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Australia

Jan 8, 2014

Rundle: a maddening refugee problem we should have seen coming

David Kang saw it coming, when he accosted Prince Charles 20 years ago. So why didn't anyone else? Now we're in a cruel, awful mess dealing with boatloads of desperate asylum seekers.

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Remember David Kang? Of course you don’t. He doesn’t want you to, either. He’s a lawyer in Sydney these days, but 20 years ago this month he climbed up the side of a platform in the newly opened wonderland of Darling Harbour in Sydney and aimed a pistol at a public dignitary, firing off two shots. The dignitary was Prince Charles, and the shots were blanks, from a starter’s pistol. He was tackled to the ground by a dozen or so people.

When the papers dug into his backstory, they had a familiar story. A depressed student, he had been writing to the royal family, presidents, the Pope. What he was writing to them about was barely mentioned, an obscure topic — the treatment of Cambodian refugees in the new system of mandatory detention that the Labor government had set up. That’s what he’d been depressed about — the fact that we could treat people that way.

Twenty years. Twenty years. Twenty years in which we could have worked out a better way to deal with the arrival of people by boat on our shores, could have anticipated that the world would get mobile and turbulent. Twenty years in which the leaders of both parties could have taken a populace with, erm, issues around arrivals from the north in a more positive direction. Instead, as global mobility has increased, our two parties — Venal and Scared — have outdone each other in getting us into a situation that manages to be both unworkable and unspeakably cruel at the same time.

The most recent revelations — of women separated from newborn children, of inadequate medical care, of hunger strikes, self-harm, suicidal children, staff cruelty, all taking part in an unserviced corner of a ramshackle client state, run by a global “human management” corporation — will be sheeted home to the Abbott government. But of course, the processes that made them possible began under the Gillard government, if not the first Rudd reign. Indeed, there should be questions as to why it took so long for the details of these new practices to be investigated by a major news organisation. The new suite of cruel practices was reintroduced, with the justification that it would prevent ship sinkings and mass drownings (even though the largest and most lethal sinking, Siev-X, had occurred under the old punitive regime).

Now, however, we are combining a harsh and punitive regime with turning back the boats, “when safe”, on the basis of a quick and inevitably approximate assessment by a naval officer. So the risk is being increased, while the punishment continues.

Central to the process of the camps we now run is that their cruelty does not occur through any action, but through the absence of it — absence of liberty, absence of medical care that could otherwise be accessed, absence of hope. With refugees sequestered at both Nauru and Manus, they are in danger from the sheer lack of critical scrutiny. It is a lethal indifference, and it is nothing new. Camps designed to deal with an unwanted category of people track back to the 18th century. But it was only in the 19th, with the French invasion of Algeria in the 1830s, the Spanish suppression of Cuban resistance in the 1870s, and the British use of them in the Boer war — whence the name “concentration” was bestowed — that they became systematic. There were periods when the British concentration camps, through typhus outbreaks, had a higher weekly death rate than later would Dachau — but the point was always that suffering came not from doing something, but from doing nothing at all.

“He did not understand that for people who presume on our humanity, no punishment will suffice.”

The lethality of our camps is considerably less — although, these days, how would we know if people are dying? — but they operate on exactly the same principle. In the 20th century, people moved en masse to try and make political change, and ended — in Dachau, in the Gulag, in the British camps where the Mau-Mau prospered — in mass killing. Today’s asylum seekers move in a more atomised world, and with greater hopes: that they will escape not merely with their skin, but be able to make a life somewhere, not in the next generation. For that reason, indifference and despair, rather than physical torture, are their main tools. Whatever people hoped they might gain by getting on a boat, they are presented with the exact opposite. That is especially so with children. We know from numerous studies — from a century that provided plenty of raw material — that anything longer than 12-18 months of such detention will permanently psychologically damage children — and once again, that seems to be the point. From the “children overboard” lies to now, children are the focus of such studied indifference.

Maybe the Rudd II/Abbott policy of settling successful refugees in Papua New Guinea will help — though it’s in flagrant breach of our treaty obligations, a treaty a Liberal Party minister helped write. But the remarkable effect, on us, of treating people as non-human, is to make us angrier. It is not, in this respect at least, that we are a cruel people. That’s precisely why such punitive measure have to be done offshore, and as a process of negligence, rather than conscious violence. For conscious, deeply felt violence, check out a film like The Act of Killing, in which perpetrators of the 1965 Indonesian massacres of Leftists and ethnic Chinese (political massacres gleefully supported by our local Right). Half-a-century on, those guys have never lost a night’s sleep over what they did.

Which is why, no matter what we do about asylum seekers, it is never enough to satisfy our sense that we have been imposed upon, taken advantage of. Because the ultimate deterrent would not be to turn back the boats, but to take pot shots at a randomly selected number of them. But that would be too raw, too forceful. We want impersonal processes that have the appearance of having no human agency, occurring outside Australia, which must be kept pristine, because it’s the land of the fair go. Because those most angry with asylum seekers cannot, will not own such violence, it assuages nothing in them. So we are at an impasse, because we have no next move.

