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Federal

Feb 4, 2016

Govt has mangled its moral calculus on asylum seekers

By adopting an unnecessarily punitive policy of detention, the government has created a self-perpetuating problem of what to do with the victims of "offshore processing".

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The government’s growing political problem around returning asylum seekers to Nauru flows directly from its decision to favour a policy of punitive detention over one of offshore processing for maritime arrivals.

While it constantly uses the phrase “offshore processing”, the government has not implemented such a policy. The status of asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island is of indefinite detention, rather than being subject to a finite processing period, and of detention in hellish, punitive conditions in which murder, rape and child abuse have all occurred, in addition to the physical and mental health impacts of prolonged detention.

The offshore processing model proposed by Angus Houston, Michael L’Estrange and Paris Aristotle in 2012 was very different. Detention was proposed to be of a duration limited to a period of time that ensured maritime arrivals received no advantage over asylum seekers who had not tried to reach Australia. And detention was to involve a strong framework of support for detainees to address their educational and health needs while awaiting resettlement. That panel recommended that model fully aware of the mental health impacts of long-term detention — Aristotle noted that such impacts were better than people dying in boats trying to reach Australia.

That was the moral calculus at the heart of their recommendations: offshore processing wasn’t ideal, but if it helped to stop maritime arrivals and the deaths at sea that were a necessary component of maritime arrivals, then it was a justifiable policy. The panel cast that calculus in terms of changing the incentives for asylum seekers — increase the incentive to not get on a boat by substantially lifting our humanitarian intake, decrease the incentive to get on one by preventing any advantage to those who did.

Few opponents of offshore detention will engage with this moral calculus — they dismiss the justification of preventing drownings at sea as a figleaf for hostility to refugees. Undoubtedly for many in politics (in both major parties), and many in the community, it plays such a role. Some opponents also assert — without offering a coherent argument — that “ends don’t justify means”. But that doesn’t wave away the moral implications of adopting any policy that increases the chances of people dying at sea. That is a consequence that must always be considered, even if some hold such a position disingenuously. And responsible policymakers must always consider the consequences of every policy.

But the government’s problem — and that of Labor, which has uncritically accepted every aspect of the government’s treatment of asylum seekers — is that it has instead implemented a kind of nightmare version of offshore processing, and is now having to deal with the consequences in terms of broken bodies and minds. Offers from New Zealand to resettle some asylum seekers have been rejected. The Department of Immigration treated the widespread incidence of rape, sexual and physical abuse of women and children on Nauru as an inconvenience that was nothing to do with the government, until it became too difficult politically to ignore.

Both Labor and the Coalition, in government, failed to provide adequate facilities for the housing of families on Nauru. Medical treatment and access to appropriate services was poor (the government continues to insist medical services for detainees are “on par” with those available in Australia, presumably on the basis that they’re on par with the most remote and isolated communities in the country). Asylum seekers have been essentially left to the mercy of people on Nauru, with rape and physical assault occurring outside the “processing” centre with little apparent consequence for the offenders. And the government put more effort into trying to hide evidence of the treatment of detainees than to remedy it.

Now it faces the choice: does it send profoundly damaged people, especially children, back to Nauru (where, notionally, they are not “detained”) to endure more of the conditions that have damaged them; does it send a five-year-old child who has been raped back to a place where his rapist roams free? Does it perpetuate conditions that may well result in detainees killing themselves and harming themselves?

And this is a self-perpetuating problem: the longer the government maintains its punitive version of “offshore processing”, the more people will be damaged, the more people will be raped and abused, the more people will need to come to Australia to access the kind of services that are required to try to begin repairing the damage done to them.

The government argues that returning them to Nauru is necessary in order to ensure maritime arrivals don’t restart — that, in effect, their suffering is required to prevent future deaths of as-yet unidentified people. But that moral calculus is no longer so straightforward. The government itself has magnified, far beyond necessary, the suffering of detainees for its own political convenience. Moreover, it claims that its boat turnbacks policy has been highly effective in stopping boats reaching Australia. What the government is really arguing, therefore, is that it is required to continue gratuitously punishing detainees far beyond the requirements of policy in order to prevent further maritime arrivals, even though it has another, effective policy in place to prevent maritime arrivals.

