when Labor was in opposition!

Fuck them.
posted by awfurby at 7:44 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


I also find your (our) characterisation of the opposition as unfair. You might think they're imbeciles, but they appear to represent a large proportion of Australians

It's not the parliamentarians that I think are imbeciles.
posted by pompomtom at 8:36 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Decriminalizing boat travel from Indonesia would stop drownings, but would increase the number of people arriving safely [...]

It would also increase the number of people arriving enormously. Indonesia has around ten times the population of Australia and, being an archipelago, it has a whole lot of boats. I feel pretty confident in saying that an open immigration policy would lead to many Indonesians coming here, easily swamping our present migrant intake.

I'm the son of migrants and I think our country has done best when it's had a lot of immigration. None the less, there is absolutely some figure which should be the maximum, however high it is, and that means we need an immigration policy we can enforce. It's a very tough situation and I have no idea what the solution is.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:38 PM on July 23, 2013


It's a very tough situation and I have no idea what the solution is.

Apparently the solution is to refer to anyone with concerns about our previous refugee policies a, "drooling dumb bogan". Of course, this completely stifles open and considered discussion equally well as the catch-all-knee-jerk reaction of branding the same, "racist". So, I am a drooling dumb bogan racist...apparently. I do have concerns those previously offered residency as refugees weren't necessarily those with the greatest immediate need - for example, approx. seventy percent of those arriving by boat were males under thirty despite the fact more women (of all ages) are existing in desperate poverty... besieged by rape and violence...than young men.

I don't have a solution; I do have questions...but until Australia and Australians can engage in open and considered discussion without the vicious diatribe which stifles us all, they'll remain unanswered...and no fair and equitable solution will be forthcoming.
posted by Nibiru at 9:21 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think you misunderstood my post Joe. I'm not talking about an open immigration policy, I'm talking about decriminalizing a mode of transport.

If boat travel from Indonesia to Australia were decriminalized then arriving by boat would be treated the same as arriving by plane; if you don't have a valid visa, then you can claim asylum and have your claim processed.

If an asylum seeker arrives by plane we don't confiscate the plane and jail the pilot. If it were all just about saving lives lost at sea then this would make sense.
posted by moorooka at 9:25 PM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


(My point is only that it's not about drownings, it's about arrivals, and so supporters of this policy should, if honest, justify it in terms of stopping arrivals, and not in terms of stopping drownings.)
posted by moorooka at 9:50 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would be willing to support the new policy, I'd be willing to actively champion it, if we were putting just as much effort going to Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iran and providing the people who are paying the smugglers with an alternate path to resettlement in a new country where they can be supported, including Australia.

This is where my disappointment with Rudd is deepest, is that he doesn't seem to have the skill or courage to engage people about the what an extraordinary gift it has been for this country that so many people have chosen to come and live their lives here.
posted by compound eye at 10:24 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for clarifying. I see your point, but commercial airlines aren't in the business of bringing people to Australia without a visa, and we successfully force airlines to return passengers if they do bring them here without a visa. I'd have no problem with confiscating a Cessna, say, that landed at an ad-hoc airport to evade Customs.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:26 PM on July 23, 2013


It would also increase the number of people arriving enormously. Indonesia has around ten times the population of Australia and, being an archipelago, it has a whole lot of boats. I feel pretty confident in saying that an open immigration policy would lead to many Indonesians coming here, easily swamping our present migrant intake.

But they aren't coming here seeking asylum, because Indonesians aren't considered displaced or stateless people by the UN - Australia can and will just send them right back to their home country, as it does for every other illegal immigrant other than those applying under the Humanitarian Program.
posted by gingerest at 10:27 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure if I'd ever support a policy like this, but I'd be less disgusted if it involved a sincere, long-term effort to use Australia's resources in helping develop PNG into a decent place to live, instead of simply exploiting the fact that it's a horrible place to live as a 'deterrent'. But of course, that's the whole bloody point! The more I think about this, the more sickening it is.

(I have to confess though, shamefully, that the first thing that went through my head when I heard Rudd's announcement was: "oh wow, now I might get a hi-speed fibre Internet connection after all!")
posted by moorooka at 10:47 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not the parliamentarians that I think are imbeciles. It's the drooling bogan's yeah?
posted by mattoxic at 11:18 PM on July 23, 2013


Although I too am disappointed with this policy, and don’t think it’s Australia’s or KRudd’s finest hour, I don’t feel the thread has really offered much of a debate or considered some of the arguments in favour of the “PNG solution”. So I think someone needs to inject a bit of realpolitik or play devil’s advocate here. Please don’t howl me down, I’m trying to offer a community service and give some alternate explanations.

1. Lots of boat people are drowning, being killed every single year. Unless the boats are truly stopped, this will continue. The suggestion upthread that we could have a ferry service, or that nicer boats could or should be used, is pretty fanciful on a number of levels. The people smuggler business model does have to be attacked effectively.
2. These asylum seekers mostly flew to Jakarta, bypassing a lot of other relatively safe but not as affluent countries. It seems pretty clear that they’re seeking the best outcome, the nicest destination, rather than just fleeing persecution. We are a long way away from the source countries, this is not the same as the USA or Europe.
3. Completely open borders may be intellectually interesting to some, but it is beyond unpopular with a large majority of Australians. Stripping out the awful dogwhistle nuance of Howard’s infamous statement, the line “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come” is in fact supported by almost everyone, me included.
4. Rudd announced a very large increase in the asylum seeker quota as part of this policy. People seem to forget or not mention that (I don’t think I’ve seen it here). Australia does in fact have a very strong record in resettling refugees over recent decades. One implication of accepting boat people within a quota system is that, if quotas are maintained, then people patiently sitting in camps in Kenya or Pakistan are losing spots. They are forgotten victims.
posted by wilful at 11:34 PM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wilful:

Nobody's talking about open borders so forget point 3.