Twenty years ago, Labor could have stopped this, by altering the whole process, at a time when it had not yet become a political football. The moral thing would have been the politically advantageous thing, for Labor; to cut off a pissing contest it could never win before it started. Even in the Rudd period, they could have normalised it, by expanding the Christmas Island facilities, moving all but a small category of arrivals into community residency — and leaving the Right with no story. Labor has even lost to the Greens on the issue — the cracking down persuading a new slice of waverers to commit to the Greens afresh.

Thus it is that our current impasse perfectly bookends the mostly forgotten event that attended its beginning. David Kang found the whole process so insane that public indifference to it briefly drove him mad. We persisted with it, and it has grown back into the culture. Kang threatened no one but himself — so, wisely, he was only sentenced to community service. That would not happen today, in part because of the success of the process he was trying to draw attention to.

He did not understand that for people who presume on our humanity, no punishment will suffice.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle

Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle is Crikey's correspondent-at-large. He was co-editor of Arena Magazine for 15 years, and has written four hit stage shows for Max Gillies, two musicals, numerous books and produced TV shows including Comedy Inc and Backberner.

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60 thoughts on “Rundle: a maddening refugee problem we should have seen coming

  1. Dogs breakfast

    There has been much written in these comments, personally I find it shameful that our politics has degenerated into this. It wasn’t that long ago that Malcolm Fraser (yes, him) convinced his party to allow substantial numbers of refugees from Cambodia, and with bipartisan support from Labor, did us proud and did the country a favour.

    These people were not a great burden on Australia, and have proved a great boon over time, a tremendous addition to our nation.

    Sure things are different now.

    Of this I can only say …………….

    “The 150,000 migrants who come to this country each year go through a very rigorous process. Those who come here all have skills that we need.”

    As someone who has over a decade of experience doing these, this is the most rorted piece of public policy in the country. The process is not rigorous, largely is based on an honour system and is widely abused. Of not particular relevance at all is the evidence that suggests that white, english speaking folk are the ones most likely to benefit from lax oversight. Just a coincidence no doubt. Skills we need!!!!!!!!!!! For perhaps, and I use that word carefully, the slim majority they may have skills we need, but this has so many loopholes who would know.

    “What the hell are we going to do with unlimited numbers of uneducated religious fanatics?”

    If that isn’t a fantastical generalisation of a group of asylum seekers, I don’t know what is. Unlimited numbers – only if we allow in all the economic refugees; uneducated -not that often actually and just as likely to be highly educated; religious fanatics – blimey, actually they are mostly fleeing the religious fanatics, that’s why they need asylum.

    It’s a complex problem, but statements such as these need to be addressed head on.

    You could hardly be so wrong in so few words. Try to keep to some facts.

  2. Venise Alstergren

    KEITH THOMAS: PS: “There are 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – can’t they take the bulk of Muslim refugees?”

    Most of the countries in the Middle East are reeling under the weight of refugees. Iran and Jordan are but two countries bending under the weight of them.

    You should get your facts right before you sail into propaganda.

  3. Venise Alstergren

    KEITH THOMAS: You attempt to strangle those who disagree with you by using a plethora of words.

    The difference between Islam and Christianity is that the latter got over much of its extremism five hundred years ago, whereas today’s Muslim extremist are still bound up with tribal law and tribal issues rather than acknowledging the concept of ‘Nation’: Yemen being a classic example of tribal thinking over the common good.

    Despite the ‘horror’ of Islam being so intolerant of homosexuality there are no visible signs of the local gestapo rounding up gays and branding them, or of treating
    them the way we treat our ‘boat people’ in the many Muslim countries I’ve been to.

    A greater good would be achieved if people questioned the fear that new arrivals induce amongst us.

    Ask yourself why Australians are so terrified of would be future citizens. You may not come up with the answer, but it would achieve more converts to your opinions than your present stance.

  4. drsmithy

    And you think I’m delusional!
    Given I’ve been to Europe probably once a year on average for the last 6-7 years and never had that happen, yes.

  5. CML

    I didn’t know that those affected by the economic downturn roamed the streets in packs, wearing funny little white crochet hats, and abusing tourists.
    And you think I’m delusional!

  6. drsmithy

    Take off the blinkers and have a good look at what is going on in the UK and Europe. I was there mid-year, and found the whole atmosphere frightening. Especially in Paris.

    And of course it’s all down to Muslims, right ? The economic downturn has nothing to do with it at all ?

    Why do you think we had a huge increase in boat arrivals after the Labor Party ‘dismantled’ some of the more draconian Howard policies on asylum seekers? It would appear that everyone who wanted to come here thought we were now a soft touch. I don’t know the exact figures, but didn’t we go from a few hundred asylum seekers in 2007/8 to many thousand by 2012/13?
    Refugees are driven by push factors.

    Treatment of refugees in recent years, despite conservative propaganda, is at least, if not more, draconian than the Howard years.

    We did NOT invade Muslim countries. The allies went there to stop these uncivilised lot from killing each other over different brands of Islam.

    I can’t argue with that sort of delusion.

