Jul 29, 2013

‘Let them all come’ is ‘stop the boats’ for unthinking progressives

A focus on outcomes rather than conspicuous compassion is required if the Left is to deal itself back into the asylum seeker debate.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

welcome refugees

Today it was former Liberal PM Malcolm Fraser’s turn to offer a progressive solution to boat arrivals, citing his own handling of Indo-Chinese refugees in the 1970s. He called for a regional processing centre in Indonesia and a resettlement agreement with other major resettlement countries (which is basically the US and Canada), because as Fraser admits, the numbers of asylum seekers are greater than Australia can manage.

As a former conservative prime minister who has been through a refugee “crisis” and handled it with aplomb, both at the time and for the long-term benefit of Australia through a successful Australian-Vietnamese community, Fraser brings far more to this debate than most progressives, particularly given his international experience and credibility as a Cold War warrior who was and is also respected for his role in African issues.

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77 thoughts on “‘Let them all come’ is ‘stop the boats’ for unthinking progressives

  1. morphy richards toaster

    Brilliant article, Bernard. Thanks for articulating what the rest of the media simply has not.

  2. chinda63

    Thank you for putting it so clearly.

    I used to be a “let them all come”, until it became increasingly apparent what the practical upshot of that policy was – more boats and more people drowning. No thanks.

    Let’s concentrate our efforts on resettling those too poor to afford plane tickets and boat rides who are already languishing in camps, patiently waiting their turn.

  3. Bo Gainsbourg

    There are some who say ‘let them all come’. There are also many who back some mix of solutions similar to Fraser’s….including, I would have thought, the Greens, or something close to it. Also incumbent on those who support the PNG solution and the oppositions current position is what happens when there are simply redirected drownings? That is, boats than would have sought to come to Australia now head for other countries. Out of the view of our media, with similar tragic circumstances. As the Greens are currently the only significant organised political/parliamentary voice not sharing the major parties view, can we have a closer look at their policy in relation to this? Would it not explain why Fraser was supportive of their general policy approach?

  4. Professor Tournesol

    Bernard I think that you are missing the main point. It’s a strawman argument to claim that any more than a small number of those who oppose asylum seeker assessment and resettlement are advocating an effective open border policy.
    The real issue is around how people who dare to arrive here without a visa and by boat are treated. Should these people be effectively incarcerated for life and further intentionally traumatised by our Government in order to provide a disincentive to possible new arrivals? Should over 2000 children be kept in indefinite lifetime detention without any examination of their asylum claim because they arrived here by boat with their parents who asked for asylum? I think that your understanding of what you call ‘the left’ is simplistic if this article is any example.

  5. ruawake

    Fraser always misses the point that we lost a war in Vietnam, that the Indo-Chinese refugees Australia resettled were about 10% of the total and that over 800,000 were resettled in the USA.

    Of course many were robbed and killed by Thai pirates, or picked up by merchant ships and dumped in Hong Kong.

    But heck we can do it all over again, rubbish Malcolm.

  6. Professor Tournesol

    ruawake, perhaps it’s escaping your notice but we are losing the war in Afghanistan too, and that we contributed to the war that also started the displacement of Iraqi citizens

  7. Trevor Kerr

    Spot on, Bernard.
    There’s another unresolved dilemma for this nation – how to include an honest statement about the First Australians in our foundation documents. Until we get that one near right, especially a frank treatment of frontier conflicts, we cannot treat “resettlement” of other peoples with the pragmatism called for by Malcolm Fraser.
    As it happens, Mr Fraser’s history with Western Victoria puts him in a good position to re-examine what Henry Reynolds is writing about in the book Forgotten War.

  8. Elvis

    those who say “let them all come” should be open about their assumptions and that their approach would have the outcome of ending the resettlement hopes of those who can’t reach Indonesia.

    This is only true so long as the Australian Government links unexpected asylum arrivals to the formal quota. By de-linking them (as per Greens policy) this argument would be completely removed.

  9. Andybob

    So actually protecting asylum seekers is to be denigrated as ‘let them all come’. The real humanitarians are those who support camps because we must be cruel to be kind. Perhaps we should prevent deaths at sea by not burning arrival vessels and assisting our neighbors in imposing very substantial penalties on those who put people to sea in unseaworthy craft. Asylum seekers are going to come unless we inflict worse conditions on them than they are fleeing. Explain to me again why that is a noble cause.

  10. Russell

    The notion that “Australians are racist” on refugees – or more particularly Western Sydney electorates are – is now so accepted (in some media circles) that it has become conventional wisdom.

    That the accusation so often comes from the progressive left, and more importantly, from people in electorates like mine where the Greens are the dominant force, is also telling. In the inner west of Sydney, it is rare now to see a non-anglo face. In Annandale, Balmain and Newtown, the only person anyone will see not exactly like them will be the waiter at a North African-French fusion restaurant. Or the driver of the taxi on the ride home. He’ll be making around $9 an hour, if he’s having a good night.

    In Western Sydney, there are huge migrant and refugee communities. People speaking a language other than English at home are now the majority in many places like Rhodes, Harris Park and Fairfield. Yet these people are “racist”?

    Bernard has hit the nail on the head. He can expect to be shouted at and denigrated – loudly. The whole refugee “debate” amongst progressives is actually about else entirely. Something that dare not speak its name.

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