Points 2 and 4 apply also to the asylum seekers who come by plane. To deter "queue jumping", should we apply the 'PNG Solution' to them?

Point 1 is all that's left, and as I mentioned upthread, this is not a policy aimed at stopping drownings, it is a policy aimed at stopping arrivals. Not that there's necessarily anything wrong with that, but to present this as a solution to drownings misses the point as to why the boats being used are so dangerous. Indeed the current "people smugglers business model" is a direct consequence of the criminalization of boat transport, just like drug dealers' business models are a consequence of the criminalization of drugs.
posted by moorooka at 11:51 PM on July 23, 2013


Nobody's talking about open borders so forget point 3.

CiS appears to be.

Point 1 is all that's left, and as I mentioned upthread, this is not a policy aimed at stopping drownings, it is a policy aimed at stopping arrivals.

But only maritime arrivals. Not air arrivals, which make up 50% of asylum seekers. There doesn't seem to be a good reason for that. So, it's not really a policy to stop arrivals. It's a policy to stop boats. It's a boats for votes program. Because enough swing voters hate maritime arrivals, but are too ignorant to consider air arrivals.

2. These asylum seekers mostly flew to Jakarta, bypassing a lot of other relatively safe but not as affluent countries. It seems pretty clear that they’re seeking the best outcome, the nicest destination, rather than just fleeing persecution. We are a long way away from the source countries, this is not the same as the USA or Europe.

Wilful, do you have a cite for this? They may pass through safer countries, but those countries may not be signatories to the UN refugee convention.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:03 AM on July 24, 2013


I don't have a solution; I do have questions...but until Australia and Australians can engage in open and considered discussion without the vicious diatribe which stifles us all, they'll remain unanswered...and no fair and equitable solution will be forthcoming.
posted by Nibiru at 9:21 PM on July 23


I could not agree more. Which is why this thread has dismayed and annoyed me.

It's not the parliamentarians that I think are imbeciles. It's the drooling bogan's yeah?
posted by mattoxic at 11:18 PM on July 23 [+] [!]


Can't help yourself, can you? Duly flagged. (Oh, and while you're calling other people 'drooling', you might want to take the possessive apostrophe out of 'bogan's').
posted by Salamander at 12:36 AM on July 24, 2013


Australia does in fact have a very strong record in resettling refugees over recent decades. One implication of accepting boat people within a quota system is that, if quotas are maintained, then people patiently sitting in camps in Kenya or Pakistan are losing spots. They are forgotten victims.

Per UNHCR, the number of refugees of concern is 10.4 million. Only about 1% of them are referred for resettlement overseas: Australia accepts about 6000 refugees a year. For each arrival by boat granted asylum (i.e. admitted as a refugee), a place in the other major Humanitarian program, which covers the extended family members of resettled refugees and people who aren't quite persecuted enough to be granted asylum. The number of refugees accepted doesn't change - it's set by international agreement at not-to-exceed 13,800 in both Humanitarian Programs. As I said above, this isn't even 10% of the people who come to Australia to live and work every year.

An excellent pdf from (yes, I keep talking about them, but it's because they are sensible) ASRC. Page 11 is entitled "Myth: Boat people are queue jumpers: they take the place of refugees patiently waiting in overseas camps."

Another point people seem to be overlooking is that Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Australia is a signatory, protects the right of a refugee not to be punished for entering a signatory state's territory illegally. Yes, some of the people held there will be found not to have refugee status, but some qualify, and certainly it's a punishment to be detained permanently outside Australia (and presumably in PNG, although that's a different problem.)
posted by gingerest at 1:21 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit confused by the comparison of air and sea arrivals. People without a visa arriving by air can be returned at the expense of the airline that brought them; even if they overstay a valid visa they presumably had valid travel documents, and can be deported. Surely "turning back" a boatload of people arriving by sea (apart from the dangers involved) is the equivalent of sending someone back by plane? Why is this thought to be different treatment?
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:21 AM on July 24, 2013


Well, for one thing, commercial airlines aren't signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention and can (and do) refuse boarding to people without visas and pretty much anyone else they feel like (read the Conditions of Carriage at some point, you'll be appalled at what you've agreed to). So there's less issue of immediate turn-around deportation by air in the first place. But under the Convention, asylum seekers have the right to enter even without a visa. They just can't stay if their asylum application is refused. Then they're deported (or they can try to enter under the same circumstances as the rest of us schmoes who just like Australia.)

This is why I've been stressing the special status of asylum seekers. Someone who wants to enter Australia without documentation but who isn't fleeing his home country in fear for his safety will be deported if he's caught. His means of arrival is moot. The reason asylum seekers arrive in boats is that it's an emergency and they'll take whatever means they can to try to start over somewhere safe. The intermediate countries aren't safe - that's why they're intermediary, not the desperate person's final destination.
posted by gingerest at 1:49 AM on July 24, 2013


Gingerest, I was addressing the question of why people arriving by boat are treated differently to those arriving by plane. The only difference I can see is that people arriving by plane probably have an opportunity to request asylum, while those arriving by boat don't. But I don't know, which is why I asked.

Incidentally, as far as I'm concerned there's no moral difference between someone who has "a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality" and someone who has a well-founded fear of starvation or having their kids grow up to be beggars. It's perfectly reasonable for someone to want to come to Australia rather than any of the countries en route. The problem as I see it is that the more effective people smuggling becomes, the more people will try that route. We don't want people to do this, for all sorts of reasons. How can we discourage it while simultaneously not being cruel and not breaching our international duties? I have no idea.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:52 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


One of the most disturbing things about this policy is that it's being sold to the electorate as harm-reduction (i.e. stop people drowning on boats) when, as moorooka has shown, a lot of the harm resulted from Australian government policies in the first place. Even if enabling safe passage to Australia by relaxing visa restrictions for air travellers or encouraging the use of seaworthy vessels did result in more onshore arrivals of asylum seekers, Australia would still have some control over numbers of new settlers: when our immigrant numbers outnumber refugees ten to one, we have plenty of scope to decrease the former to compensate for increases in the latter. Of course, that would require an open acknowledgement that immigrants and refugees are distinct, and an open discussion about what the so-called "queue" really means.

