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Time to call the asylum seeker ‘impasse’ what it really is.

June 27, 2012

I liked this post by Bernard Keane at Crikey so much, I decided to pinch some of it and reproduce it here..

It is clear to Coalition MPs that Australia’s current de facto position on processing asylum seekers onshore isn’t deterring people who otherwise face many years awaiting resettlement from getting in boats, and therefore risking their lives.

People are dying as a consequence, in large numbers. But the Coalition has no interest in altering this position. Shadow immigration minister Scott Morrison showed that last night when he made clear on 7.30 that even if Labor embraced the Coalition’s position entirely it wouldn’t get agreement.

Not merely does the Coalition not want to address the current tragic situation, it actively advocates policies that evidence shows will exacerbate it. If Labor did embrace the Coalition’s position entirely — Nauru, temporary protection visas, turning boats around where possible — it would be doing so knowing full well none of those policies will deter boat arrivals, and indeed in the case of TPVs the evidence shows they would encourage boat arrivals. Labor cannot in good conscience do that and they should be savagely condemned if they did.

Nonetheless, this has led to some weird questioning from the media of Immigration Minister Chris Bowen about why the government won’t simply do that, as if the matter of whether a policy will save lives or lead to more deaths is just another example of Canberra he-said-she-said, as if Labor was simply being stubborn and there was no difference between government and opposition policies. It’s either the most sickeningly cynical stuff we’ve seen from the Press Gallery in a long time, or an example of profound ignorance of the issue, or perhaps both.

There is no “impasse” here. There is simple bloodymindedness in the face of offers of compromise. 

There is no deal from Tony Abbott’s opposition. No deal because, as everyone knows, the opposition believes it profits politically from each boat arrival.

No deal despite people dying; men, women and kids dying horrendous deaths..

What will otherwise achieve change?

Well, not the latest sinking. It will disappear from the media cycle; there aren’t the graphic pictures that accompanied the December 2010 Christmas Island tragedy to keep it going.

Parliament will go into its winter recess at the end of this week and the issue will vanish until the next sinking. Until the next deaths.



48 Comments leave one →
  1. June 27, 2012 1:57 pm

    Reb, I could be a few days behind on this but my understanding of the ALP compromise is that it’s essentially “whoever is in Government can do whatever the fuck they like to discourage asylum seekers arriving by boat”.

    I also note that bloggers like Keane and Possum Comitatus (with whom I had an interesting exchange on Twitter the other night) have abandoned their criticism of offshore processing etc as well as the argument that “push factors” were to blame for the issue. They have also apparently decided that the Pacific Solution was only ever temporarily effective and its abandonment was not the reason behind the renewed trade in asylum seekers, rather it was that the asylum seekers (who previously were held to be entirely ignorant of Australian Law) had realised that Nauru wasn’t so bad an option after all and would inevitably have started arriving in any event.

    A bunch of asylum seekers died en route to Australia in around 2001 and that led to the establishment of the Pacific Solution. Despite the current PM gloating about “another boat, another policy failure” the flow of asylum seekers arriving by boat slowed to a trickle by aropund 2006. The howls of criticism of Howard and his government were widespread and loud. Accusations ranging from racism to murder were made. The political “left” made plenty of political hay over this issue at the time.

    The policy was abandoned in 2007 despite warnings that such abandonment would lead to deaths. Those warnings were apparently the hollow and confected concerns of racists and dog whistlers.

    Well deaths we have now had. Hundreds of them. That does not mean that any government, Labor or Liberal should be given a blank cheque to do whatever they wish on the issue. The Pacific Solution had restrictions. The Malaysian Solution didn’t. The East Timor Solution didn’t exist.

    Labor are desperate on this but not because they are interested in saving lives. They are desperate because they are interested in saving face.

    Their supporters say that the Pacific Solution is only temporary. Well the Malaysian Solution is temporary by its very nature.

    The very idea that the likes of Keane can label Abbott “evil” is extraordinary in the circumstances. What is evil is the ducking, weaving and shifting of positions of those like him in the face of so much tragedy.

    You either believe in offshore processing (in which case the Pacific Solution is so far the most effective and least cruel of the options available) or you don’t (in which case you really should be advocating sending a transport to pick the poor buggers up before they step on to one of these death traps). Either is fine as far as policy options go.

    But these fkn hypocrites like Keane who were oh so prepared to play the “racist” card on Howard a decade ago ought to be called out for what they are.

  2. Tom of Melbourne permalink
    June 27, 2012 2:14 pm

    That’s a fair commentary on the background to all this James. The ALP and their supporters should issue a “we were wrong” if they now want off shore processing.

    Though I’m still not persuaded that off shore processing is desirable. Sending people to Malaysia or Nauru are about equal in the least desirable options.

  3. June 27, 2012 2:20 pm

    While Phoney Tony and the NO Coalition think there is political mileage in this there will be no change in their position. Basically the deaths from their perspective is just ‘collateral damage’. Well another boat has overturned apparently — let’s see how much NO Coalition collateral damage there is this time.
    The behaviour of Phoney Tony and the NO Coalition has now reached the point of criminal irresponsibility.
    And this rubbish wants to lead this country? May God help us because the NO Coalition certainly won’t help drowning refugees!

  4. Neil of Sydney permalink
    June 27, 2012 2:20 pm

    Reading that article by Keane made me sick. Keane cannot take responsibility for what his masters the ALP have done. And if the ALP (and their supporters) do not take responsibility for this there will be no solution.

  5. June 27, 2012 2:21 pm

    That’s fine, although I’d venture an Australian run operation in Nauru is preferable to a Malaysian run effort in Malaysia.

    And it’s also fine, in my view, to advocate onshore processing, mindful of the consequences providing you also advocate a safer form of transport. Those advocating onshore processing never seem to address this issue.

  6. June 27, 2012 2:31 pm

    “Labor are desperate on this but not because they are interested in saving lives. They are desperate because they are interested in saving face.”

    Well I think that applies equally to both Labor and The Coalition.

    I would also add, that I don’t really think the Coalition is interested at all in finding a solution to the problem at all. Every time a boat shows up it’s an opportunity to gloat, and I don;t think that’s an opportunity they want to pass up on any time soon.

    Regardless of the loss of life..

    “You either believe in offshore processing (in which case the Pacific Solution is so far the most effective and least cruel of the options available) or you don’t (in which case you really should be advocating sending a transport to pick the poor buggers up before they step on to one of these death traps).”

    Perhaps, however both parties have succesfully demonised asylum seekers that in the eyes of voters, using taxpapers monies to send ships to pick them up would be unthinkable.

    It seems that we (and the government) are more concerned about the wellbeing of cattle heading to Indonesia than the wellbeing of our fellow human beings..

  7. June 27, 2012 2:37 pm

    Comment from “Gerard” at Crikey….

    We did not muck about when cows were badly treated. It was stopped overnight. Bring in animal cruelty and Australia will stop in its track. Dugongs or turtles, cows in Indonesia, free range chicken scams, Black Caviar with torn muscles, dear oh bloody dear. What is to be done?

    It resulted in a nationwide outrage. Who can forget footage of the poor cows being beaten, their sad, pleading eyes as they went into their final death throes?

    Of course, this was all done in a naughty overseas country. Our condemnation went instantly into automatic or overdrive. Within days the export of cattle was halted and reassuring footage was shown of thousands of cattle being put back into holding yards and given rich grains pouring from laden bins. Thousands flocked to the NT and even Queensland and stroked cows. Thank goodness for our humane treatment of all things living. There were tearstained faces on the telly and many cancelled their holidays to Bali or Java. How barbaric. At some stage old footage of sheep being loaded alive in boots of cars by white frocked men, again in an evil overseas country, was again dug up and dusted off, just in case we had forgotten. We all felt a warm glow of empathy. We were not like that. We are caring and full of humanness. We felt good about ourselves.

    Now, I find all this love and sweetness for animals somewhat at odds with the treatment of people in endless detention. There were sad and pleading eyes as well. There were people being beaten and shot at. Some were driven to suicide. There was lip-sewing, knife or razor cuts, self-harm percentages, children in jail without parents. Opioids medicated people suffering the torment of indefinite detention without having committed a crime. Those ghastly scenes of boat people running around the dark with tracer bullets lighting up the sky.

    This has been going on for years now. How odd, that we seem to accept that. Where is our indignation and love of humanity?

    Well said!

  8. June 27, 2012 2:42 pm

    Reb, that might be their motivation, though I doubt it. Their stated motivation is that the ALP policy throws out any restraints as to treatment of asylum seekers. They can be sent to North Korea under the ALP policy.

    That bleeding hearts like Keane ignore this aspect speaks volumes. If Howard or Abbott even dreamed of advocating what the ALP are advocating there would be riots in the streets. And there should be. It’s an horrendous policy.

    It could be argued that Abbott is showing a remarkably cool head in not succumbing to pressure to agree to an utterly disgraceful policy in such high pressure circumstances.

    *That assumes the ALP policy is unchanged from when last I checked.

