Yesterday I posted ‘go figure’ and the exercise made me start thinking, and I started to come up with some alarming results. Basically it works like this.
Recent History in Australia has seen the Liberal/National coalition favour off-shore processing of Asylum seekers with a policy of mandatory detention to enable testing and clarification of documents and refugee status etc.
In fact we have two streams of Asylum Seekers. The majority are those who gain a visa to Australia for some other purpose and then on or some time after arrival make a claim for asylum. these people are generally processed whilst they continue to live in the general population. The smaller group are those who arrive by boat in the northern waters of Australia without visas and lay claim to Asylum. On the grounds of border security the policy of mandatory detention has been used for this group. Reasonably this is a matter for the issue of mistaken identity, and people who are perhaps not ‘genuine refugees’ but may in fact be felons in the own country seeking to evade arrest and trial, or indeed in the current era that may be terrorists seeking to gain entry to Australia for some unlawful purpose that may well not be in the national interest.
It is the matter of addressing with true compassion the needs of refugees, whilst acting intelligently to maintain law and order and to protect our borders. It is a head and heart problem.
In the days of John Howard the Liberals were seriously criticised for a lack of heart on these matters, given The Liberals under him introduced mandatory detention, temporary protection visas and off-shore processing on Christmas Island, Nauru and Manaus Island in Papua New Guinea. In the wake of a number of incidents that may have been reported incorrectly, just before an election John Howard won another term in an election everyone predicted he would loose. The Australia Electorate clearly endorsed and solid line on Border Protection and the ALP recognised the electorate had spoken clearly on this and proceeded to talk up border protection.
In the wake of the Election of the Rudd/Gillard Government there was a perceived softening of the policy and the boats return in great numbers. We were constantly assured that the rise in the number of boats had nothing to do with the change in policy. The electorate did not believe this.
Christmas Island is now overflowing with Asylum Seekers and new solutions need to be found. On election to the highest office in the land, Julia Gillard suggested a deal struck with East Timor would be our solution. This was Government by Announcement and it transpired that there had been no real setting of any heads of agreement and in point of fact East Timor would not be party to the agreement.
Even though the Labor Party (and I suspect Julia Gillard) prefers on-shore processing, to keep faith with the electorate that needed to be seen to be supporting Off-shore processing. Julia Gillard ruled our Nauru on the grounds that they had not signed the refugee convention (which they now have), and so she struck a deal with Malaysia to swap 800 of our Asylum seekers unprocessed for 4000 of their’s already processed. There are some clear concerns about this, including our need to protect our borders and not to sub-contract the task to Malaysia. Of course there is the glaring problem that they have not signed the Refugee Convention and in the eyes of many have a less than admirable track record on human rights. Ultimately the deal was quashed by the High Court as being illegal.
A Bill was then brought to the Parliament to make the Malaysian deal legal, however the Greens (the power behind the throne) avowed that they would only support on-shore processing. Tony Abbott and the Liberals also were not inclined to support the Bill as they suggested it did not have the requisite heart for the genuine refugee.
So now the result is Labor has got their preferred option, Bob Brown is a winner, and Tony Abbott has been played off a break. Julia Gillard now tells us it was Tony’s uncompromising position that has given rise to it, and that the boats are now Tony’s fault. I find it amusing to hear Julia Gillard accusing Tony Abbott of playing politics with refugees. That is the pot calling the kettle black.
Now you may think I am being a little cynical, however I think every time a politician says ‘read my lips’ I believe it is time to look at actions and results which may well tell a different story, and if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, you never know, it may be a duck.