The whole "we're full" argument is moot. If we really thought we were full, we would allow no new settlers and would scrap the baby bonus. What Australia is doing is picking and choosing. Refugees are being deemed the wrong kind of new settlers, immigrants the right kind. We have less control over the kinds of people among the former than the latter.

Anyone who knows the first thing about Australian migration knows that this impulse to control the nature of new arrivals has a deeply disturbing history. White Australia was also a "we're full" policy - if we let the wrong people in, the argument went, we'll be overrun - as well as an obviously racist one, the "wrong people" in that case being Asian. Just because Australia nowadays will let people of any race in as immigrants doesn't make this new refugee policy less disturbing.

For one thing, official migration channels favour certain kinds of people: family reunion favours people from nations already heavily represented here; skills-based criteria favour people from countries where those skills are more easily acquired (guess which). This may not be racist in intent, but can end up racially biased in effect.

Refugees upset that careful control by arriving according to the whims of fate. But just because they may not have family in Australia or degrees or huge wads of cash shouldn't make them undesirable. For one thing, a refugee has already demonstrated they have the drive to try to make a bad situation better, by getting the hell away from danger and fleeing to another country, even if the voyage is fraught with danger itself. In choosing Australia they're voting with their feet for a country whose values appeal more to them than the alternatives.

Australia has a responsibility to help them if our own military intervention has helped create the conditions they're fleeing (as in Vietnam in the 1970s, or Afghanistan today.) And Australia has a responsibility to any refugees because we signed up to a UN convention, and want to think of ourselves as moral international actors.

Rudd's new policy lets Australia cherry-pick all its new settlers, whether from the pool of migrant applicants or the pool of worldwide refugees living in countries that can't cope - onshore arrivals by plane being effectively controlled by the visa system. It doesn't matter whether the officials in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, or even MPs, are noble and non-racist people themselves: a cherry-picking system will always end up favouring certain groups over others. The previous policy already let Australia cherry-pick 90% of new settlers, and limit the refugee percentage to 10%, but even that wasn't deemed good enough. The whole thing is profoundly selfish while purporting to be magnanimous, which doesn't cast the ALP in any sort of good light.

Arguments from environmental grounds are beside the point until Australia closes the doors on all immigration and not just refugees. (Possibly also on tourism, to avoid overstayers. How about we just cover the country in a giant dome with a single locked door?) And they're pretty ironic, because Australia's refugee numbers are nothing compared with what's to come: thousands of climate refugees this century, not just from distant countries but from our near neighbours. As one of the highest carbon emitters in the world per capita (even leaving aside coal exports), these will be problems significantly of our own making, so we'll hardly be able to argue that we have no responsibility to them, either.

When the citizens of our former colony of PNG arrive in boats and claim refugee status because climate change has made their country a basket-case, will we send them to PNG? Will we tell them it's to prevent others from dying on the perilous voyage between PNG and the Torres Strait Islands?

Of course, many Australian opponents of refugee-settlement and immigration are climate-change deniers as well, so this prospect holds no fear for them. But for others of us, this is about considering how we prepare for decades of climate disruption and the resulting movement of people worldwide. Do we really think we can close the gates on that?

Never mind: Rudd's Regional Resettlement Arrangement is only for twelve months, "subject to review on an annual basis through the Australia-Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum", and in the long-term is probably more hostage to PNG's domestic politics than Australia's. So it's really just a cynical political exercise contrary to values the ALP is supposed to hold designed to win it the support of those who would switch their vote from Abbott over this one issue. How could anyone have a problem with that?

[Some may notice that I've used "we" here when my profile says I'm in the UK. I'm Australian-born, have lived in Australia most of my life and may well again in the future, and using "over there" language in this context feels wrong.]
posted by rory at 4:08 AM on July 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Surely "turning back" a boatload of people arriving by sea (apart from the dangers involved) is the equivalent of sending someone back by plane? Why is this thought to be different treatment?

The boats are generally unsound. 'Turning back the boats' may well be a death sentence.

Also, people who arrive by plane and then ask for asylum (50% of all asylum seekers) are not generally thrown in detention centres like those who arrive by boat. I linked to some stats above.

As to why? Who the fuck knows?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:09 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Salamander

I used to be very defensive over Australian's being called out as some racist nation- particularly on MeFi, but the sad fact of the matter is I now actually think the majority of my countryfolk are sexist, uncharitable, unthinking boors. And I think it's getting worse. The race to the bottom in capturing the largest portion of the popular vote in how this country deals with asylum seekers is a case in point. The relentless attacks on Gillard our first female (and one of the more effective) Prime Ministers is a case in point. I think its sad that she felt she had to compromise her own beliefs over gay marriage -case in point, I think its sad that she felt she had to reintroduce the pacific solution -case in point.

The asylum seeker issue that has absolutely NO bearing on how the vast majority of us live, affects almost no one - yet it is the preeminent issue moving into the election campaign. Why is this? Who's vote is being sought here? I think "drooling bogan" is a valid epithet, and I'll continue to use it.