  9. TB Queensland permalink
    June 27, 2012 2:54 pm

    Another boat in trouble right now …

  10. June 27, 2012 2:56 pm

    “It seems that we (and the government) are more concerned about the wellbeing of cattle heading to Indonesia than the wellbeing of our fellow human beings..”


  11. June 27, 2012 2:57 pm

    Abbott is a saint though. His motivations are never base.

  12. TB Queensland permalink
    June 27, 2012 2:58 pm

    James, Tony Abbott won’t even DISCUSS a bi-partisan approach … and that is just plain heartless … no matter who’s policy you choose to defend …

    … genuine asylum seekers DO have rights … “queue jumpers” should be sent packing … either form planes or boats … (and I’ll state again, in my opinion that means men of military age from Afghanistan are NOT asylum seekers …)

  13. June 27, 2012 3:01 pm

    “men of military age from Afghanistan are NOT asylum seekers “

    Are you suggesting that they might be *shudders*……


    *preparing nappy*

  14. June 27, 2012 3:01 pm

    “Tony Abbott won’t even DISCUSS a bi-partisan approach ”


  15. Tom of Melbourne permalink
    June 27, 2012 3:09 pm

    “Tony Abbott won’t even DISCUSS a bi-partisan approach ”

    Last I heard, Gillard hadn’t even had the courtesy of requesting a meeting, but I’m a little out of the loop.

    Has she yet said that they’ve had successive policy failures, that’s a fair place to start if you’re asking for help.

  16. June 27, 2012 3:31 pm


    Mr Abbott, would you be willing to work with a multi-party committee to find a solution on the asylum seeker deadlock as the Greens have suggested?


    Well, if I may say so, for many years there was a solution. The Howard Government put policies in place which did stop the boats and I just wish that the Prime Minister was not too proud to put in place the policies that have been proven to work and what I think the Australian public want right now is not more talk. They certainly don’t want talk for talk’s sake. They want policies that work and they are essentially the policies that the Howard Government put in place and the Coalition has consistently advocated for more than a decade.


    Mr Abbott, if the Prime Minister did that, would you support it through the Parliament?


    Well, the thing is, the Prime Minister says she wants to talk but there’s been no letter, no phone call, no email and above all else, no indication of a change in position. The Prime Minister still wants the Parliament to approve the Malaysia people swap. Well, I’ve got to say, since the Malaysia people swap was first announced for 800 illegal arrivals to go to Malaysia, we’ve had almost 8,000 which absolutely overwhelms anything that Malaysia might do and it just demonstrates that as far as the border protection crisis is concerned, the best you can say about Malaysia is that it’s a band-aid on a bullet wound.


    But you’re not willing to say you’ll back the Prime Minister even if she gives you everything you want?


    Look, our position has always been that we support good policy, we oppose bad policy. If the Prime Minister wants to introduce offshore processing at countries like Nauru, temporary protection visas and the option of turning boats around where it’s safe to do so, of course we would provide support and encouragement. My doubt is that this Government can effectively implement anything, even the right policies, but certainly if she wants to put good policies in place, we’ll give her support.


    Mr Abbott, you’ve been posing here this morning admittedly with some very cute puppy dogs, but respectfully shouldn’t you be back in Parliament negotiating a way forward with either your backbenchers and/or the Government MPs who were looking for a breakthrough on this deadlock?


    As I said, what we want here is not negotiation for negotiation’s sake. We don’t want talk for talk’s sake. We want effective policies. Now, the Prime Minister has a media strategy, she doesn’t have a border protection strategy. Her border protection strategy is to blame the Coalition. Well, hang on a minute. She’s in Government. It’s not Opposition policies that have failed here. It’s Government policies that failed here. It’s up to the Prime Minister to put in place policies that work.


    Mr Abbott, how can you in good faith say that you’re willing to negotiate when actually your position is unchanged, so you won’t give any compromise on the table?


    But, the Prime Minister’s position is unchanged. I mean, can anyone point to any change in the Prime Minister’s position? Now, what the last thing the Australian public want are compromised borders and the only compromise this Government has given us is compromised borders; compromised border protection. The Howard Government by contrast, gave us good border security for fully five years.

  17. June 27, 2012 3:33 pm

    What an absolute saint.

    His morals are exemplary!

  18. June 27, 2012 3:48 pm

    So in other words, “I’m not going to talk to her until she does it my way, and even then we might not agree to go along with it”…

  19. JAWS permalink
    June 27, 2012 3:51 pm

    “The behaviour of Phoney Tony and the NO Coalition has now reached the point of criminal irresponsibility…………”

    And what of the Government’s Coalition Partners………….the projectile vomit inducing Greens ?

