Rudd’s Crackdown On Asylum Seekers Half-Baked

AT A TIME when the consequences of one half-baked Rudd government policy are back in the spotlight, along comes a new one; this time it’s asylum seekers, with a vow to send those who arrive without documents to the equivalent of the naughty corner. Wrong again, Mr Rudd.

Murdoch newspapers across the country this morning are carrying a story that announces new measures — effective immediately — which will see asylum seekers who go to Indonesia and discard passports and identity papers before boarding people smugglers’ boats to Australia “sent to the back of the queue.”

The story, obviously well-briefed, also flags a “tough new test” for refugee applications without specifying what it is, and proclaiming “hope” that fly-home repatriation of bogus asylum seekers — arrangements for which currently exist with Sri Lanka — can be extended to include “new countries, including Indonesia.”

And under changes to rules governing the processing of asylum seekers, the release of “as many children as possible” from detention will also be given immediate effect, in what can only be viewed as a sop to the hard Left and to the chardonnay drunks typical of the chattering elites Labor is so desperate to woo back to its fold.

Kevin Rudd’s initial stint as Prime Minister was frequently characterised by a propensity to produce policy on the run, quite literally overnight in many instances; one would think that mere days after the “Pink Batts” disgrace roared back to life, Labor might have paused for thought before embarking on any further impromptu policy misadventures.

Alas, it seems this is not the case.

The immediate release of children from detention sounds good; in a move calculated to pander to do-gooders on the Left, and to try to yank at the heartstrings of everyone else, Rudd is gambling that his government will be seen as humane overall whilst “cracking down” in an area that has caused Labor no end of headaches since Rudd himself ordered the abandonment of successful Howard era laws on boats and asylum seekers in 2008.

The flaws in this proposed course of action are so obvious as to be ridiculous.

If the children are to be released — presumably into the community — whilst they await processing, it stands to reason their mothers will be released as well; once this occurs it will only be a matter of time before the clamour for the fathers to be “reunited” with their families in the community (probably after emotional blackmail such as hunger strikes and sewing their mouths shut) results in them, too, being released.

This is why the measure revealed in the News Limited press is such a blatant sop to the Left; indeed, it basically hands the Greens precisely what they seek on this issue on a plate.

It raises a ridiculous contradiction, in that the logical result of releasing children from detention is that there is no need for a detention regime at all, thereby sending an even stronger signal to people smugglers that all they have to do to fulfil their contracts is to make it to Australian waters, and their human cargo will be delivered ashore.

Once released into the community, the claim of the asylum seeker to residency is, under international treaties to which this country is a signatory, is immeasurably strengthened.

This, in turn, completely negates the get-tough element of the overhaul; if asylum seekers will ultimately be released into the community anyway pending processing, what difference does it make if they throw their papers away in an attempt to bolster their claim for refugee status — even if they are to be sent to “the back of the queue” for doing so?

I’d argue that far from providing discouragement, this actually gives added incentive.

And it flies in the face of suggestions by Foreign minister Bob Carr, who claims that the changes will stop Australia’s immigration policy being “outsourced to criminals” by removing the easy money providing passage to asylum seekers is seen to offer by people smugglers.

On the contrary, releasing the children, then the women, and ultimately the men will send a clarion call both to those who would traffic in human lives, and those prepared to pay the bounty and take the risk at sea.

What a fatuous and half-arsed “policy” initiative this promises to be.

But it gets worse; it is certainly true that some bogus asylum seekers are, in fact, returned to Sri Lanka by air when their claims are processed and refused.

But that is not the outcome for all Sri Lankans whose claims are refused; and other “source” countries — Iran, for example — simply refuse to accept the return of deported citizens from their countries after their refugee claims have been determined in Australia to be false.

On its present course — even one arising from an overnight policy thought bubble — the “source” countries need only stand firm in their resolve to render that aspect of these changes meaningless.

There has been an idea put on the table in the past 48 hours by the Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, of a regional summit between the so-called “source” countries, the transitory countries — Malaysia and Indonesia — and the destination country which, of course, is us.

It is an idea that warrants and merits exploration, and even if nothing comes of it by way of finding a solution then at least an approach beyond the various ideas on the table now will have been explored.