Flag away - I'll watch the possessive apostrophes.
posted by mattoxic at 4:20 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it says it all that the first thing the government did under the new policy was to take out full-page "YOU WON'T BE SETTLED IN AUSTRALIA" ads in the Daily Telegraph and Herald Sun - "drooling bogan" papers that no overseas refugees ever read - as well as similar ads on bogan talkback radio which no refugees listen to. It couldn't be more naked.
posted by moorooka at 4:30 AM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


[Sweeping generalizations are still not okay. If you want to discuss this further I would strongly suggest you take it to MetaTalk at this point.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:01 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


As to why? Who the fuck knows?

Control. It's all about control. When it comes to admitting new settlers, wilful (above) was right:

the line “we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come” is in fact supported by almost everyone

Australians don't like to admit to themselves (ourselves, I would say, but I do try to think about this myself) that preferring one group of random applicants for settlement (immigrants, visitors arriving by plane on a visa who turn out to have a valid claim for refugee status, or resettled refugees in an amount of our choosing) over another group of random applicants for settlement (refugees who arrive any which way) may have a basis in unfortunate personal beliefs that may or may not begin with R. Oh, sure, we say that we're looking for the best and brightest with the skills that the country needs. How do we know what a refugee who turns up on our shores can offer our country in the long run? They or their personal descendents could turn out to be immensely valuable to our society, but if we ship them elsewhere we'll never know. Meanwhile, that bloke with a PhD from Fancy Pants University in Whitelandia could turn out to be a selfish jerk who leaves his personal fortune to that same university when he carks it. Randomness, it's all randomness, and we don't want to admit it.

Australia's elites have almost always enjoyed choice and control - from the free settlers in the early days right up to now. The rest, those who arrived here against their will as convicts or refugees, their descendents, and of course the original inhabitants, have sought to regain it, each generation anew. But because we've been so relatively democratic and egalitarian for so long, our social and political systems have offered us enough hope of gaining choice and control in our lives that we haven't been tempted by other paths to it. And so a nation founded on convicts is one of the most law-abiding in the world, our "revolution" was 120 blokes and a bloke in a homemade helmet, we join America's battles and tell ourselves we're choosing to, and no matter who or what the rest of the world throws at us we want to choose.

We forget that the supposed reasons for our choices may not be the reasons the rest of the world supposes.
posted by rory at 5:15 AM on July 24, 2013


Try getting a visa, even a tourist visa, to Australia, if you are coming from or citizen of a country that is deemed risky - you won't have a chance in hell.

Just want to check on something here; I've flown into Australia from a few destinations, including Malaysia. When I booked the tickets (on a Malaysian airline), there was no question about me having a Visa - they wanted my Australian passport number, so I guess maybe their software said "Oh, Australian citizen, no problem" and gave me the ticket. That's fair to assume.

So, what would the process be, if I was, say, a Sri Lankan national, or an Iranian, who was in Malaysia, and who wanted to book a flight to Australia? At what point, prior to wheels leaving the ground, would their Australian visa status be checked? Does the website look at their IP address / bank details and say "ooh, Sri Lankan, please scan your Australian visa and email it through before proceeding". I didn't see anyone in Malaysia looking at visas at the check-in counter, or at the gate. Everyone was just showing their (varied) passports and tickets and getting on the plane. When I've flown to the United States, all I had to show was my passport and ticket - I didn't have to show them my electronic visa-waiver printout thingy I had, and I didn't see any evidence they were checking visa-like documents from travellers from any other countries, either. Passport and ticket, have a nice trip.

Assuming I'm correct that airlines are not confirming visas of passengers before they take off, what would the process be once my Iranian lands in Melbourne - walk up to the immigration desk and claim asylum?

Air Asia tickets from KL to Melbourne are frequently less than $300.
posted by Jimbob at 5:55 AM on July 24, 2013


Jimbob: "When you check-in to fly to Australia, airline staff will electronically confirm that you have a valid visa to travel to Australia before you board the plane."

Presumably your passport number gets checked against a database somewhere.
posted by rory at 6:38 AM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


mattoxic -

The fact that you think this is true:

The asylum seeker issue that has absolutely NO bearing on how the vast majority of us live, affects almost no one

just shows that you don't have much understanding of the issues, beyond being pissed off and self-righteous. Instead of contributing anything of actual substance, as many other people on this thread have done, you've merely slagged off the populace of your own country. As if that is in any way constructive.

And actually, you're preaching to the converted: I think we should take more refugees and that racism is a huge problem in Australia. However, your kind of black-and-white rhetoric is as unhelpful as the blanket statements from the 'other' side, and does nothing but stir up anger, whilst offering no solutions. I'm pretty sure the bogans you're banging on about are not on Metafilter, so I'm not sure what you hope to achieve here.

By the way: I studied units in Refugee Law and International Human Rights Law in Geneva in 2011, as part of a JD. Quite a few of my (non-drooling, non-bogan, lawyer) friends work for refugee advocacy organisations. I assure you that none of them support the Australian government's handling of this; however, they don't support uninformed hatemongering on the internet.

(And the reason I haven't contributed to the thread is because I do know what I'm talking about, and I can't be bothered engaging with people who are pushing an agenda rather than engaging in a good-faith discussion. Regardless, there have been some interesting, intelligent contributions, so there's that.)
posted by Salamander at 7:02 AM on July 24, 2013


Hey Salamander - it's late and perhaps there is a misunderstanding.

When I say
The asylum seeker issue that has absolutely NO bearing on how the vast majority of us live, affects almost no one

I actually mean it has absolutely NO bearing on how the vast majority of us live, affects almost no one.

Seriously - Are you suggesting that if the country were to accept the 15000 or so asylum seekers who arrived by boat in the last year, process them, settle them in the community, allow them to work - grant them - y'know - asylum that the lives of your average Aussie living in Edithvale, Clarence Gardens, Kenmore or Knox would be adversely affected? Of course not.