  20. Neil of Sydney permalink
    June 27, 2012 3:56 pm

    Tony Abbott won’t even DISCUSS a bi-partisan approach

    I suspect there would be nothing to talk about. The ALP would just say do it our way or else. The ALP may make a small concession but nothing too major. The ALP just wants Abbotts approval so that whatever the ALP proposes they can share the blame if the so-called bi-partisan approach does not work.

    The ALP are in govt with the Greens and Independents. Let the govt govern.

    Also ALP talkfests are useless. Does anyone remember what came out of the recent economic summit in Brisbane which Campbell Newman did not go to??

  21. JAWS permalink
    June 27, 2012 4:03 pm

    And who can forget the site of the Gillard with the member for one of the Western Sydney seats Steven Bradbury on an RAN gunboat last election campaign treating the seas off Darwin like they are the fucking Straits of Hormuz

  22. June 27, 2012 4:03 pm

    Well how many here agree with the concept of giving either political party carte blanche freedom to do as they wish with asylum seekers?

    There are political restrictions for a reason.

    Be as sarcastic as you like, Toilet, but it’s the ALP who want to use Malaysia and Abbott is placing the same restrictions on the Coalition as he is on the ALP.

    The ALP want to make it an unrestricted ministerial discretion.

    I can’t believe I’m even arguing this stuff with you blokes. If the roles were reversed, you would be absolutely flipping out. It is far worse than anything Howard/Ruddock proposed.

  23. June 27, 2012 4:07 pm

    Am I arguing?

    Nuh-uh, no sir.

    I’m in furious agreement with you…AND Ton Abbott is a saint, as you rightly confirm by protecting his shiny facade.

  24. June 27, 2012 4:07 pm

    The ALP stands condemned, by me, for this. It has for a very long time.

  25. June 27, 2012 4:10 pm

    “Let the govt govern.”

    Oh how we laughed & laughed.

    Saint Tony’s mission in life is to hinder the government at every turn. It has been government by compromise for its term.

  26. Neil of Sydney permalink
    June 27, 2012 4:18 pm

    Saint Tony’s mission in life is to hinder the government at every turn.”

    Any evidence for that?? I would suspect that the Coalition has supported a lot of legislation.

    The ALP has bragged about how much legislation they have got through parliament. Nobody knows if what they want to pass will work. The High Court has blocked the Malaysian solution, remember?? The ALP thinks they can legislate the Malaysian solution in existence again but nobody knows.

    Blame the Greens and Independents for not supporting their Coalition partners.

  27. June 27, 2012 4:25 pm

    “Any evidence for that??”

    Do you understand rhetoric, Neil?

    Have you watched Abbott on TV in the last decade or picked up a paper & read what he’s got to say?

    * here’s a hint, take off the rose coloured, one-way glasses, extricate your cranium from John Winston’s rectum & have a fresh look around yourself at the shades of grey. 🙂

  28. June 27, 2012 4:28 pm

    Sarcasm aside…& to reiterate.

    I agree with most everything you’ve said on this issue, James; I have done for a couple of years. 😉

  29. JAWS permalink
    June 27, 2012 4:30 pm

    “Saint Tony’s mission in life is to hinder the government at every turn.”

    If that was true we would not have a Carbon Tax.

    But we have one because the Gillard pandered to her Green Coalition Partners.

    When are you Bolshies going to unite your side of politics and approach the issue from that angle?

  30. June 27, 2012 4:32 pm


    Which bolshies would that be?

    I don’t see any.

  31. JAWS permalink
    June 27, 2012 4:39 pm

    You will soon………………they are coming from the North

    Get the mop ready

    You might need a shovel as well

  32. TB Queensland permalink
    June 27, 2012 4:43 pm

    Are you suggesting that they might be *shudders*……

    Not at all … I just object to our young men and women fighting the Taliban while their young men piss off and leave us to it!

    Hear! Hear! Toillette … re Bolshies … 😯

    Why do right whingers constantly live in the past? McCarthy, anyone?

  33. el gordo permalink
    June 27, 2012 5:10 pm

    ‘Which bolshies would that be?’

    The cafe is packed full of communist sympathisers.

  34. Splatterbottom permalink
    June 27, 2012 5:15 pm

    This is all quite straightforward.

    1. People are dying is because of Labor’s policy reversal. They weren’t dying under the old policy and they are dying under the new policy.

    2. It is the government’s job to fix this. The reason it can’t is nothing to do with the opposition and everything to do with the Greens. The Greens are unutterable cunts: “Tragedies happen, accidents happen” they say, but they won’t do anything about it.