  7. CML

    @ drsmithy – Take off the blinkers and have a good look at what is going on in the UK and Europe. I was there mid-year, and found the whole atmosphere frightening. Especially in Paris.
    Why do you think we had a huge increase in boat arrivals after the Labor Party ‘dismantled’ some of the more draconian Howard policies on asylum seekers? It would appear that everyone who wanted to come here thought we were now a soft touch. I don’t know the exact figures, but didn’t we go from a few hundred asylum seekers in 2007/8 to many thousand by 2012/13? Contrary to the LNP propaganda, it was the Rudd policy re PNG which stopped the arrivals stone dead. Why?
    We did NOT invade Muslim countries. The allies went there to stop these uncivilised lot from killing each other over different brands of Islam. If that is not the case, why is it that so many refugee advocates blame the USA/allies for not getting involved in Syria to ‘stop the blood-shed’? I happen to think that it is because of the failure in Iraq and Afghanistan. Neither intervention stopped that lot from killing each other over religion, and the same would be true in Syria. BTW, Libya was a great success as well, NOT!
    I am an atheist, so all religious tomes are crap as far as I am concerned. It seems you can be half-Christian, but I think all Muslims base their lives on the ‘unholy’ Koran, and don’t deviate from its’ teachings, significantly.
    I am not xenophobic – as stated earlier, I am all in favour of assisting the Pacific Islanders to relocate when that becomes necessary. I also think we should greatly increase our humanitarian intake, particularly those people in need of asylum in our own (Asian) region. Why on earth are we so fixated on the middle-east and Africa when there is more than enough trauma to be going on with much closer to home?
    Everyone, including me, is entitled to an opinion. You may find what I have to say unreasonable, unsupportable and fallacious That is your right. I happen to think you are wrong for all the reasons I have given previously.
    Let’s just agree to disagree. That is it – I’m out of here now.

  8. drsmithy

    Dream on, drsmithy. That ‘1 or 2%’ would very quickly be joined by the other 21 or 22% if they thought it would advance the cause of Islam.
    Yet strangely it seems to be us invading the Muslim countries, not them invading us.

    Your opinion is at odds with reality. Probably not for the first time, I’m guessing.

    Isn’t that what the Koran says?

    I’m more interested in how people act than your interpretations of the Koran.

    The Bible says a lot of crazy stuff as well. That doesn’t mean I automatically assume anyone who calls themselves Christian believes it all.

    I don’t think Keith Smith deserves any of the name calling that is going on here. That is not the way to debate any iissue. Of course, it does save you lot from having to present a rational argument and answer some inconvenient questions!

    When are we going to get some “inconvenient questions”, rather than xenophobia, unsupported, unreasoned assertions and fallacies ?

  9. drsmithy

    You have evidence for the 1% to 2% range?
    Western countries are not currently under invasion by 30 million Muslim jihadis.

    Do you have any evidence for your unsubtle implication that all Muslims want to impose Sharia law on the western world ?

    The research from the Pew Center in the US puts the figure rather higher, but even 1% is enough to be concerned.
    You mean this ? http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-overview/

    That doesn’t say anything about imposing Sharia law on the western world.

  10. CML

    Dream on, drsmithy. That ‘1 or 2%’ would very quickly be joined by the other 21 or 22% if they thought it would advance the cause of Islam. Isn’t that what the Koran says?
    And Marilyn – it never ceases to amaze me how otherwise inteligent western women could entertain the idea of supporting the followers of Islam. It must be just about the worst example of suppression of woman’s rights on the planet. Or do you think the menfolk are miraculously going to change when they move to a western country? Amazing ignorance!!
    I don’t think Keith Smith deserves any of the name calling that is going on here. That is not the way to debate any iissue. Of course, it does save you lot from having to present a rational argument and answer some inconvenient questions!

  11. Keith Thomas

    drsmithy – you say “only about one or two percent of that 23% are interested in using “terrorism and ‘stealth jihad’ to pursue the imposition of sharia globally.

    Blimey – that’s 15 to 30 million of them. You have me worried now. These guys are armed and determined to impose ‘the religion of peace’.

    You have evidence for the 1% to 2% range? The research from the Pew Center in the US puts the figure rather higher, but even 1% is enough to be concerned.

    I won’t post any more here under Guy’s article. Thanks to Marilyn, drsmithy, Gavin and Ian for the opportunity to join the dots. See you next time.

  12. drsmithy

    If that 23% would mind their own business, and stay at home and just kill each other within their own borders and not try to expand by entering and transforming western civilisation into part of a global caliphate, I wouldn’t be bothered.
    Well then you can rest easy, because only about one or two percent of that 23% are interested in using “terrorism and ‘stealth jihad’ to pursue the imposition of sharia globally.”

  13. Keith Thomas

    drsmithy wrote: “Until you’ve got some actual evidence that your fears are anything more than xenophobic paranoia, stop wasting everyone’s time ?”

    What would count for you as evidence?

    Since you have not told me that I suppose I’m on a hiding to nowhere to try to second-guess you. But I hope what I suggest here will help open-minded readers come to their own conclusions.

    I suppose you dismiss the argumentation on this topic by Western atheists Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchins, Bill Warner and Sam Harris. How about the writings of people brought up as Muslims like Ibn Warraq, IQ al Rassooli, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Tarek Fatah and Nonie Darwish who have lived through the evidence you seek?