“Let Them Stay” is a simplistic slogan that ignores the complex morality of real-world decisions and their consequences. But the government’s reflexive invocation of the need to stop the boats is similarly simplistic — and hides the fact that it has consciously adopted a policy of deliberate cruelty that has destroyed any moral case for what Australia is doing to asylum seekers.

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63 thoughts on “Govt has mangled its moral calculus on asylum seekers

  1. Venise Alstergren

    I’ve had an idea about the offshore processing problem, as it affects Nauru and Manus Islands.

    Australia could take over these islands-don’t know the price of doing this. It would be costly. Once achieved they would be part of Australia. Problems could be solved by using the Norfolk Island principal. Yes, the poor old taxpayer would be lumbered with the costs; but think of the joy we will feel when government members cease their cant about caring for the drowning deaths at sea.

  2. Lee Tinson

    #61 Ken, This problem we have with smugglers is just another confected thing. It’s linked to exactly the sort of moral posturing you accuse Hanson-Young of (your disingenuous concern for potential drownings at sea). And you fell for it.

  3. Ken Lambert

    Lee Tinson,

    Not only made up; but gormlessly reported by the ABC which apologised today for reporting the ‘5 year old rape victim’ when in fact the child was 10+ and had ‘skin contact’ with somebody.

    The moral posturing of the Hansen Youngs and their taxpayer funded advocates and useful idiots in the media is past irritating; it is music to the smuggler’s ears.

  4. Lee Tinson

    On comment #58

    and yet they have been supported by other means. Sarah Hanson-Young, for example, gave a pretty comprehensive media release before your post. Senator Hanson-Young has a good record of accuracy of her statements regarding forced detention. Maybe the media, and particularly the australian, would prefer not to report this.

    As for making it up … well, David, you’d know about that.

  5. David Hand

    You’re making it up Pamela.
    The media is full of stories about high levels of self harm among detainees. It includes the Human Rights Commission, the Refugee Action Coalition, Fairfax and the ABC as well as The Australian.

    To say that the people brought to Australia from Nauru had medical conditions that had nothing to do with self harm cannot be supported by any available media stories from anywhere.

  6. Pamela

    The fact is that the Australian article was not based on fact. The people brought down from Nauru for medical treatment came for medical and surgical reasons that had nothing to do with Self Harm but Haters will believe what they wish irrespective f the facts.
    The Australian is nothing but a biased conservative organ with an agenda that has nothing to do with Australian values.

  7. drsmithy

    The fact remains that people who enter Australia on tourist visas do so legally and middle Australia doesn’t mind very much. When some of them overstay, Australians generally expect immigration authorities to make them leave and this generally happens.

    No it doesn’t. There are huge numbers of visa overstayers in Australia.

    Outside of the laser focus on boat people, visas and immigration in Australia are widely rorted, poorly enforced jokes. As demonstrated by the large number of overstayers, huge numbers of foreign students working illegally for companies like 7-11, and zero enforcement around property purchases by foreign nationals.

    If they apply for asylum, they are simply exercising their legal right to do so and most Australians expect immigration authorities to process them just like any other claim.

    Asylum seekers who arrive on boats are also “simply exercising their legal right to claim asylum”.

    The fact that their identity is known and verified makes this much easier. This idea that the real problem lies with people who arrive by plane is a complete red herring.

    The simple fact is the VAST majority of “illegal immigrants” arrive by plane. Knowing the identity they used to get on the plane is, of course, an irrelevant point as the equivalent is knowing a refugee’s identity before they are released in to the community, which we do.

    Nobody, as far as I know, is seriously suggesting we simply let asylum seekers walk off boats and disappear into the population.

    And the 90-95% number is plainly wrong. According to the department of immigration, there are 62,000 visa over stayers of whom half have been here more than 5 years. So year on year it’s about 5,000 and only a tiny fraction apply for asylum. When the boats were coming the air/ boat asylum claim split was 50-50 and far fewer air applications were successful.

    You are disingenuously flipping the goal posts around from sentence to sentence, and cherry-picking numbers, to suit your argument.

    If your problem is with “illegal immigrants”, then a backpacker overstaying their visa is just as “illegal” as an asylum seeker on a boat.

    If your problem is with asylum seekers arriving without ID, then there is no problem as their ID is verified before they are allowed into the country and *vastly* more thoroughly than anyone arriving on a plane (no matter what visa they use).