Hence the statement, which I can't fathom how could be interpreted in any other way.

it is a pity you haven't contributed to the thread - beyond the contribution you have already made - because an expert opinion of someone who's actually studied the issue deeply would be sincerely welcome.
posted by mattoxic at 7:30 AM on July 24, 2013


JimBob - Australia puts the visa into the passport as a physical sticker that goes on a page. So checking the passport includes checking the visa. That doesn't mean the counter or gate agent always checks closely (generally they don't bother flipping through all the pages to find the visa, but as a white American I'm privileged) but they do ask everyone carrying a foreign passport about their travel authorization.
posted by gingerest at 5:25 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's an interesting perspective on the politics of the matter:
what this frankly mammoth amount of research is telling our political parties is that Australians will take the issue of asylum seekers to the ballot box, and they will vote for who treats them less like people and more like worse than cattle.
posted by wilful at 6:30 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Honestly, Liberal and Labor suggest they understand business. How do you eliminate competition (people smugglers)? Offer a cheaper, safer, more efficient service.

Solution:

1. Open multiple Australian-run refugee processing centres in Indonesia.

2. Increase refugee intake twofold/fourfold/tenfold.

3. Offer settled refugees incentives/subsidised housing in dying regional centres of Australia.

4. Solve Refugee/Aging Population/Rural Population Loss in one fell swoop.

5. Grow the fuck up as a country and move on to issues that actually matter like global warming.
posted by smithsmith at 6:46 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


While the basic polling we see indicates that Australians consider asylum seekers to be a lower-order issue after health and education, applying those data to how people vote is mistaken without wider context. This is why focus groups are conducted.

No doubt you’ve conducted your own. When discussing politics with friends, family and neighbours, which issue rouses passions more, or faster? Education, health, or asylum seekers?


A weak article, relying on anecdotal barbeque conversations over actual public polling data, which shows that asylum seekers is indeed a relatively minor issue when determining voting intentions.

Why, then, is there so much focus on the asylum seeker issue? My guess would be it is a relatively impact-free* issue for political parties to try and demonstrate their authority and resolve, and work to undermine the authority and resolve of their opponents. "We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come" is an optimistic assertion of the state's power to control its borders, and voters like a government that is perceived to be able to effectively operate the machinery of the state.

* in that, the vast majority of voters are not directly and materially affected by any particular asylum seeker policy, thus avoiding the dreaded hip pocket nerve
posted by kithrater at 6:55 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of course, many Australian opponents of refugee-settlement and immigration are climate-change denier as well

I'm surprised and disappointed to see this deliberately emotive terminology bandied about so frequently in this thread. So, "climate-change deniers" are too inherently racist...what's next? Some suggestion of a loose connection between "climate-change deniers" and paedophilia? This terminology and underlying, "you're with us or against us" mentality is reminiscent of a belief system...or philosophical position...it has no place in science...and like the term, "drooling dumb bogan", stifles open and considered discourse.
posted by Nibiru at 8:16 PM on July 24, 2013


So, "climate-change deniers" are too inherently racist...

That is not a valid reading of the sentence you quote.
posted by pompomtom at 8:36 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised and disappointed to see this deliberately emotive terminology bandied about so frequently in this thread

What...you object to the term "climate-change denier"? What euphemism would you prefer? There is an entire well-funded conspiracy-theory driven industry out there publishing and promoting deliberate lies on an issue of global importance, confirmed by unassailable historic, empirical and mathematical evidence, and we're supposed to say "oh that's cool, they can come have a seat at the table, their opinion is equally valid as yours!".
posted by Jimbob at 8:38 PM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


There is no open and considered discourse coming out of the tabloid media and talkback radio, just unadulterated ignorance, bigotry, deliberate lies. For this reason, I think it is fair to call them "drooling bogan" media; there is no point attempting "open and considered discourse" when their entire business-model is based on making such discourse impossible.
posted by moorooka at 8:50 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Coalition announces Operation Sovereign Borders.
posted by kithrater at 8:58 PM on July 24, 2013


"oh that's cool, they can come have a seat at the table, their opinion is equally valid as yours!".

I understand the purpose of the terminology, Jimbob...which, of course, you've just demonstrated. We don't allow, "climate-change deniers" a voice any more than we do..."Holocaust deniers". On this basis, I would suggest Godwin's Law is breached each and every time that term is used, but the howls of protest would be deafening.
posted by Nibiru at 9:03 PM on July 24, 2013


Abbott has a new solution, a thought bubble to put the military in charge. Perhaps it won't be long before we start hearing the phrase (and a warning fellow drooling bogans- the following is just hyberbole) - we need a final solution the asylum seeker problem.

How harsh, mandatory, rigid and just plain inhumane do we have to go before the average punter too realities that this whole thing us a con? it shows how distracted we all must be if they need to stoop to this level to shore up or win the popular vote

the sad thing is that neither party have any policies that really do anything for the voter in the outer suburbs. Climate change and boat people - black and white issues. no big picture stuff, no nation building, no reforms. pathetic.
posted by mattoxic at 9:06 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nibiru, at the risk of a derail, what are you saying exactly? Are you saying climate-science deniers should get a seat at the climate policy table? Why?
posted by moorooka at 9:07 PM on July 24, 2013


Oh good, it's not just me confused by that comment.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:08 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I apologise. I haven't articulated myself properly and confused the issues. My point relates to the use of deliberately emotive terminology which stifles those who have every right to contribute their perspective to these discussions. I despise, "drooling dumb bogans". I despise, "climate-change deniers". I despise the, "us against them" mentality this sort of terminology creates.
posted by Nibiru at 9:18 PM on July 24, 2013


I could posit 'xenophobes' as a more neutral term for 'drooling etc'. What would be a more neutral term for 'climate change deniers'? It seems objective enough as is, but I'd be happy to learn an alternative.
posted by pompomtom at 9:20 PM on July 24, 2013


What would be a more neutral term for 'climate change deniers'?