    If you want a crude body count, go to
    http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/index.html#Attacks
    which documents the Islamic killings since 9/11. The tally is now over 20,000. The rate of killing (as well as intimidation, injury and property destruction untallied), points to the unthinking depiction of these events as confined to “a few nutjobs” as wilful ignorance. Take them in: 9/11 in the US, 7/7 in London, the Bali bombings, the Madrid train bombings, the Beslan school siege, the murder of Pim Fortuyn, the Danish cartoon furore, Major Hassan’s shooting spree at Fort Hood, the recent bombings in Volgograd, the penetration by Muslims of OMGs. Can you not see a discernible pattern emerging? You will have read what Michael Adebolajo said to the camera immediately after his Islamic murder of Lee Rigby in London last May. More importantly, you may have seen the Imams and other UK Muslim leaders clumsily refusing to condemn Adebolajo’s justification.

    YouTube is awash with videos of Islamic radicals providing the sort of evidence that – cumulatively – counts with me. The videos transcribed by MEMRI in Washington provide the most comprehensive single source.

    But there is one YouTube video in which a Muslim radical makes my argument powerfully:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV710c1dgpU
    You will see that behind closed doors, the moderate muslims are not so moderate. “Calling us extremists is Islamophobic” says Fahad Ullah Qureshi. He demonstrates to an audience of sunni Muslims that their beliefs about beheading, stoning to death, homosexual behaviour and the differences between rights for men and rights for women are not expressions of radical Islam; they are genuine expressions of mainstream Islam.

    How many more killings, Islam-inspired and justified female genital mutilations, honour killings, rape gangs organized by Muslims, stoning of adulterers will it take as evidence to convince you to take seriously the threat from radical Islam to western nations, societies, cultures, traditions, laws and individuals? I hope you are not impervious to evidence.

  14. Ian

    Death and destruction can come from the bowels of a predator drone or the belt of a suicide bomber, one in the name of democracy and the free market god and the other in the name of Allah and the seven virgins. One in response to the other and the other in response to the one.

    It’s a lose-lose situation and it’s precisely because both sides see only one side of the story that this destructive behavior won’t go away.

  15. shepherdmarilyn

    That 23% don’t have to stay “”home””, anymore than the 20% of the population who are Chinese – stop your hateful racist rants.

  16. Keith Thomas

    Marilyn – you wrote: “No Keith your rants are pure hateful propaganda against muslims, well as 23% of the world is muslim you need to suck it up.”

    My posts are about Islam as a political ideology that uses terrorism and ‘stealth jihad’ to pursue the imposition of sharia globally. I have no interest in the purely religious aspects of the Islamic faith.

    If that 23% would mind their own business, and stay at home and just kill each other within their own borders and not try to expand by entering and transforming western civilisation into part of a global caliphate, I wouldn’t be bothered. I’d “suck it up”. You may think the loss of features of Australia’s cultural heritage I posted above would not be any great problem. That’s where we differ.

  17. Ian

    Keith,

    Others have responded to your rebuttal for me so I won’t bother but when I said “my Murdoch press” I meant the Murdoch press in the UK as opposed to in Australia.

  18. drsmithy

    It would be nice to know the number, but bare numbers will not tell us anything useful.
    On the contrary. They’re the only thing that will tell us anything useful.

    If there are only 100 muslim extremists in the country, their ability to influence pretty much anything, is zero.

    If there are a few million, then they might start to have a look in.

    The Koran and the examples of Mohammed’s life in the hadiths make it clear that it is the duty of Muslims to pursue jihad and sharia. (Jihad means war against non-Muslims to establish Islam.) That’s about as far as I can go, but it’s far enough to worry me. Any other suggestions?

    Until you’ve got some actual evidence that your fears are anything more than xenophobic paranoia, stop wasting everyone’s time ?

  19. shepherdmarilyn

    No Keith your rants are pure hateful propaganda against muslims, well as 23% of the world is muslim you need to suck it up.

  20. Keith Thomas

    drsmithy wrote: “What percentage of immigrants fit this profile ?”

    It would be nice to know the number, but bare numbers will not tell us anything useful.

    Just thinking off the top of my head here, wouldn’t the answer to your question depend on some version of a formula like:

    Number of Muslims
    x their commitment to sharia
    x their willingness to engage in behaviour to pursue sharia.

    The Koran and the examples of Mohammed’s life in the hadiths make it clear that it is the duty of Muslims to pursue jihad and sharia. (Jihad means war against non-Muslims to establish Islam.) That’s about as far as I can go, but it’s far enough to worry me. Any other suggestions?

  21. drsmithy

    There are lots of assumptions built into your assertion here.
    I wasn’t making any claim about Australia’s population actually being able to live in half of Tasmania. I was putting the scale of our population relative to the size of the country into appropriate context.
    But one relevant fact is that the environmental footprint of individual Australians is over 16 acres.
    Which should be considered a fixed value, why ?
    Where does this 16 acres number come from ?
    Multiply that by the average household size and you can see that your glib assertion is not as strong as it may have appeared to you.
    If you put every individual in Australia on 16 acres in Queensland, you’d still have several million acres to spare.
    I don’t want to get too far off topic, but we also need to consider the proportion of Australia’s 7.7 million square kilometres that is capable of reliably providing food, fibre, timber year in, year out. Also, do we want to use extra land to export food, fibre and timber products?
    With Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory left over, I think we’d be able to figure something out.
    We are closer to ecological unsustainability that you appear to think?
    Like I said, when you actually attach some numbers to give context, it becomes difficult to believe.