That said, however, the risk is that this will become another typical Kevin Rudd talk fest — a la the Copenhagen climate change summit in 2009 — at which many photo opportunities and chances to grandstand and name-drop are forthcoming, but absolutely nothing constructive whatsoever ensues in any meaningful, practical, or useful sense.

The way Kevin Rudd’s reheated Prime Ministership is progressing, the odds on exactly such a scenario are virtually unbackable, and to thus pursue the idea SBY has contributed would require he be prevailed upon to host and run the conference, ensuring Rudd and his people exercise no control over its direction at all.

Even so, it’s disturbing that what was a regular and familiar occurrence prior to June 2010 is becoming so again: the overnight policy package, hastily cobbled together, and with little or no tangible consideration of its shortfalls, pitfalls, or the rather obvious prospect of it being counter-productive.

Get tough on asylum seekers by all means, but don’t announce the intention to do so by then implementing measures that will have precisely the opposite effect.

Maybe it’s indecent to point out that after five years to fix its own mistake on asylum seeker policy, boats containing thousands of asylum seekers continue to arrive in our waters every month, and the death toll from those drowning at sea continues to rise.

The deaths will stop as soon as the flow of boats stops.

Perhaps it’s time for the Prime Minister to explicitly admit his mistake in abolishing John Howard’s Pacific Solution rather than trying to fudge his way through with smart answers, and to work with the Opposition to reintroduce it lock, stock and barrel, and as soon before the election as practicable.

Even at the risk of handing the Liberal Party a free kick.

The announcements made via the Murdoch press today are no solution.

Wrong again, Mr Rudd.

Asylum Seeker Policy: Indictment, And Cautious Endorsement, Of Gillard

Julia Gillard’s pledge to implement the recommendations of the Houston Report into unauthorised boat arrivals elicits the support — guardedly — of The Red And The Blue. In terms of deaths at sea, however, the Prime Minister and her government stand condemned.

It didn’t have to come to this; more than four years after the ALP dismantled the Howard government’s Pacific Solution, hundreds of asylum seekers have died at sea whilst Labor pontificated, procrastinated, politicised innocent deaths in the callous and cavalier pursuit of smearing opponents, all the while avoiding at any cost the reintroduction of a suite of policies it should never have abolished in the first place.

Very few policies, in Labor eyes, were as emblematic of or synonymous with John Howard as the Pacific Solution; the ALP’s loathing of this hardline but effective policy is and was visceral, and it was little surprise when — in early 2008 — its abolition was an early item implemented from the new Rudd government’s agenda.

We all know the subsequent storyline: the boatloads of asylum seekers began arriving again, as people smugglers in the Middle East roared back into business; hundreds of them, carrying thousands of souls desperate to get away from whatever they were fleeing from, and from wherever they had come.

And all too tragically, hundreds have died; drowned, as the rickety, unseaworthy vessels into which they were packed by unscrupulous smugglers proved unable to withstand the voyage.

Time after time after time in the past few years — beginning with Gillard’s ridiculous East Timor Regional Processing Centre, announced prior to the last election and of which the East Timorese had never heard — this Prime Minister and this government have ducked and weaved, and put option after inadequate option on the table to “deal” with the boat arrival/asylum seeker issue.

And time after time, those options have come to naught: in large part because, politically at least, they were motivated almost solely by the desire to avoid reinstating Howard’s policy package.

That avoidance has come at a price; the deaths of hundreds of asylum seekers at sea in the time Gillard and Labor have stuck to their intransigent refusal to reinstitute the Pacific Solution are the direct consequence of those actions and the federal government is responsible, morally at least, for those deaths emanating from its ill-considered policies and its refusal to embrace practical and workable solutions.

Legislation has now been urgently prepared to enable the reopening of detention centres on Manus Island and in Nauru; parallel to this, teams of Immigration officials have already been dispatched to those islands to begin to ready the facilities to be recommissioned.

Obviously, this column heartily endorses these measures, and reiterates — again — that the facilities in question should never have been closed in the first place.

The Red And The Blue also gives cautious support to another recommendation of Houston’s panel — the increase in Australia’s humanitarian refugee intake to 20,000 people per annum. However, I am adamant that these additional places should not be allocated to family reunion considerations in any way, shape, or form.