There's a guy at work who claims that the sun is getting bigger, and that we don't know about it because of the panic it would cause and that climate science is really just a government front - prove me wrong - see you can't can you?

howabout "idiot" as a label. I think that paints the picture without being too harsh.
posted by mattoxic at 9:26 PM on July 24, 2013


Neutral? Is your position so precarious you really need an offensive label which serves to dismiss an entire segment of the population from contributing to discussions, pompomtom?

Well done, mattoxic - I retract my apology; you, like pompomtom, have more than amply illustrated my point.
posted by Nibiru at 9:28 PM on July 24, 2013



Abbott has a new solution, a thought bubble to put the military in charge. Perhaps it won't be long before we start hearing the phrase (and a warning fellow drooling bogans- the following is just hyberbole) - we need a final solution the asylum seeker problem.


I made that Pacific Rim meme as a joke, but at least the Jaegers try and protect boats. I can honestly see Australians supporting blowing up boats. If the idea is to 'stop the boats' and not protect people that is the endgame. We already let refugee boats die at sea. We already send refugees back to horrible places or to places almost as bad as the ones they came from.

Blowing up the boats would just be as an honest version.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:29 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Neutral? Is your position so precarious you really need an offensive label which serves to dismiss an entire segment of the population from contributing to discussions, pompomtom?

WTF?

I didn't take a position, I asked a question.

Is 'xenophobes' not more neutral than 'drooling dumb bogans'?
Do you have an alternative to 'climate change deniers' that would make you happier?
posted by pompomtom at 9:34 PM on July 24, 2013


This is an exercise in futility, pompomtom. In automatically assigning negative labels to those with whom you don't agree, you take an obvious position. You have a position, and I'm willing to hear you...it's pity such can't be said for you and your ilk...because it doesn't allow for conversation and the possibility of a path forward.
posted by Nibiru at 9:45 PM on July 24, 2013


Why are we even talking about climate change denialism in this thread? The only thing climate change denialism and hating on asylum seekers has in common is that they both get undue coverage in the Hun and Tele.

If it wasn't underscored by humans used as political football, Abbott's response to Rudd would be almost comical. They tear down PNG, then insist he implements it in 24 hours. They say it won't work, then say Manus Island will be a key plank of their policy. They say they'll use the army, when the defence forces are already heavily involved in the process.

It takes some work to make Labor's back-of-envelope/thought-bubble policies look well thought out, but the coalition is doing it. Shows how much Abbott was coasting.
posted by smoke at 9:45 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


My point relates to the use of deliberately emotive terminology which stifles those who have every right to contribute their perspective to these discussions. I despise, "drooling dumb bogans". I despise, "climate-change deniers".

'Drooling dumb bogans' is insulting, classist, and perjorative.

However, 'climate change denier' is factual and descriptive, not emotive. They are people that deny the facts of climate change.

Neutral? Is your position so precarious you really need an offensive label which serves to dismiss an entire segment of the population from contributing to discussions, pompomtom?

It is not the label that dismisses climate change deniers from contributing. It is their opinions.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:46 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only thing climate change denialism and hating on asylum seekers has in common is that they both get undue coverage in the Hun and Tele.

Not necessarily; climate change is generating asylum seekers and going to generate more.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:48 PM on July 24, 2013


This is an exercise in futility, pompomtom.

In that you seem quite unwilling to answer simple questions, or posit alternatives to the terminology you reject, I concur.
posted by pompomtom at 9:50 PM on July 24, 2013


is not the label that dismisses climate change deniers from contributing. It is their opinions.

And it's a pity that so, so many have no opinion whatsoever, and it's a massive void to be filled by the loudest.
posted by mattoxic at 9:50 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not necessarily; climate change is generating asylum seekers and going to generate more.

Oh indeed - many, many more, I suspect, especially from Bangladesh - but not according to denialists.
posted by smoke at 9:54 PM on July 24, 2013


We're not doing 'denialists' now smoke. I'm going with 'differently-realitied people'?

What the overlap is with 'UNHCR-demurrers', I daren't speculate.
posted by pompomtom at 10:09 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I made that Pacific Rim meme as a joke, but at least the Jaegers try and protect boats.

Actually, this bit of the trailer [from 2:16] seems to reflect what both sides of politics want to do with boats.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:28 PM on July 24, 2013


Former PM Malcolm Fraser calls for royal commission into Australia's management of offshore processing
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:31 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


climate change is generating asylum seekers and going to generate more

Only in the sense that it will create hungry, desperate people willing to do anything for a shot at life for themselves and their families. It won't directly increase the number of people eligible for refugee status under UN conventions. This is why I think the UN Convention on Refugees, while not being a bad thing, doesn't make much sense. It was created at a time when refugees were people who were persecuted by governments; people displaced by natural disasters didn't generally have the ability to travel great distances.

Part of the impetus for the existing conventions was the memory of refugee ships turned back from port after port, eventually sunk or returned to Nazi-occupied Europe. Now think of those ships multiplied a thousand times over, vast flotillas of starving people whose homes are inundated by water or by people even worse off than the ones on the boats. Saying that they're not fleeing political or religious persecution rather misses the point. What do we do?
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:19 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, "climate-change deniers" are too inherently racist

I didn't say that. "Many" doesn't mean "all". I also didn't say - and don't believe - that all opponents of refugee-settlement and immigration have racist motives. But read the Murdoch press and you'll find plenty of opinion columnists who are both climate change deniers and opponents of immigration, with the letters pages cheering them on. Not all of them have motives that are pure.

I also deliberately said "others of us", not "the rest of us" or "everyone else".