    The doctor doesn’t like immigration. He said so in 25.

    I did not. Stop lying.

    I said we have had very high rates of immigration for decades, for mostly the wrong reasons, and they have been accompanied by comically inadequate infrastructure investment. People are rightfully quite angry about this as the result is a negative impact on their quality of life, and their anger has been directed through a dedicated and co-ordinated campaign of misinformation, onto a proportional handful of people (refguees) who are the least responsible, at any level imaginable, for those problems. FFS, we had Liberals MPs blaming traffic congestion on refugees.

  8. David Hand

    Well Bob,
    Your comment (46) is uncalled for and offensive. What’s more it doesn’t actually contain any commentary at all about the issue. Personally insulting people you disagree with is pretty lame and shows a lack of ideas.

    You can do better than that.

  9. David Hand

    I see in Saturday’s Australian a story that the self-harm on Nauru stopped when the government stopped flying whole families into Australia along with the self harmer.

    Yep, hurting yourself bought you and your family a ticket to the mainland and into the arms of a waiting activist lawyer. Most of the 272 people who may return to Nauru tagged along with a self injured family member.

    This story is so damaging to the refugee lobby that Dutton or Murdoch must have made it up. Actually it can’t be true because the ABC has not reported it.

  10. klewso

    And “stop the drownings/people smugglers” are Surströmming.

  11. drsmithy

    The DIAC website states unambiguously that it is unlawful to enter Australia without a valid visa. This applies to planes, boats, tunnels, spacecraft.

    Jaysus. I can’t believe people still talk about this as if it means anything.

    Someone entering Australia without a visa is classified as an unlawful non-citizen. They have not committed a criminal offence.

    This has been pointed out to you, and everyone else who tries to deceive on the topic, numerous times.

    It’s hard to do it by plane because airlines won’t let you board if you don’t have a valid visa as they would have to stand the cost of returning you if immigration don’t let you in.

    Rrrrright. So you apparently don’t have a problem with people overstaying their visas, even though they’re in exactly the same “unlawful” (“illegal immigrant”) status as a boat arrival, because when they first entered they had a visa ?

    I’ll give you an 8/10 for mental gymnastics.

    Where do people who misrepresent themselves to get, say, a tourist visa then later claim asylum sit in your mind ? Illegal immigrant ?

  12. Lee Tinson

    David: cherry picking, disingenuous and totally ignorant of our international obligations. Just like this government. Don’t try to deny your racism and xenophobia by hiding behind your own convenient interpretation of the law.

  13. David Hand

    The DIAC website states unambiguously that it is unlawful to enter Australia without a valid visa. This applies to planes, boats, tunnels, spacecraft.

    It’s hard to do it by plane because airlines won’t let you board if you don’t have a valid visa as they would have to stand the cost of returning you if immigration don’t let you in.

  14. ajf

    “The cold hard fact in all this is that most Australian voters want secure borders and control over who arrives.”

    Yes, this is true. It is true because these people are massively, massively racist.

    We are talking here about people who are scared of babies being allowed to remain in Australia.

    Literally scared of literal babies.

    And we are allowing these people to dictate public policy.

    It does not reflect well on us as a nation.

  15. Marilyn Shepherd

    It is a legal right to come here by sea, it is the likes of David Hand who have always muddied the waters.

    And here is a reminder of how the scum in the ALP led us to these atrocities and why Bernard mangles his own morality.
    http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=45949#.VrQ8ndxulAg

  16. Lee Tinson

    #43 David, if what you say is true (and there’s no evidence for that) then most of Australia believes they are economic migrants, but still with little or no evidence, which makes them

    a) Wrong

    b) racist and xenophobic and posturing shrilly.

    A bipartisan policy based on casual racism and fear whipped up by opportunistic politicians (is there another sort) just makes the policy wrong in a bipartisan way

  17. AR

    Interesting watching OneHand do the ole trope “..we have always been at War with ..insert..” – he’s dropped the Drowning thingy and is now going for the buck nigra du jour, Koln & Malmo.
    Can Dearborn, Mich. be far behind?

  18. Bob the builder

    David Hand is now revealing himself to be merely a racist. He’s just scared of all the darkies coming here and raping ‘our’ women, not about the so-called safety of people coming by boats. A good illustration of how the flimsy safety argument is a fig-leaf for naked racism.

