Asylum seekers:

Moira Smith writes: Ken Lambert (yesterday, comments) wrote: “Australia is a country that, by and large, follows the rules and procedures set down in its laws.”

Is this supposed to be a “criticism” of Australia — especially as we are here talking about a) international human rights treaty obligations and b) some of the most vulnerable, mistreated people on the planet?

You seem to think these refugees are rich people who can “afford” to pay people smugglers and all the other expenses of getting family member(s) to safety. Do you really reckon these people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Burma, etc, have large savings accounts?

(And if they were well-heeled, wouldn’t they be also powerful/influential and would they need to escape in the first place?) I ask you, if it was your son/daughter/wife, wouldn’t you be asking relatives for loans, selling up what you could, to scrape the money together to try and ensure at least one member of your family got to safety?

And in fact I understand that’s why there are so many “unaccompanied minors” on these boats — the family got together and decided to get one person out, to try and ensure that at least one had a possible future somewhere else.

My family did much the same in Northern Ireland in May 1974 when (to quote Wikipedia) “Northern Ireland grinds to a halt as the Ulster Workers’ Council calls a strike following the defeat of an anti-Sunningdale Agreement motion.”

We feared the worse, including the imminent breakdown of civil society. My parents used their last tank of petrol to take my small brother to the airport to catch a plan to Glasgow where he could live with family friends. And I — independently — managed to get on what was then thought to be the last boat out of Belfast to get to England and friends who would take me in. In my backpack was my post office savings book which I believe then contained the grand total of about £3  (not even a week’s wage in those days).

We were lucky — things improved. And my brother and I were British citizens travelling to another part of Britain — passports not required. But families and individuals will go to great lengths to try to preserve their lives and futures. It’s not simply a question of “Have money, will travel”. It’s a question of “Who can get out, and how?”. If you’ve never experienced such an event, you really shouldn’t comment so confidently.

Ken suggests that “we simply withdraw from the UN Convention and enact our version into law. This would bring us into line with most of the countries in our region.” Great. Let’s line up with PNG, Malaysia, Fiji, Solomon Islands, etc. But not New Zealand, of course — who have taken so many of “our” asylum seekers out the goodness of their hearts, including many from the Tampa.

Justin Templer writes: Ken Lambert argues elegantly that Australia’s rules-based approach to illegal arrivals on our shores, which includes surrendering our sovereignty and flexibility to act through being a signatory to the convention on the Status of Refugees, allows our processes to be “gamed” by those who have the money to fund the boat trip to our shores. And it is a lot of money to anyone earning a typical wage of $2 per day.

Those millions of refugees who are unable to fund a boat trip or who are simply geographically unable to get here by boat (by virtue of being in Somalia) are left to rot and maybe die in refugee camps. What astounds me is the myopic view of the so-called refugee advocates who beat the drum for the people who have paid a relative fortune to move from one safe sanctuary to another. It is pure cant and hypocrisy.

To them I would ask: should we be chartering Qantas planes to bring to Australia the refugees in Somalia who are literally dying of hunger?  If not, why not?

Thomson:

David Havyatt writes: Re. “Thomson’s tax time bomb. Tick, tick, tick” (yesterday, item 3). Chris Seage might know about tax but clearly little about politics and the parliament.  The government would expect a question about tax regarding Thomson and having a statement of fact prepared by the Tax Office was prudent as it looked less like dodging. They didn’t need a private ruling or to have consulted tax specialists. On tax however I suspect he has also erred.

Craig Thomson is not an employee of the ALP, he is an employee of the Parliament. The ALP is quite free to make a gift to him — indeed it is hard to argue that the payment would be income as he certainly has provided no “service” to the ALP. A payment to keep Thomson from becoming bankrupt need not result in an ongoing cycle of new tax debts.

Climate change:

Tamas Calderwood writes: Matt Saxon (yesterday, comments) asked for a link to the UAH satellite temperature data. That link is here.

Peter Fray

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