Climate-change deniers are people who deny that climate change is happening. Of course that label has no place in science, because the science is settled; it's a term about belief systems. (Or, worse, about people publicly advancing beliefs they don't really hold, for reasons of political or economic self-interest.)

It won't directly increase the number of people eligible for refugee status under UN conventions.

Until the wars start. Then there will be plenty.
posted by rory at 1:54 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Abbott's cautious palilalia will fail him within the coming days. 'Drones' and 'boats' will escape his mouth in the one sentence. You watch.
posted by de at 2:40 AM on July 25, 2013


Abbott's cautious palilalia will fail him within the coming days. 'Drones' and 'boats' will escape his mouth in the one sentence. You watch.

That will just be him announcing Australia's purchase of a fleet of drone boats to 'discourage' incoming asylum seeker vessels.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:13 AM on July 25, 2013


But why bother? If we just stand back and do nothing, they'll just drown and we won't have to resettle anyone.

Jesus fuck. What have we become?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:17 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


What have we become? A captive audience. There's an election looming; it's a farce; Tampa saved Howard from political defeat without him disclosing a policy. Abbott's banking on lightening striking twice. Voila! *Wildcard* mandate, just like Howard.

Abbott can't afford to muck up his lines; Rudd can't afford to put a foot wrong. Song and dance men; for votes.

No-one says 'boat people' anymore.
posted by de at 4:41 AM on July 25, 2013


Tampa saved Howard from political defeat without him disclosing a policy

No, September 11 did. Time and time again we see data showing that asylum seekers are not a vote maker or breaker. It pales into insignificance compared with other issues. The data is right; I just wish we had a politician that believed it.
posted by smoke at 4:55 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not about how important it is to the public, it's how important it is for swing voters in marginal seats.
posted by moorooka at 4:57 AM on July 25, 2013


If we let them come then the floodgates will open and we won't have an immigration policy, so we have to turn them away. But that means they'll come in dangerous boats (or even scuttle them deliberately!) so we can't abandon them; we have to arrest them. But if they're arrested they can ask for asylum and by international law we have to consider their application, so we have to arrest them before they can reach Australia. But we can't just keep them floating around forever, we have to put them somewhere, so we need to make deals with the surrounding countries to keep them imprisoned. So there are actually very good reasons why we are kidnapping people and sending them to be imprisoned without trial overseas.

It's pragmatic compassion. It's pragmatic because we feel we need to do it, but it's compassionate because we don't need to see it being done.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:29 AM on July 25, 2013


Wow. That's probably one of the silliest posts I've read on Metafilter.
posted by smithsmith at 4:48 PM on July 25, 2013


I read Joe in Australia's comment as satirical description of what is actually going through some people's heads. In the last line, compassionate = head-in-sand so we can keep our delusion about what a great bunch of ockers we are.
posted by Kerasia at 6:15 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Drowning mercy: why we fear the boats

So what is it that boat arrivals symbolise that other forms of arrival don’t? Well, here’s a stab at an answer: they remind Australians that we haven’t earned what we’ve got.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:26 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whoosh. My apologies, Joe. Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to get my sarcasm detector re-calibrated.
posted by smithsmith at 6:59 PM on July 25, 2013


It's not about how important it is to the public, it's how important it is for swing voters in marginal seats.

Is there any credible evidence that this issue is more important to swing voters in marginal seats than to the electorate in general?
posted by kithrater at 7:17 PM on July 25, 2013


On the tiny chance that someone reading this is unfamiliar with First Dog on the Moon, FDotM's contribution outdoes even Joe's.
posted by gingerest at 8:48 PM on July 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Time and time again we see data showing that asylum seekers are not a vote maker or breaker.

That statement reminds me of the old statement: 'no building will ever be build on this site'. You can never know its truth or falsity until one day a building goes up and it immediately becomes false.

So I don't know so much, smoke, but I feel fairly certain Howard's (polling) fortunes changed the moment he went militant on Tampa which was prior to 9/11; without doubt, September 11 helped further; and Abbott is definitely channelling Howard as if Australia frets the man. Projection.

I just wish we had a politician that believed it.

I wish could believe it. I wish someone would flood the electorate with a humanitarian view that removes the issue once and for all from local political point scoring not least because numbskull, tonka-toy man (I really can't speak highly enough of Abbott) needs to spill a few policies if he's wanting to ever claim a valid mandate — on anything.
posted by de at 11:13 PM on July 25, 2013


I feel fairly certain Howard's (polling) fortunes changed the moment he went militant on Tampa which was prior to 9/11

Data and charts here of Newspoll polling from the time. On the third tab, I've attempted to create a 2PP vote, using the distributions to Coalition/Labor each of the minor parties used in the 2001 election, as Newspoll isn't making available that poll from October 1998 to October 2001.

As the chart shows, while Tampa did improve the polling position of the Coalition, it wasn't by a lot. 9-11, however, caused a dramatic swing in the 2PP that lasted until the election.
posted by kithrater at 1:31 AM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


That statement reminds me of the old statement: 'no building will ever be build on this site'. You can never know its truth or falsity until one day a building goes up and it immediately becomes false.

Hmmmm I'm not sure how that pertains to what I'm talking about. I'm not referring to a hypothetical future where it becomes a vote maker or breaker, but the case currently, and in the past. The key issue is that people who feel strongly about asylum seekers are very small number, and they are very committed coalition voters.

I feel fairly certain Howard's (polling) fortunes changed the moment he went militant on Tampa which was prior to 9/11; without doubt

This is not true. there's a good piece about it here.

The 2001 election might have been characterised as the “Tampa election” but, on the evidence of the AES, it was not; although half the sample (49 per cent) thought refugees an “extremely important” issue, the probability that those who thought this way had voted for the Coalition was not significantly greater than the probability that they had voted for Labor.