    I suggest not feeding the troll.

  19. David Hand

    Well Lee,
    Most of middle Australia believes that asylum seekers who come by boat are economic migrants. That’s why there is a bipartisan policy position. The ALP discovered that open borders equalled electoral annihilation after they were mugged by 50,000 arrivals after dismantling the Howard government measures.

    Labelling this as careless cruelty may make you possibly feel ashamed to be Australian but most Australians see through the shrill posturing of people like SHY et al.

    In the meanwhile, we have a cautionary tale unfolding daily in Germany and Sweden. People are watching that too.

  20. David Hand

    Of course I read the above AR.
    The fact remains that people who enter Australia on tourist visas do so legally and middle Australia doesn’t mind very much. When some of them overstay, Australians generally expect immigration authorities to make them leave and this generally happens. If they apply for asylum, they are simply exercising their legal right to do so and most Australians expect immigration authorities to process them just like any other claim.

    The fact that their identity is known and verified makes this much easier. This idea that the real problem lies with people who arrive by plane is a complete red herring. And the 90-95% number is plainly wrong. According to the department of immigration, there are 62,000 visa over stayers of whom half have been here more than 5 years. So year on year it’s about 5,000 and only a tiny fraction apply for asylum. When the boats were coming the air/ boat asylum claim split was 50-50 and far fewer air applications were successful.

    The doctor doesn’t like immigration. He said so in 25.

  21. Lee Tinson

    On Comment #32. Many people don’t see stopping the boats, or not letting them come, as a worthwhile objective. If keeping asylum seekers out of Australia is your objective then no amount of moralising can make anything you say right.

    Choosing to believe they are economic migrants (with little or no evidence) is exactly the sort of lazy and careless cruelty we’ve come to expect from Dutton et. al.

  22. drsmithy

    If someone enters Australia legally with a passport and valid visa, few Australians have a problem with it. Maybe the doctor and you and the rest of the anti-immigration set.

    I think you’ll find a great deal of people have problems with our extremely high immigration levels.

    Of course, you’re being dishonest again, because refugees don’t enter the country without visas or identification. That is ostensibly the purpose of our tropical concentration camps, after all.

    What most Australians have a problem with is people who just turn up with no documentation and a story. Though refugee advocates loudly claim that the numbers are tiny, we can all watch Angela Merkel struggle with the consequences of such a foolish world view.

    The numbers are tiny. Boat arrivals are a rounding error in our immigration statistics.

    Again, facts vs hysterical, dishonest fearmongering.

  23. drsmithy

    The plane – boat thing is a red herring.

    That’s pretty funny from someone as consistently disingenuous on this topic as you.

    Fact is most refugees arrive into the country on planes, usually entering with tourist visas. They may subsequently claim asylum, or just disappear into the community.
    Fact is most asylum-seekers who arrive on boats are found to be refugees.
    Fact is boat arrivals are not allowed into the community until their “story” is verified and background known.

  24. Lee Tinson

    Good onya Ken. Just one problem. Not everyone agrees with the “stop the boats” policy, the most egregious legacy left us by Abbott. So the rest of your rant becomes pointless. Of course the last quarter of it didn’t need help. I was pointless anyway

  25. AR

    OneHand – can/did you not read the above?
    Clearly you can’t write – “Maybe the doctor and you and the rest of the anti-immigration set”!
    What does that even mean?
    Do you really mean that if someone comes on a 676 then never leaves that is just dunky-hory?

  26. David Hand

    Well, AR
    If someone enters Australia legally with a passport and valid visa, few Australians have a problem with it. Maybe the doctor and you and the rest of the anti-immigration set.

    What most Australians have a problem with is people who just turn up with no documentation and a story. Though refugee advocates loudly claim that the numbers are tiny, we can all watch Angela Merkel struggle with the consequences of such a foolish world view.

    It’s going to be distressing and educational.