Indeed, it doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that so-called family reunions are likely to be the next category of immigration arrivals to experience explosive growth; now that these policies will enforce an involuntary change of focus onto people smugglers away from “get there at any cost” the focus is likely to become “just get one there, and we can work with it.”

This column does note that the Houston report stipulates that Gillard’s preferred “Malaysia Solution” should remain on the table, but be improved and refined prior to any implementation phase being commenced.

The Red And The Blue restates its resolute opposition to the Malaysia Solution in any way, shape or form; as I have said many times now, it is completely unacceptable for this country to countenance any arrangement that involves Australia sending 800 illegal immigrants to a third-party country for “processing” in return for agreeing to resettle five times that number of “processed” persons over whom this country has exercised no control or input into the selection of.

This brings me to the second key point: this column supports the implementation of all of the Houston report’s recommendations, with the specific qualification that this does not and will not extend to the so-called “Malaysia Solution” under any circumstances whatsoever.

It should come as no surprise to readers and to the wider public that Tony Abbott and his parliamentary colleagues have moved swiftly to help facilitate precisely that outcome.

But equally, it ought surprise nobody that the point continues to be made, both by Abbott and his colleagues (led by shadow Immigration minister Scott Morrison) that the measures being legislated should never have been dismantled in the first place.

And if there is a key point I would repeatedly restate on this issue, it is that: Labor should never have abolished the Pacific Solution.

Make no mistake, this outcome is an utter vindication of the Liberal Party and its policies, of John Howard and his government’s stand on this issue, of Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison, and of their consistent and principled position on a difficult issue in the face of attacks in the Parliament, the media, and from those sections of the commentariat who are most able to yell their views the loudest.

Equally, the outcome now being put to practical effect is an utter and abject humiliation of Julia Gillard and the ALP; and it reflects just as profoundly and in the same damning vein on Kevin Rudd as it does on those who now sit in Cabinet following his demise as Prime Minister.

As confrontational as it may sound, Julia Gillard and her colleagues in government deserve no credit or acclaim whatsoever for the measures shortly to resume effect; they have gone well out of their way to attempt to ensure that the Pacific Solution, once dismantled, was buried forever.

Buried for no better reason than the fact it was a Howard government initiative; this is petty Labor politics at its worst, and if there is one lesson Gillard should learn from this, it is that a seemingly petty triviality, if pursued with obsessive fervour, can still lead to the most disastrous of outcomes.

Just ask the families of the dead asylum seekers who perished at sea as a direct consequence of the Gillard government’s policies.

Even so, making these observations are no more confrontational than the language Gillard has already sought to deploy, attempting to portray the reinstatement of the Pacific Solution as an example of her government “getting things done” and presenting Abbott with silly ultimatums almost daring him to attempt to vote the restored arrangements down.

Gillard has rightly been made to look like an absolute idiot over this issue, and whilst it may very well be those around her and in the ALP back room that are equally or more responsible for the contemptible policy settings the government has been determined to pursue, the ultimate responsibility for Labor’s failed immigration policies rests with Gillard.

Ironically enough, if there is one government minister who to some extent is absolved from blame over the asylum seeker debacle, it is Immigration minister Chris Bowen, who — alone of his colleagues — at least attempted to put a reactivation of the Pacific Solution on the agenda on a number of occasions during the past year.

This is part of a point made by Neil Mitchell on his morning programme yesterday on Melbourne radio station 3AW; Mitchell also sheeted home blame for the asylum seeker fiasco — including for the deaths that have occurred in the past year — to Gillard.

It cannot be emphasised strongly enough — nor, indeed, over-emphasised — that the outcomes being implemented are in no way a vindication of, nor a triumph for, Julia Gillard and her government.

Rather, they are an indictment on an inept and incompetent political, policy and administrative outfit that was, and remains, unfit to govern, and which is very heavily culpable for the volume of lives lost off the coasts of Australia.

It may yet prove the case that the restored Pacific Solution is, on its own, inadequate as a complete solution to the boat arrival problem, and as a deterrent to the God-forsaken activities of people smugglers.

Even so — should that prove to be so — a far better framework on which to build lies in a suite of policies previously proven to work in this arena, as opposed to Labor Party alternatives that collectively amount to virtually nothing of any meaningful or constructive consequence whatsoever.

