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Jul 30, 2013

Stop the boats, keep the planes

Crikey readers talk asylum seekers, 457 visas and the future of live music.

Keeping out boat people …

Vincent Burke writes: Re. “‘Let them all come’ is ‘stop the boats’ for unthinking progressives” (yesterday). It’s not so daft to suggest let them all come. Why not tell people who are thinking of booking a passage with the people smugglers to instead buy a tourism package (including accommodation) with a return ticket on a Australian government-organised flight, with the proviso that if they are not deemed to be genuine refugees they will use the return portion of their ticket to go back to where they came from? If the program is structured properly, the government stands to gain rather than having to meet the huge cost of policing our waters and paying for the accommodation of the asylum seekers. For the asylum seekers, the benefit is avoiding the risk of being drowned at sea, while paying pretty much the same to the government tour operator rather than the evil people smugglers. Is that too easy to be a solution or not?

Dylan Taylor writes: It’s good, and quite a relief, to see some realism in the demeaning and fruitless debate about asylum seekers coming by boat.

The Greens ( on which planet does Sarah Hansen-Young live ?) together with David Manne and the Socialist Left  must make up about 10% to 12 % of the population who genuinely think that “let them all come in” is a viable policy. It’s easy when you are not in government to produce these bright ideas. To MPs with seats in the western suburbs, it sounds like a suicide note.

Forget the “racist elements” — no country, however benign in its attitude to asylum seekers, can adopt a “let them all in” policy. It would be sheer madness. Which is why, in the face of persistent opinion polling that shows that that a majority of Australians do not wish to see such a policy, both major political parties have to try to deter them.

Add to this the fact that the people smugglers have  the most to gain from such a policy — and more people will drown en route — is it really a policy that any government can adopt?

So we have Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison dog-whistling, declaring war on refugees and bringing on Dr Strangelove to explain their “military solution” — with a three-star general tasked to “turn back the boats” — against Kevin Rudd and his “PNG policy”, which offers no incentive at all to asylum seekers to get on a boat.

Neither party can guarantee success- so, one must hope ( and pray?) that all this will deter at least some people or at least encourage them to save up and buy a plane ticket instead. As for the rest, just yelling from the sidelines or preaching from pulpits is not likely to achieve anything useful.

… but treating 457 visa holders fairly

Kate Kennedy writes: Re. “Stop the planes? The frustrations of educated, working migrants” (yesterday). I enjoyed your balanced and timely article. He’s my two cents worth:

I have a German friend on a 457 visa who is being sponsored by the firm that he has been working for. He applied for a promotion, but because he has to be in the same job for two years to be eligible for permanent residency he cannot take it.

I’m not sure if the company employing him is interpreting the rules to suit themselves, but it looks like exploitation to me.

Striking the right chord

Peter Nevin writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday). It was interesting to read about the announcement of the National Office for Live Music in today’s Crikey. What particularly caught my eye was that no fewer than three of the seven state representatives (Dave Faulkner, Kevin Mitchell and Kav Temperley) originally hail from Western Australia.

Given the current battle between Messrs Rudd and Barnett over Gonski, perhaps there’s scope to sweeten the deal with a “(music) royalties for regions” program?

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4 thoughts on “Stop the boats, keep the planes

  1. parrick

    As our own Government upgrades its ability to keep tabs on us all via the new $630 million ASIO HQ and a bottomless pit of funds to staff it with snoopers, it cannot be beyond their capacity to keep track of a few thousand asylum seekers released into the community. Even if they have to wear a trackable ID bracelet or some such chip, it would give our snoops something to practice on while they’re waiting on the next big terror plot … did I say next? Perhaps I meant, first.
    Meanwhile the asylum seekers could be reviewed, assessed and their fate determined without Australia having to set up hellhole concentration camps. We could even celebrate the deportation of ‘economic refugees’ if we were still so inclined.

  2. Victor

    To Dylan Tayor

    ‘Let them all come in” is NOT Greens policy. Greens policy is essentially the same as the policy Malcolm Fraser successfully applied in the 1970’s and 1980’s. That is why Malcolm Fraser is supporting Sarah Hanson-Young’s campaign for re-election.

  3. ScottoJames

    I still can’t quite fathom why the best that good minds can propose to achieve the aim of both offering protection to those who require it, and reducing the number of deaths at sea, is state-funded charter flights or ferries. Bernard did it, and Dylan Taylor and Vincent Burke do it too in their comments published in Tuesday’s edition.

    Asylum seekers don’t come by boat because it’s cheaper than an airfare, as Dylan implies (encourage them to save up and buy a plane ticket hey?), nor because they are unable to navigate the Jetstar website.

    More than any other structural obstacle it is our visa requirements that objectively render a boat the best bet for those who choose it. These requirements, and the way they are applied, are completely within the control of the government, and they are the only thing between an asylum-seeker with a passport and the spectacular safety and affordability of air travel.

    The visa requirements are designed to ensure people who are likely to need protection don’t get visitor, student or business visas. And the fact that most asylum seekers who arrive without visas are in fact refugees and most asylum seekers who arrive with visas are not refugees demonstrates just how effective this filter has been.

    It’s true that many asylum seekers who come by boat to Australia are are unable to obtain a passport from their country of origin for good reasons. (“I’m stateless” is the best reason, but other good’ns include “the nature of what have fled was such that there was no time to apply for a passport and wait for it to be issued”; “government wants to kill me – it controls the passports”; “government doesn’t issue passports to people of my age/ethnicity/religion/means”; and “I haven’t completed compulsory military service”).

    But if those many thousands of boat people in Australia who have (or could have obtained) a passport, had even the remotest chance of successfully obtaining a tourist visa, that is what they would have chosen every time.

    People reading this have every right to prefer the status quo to a situation in which “boat people” would be coming through airports and staying in hostels or with friends, all for much less money than they otherwise spend. But it’s disingenuous for Australians to attack the mode of transport of vulnerable people on the basis of the unscrupulousness of people smugglers when our own systems for granting visas to visitors have already dictated that people from certain countries or with certain profiles are – by definition – people we don’t want here at all.

  4. Daly

    Seconded, scottojames