  27. AR

    DavidH – “Everyone who comes by plane shows their passport at immigration.
    That is technically wrong and the officers at the Primary Line are drilled on what to do when it happens.
    It is not just “
    Everyone who comes by leaky boat (who) destroys their passport“.
    Air passengers are usually part of a well organised ring and have simply entrusted all their docs. to the agent once aboard the same flight.
    This is perfectly legal (seeming), more often than not Australian.
    Nothing is less secure than a high security area once access has been granted.
    However I assume you know that the simpler method, used by 95% of asylum claims, is to arrive on a tourist visa.
    The travel agencies who sell the ticket in (far too many) countries can “issue” Australian 676 visas entirely legally on the flimsiest documentation.
    These enable entry and the person just disappears into the general population, of the specific population which is relevant.
    When, or rather if, caught they have usually become well established, not infrequently business owners and employers.
    Then they claim asylum.
    Simples.

  28. David Hand

    Come on Bob,
    Everyone who arrives by plane already has a visa. No one who comes by leaky boat has a visa.

    Everyone who comes by plane has a verified identity. Everyone who comes by leaky boat has a story.

    Everyone who comes by plane shows their passport at immigration. Everyone who comes by leaky boat destroys their passport to make identification of who they are almost impossible.

    Everyone who arrives with a passport has great difficulty making up stories to establish a refugee claim and truthfulness helps. Everyone who arrives without a passport finds it much easier to establish a refugee claim and truthfulness hurts.

    That’s why they destroy their passports.

    The plane – boat thing is a red herring.

  29. Bob the builder

    Most refugee applicants come by plane – 90% last time I checked a while ago.

    Boats and refugees have very little relationship, except that boats bring the most desperate – and most likely to succeed in being recognised as refugees, after jumping through all the legal impediments put up by our legal system. Though even after having been recognised as refugees, they are subject to immediate and life-long legal discrimination as compared to their plane-arriving equivalents.

    Stopping the boats has nothing to do with refugees and nothing to do with immigration (which always rises under Coalition governments) and everything to do with using the most vulnerable people as a tool to whip up baseless scare campaigns.

  30. drsmithy

    The reason this debate has no end is that the refugee lobby is wedded to the notion that asylum seekers who come by boat are refugees from these camps while the rest of us believe they are economic migrants who don’t qualify for a visa and are using the provisions of the outdated and poorly designed refugee convention as an alternative route.

    The difference is that one of these groups has reached a conclusion based on reason and evidence, and the other has reached it based on hysterical racism and paranoia.

  31. David Hand

    CML,
    You are making a genuine effort to find a way through the diabolical problem that Australia faces with Asylum seekers. The difficulty with your idea of taking 25% from camps in the middle east is that it’s what we are doing already and probably more than 25%.

    The reason this debate has no end is that the refugee lobby is wedded to the notion that asylum seekers who come by boat are refugees from these camps while the rest of us believe they are economic migrants who don’t qualify for a visa and are using the provisions of the outdated and poorly designed refugee convention as an alternative route.

    Bring entire populations of refugee camps from the middle east if you like but the boats will still come if we let them.

  32. graybul

    Ken L and predictability. Tribal shape shifting comment of itself demeans legitimate refugees. This debate has evolved. It is no longer “boats” but ‘politics v humanity’. And the fact is that we the Australian people have had an elegant sufficiency of political bastardy and can no longer tolerate the imprisonment and destruction of refugees in our names.

    And that my friend, is the truth!

  33. CML

    AR…I thought I made it quite clear in saying that ALL political leaders from Howard onwards have been involved in this issue…which is why we now have this dreadful stand-off.
    Further, I did acknowledge that repairing the damage must involve both government and opposition in a joint collaboration exercise…otherwise it won’t happen.
    I was not being partisan. The ‘blame game’ has to stop!

  34. klewso

    Class warfare waged by this government : boat people vs plane people.

  35. AR

    CML – just to be partisan about this collective ugliness for which we, the People, are responsible. could you remind the readers what was the national ALP conference resolution of which bumBoil Shlernt was so proud?
    Something something about endorsing off shore hellholes I seem to recall.
    One might notice the sheer genius involved in the evil process in which it costs us so much to be so wicked. Almost as if there were KPIs & bonuses for devising worse treatment & costing more.

  36. Ken Lambert

    Its all so predictable now. David Hand puts the sensible case based on facts — the boats have stopped.

    Then the same old crowd starts the chant for relenting on the tough policy of turnbacks and offshore processing which stopped the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd circus.

    Remember who told the smugglees and their boat captains – you will never be resettled in Oz? None other than Kevin Rudd on his second stint as Emperor of our fair land.