In closing, there one more aspect of this issue, and of this debate, to address.

Looking at the Communist Party Greens — with their protestations that onshore processing of asylum seekers should not only be retained, but expanded, on the basis offshore processing and mandatory detention are cruel — I have two words: grow up.

And two more: get real!

The Greens would do well to inform themselves of the fact that parties of the Left do not have a monopoly on such decencies as kindness and compassion.

More to the point, they should reflect that in the real world — as opposed to in some doctrinaire microcosm of the mantra of the hard Left — it is sometimes necessary to temper the human instinct to kindness and generosity of spirit with practicalities that are not pleasant, but which optimise the prospect that the best eventual outcome will be realised.

It’s called doing the right thing. Belatedly, the ALP and its leader have done so. It’s time the Greens opened their eyes, put down the platform pamphlet filled with their lunatic ideas, and came to the same conclusion.

Political Advantage From People Dying? Labor Finally Goes Too Far

Pursuant to my article yesterday, asylum seekers and illegal boat arrivals continue to dominate political discourse; finally — with one ill-advised, incendiary and rancorous remark — the Labor Party’s moral posture on these fraught issues has been obliterated.

I can’t call it a debate; the Coalition position has been consistent ever since the arrival of the MV Tampa in 2001 signalled a determination on the part of the Howard government to deal with illegal asylum seekers, unauthorised boat arrivals, and people smuggling generally once and for all.

And it did: the boats — and their pitiable cargo of trafficked human beings — stopped coming, and the scum who trafficked them were stopped in their tracks.

Bleeding hearts, chardonnay swillers and the Communist Party Greens were outraged. How dare people be locked away in mandatory detention, or issued Temporary Protection Visas? How dare Australia send people to places like Manus Island or Nauru?

The fact is that the Pacific Solution worked; it stopped the boats, genuine refugees who came by boat were granted — once their claims were processed — asylum in Australia, and deaths at sea virtually ceased.

ALP Parliamentary Secretary Mark Dreyfus scraped a new low in political standards today, accusing opposition leader Tony Abbott of “(seeing) political advantage in people dying” after Abbott refused to entertain any further talks with the Gillard government aimed at a compromise to find a bipartisan solution to the asylum seeker problem.

And why wouldn’t Abbott refuse?

As I wrote in this column yesterday, Abbott and his Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison have been shrewd to avoid being sucked into a trap: the overtures of “bipartisanship” from Labor are simply an endeavour to spread the political pain from this issue, and thus neutralise it; there is no reason whatsoever for Abbott and the Liberal Party to agree to anything of the kind.

Let those who criticise Abbott reflect that in a little over a year from now, he is likely to win the Prime Ministership in a crushing electoral victory; to do anything other than he is doing now would be to trash — in advance — whatever credibility as Prime Minister he may have on immigration policy.

The sticking point seems to be the adherence — I would call it slavish, without irony — by the government to its so-called “Malaysia Solution;” let’s have a quick review of that half-baked plan.

It calls on Malaysia to take 800 of our asylum seekers in return for 4,000 of their “processed refugees;” Australia would abrogate all controls, screening and standards over the people it would consequently be obliged to admit to this country.

It obliges Australia to pay Malaysia some $300 million for the privilege of a 5 to 1 swap that serves the interests of Malaysia far better than it does of Australia.

It is unimaginably short-sighted — there’s neither mention nor debate about what happens after boat arrivals 801 onwards are supposed to do.

It formalises the outcome for those asylum seekers who get to Malaysia — legitimate refugees, queue jumpers and less desirable types alike — to bypass several other countries in which they could resettle, and get to Australia instead.

And it has been ruled unconstitutional by the High Court.

Shall I go on?

The “Malaysia Solution” represents a deal struck by the government with Malaysia — which knew the Gillard government to be, proverbially, over a barrel — in the wake of the equally ill-conceived “East Timor Solution” which the East Timorese had never heard of when it was announced.

The “Malaysia Solution” offers no disincentive either to people smugglers nor their customers; if an asylum seeker happens to be at least the 801st arrival, there’s an excellent chance they’ll never set foot on Malaysian soil anyway — and so the whole thing starts again (although I’d wager the ALP is betting it may be back in opposition by then, should such a scenario ever arise).