  22. Keith Thomas

    drsmithy wrote: “You could put every household in Australia on an and they still wouldn’t fill half of Tasmania.” Should have been: “on an acre”.

    There are lots of assumptions built into your assertion here. But one relevant fact is that the environmental footprint of individual Australians is over 16 acres. Multiply that by the average household size and you can see that your glib assertion is not as strong as it may have appeared to you. I don’t want to get too far off topic, but we also need to consider the proportion of Australia’s 7.7 million square kilometres that is capable of reliably providing food, fibre, timber year in, year out. Also, do we want to use extra land to export food, fibre and timber products?

    We are closer to ecological unsustainability that you appear to think?

  23. drsmithy

    Let’s get back to the the main topic here: continued immigration to Australia, particularly of Muslims who do not want to accommodate to the Australian mainstream, but who want to change that mainstream to suit their ideology. Have you anything to say about that?
    What percentage of immigrants fit this profile ?

  24. Keith Thomas

    Ian, you say “Sounds like a sweeping generalization to me”.

    That’s your problem. It’s a fact. And I did say “primarily”; my assertion was about the situation, not about the country of origin of every advocate of sharia (these include native-born Britons who have converted to Islam. Google Richard Dart, Jordan Horner, Richard Reid for example).

    “My Murdoch press”. Now you are the one who is making an unfounded assumption for rhetorical purposes.

    Your tu quoque argument about a drone strike is irrelevant. Nothing I wrote indicates any endorsement by me of US military tactics or policy. Nor have I made any assertion that Christians hold the high moral ground over Muslims.

    Let’s get back to the the main topic here: continued immigration to Australia, particularly of Muslims who do not want to accommodate to the Australian mainstream, but who want to change that mainstream to suit their ideology. Have you anything to say about that?

  25. Ian

    Keith,

    You say…”The immigrant problem here is primarily one of Muslim immigrants from Somalia and Pakistan and their insistence on Britain accommodating their desire for sharia (when they are not hacking an off-duty soldier to death in an “Islamic murder” – that’s how the killers depicted it).”

    Sounds like a sweeping generalization to me which has probably been propagated my your Murdoch press. By the way did you hear about the recent drone attack in Yemen that killed more than a dozen members of a wedding party. I don’t believe that murderous attack nor another some time ago in Pakistan (Was it?) also on a wedding party were the work of Islamists – Christians perhaps but not Islamists.

  26. drsmithy

    “You could put every household in Australia on an and they still wouldn’t fill half of Tasmania.”

    Should have been: “on an acre”.

  27. Keith Thomas

    Gavin, you wrote: “if religion is to infect public life I don’t see Islam as being necessarily better or worse than Christianity, Buddhism or any other major religion.”

    Islam is first and foremost a political ideology that aims for global domination through relentless jihad. Secondly, it borrowed features of Jewish, Christian and pagan religions where these were found effective at buttressing passion, making unreason acceptable. Thirdly, it uses cult-like practices to discipline its adherents. Fourthly, its sects feed its schisms enabling paranoia, capricious revenge, vendettas and betrayal as a way of life for its believers.

    Almost everyone prefers to leave unquestioned their fundamental assumptions about the world. Both Christians and non-Christian Australians have a view of what characterises a religion. So where they can readily match a few visible characteristics they assume some sort of equal-weighted equivalence: church=mosque; prayer=prayer; bell-ringing=adhan; knee cushions=prayer mats; Sunday services=Friday prayers; spires=minarets; Bible=Koran. And so they never focus on the fundamental differences that are less tangible, foremost of which is Islam’s political ideology and the aggressive focus on global domination.

  28. Keith Thomas

    Marilyn, when I said “the world has moved on”, I meant the biophysical world and the attempts by humans to work out ways to live within it. There were about 400 million humans on the planet in 1215. Now there are well over 7 billion, occupying the same land area. It would be remarkable if the worldview enabled by a population of 400 million and the laws and other living arrangements derived from that worldview would be equally applicable to there being over 7 billion people.

    And I would caution against over-interpreting the Magna Carta. It was a deal between the king and a collection of his stroppier nobles (large land-owners with their own militias). I can’t see anything in the Magna Carta that would constrain in any way the freedom of the Australian government (as presently constituted, with regular elections under universal suffrage) from determining who should enter this country and the conditions of their entry.

    However, Magna Carta is an example of our cultural inheritance that is incompatible with sharia law, and to that extent it is relevant to the issues I raised in the context of, specifically Muslim immigration to Australia.

    If we can believe the advocates of radical Islam, they are out curtail, change or stamp out western civilization, including the democratic process, freedom of the press, freedom of expression (including artistic freedom), science, understanding that the natural world is not bound by human doctrine, equality of opportunity, equal rights and obligations for women as for men, government that is small, rational and fair, the individual before the group, civility, religious freedom, tolerance (but not of public intolerance), the common law, trial by jury, habeas corpus, the presumption of innocence, the rights of the child, an obligation to help the genuinely disadvantaged in society regardless of religious affiliation and, generally speaking, a live-and-let-live laissez-faire attitude.

    That is why I am concerned about immigration of people who support, directly, indirectly or by complaisance this agenda.