    3. Given that Labor has been shafted on this by their partners in government, the Greens, the appropriate thing to do is to call an immediate election. That is what a government usually does when its legislation is frustrated. These turds don’t even have the guts to introduce their own legislation.

    4. The opposition has laid out the terms on which it is prepared to co-operate with the government. Funnily enough they resemble the policy which did actually work. The opposition is not in government and bears much less responsibility (if any) for the current situation.

    5. The only reason Labor will not accept the opposition’s terms is that it means admitting that they caused at least 800 deaths.

    6. It is for this government (and that includes the Greens) to govern. If they can’t then they should call an election. Then, horror of horrors, the people will decide.

    I should add that I take no pleasure in saying this. I voted Green in 2007 with my preference to Labor and I hoped that the Pacific Solution would be ditched. The difference now is that I admit that I got this horribly wrong and I am prepared to learn from my mistakes. Labor would rather continue to watch people drown than admit they fucked up and the Coalition had it right.

  35. June 27, 2012 5:27 pm

    “This is all quite straightforward.”

    I strongly disagree. This is subverted by real politik.

    I strongly agree with your last para though. Refo bashing is a disease of both majors…but…it is nigh on impossible to deny that less people were actually dying under the previous, contemptible ‘solution’.

    I really hate the word ‘Solution’ being used, officially, to describe policies on this issue. It smacks of WW2.

  36. TB Queensland permalink
    June 27, 2012 5:27 pm

    The cafe is packed full of communist sympathisers.

    … I agree, egg! And The Daily Trash has become a refuge for national socialists!*

    (*sarc alert)

  37. June 27, 2012 5:29 pm

    I don’t think the Coalition had it right, but I concede that a genuine workable option will be nigh on impossible to achieve.

    I wonder to myself how xenostralians would like or cope with a porous land border like Mexico & a real ‘problem’ with immigration. Ignorant bunch of fucktards that we are.

  38. June 27, 2012 5:31 pm

    I think you have to go a lot deeper into the back alleys of the internet to find actual bolshies or nazis, these days. The fundamentalist ignorami who are so ideologically commited that they adhere to rigid doctrine & would actually do harm to see it implemented.

  39. TB Queensland permalink
    June 27, 2012 5:36 pm

    I really hate the word ‘Solution’ being used …

    Yeah, me too, HD, and I’ve used it myself … what we want is an acceptable answer to a horrifying problem …

    … and simply “blaming” the government for the deaths of hundreds of people people thousands of miles away in leaky boats is grotesque … macabre logic …

    … what’s alarming is the number of people who make an “attempt” at being “objective” but then simply devolve their “argument” into politicising the problem we ALL have by being subjective … and thinking that solves the problem …

    … its almost Monty Pythonesque …

  40. Neil of Sydney permalink
    June 27, 2012 5:37 pm

    I don’t think the Coalition had it right,”

    Why?? The only thing I disagreed with was we did not take enough refugees. 13,750 is way too small. We could double that easily. But we should chose which refugees we take.

    Labor has turned our precious 13,750 places into a boat race. Furthermore we have handed over to a criminal organisation which refugees become part of our quota.

  41. TB Queensland permalink
    June 27, 2012 5:38 pm

    I see I’ve developed a stutter … 😯

  42. TB Queensland permalink
    June 27, 2012 5:39 pm

    But we should chose which refugees we take … Labor has turned our precious 13,750 places into a boat race.

    Example No. 3

  43. June 27, 2012 5:40 pm

    “Why?? The only thing I disagreed with was we did not take enough refugees. 13,750 is way too small. We could double that easily. But we should chose which refugees we take.”

    Good point, Neil. Seriously.

  44. James of North Melbourne permalink
    June 27, 2012 5:46 pm

    I don’t think anyone here uses the word “solution” in anything other than it’s use as a title. I don’t like it either.

  45. June 27, 2012 5:52 pm

    No, James. I didn’t mean anyone here.

    It was teh powers thatbe were. It’s a bit of an Orwellian slip, imo.

  46. James of North Melbourne permalink
    June 27, 2012 6:01 pm

    You know, there’s a part of me that channels TB and says that we should send a ship to collect every woman and child from Indonesia and bring them here. But the blokes should really head back and form part of a serious “solution” at home.

    It’s heartless, sure, but the alternatives are no less so and I can’t escape the feeling that our generosity, to the extent that it can be described thus, is being taken advantage of.

    I’d like to think if it were Australia, I’d get Mrs and Li’l Sancty somewhere safe and head back to join my brothers. Maybe I’m an old fashioned romantic.

  47. June 27, 2012 6:04 pm

    Self preservation is a stronger motivation than avarice, imo, snactos.

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