There is some other info out there, you can see very clearly from the graphs in this blog by Peter Brent that the jump from Tampa is utterly dwarfed by the jump from 9/11.
posted by smoke at 4:48 PM on July 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't listen to commercial radio, ever, but coming home in a taxi last night with the radio on Nova FM I heard one of these " YOU WON'T BE SETTLED" ads for the first time. At first I thought it was some sort of comedic parody, but no, it was an actual ad. It was immediately followed by an ad for leisure boating supplies.
posted by moorooka at 5:41 PM on July 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a good article in The Monthly by Richard Cooke explicitly addressing the racism claims made quite extensively in this thread.
posted by wilful at 8:05 PM on July 28, 2013


An interesting enough article, but it doesn't really address the question that, if Aussies are so tolerant (okay: "less racist than Western Europeans", but whatever), why are our two major political parties competing to build the biggest dog whistle?

Is it something wonkish that I don't follow about marginal seats? Is it just a conveniently wedgeworthy issue?
posted by pompomtom at 8:26 PM on July 28, 2013


I have no data to back this opinion up whatsoever, but I think it comes down to two things:

1. It's easy. It's something no one really gives a shit about, and lets parties make a lot of noise, draw lines in sand etc, without actually costing them anything in terms of political capital. This is especially the case for Labor. I think casting blame on the Coalition conveniently elides Labor's storied history in race and migration issues in Australia. It is a convenient sideshow that...

2. Plays into Australia's own history and evolved cultural identity as a self-perceived quasi-independent, isolated colony and last outpost of empire, surrounded by hostile cultures and a long way from "home". A dangerous, marginal, almost primeval land. Obviously this image grows increasingly divorced from reality as Australia continues to diversify etc. But you only have to go back a few years to see how strongly this identity has influenced Australian discourse. Indeed, you only have to look at your average broadcast news; the hoopla on ANZAC day, Australia Day etc; our weird denial about how urbanised the population is and our pastoral identity statements to see how it is a critical plank in Australian reification of nationalism.

That's why I reckon, anyway.
posted by smoke at 9:06 PM on July 28, 2013


I tend to agree with Smoke: excluding refugees is politically easy but admitting them is politically costly.

The pro-refugee lobby is weak: it's almost entirely composed of do-gooders whose votes don't count for much. It isn't like immigration generally, where potential migrants may have local relatives. By definition refugees hardly ever have close relatives here, or they'd have another way of getting in. The anti-refugee narrative is coherent and plausible and appeals to the much-vaunted Australian sense of fairness. So once it's accepted that "we don't want boat people getting in" the only distance between the parties is the lengths they're willing to go to.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:15 PM on July 28, 2013


I think you're both making a mistake in your analysis, not distinguishing between refugees and boat people. There is a lot less opprobrium directed at refugees that have come through the proper channels. Why is that? There is definitely something in the nature of the arrival.
posted by wilful at 11:44 PM on July 28, 2013


The media beat-up around "boat people" portrays them as unskilled, brown-skinned, non-English-speaking people who have cannily put themselves in mortal danger to engender sympathy while evading the "proper channels". Arrival by airplane isn't inherently more proper, it's just that the carriers verify your documentation status prior to boarding.

There's more visa overstayers (who pretty much all arrive by plane) than "boat people", by a long shot, but overstaying your visa doesn't create a dramatic photo opportunity of Australian rescue workers fishing children out of the water.
posted by gingerest at 11:58 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Australia made Vice, and its not because of Tame Impala

On all accounts, Rudd's PNG decision shows an almost unparalleled lack of sympathy, remorse, or responsibility toward asylum-seekers, compared to nearly all other developed states. In the words of Amnesty International Australia’s Refugee Campaign coordinator, Graeme McGregor, “The new plans to resettle all asylum seekers that are found to be refugees in PNG shows not only a complete disregard for asylum seekers but absolute contempt for legal and moral obligations. Mark this day in history as the day Australia decided to turn its back on the world’s most vulnerable people, closed the door and threw away the key.”

was anyone else at the rally on Sunday in Sydney? there seemed to be a good turn-out, and I hope it gets some attention. there's another one next Sunday
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 12:51 AM on July 29, 2013


I tend to think that somewhere along the line the Labor party just panicked. It's both because they are trying to classify outer Sydney marginals (and what dicks they are to have such a low opinion of the electorate) plus they also understood that attempting to be shining beacons left them as easy targets to negative portrayals by the opposition. In some ways, I kind of understand it. They are a lacklustre bunch and you only need a few misspeakings, a barrage of catastrophising innuendo and fear baiting from Libs and the whole show becomes politically fraught (and especially so in a hung parliament). It's so much easier to scream fear than it is to hold moral high ground and explain something that's more complex and nuanced than the headline writers project. I don't see the press or the pollies as being any better or worse at all than the moneymaking boat organisers.
posted by peacay at 1:06 AM on July 29, 2013


There is a lot less opprobrium directed at refugees that have come through the proper channels.

Hmmm, when I lived in Springvale in Melbs, there was plenty of animosity for the recently arrived, "proper" African immigrants settled there. I think the media makes this distinction more frequently than the public - after all, the vast majority of the public, for or against, would have had no interaction with boat people at all.

I think there is plenty of animosity to go around for newly arrived people that are visibly non-white or from visibly different cultures. For example, my partner came to Australia as a Viet boat person; nearly all racism she's endured is from her status as an Asian, not as a boat person. After all, you can't tell if someone is a boat person just by looking at them.
posted by smoke at 3:05 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bogans and boat people
posted by mattoxic at 7:13 PM on July 29, 2013


Gay asylum seekers will be sent to PNG despite threat of imprisonment



posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:05 PM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Young children and PNG health risks
posted by gingerest at 6:11 PM on July 30, 2013


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