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Sep 14, 2011

The morality of offshore processing

Crikey readers have their say.

The morality of offshore processing:

John Hunwick writes: Re. “The morality of offshore processing” (yesterday, item 1). Bernard Keane wrote:

“But a truly moral policy would mean increasing our humanitarian program not by a paltry 1000 a year as the government proposes, but up to well over 20,000 a year. As a wealthy country, we can afford it.

“Rather like climate change, asylum seekers are a global problem that Australia can’t solve by itself, but unlike climate change, the costs of taking action are small indeed; in fact, to the extent that refugees historically have become excellent citizens, we are a net beneficiary of our humanitarian program.”

I rarely disagree with Bernard Keane but here is one instance.

A truly moral policy would be NOT to increase the humanitarian program but to attend to the problems inflicted on Australia by our past poor population policy and its neglect of dealing with the associated issues of population growth.

I am yet to be convinced that Australia can be governed by a democratic system and simultaneously attend to the issues of overcrowding in cities, reining in private transport in favour of better public transport, managing the environment of the River Murray so it is sustainable, putting in place long-term solutions to climate change, insuring fresh water is available as needed, dealing with the Aboriginal housing crisis, repairing our soils, restoring our biodiversity and recreating up to 80% of the native forests we had 200 years ago. The costs of doing things like this are NOT small

When we have successfully attended to these problems to the extent that the Australian way of life is agreed by most to be on a sound ecologically sustainable footing, then and only then would I accept a significant increase in humanitarian refugees. Caring for others while increasingly jeopardising our own sustainable future is overloading a sinking life boat — an exercise in complete stupidity.

Peter Lee writes: It is one thing to write of the moral responses that Australia has made to refugee settlement, however it is also pertinent to mention the legal commitments that this country has agreed to. It is particularly relevant to mention that Australia is a signatory to the UN Convention, and the associated Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees and that we are therefore committed to assess the claims of people who arrive on our shores (and it may also be interpreted as our waters) and who claim asylum on the grounds that they satisfy  the UN Convention definition of a refugee.

It is also relevant at this time to remind Tony Abbot, and the conservative voters who have been polled and who wish to push off boat people, that the UN Convention and Protocol were signed by the government of Robert Menzies and that the greatest number of refugees, boat people or otherwise, were accepted by the government of Malcolm Fraser. While Fraser has not enamoured himself to Abbot, the deeds of Menzies are often praised by many members of the current opposition.

Perhaps it is also relevant, particularly in light of the High Court decision concerning the Malaysian solution, that signatories to the UN Convention are required to provide access to  education and employment, and rights equal to those of its citizens for those people determined to be refugees. Perhaps Abbot could explain how Nauru could satisfy those criteria when its only motive in signing the UN Convention is to attract Australian aid  to provide employment for its currently underemployed population. I would be pleased to receive your comments.

Martin Gordon writes: The revisiting of the Malaysian solution by the Gillard government is not unexpected as they are facing a desperate dilemma of their own making. I agree they need to deal with asylum claims on a needs rather than means basis, which is currently what Labor’s policy favours.

The problem is that the biggest beneficiary of the Malaysian solution is Malaysia as Australia pays for the swap of asylum claimants in both directions, and takes five times as many as we send there. Worse still the need for caps of 800 and 4000 becomes obvious as if it did not exist, as if the period since 2008 is any guide Australia’s entire refugee intake (13,750 annually) would be sourced more than entirely from Malaysia. I am not sure if Gillard has completely thought through the carrots and sticks of this policy, but Malaysia is getting all the carrots and Australia appears to be getting the stick (or cane!).

Niall Clugston writes: There seems to be a lot of legalism and posturing in the debate about onshore and offshore processing of asylum seekers, and not much concern about the refugees as people.

Personally, so long as I was genuinely being assessed, I would much rather be free in Malaysia than locked up in one of Australia’s desert prison camps.

The Australian Literary Review:

Pamela Papadopoulos writes: Re. “Australian Literary Review shuts up shop” (yesterday, item 2). The Australian Literary Review had the best analysis of the Greek crisis that I have read thus far in any mainstream Australian newspaper.

There are always going to be critics of The Australian, but its cultural/arts/literary supplements are some of the best in Australia.

Thanks to the editor for a great read  and it will be sadly missed in this format.

The Rugby World Cup:

Andrew Dempster writes: Gary Neat (yesterday, comments) wrote: “… the same [Kiwi] crowd that is now booing the Australian team at the World Cup. (Hey, didn’t we give tens of millions of dollars to this lot after the Christchurch earthquake?)”

I agree with Gary and can only explain it thus: the ugly Australians can be found at the rugby league or AFL; the ugly Brit (or any northern hemisphere resident) is at the soccer. Only in New Zealand are these exemplars of bad sportsmanship found at the rugby. I’ve sat next to several at Bledisloe matches and very ugly and unpleasant they are.

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