And whatever else the Labor Party says it proposes, or will concede to the Liberals, it is a stated non-negotiable that the government will not agree to anything that does not include the “Malaysia Solution” at its core.

In light of all of this, it’s no wonder at all that Abbott and the Liberals refuse to negotiate with the government; indeed, they should be commended for that exact refusal. As Abbott said on Fairfax radio this morning, there is no point in negotiating just for the sake of negotiating.

But the comments by Dreyfus, implying that Abbott sought to gain politically from drownings at sea, are so insidious as to barely warrant comment.

Yet I do so on account of the fact that Dreyfus has betrayed the true spirit of Labor’s approach to this issue: carry on like a petulant child, and then — when things don’t go to plan — get really, really nasty.

On one level, though, Dreyfus is right: these matters directly concern and affect people’s lives in an actual sense; not to resolve these issues is to virtually guarantee more asylum seekers will die en route to Australia.

Which is why the Liberal Party position is the principled stand, and the Labor position flawed on just about every level imaginable.

Despite my political differences with them — and those differences, obviously, are considerable — I refuse to believe that the vast majority of Labor’s federal MPs are anything other than decent well-meaning people, even if they are wrong.

Even if a small few show themselves up from time to time to be Neanderthals and grubs, as Dreyfus did this morning.

And I would point again to the Greens, Labor’s supposed coalition partners, and simply ask why the government can’t deal with them? Why does it have to be the Liberals who must capitulate to the ALP and its useless policy, when they have their very own coalition partner at hand?

The answer lies in the fact that really, at the end of the day, the agenda of the parties of the Left is as much about denial of the Howard government and its legacy as it is about anything rational, practicably useful, or remotely constructive.

And as much as Gillard likes to rattle and drone on about “getting something done” (there’s another of those descendant slogans of “moving forward” again), if she simply got on and did something — with the support of her party’s ally, the Greens — there wouldn’t even be a continuing debate.

But there would certainly be a policy failure, and one that couldn’t be wiped on the Liberal Party as collateral, and it is this which motivates the political conduct of the Labor Party on this issue as it seeks to avoid yet another strike against its record in government.

And so, on the one hand, we have a policy that worked effectively as intended for seven years until it was abolished; the reinstatement of the Pacific Solution carries a guarantee of Coalition support in Parliament to bring this issue to conclusion.

That policy is opposed by Labor and the Greens for no better reason than the fact John Howard presided over it.

On the other hand, we have this half-baked, unworkable, impractical and downright naive “Malaysia Solution” which will do nothing in the longer run to resolve the boat/asylum seeker issue.

And now — courtesy of Dreyfus — the Coalition may be even less inclined to bail Labor out than ever; for it is one thing to retrospectively vilify a Liberal ex-Prime Minister simply for winning four elections, but it’s another matter altogether to effectively accuse the presumptive Liberal Prime Minister-in-waiting of welcoming the deaths of asylum seekers in the name of political profit.

It’s pretty sordid stuff. Not edifying. Not stylish at all.

Suddenly — as it has on account of so many other issues the Gillard government has mishandled — Labor’s job to fix this mess got that much tougher today.

Labor’s Sick Joke: Boat Policy Abrogated In Name Of Blame Game

Yet another illegal boat. More asylum seeker deaths. Border policy shouldn’t be squibbed in the name of burbling bleeding hearts and compassion babble; the government can walk softly but must carry and use a damned big stick.

First, an apology to readers: I am still here, and I apologise for my silence; I have simply been so snowed under as to have had no time to pen these articles, working 80-100 hours per week as I have been. Even so, I want to post comment on this issue, even if it is hurried.

It’s become a story so familiar now that I suspect some people have become immune to it; yet another unauthorised boatload of illegal immigrants has met with disaster off the coast of Australia; dozens of people are dead.

And it is about time Julia Gillard and her government shouldered responsibility both for the endless stream of boat arrivals and for the growing number of deaths at sea instead of playing politics.

The latest call for “bipartisanship” — Labor’s trumpeting panacea for every mess in which it lands these days — has rightly and correctly been ignored by Tony Abbott, his spokesman Scott Morrison, and their Coalition colleagues.