  29. drsmithy

    The environment in Australia (we are told) cannot support a doubling of the population, especially the availability of water.
    A struggle to believe. You could put every household in Australia on an and they still wouldn’t fill half of Tasmania.

  30. shepherdmarilyn

    Keith, precisely how has the world “”moved on” from the laws we write?

    I would be interested to know if you think it has moved on far past the Magna Carta.

    My views are not my views, they are our own frigging laws.

  31. Grant

    I am quite disgusted by my country these days. It really doesn’t matter which camp you are from regarding accepting refugees in the country (I’m firmly in the let the come camp) the way we are treating these people is disgusting and makes me severely embarrassed to be an Australian. The author if this article is quite right to draw a parallel with the concentration camps of history and our current treatment of these people. Ok if we are going to deport them for gawds sake at least treat them humanely. I am sick of people ranting about the costs of providing for these people. If we were housing them on the mainland without all the insane overheads of running Camp Mannus and others then the cost of decent care would be trivial compared to our health budget. Of course there is also a point to be made here that the New Conservatism that is gripping our country (I am a former conservative voter that currently detests what the Australian Liberals have become) is also making serious attempts to break down long established social welfare and support for the needy in our current society too.

    Should we let refugees come. YES. It will change this country as every wave of immigration beforehand has. Can anyone honestly say the previous waves of immigration have left us worse of? I think not. The arguments about “millions will come” are completely illogical and fallacious to anyone who works their way through the facts and human nature. The arguments about the evils of Islam are equally inane. Has anyone ever suggested banning Christians from the US coming here because one or two have shot doctors who do abortions or blown up abortion clinics? There are nut jobs in all people/creeds/colours/religions or beliefs. The presence of nut jobs should not be extended to all of that calling. Those reasons are nothing more than fear, xenophobia or thinks described racism.

    What happened to the fair go that my country used to stand for?

  32. drsmithy

    It is not the CURRENT few thousand asylum seekers/refugees that are the problem. But what happens if we take all those coming now without any resistance? There will be a tsunami of people rushing to get into this country. that’s what.
    Where is the evidence or precedent to support this assertion ?

    You don’t get to stay in Australia just by making it here. You actually have to be assessed as having a genuine claim to asylum or you are returned to whence you came.

    As Keith Thomas points out (above), ever increasing numbers of asylum seekers/refugees, especially of the Muslim variety, will result in demands to change the fabric of our society in ways that are not acceptable to the Australian people (or the British, for that matter).

    I’m happy to be corrected, but I do not believe the immigrants he is talking about are refugees.

  33. CML

    It is not the CURRENT few thousand asylum seekers/refugees that are the problem. But what happens if we take all those coming now without any resistance? There will be a tsunami of people rushing to get into this country. that’s what.
    As Keith Thomas points out (above), ever increasing numbers of asylum seekers/refugees, especially of the Muslim variety, will result in demands to change the fabric of our society in ways that are not acceptable to the Australian people (or the British, for that matter).
    Just for the record, I do NOT agree with what Abbott/Morrison are doing. Far better to be honest about this whole business. Withdraw from the Refugee Convention and return the vast majority of asylum seekers to their point of origin (where possible). Then we should increase our humanitarian intake to accommodate people in our region, such as the Pacific Islanders who will need our help in the near future, and those from Asia who are genuine refugees.
    Like other examples given here, the Refugee Convention was formulated for another time, in different circumstances. I simply do not believe that those who introduced this Convention had global mass migration in mind. But that is what it now seems to allow. A recipe for disaster!
    And, drsmithy, your last sentence says it all. Whatever way you put it, the rich and powerful will have their way. Why? Well because…they are rich and powerful. It was ever thus. That is why I said earlier that it doesn’t matter at all what I, and for that matter, most ‘ordinary people’ think. But be my guest – stress yourself out!

  34. Hominoid

    “No first world nation is going to accept this invasion without some form of resistance….”

    Resistance will eventually be futile. Have wealthy western nations learnt nothing? All the desperate measures put in place by Venal and Scared to deal with desperate people will just result in more desperation and more frustration.

    Have we not understood the implications of Catherine Wilson’s earlier article on climate refugees? These kind of numbers will make Operation Sovereign Borders look even more stupid and unimaginative than it currently appears.

    Rundle’s point about governments not preparing for the now 20 years ago is well made. Direct Action Plan Man is looking increasingly like a comic book anti-hero.

  35. drsmithy

    The 150,000 migrants who come to this country each year go through a very rigorous process. Those who come here all have skills that we need.
    Rubbish. They’re allowed in to keep wages suppressed and the property bubble ponzi inflated.

    What the hell are we going to do with unlimited numbers of uneducated religious fanatics?
    They’re not “uneducated religious fanatics” (at least, not before we lock them up for a decade).

    What we do with them is turn them into productive and loyal citizens by giving them help and opportunity when they needed it most and no-one else was there.

