People smuggling:

Neil James, Executive Director, Australia Defence Association, writes: Like many Australians, David Gothard (yesterday, comments) misses quite a few points with his draconian proposals to curb illegal entry into Australia. His suggestions also appear to reflect one extreme of the debate — as, on the opposite extreme, do those who advocate granting permanent Australian residency and eventually citizenship without question to every foreigner who turns up and wants it.

Moreover, the laws suggested already mostly exist, especially in regard to the people doing the smuggling for commercial reasons — if not always those being smuggled or those smuggling them due to non-commercial motivations.

Most importantly such proposals ignore that our international law responsibilities (such as the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol) mean we cannot just make all unauthorised entry to Australia illegal. Australian law must be able to differentiate between genuine asylum seekers arriving in an unauthorised manner by boat or jetliner, which is not in itself necessarily illegal, and anyone else who arrives by such means (including bogus asylum seekers and unauthorised immigrants of all varieties).

Our national dilemma strategically, and our public debate domestically, are also much affected by factors which Australia shares with very few countries (whether they are signatories to the Convention or not). This is why public debate on refugee policy in Australia tends to emotionally dwell on the symptoms of the dilemma so much rather than its actual strategic, legal and moral causes.

Niall Clugston writes: David Gothard seems to think he has the answer to “people smuggling”: “Legislate to make it a Criminal Offence to enter or attempt to enter Australia other than at an approved Port of Entry and with appropriate documents. Penalty five years incarceration.”

But illegal immigration is already a crime, and the boatpeople who attract all the attention are not trying to infiltrate Australia through the north-west frontier. They are, by and large, presenting themselves at a port with documentation supporting asylum claims under Australian law.

Kevin Rudd:

Michael Frame writes: Re. “Mungo: Rudd slowly shedding Dr Jekyll image in favour of Hyde” (yesterday, item 14). Mungo MacCallum, you ask the question as to whether the Rudd we see now is the real one?  Hey, hello, yes it is!  This is the Rudd many of us have suspected right from the start, hidden under the “nice guy” veneer.

A very good reason for our not voting for him in the first place – that, and the fact that all he really wants is to be the head honcho at the UN!  As for a Bill of Rights – we don’t need one AT ALL.  We do need a Bill of Obligations to make sure that everyone who claims to be Australian and to be working for the lucky country first declares what they can/will do FOR it, before receiving any more legal excuses for bludging, indolence and reasons why we must allow in refugees who get paid more than our own battler pensioners.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey