Dec 22, 2011

Refugee debate dominated by compromise, not core promises

The anti-mandatory detention campaign, which came from the Left, has a simple demand -- that the country live up to its freely taken-on treaty obligations. Why have commentators like Robert Manne lost sight of that?

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


God oh god, it’s Christmas and I wanted to write some sort of light frippery that allowed me to get in a joke about news that Molly Meldrum’s condition being described as ‘stable’ was a lifetime first. But there’s no alternative to saying a word or two on the strange turn that the refugee debate has taken, in the wake of the sinking of Siev-221, and the reaction it has produced in the commentariat.

M’colleague Keane summed it up by saying yesterday that: “Opinion now seems to be shifting to recognise that, to the extent that if the Australian government can take action to deter people from risking their lives, it should.”

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154 thoughts on “Refugee debate dominated by compromise, not core promises

  1. Suzanne Blake

    “not core promises” Guy, that is because Gillard has proven time and time again that she cannot be trusted and li es

  2. Filth Dimension

    Snooze, I’m surprised you made it to the end of this article. Not surprised that your comment is meaningless in light of it.

  3. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Seriously deadly, Guy. The politician that can articulate the principled position and sell it, unsullied, to the Australian public, can/will be the next prime minister.

  4. paddy

    A much better read than a light hearted piece on Molly Guy.

    I can’t think of any simple solutions to the problem either.
    But there is one thing that seems to have been ignored in all the debate surrounding the AS storm.
    The incessant cries of “leaky boats” are a *direct* consequence of the Govt’s policy of seizing all vessels carrying asylum seekers.
    There are plenty of perfectly seaworthy boats, with excellent, experienced crews in Indonesia. But they’re not going to ferry refugees to Australia, while the Govt has such a draconian policy of seizure and imprisonment in place.

    Unfortunately, it’s probably too much to hope that the policy might change.

  5. Holden Back

    S_pam B_ot

  6. S

    Rundle seems to have neglected the role of evidence in all of this.

    The Pacific Solution reduce the number of boat arrivals to negligible levels and as a consequence, reduced the need for detention to negligible levels. With lowering detention costs, more resources were available to provide to refugees.

    During the Pacific Solution, only 450 people arrived by boat, and so we only needed to detain 450 people. Since the end of the Pacific Solution, more than 14,000 boat people have arrived, and been subsequently detained.

    Which is more “humane”?

  7. Kfix

    Correlation doesn’t equal causation, S. Must do better.

  8. Shorty

    Normally I don’t make it past a Rundle article where it mentions “notion”, “Left”, “Right”, some philosophical term like “irreducible”, or just about any term with “quotation marks”, I simply sigh and move on to the next article.

    This afternoon I forced myself to fully take in the horror of his thinking and muddled writing style. Trying to put every argument in a Right/Left, progressive/reactionary dialectic is not appropriate and makes his articles a hard read. Put simply, I would have got more useful information about refugee policy from reading my tea leaves in this morning.

    Please somebody think of the readers and tell Rundle the cold war is over and assign him a good sub-editor.

  9. Clytie

    Thanks, Guy. I needed that. 🙂

    The utilitarian sideshow was getting me down.

  10. Robert Smith

    I think you are a bit tough on Mr Keane and Professor Manne. I read their stuff as attempts to shift the debate into realistic policy analysis.

    One good result is support for upping the resettlement program and trying to provide a pathway for people stuck ‘in transit’ in Indonesia and elsewhere.

    However I am still unsure about the evidence on which some sort of Malaysia/Nauru shandy could be based. How much do we really know about what drives asylum seekers to specific courses of action? What is the probability that if things are bad enough people will just see a stretch in Malaysia/Nauru as part of an ‘application process’.

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