    No first world nation is going to accept this invasion without some form of resistance, and I think the time is rapidly approaching when force will be used. And not only by Australia. It doesn’t matter what I think – the rich and powerful in these first world countries will not accept these events, so generally that means war in defence of the civilised world.
    The real immigration problem in this country is not the measly percent or two of desperate refugees, it is the hundreds of thousands of economic mercenaries being funnelled into a handful of artificially-constrained, already-crowded cities with insufficient infrastructure. The anger that should be directed towards this policy has been skilfully redirected towards the few percent of asylum seekers by nearly fifteen years of successive Liberal and Labor Governments.

    The “cost” to the nation of refugees who receive next to no Government assistance and can generally take only the lowest-end of jobs (if they’re allowed to work at all) is basically zero.

    Far from “the rich and powerful” “not accepting these events”, it’s the rich and powerful who are driving them for their own selfish gain.

  36. Gavin Moodie

    I much prefer law and every other aspect of public life to be free of religion. But if religion is to infect public life I don’t see Islam as being necessarily better or worse than Christianity, Buddhism or any other major religion.

  37. Keith Thomas

    I’m presently living in England. The tension between immigrants here and the native English is not one of race. The immigrant problem here is primarily one of Muslim immigrants from Somalia and Pakistan and their insistence on Britain accommodating their desire for sharia (when they are not hacking an off-duty soldier to death in an “Islamic murder” – that’s how the killers depicted it).

    I have been surprised to see that the English Defence League here has an active Sikh Division, and LGTB Division (they reckon they don’t deserve stoning to death) as well as supporters from Indian and West Indian origins.

    There are 57 member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – can’t they take the bulk of Muslim refugees? A western non-Muslim country is not the logical or obvious place for refugees from Muslim conflicts who identify strongly with Islam – on the face of it, it appears cruel.

    Marilyn Shepherd, your humanity does you credit, but the world has moved on from the time in which you formed your views. CML mentions population/environment pressures and I have mentioned the “stealth jihad” under way in Britain and the rest of northern Europe. We have to live in the present and plan for the future. I am sorry it has come to this. There is no easy answer, no win-win. There is no Magic Pudding.

  38. shepherdmarilyn

    CML has been talking the same racist mindless crap for years Gavin, he will not change his heartless racist mind now.

  39. CML

    Thank you Gavin, even if you don’t agree with me.
    And Marilyn – I’m just a realist. Unlike you lot who want to change the world demographics. Won’t work I’m afraid, for all the reasons I’ve given previously.

  40. Gavin Moodie

    No discussion is improved by name calling. While one may disagree with CML’s view and even believe their arguments to be weak, they seem to have been put in good faith and in reasonable spirit. Further, CML’s view is probably shared by many other Australians, which would explain why Australian governments have such an inhumane policy and practices on asylum seekers. It is surely better to engage that view and try to change it rather than further alienate their holders by insulting them.

  41. shepherdmarilyn

    CML you are beyond moronic, do shut the hell up now.

  42. CML

    @ S..S.. As I said before, we will all end up worse off than your ‘poor third world’. So what exactly is the point?
    This is 2014, not 1788. You can’t go back in time and replicate what happened over 200 years ago. Your comparison is ridiculous.
    The 150,000 migrants who come to this country each year go through a very rigorous process. Those who come here all have skills that we need. What the hell are we going to do with unlimited numbers of uneducated religious fanatics?
    No first world nation is going to accept this invasion without some form of resistance, and I think the time is rapidly approaching when force will be used. And not only by Australia. It doesn’t matter what I think – the rich and powerful in these first world countries will not accept these events, so generally that means war in defence of the civilised world.
    You can argue with the word civilised if you wish, but historically that has been part of what wars are fought over. It is all about ‘protecting our way of life’, whether you like it or not.

  43. Gavin Moodie

    I don’t see how expanding the Christmas Island facilities and moving all but a small category of arrivals into community residency would have left the Right with ‘no story’. Surely the Right would have amplified its main story: boat arrivals, more boat arrivals.

  44. Shaniq'ua Shardonn'ay

    @CML – there are around 150,000 migrants arriving here each year anyway. I predict that some day refugees will increase to the point where we will not be able to stop them coming in by force – after all it’s not working in Europe or the U.S. As long as there is a rich first world and a poorer third world (who provide the cheap goods and services we enjoy) somebody, somewhere is going to be getting a forged visa or getting on a boat. We can attempt to deal with this problem or we can try and build a wall around the nation which will eventually be breached. Yep it may well rip up the fabric of our society – just like we ripped up the fabric of the society of the First Australians. Karma’s a bitch.

  45. zut alors

    ‘…Australia, which must be kept pristine, because it’s the land of the fair go.’

    Bravo, Guy.

    Why feel threatened by masses of refugees, our current and former PMs for the past 20 years have been more dangerous to our nation’s wellbeing than desperate people in boats. Our leaders have meddled with the national spirit and replaced our sense of charity with hollow fear.

    Rundle’s re-dubbing of the two major political parties is remarkably apt: Venal and Scared.

    I support the comments about Marilyn Shepherd relentlessly calling our attention to this subject.

  46. JennyWren

    Pleasure Marilyn though I imagine it must be a grim satisfaction for you. Let’s hope the sheeple galvanise but I’m not holding my breath

  47. shepherdmarilyn

    Thank you Jenny, I will be such a pest while I am breathing.

  48. drsmithy

    So everyone who wants or needs to come here does so?

    This is what we call a straw man fallacy.