I’ll come to the boat arrivals shortly, but Abbott and his colleagues are shrewd enough to recognise the trap and astute enough not to fall into it; and if anybody wants to accuse anyone of heartlessness or bloody-mindedness, they should point the finger in the direction of the government.

When it came to power (and this is an old story), the ALP under Kevin Rudd inherited a border protection regime and an approach to asylum seekers and people smuggling that had literally stopped the flow of boatloads of illegal immigrants bound for Australia completely.

Supposedly in the name of “compassion” and of “humanity,” Rudd’s government quickly set about closing the offshore detention facilities that the Howard government had established, abolishing temporary protection visas, and curbing a raft of other measures that had been introduced to deal with the problem of people smugglers putting thousands of lives at risk each year by sending unauthorised boats filled with asylum seekers in our direction.

Now, the results of this so-called compassion are clear to see; dozens of boats and thousands upon thousands of people risk their lives now in coming to Australia, with the cost that not only can the country not accommodate them, but that increasing numbers are dying en route — as has happened now.

What became known as the Howard government’s “Pacific Solution” unequivocally worked, and the Coalition is committed to reintroducing it.

Labor, by contrast, persists with the cack-brained mentality that anything to do with the Howard government — especially anything it has abandoned — must be avoided at all costs.

And so it consequently persists with its useless “solutions” to the issue.

Far from reaching out to the Coalition in the name of “bipartisanship,” Labor merely seeks to infect the Liberal Party with the venom of its own policy failure, and Abbott and Morrison are right to reject such overtures in the absolute.

And far from being a policy of compassion, the Labor approach to this issue is a policy of death; of Russian roulette with people’s’ lives, and the ongoing tragedy of death at sea as unauthorised boats meet with disaster is a direct and damning consequence of that.

The Communist Party Greens — with their open-the-borders-let-’em-come-and-bugger-the-consequences policy — are just as culpable as the Labor Party; but I would make the point that with their influence over Gillard government policy since entering into coalition with Labor after the 2010 election, the Greens have provided ample evidence that they are indeed the malevolent band of dangerous lunatics most of us on the Right (and an increasing number of people in the centre) have always believed them to be.

And for those asylum seekers who actually make it here, a rising tide of anger awaits them in the Australian populace; it’s not a few boatloads of people coming here now, but tens of thousands of people each year, and the government simply refuses to stop it.

Australian people do not want these people wandering around their communities awaiting processing; they do not want them rewarded with indefinite residence for jumping the queue; and they do not want — down the track — exponentially greater numbers of consequent arrivals in the form of family reunion visas that bring enormous numbers of people into the country and who add — quite literally — nothing to Australia’s society or to its economy.

I believe that family reunion visas should be abolished for all but immigrants arriving under the skilled migration intake, but that’s an argument for another day.

Border policy and the fraught issue of dealing with people smuggling, illegal boats and the resultant flood of people are not things that can be dealt with by burbling bleeding hearts, compassion babble, or on the whims of the chardonnay-swilling chatterati set which is far too trendy — and detached from reality — for its own good.

Rather, the bittersweet pill of a hardline approach is essential; countless lives can be saved, and the integrity of Australia’s legitimate (and genuinely compassionate) refugee intake policies can be preserved.

Anything else from the elected government, I’m afraid, is a cop-out, and a sick joke.

The worst consequences are there — in the form of dead asylum seekers being pulled from the water on Christmas Island — for all to see.

And let’s be clear: those deaths are the direct result of government policy, and have nothing to do with Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison, the Liberal Party of Australia, or any other entity that the Labor Party callously seeks to blame.

Some may gasp at the fact I’m not even going to sugar-coat the fact that the Labor government is directly responsible for the deaths of these people, but that’s one of the problems in this country these days; in the mad obsession with offending nobody, nothing is ever called for what it is any more lest the political consequences be catastrophic.

Yet that’s the way it is; and if the Gillard government doesn’t want to face those facts, then it must — must — forget about this pathetic obsession with the Howard government and reinstate the Pacific Solution it so ill-advisedly abolished.

It must stop playing political football; Labor is in office, and Labor must govern; the responsibility for dealing with this lies with the ALP.

And in addressing that fact, it can show real compassion by legislating policy that will stop asylum seekers dying at sea, rather than its despicable attempts to spread the blame for a policy regime which is, quite literally, a proven recipe for disaster.