  49. JennyWren

    I think almost every Crikey subscriber needs to applaud Marilyn Shepherd who has almost singlehandedly brought attention to this on almost every discussion thread in the last couple of years. Some thought her a pest and despised her vilification of Gillard, but at the end of the day whoever is in charge has to cop it sweet and Gillard was PM during a lot of the cruel measures brought in.
    If climate change continues the way it is going now, unchecked, we may well be the next ones on the boat when our country can no longer support us due to drought.
    For some reason Normal Person by Arcade Fire is on repeat in my head…

  50. Saugoof

    I did remember David Kang (although not the name) and also remember thinking at the time that once his reasoning came out he didn’t seem such a loon anymore after all.

    What really gets me is that if we actually wanted to, stopping the boats would be easy. It’s just that after years of hyperbole and inflammatory rhetoric this would be a hard sell politically. But we could stop the boats overnight if we work with Indonesia and opened up a refugee processing centre in Indonesia. The deal with Indonesia would need to include that Indonesia recognises the refugees as legal, temporary residents for the duration of their application process. Refugee applicants can register at the Australian centre in Indonesia. No one gets locked up. It would be up to them to check in with the centre to follow up on the status of their application every couple of weeks.

    Anyone who gets approved gets flown to a new life in Australia, anyone gets rejected (maybe after an appeal) will be returned to their country of origin. Same as happens now, except that there is zero point in getting on a boat if you can achieve the same outcome while still in Indonesia.

    The beauty of this is that just about everyone wins. Refugees win because they save themselves a dangerous journey and no longer get locked up, Indonesia wins because for them it solves the problem of having a large number of illegal and undocumented residents in the country and we win because we get to be the good guys and actually solve a problem. It would also save us a truckload of money in running those detention centres.

    It’s not a perfect solution either of course, but it’s a million times better than anything we’ve tried in the last two decades. We would also likely have to increase our refugee intake, but not by huge numbers. But after years of demonising refugees, a solution like this that could actually work wouldn’t be touched with a ten-foot pole by either party because there is no ‘punishing refugees’ element in it.

    It’s scary how much more effort we’re expending in treating people like crap than it would take to help someone.

  51. klewso

    Are there votes in humanitarianism?

  52. ianjohnno

    We now live in a nation that, both politically and socially, neglects the welfare of its own at-risk children and other unfortunates.
    Perish the thought that people may have to pay a bit more tax to address this, and other, problems.

    What chance then the poor bloody asylum seekers.

  53. CML

    @ Andybob. So everyone who wants or needs to come here does so? Surely in the end, Australia would be a worse place than the one these refugees departed from.
    What happens next? A civil war to see who gets to drink the diminishing supply of fresh water? The wealthy living in urban gated communities protected by armed guards, while the rest try to survive in our ‘plentiful’ desert areas? The complete break-down of law and order? Choose your own poison!
    And you wonder why the current inhabitants of this great land want to protect what they have????!!
    I don’t have any answers, but your suggestion of military intervention seems inevitable to me.

  54. Ian

    It makes me want to vomit and it is not as if all this cruelty will even be effective in the long run. We have become a mean-spirited country more ready to engage in wars than we are to seek humane and peaceful resolutions to problems facing the world…problems we have helped create in the first place.

    And CML if you are worried about population growth in Australia (as I am) then shouldn’t we be cutting down on all those 457 visas and the immigration driven by the business lobby before we get stuck into the vulnerable refugees fleeing conflicts in which some we have been a part and others to which we have turned a blind eye.

  55. maxcelcat

    I cannot tell you how depressing this is.

  56. shepherdmarilyn

    A couple of brothers from Cambodia were in jail going insane for over 5 years in the beginning and still they did nothing.

    It was of course all started by the racist ALP because Gareth Evans with Thatcher and Reagan made a deal to make the Khmer Rouge into naughty boys instead of murderous thugs.

  57. Cathy Pace

    I’m VERY, VERY angry about the asylum seeker debacle and have written letters, signed petitions, etc – all to no avail. I am a volunteer who teaches English to refugees and help out where I can.
    But none of this is actually changing anything for those labelled as ‘illegals’ and some truly insane ideas have been running through my head: let’s get a mob of freelance mercenaries on Manus Island, free all the detainees and bring them to Australia; mobilise a very large posse of concerned Australians, sail to Manus, storm the gates, release all the people.
    I just don’t know what to do to help these sad souls. And, hasn’t anyone thought what will happen in, say, 10 years time, when some have been admitted to this golden land but are very damaged and then turn into terrorists, mad bombers or whatever as a way of saying, ‘thanks for what you did to my mind’.

  58. Andybob

    CML our existing social fabric is the result of immigration. It may be that we will see numbers of refugees as you suggest, possibly environmental refugees as Bangladesh becomes uninhabitable. The only way to prevent the mass movement of such numbers would be military. What is it about us that would be worth saving if we were to do that ?

  59. CML

    All very well, Guy, but what do we do about it now? It is okay while a few thousand arrive each year, but what happens when a few hundred thousand to a million arrive each year? Surely we must have a concern for our existing social fabric? The environment in Australia (we are told) cannot support a doubling of the population, especially the availability of water.
    It seems an insoluble problem.

  60. Percy Pigeon

    Well said.

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