    Yep the same Kevin Rudd who is desperate to become East European and slot into the UN’s top job. Kind of like Oz’s tilt at it’s very own Kurt Waldheim…

    Then the ABC runs all the hysterical claims of rape and pillage on Nauru, without anything but the say so of the inmates; then the Triggs and Catts and other professional wailers chime in with predictable knashing of teeth.

    No-one identifies the rapists; are they other inmates or the local Nauruans, or both? Every claim is accepted as fact when there is a huge incentive to make up or exaggerate such claims if it will keep you in Australia.

    And then we see Dr Catt hoping to shelter the asylum seekers in St John’s Cathedral Brisbane, replete with banners and teddy bears. Well, if the good doctor would like to protect those oppressed from the Australian Government, then perhaps he could arrange that permanently by joining Prince Leonard of Hutt River Province and declaring St Johns a Christian princedom on Ann Street, housing the huddled masses permanently.

  37. Steve777

    The Government well and truly mangled the moral calculus the day the Tampa hove over the horizon and the Howard Government chased the votes of racists to get it through what looked until then like a tricky election. Since that day neither side emerges with any credit. This has been a shameful episode in Australia’s history.

  38. Itsarort

    Whatever your views are about “border control”, BK’s first sentence, “…adopting an unnecessarily punitive policy of detention” is the point of this article. And if the “cold hard fact” is that Australian voters agree with the $Billion p.a. slum arrangements on Nauru and Manus, ungag the workers at these facilities and let the media in…

  39. drsmithy

    If these fools had any idea just how many non-boat people are invited into this country under bogus business and 457 visas they would be up in arms, but no, they came by plane, so that’s different somehow. They are more economic refugees then these boat people, but no, they aren’t part of the calculus.

    Correct.

    People are rightfully angry at the high rate of immigration we have had for the last decade or two – mostly with the objectives of suppressing local wages and goosing GDP – and the completely inadequate infrastructure investment at national and local levels that has accompanied it.

    Their anger has been masterfully channeled and directed at the people least responsible, asylum seekers.

    It’s disgraceful. The people responsible have stuffed the country, economically, socially and culturally, but they’ll get away with it scott-free.

  40. Matters Peter

    The Coalition governments’ record on the subject is simply unforgiveable, Labor’s is only marginally better. It started all with the Howard Government’s mishandling of the Tampa Affair plus the lies over children thrown into the water. With the help of Murdoch’s demagoguery of appealing to the most intolerant and prejudiced section of the community in order to sell more papers, all Governments conveniently forgot not only about Australia’s entire history of prospering on receiving asylum seekers but also our most basic religious precept of ‘All People Are My Brothers And Sisters’. Let’s face it, all of us are asylum seekers of some sort or their descendants – except our First Australian brothers, and we did not ask them, did we?
    In consequence, we decided to penalise the victims because we could not catch the crooks – the people smugglers. Yet, the real solution is simple enough – if we upgrade the asylum seekers’ intake from 10,000 to, say 40,000 p/a and promised them a welcome if they were only a little bit more patient in their holding camps, it would increase the annual intake of legal asylum seekers of about 200,000 p/a by only a small percentage and at the same time put the people smugglers out of business.
    As a result, we would restore our credibility as decent people and we, the tax payers, would save billions of dollars, for the current tragic, disgusting process happens to be very much more costly than the cost of infrastrucutre for another 30,000 properly welcomed people.
    And the grizzle of Australia being in danger of overpopulation? We only eat 50% 0f the food we produce, the rest is just wasted.

  41. CML

    Outrage, outrage and more outrage from all commentators!
    Most of which I agree with. However, none of this will do a damn thing to help the situation. The country has been made MORE rac+st and xenophobic over the past several years, beginning with Howard and the Tampa, and with lots of help from our appalling MSM, including the ABC.
    Okay…so what can we do about it? Firstly, acknowledge that we have to reverse behaviour/attitudes, now very deeply held by a MAJORITY of the population. Yelling at people and denigrating their strongly held prejudices is only going to make matters worse. Understand that this is going to take years, with no guarantee of success. That is the damage that Howard, and successive political leaders have done to the fabric of this society.
    So…why don’t we reserve 25% of our immigration places every year (for as long as it takes) strictly for asylum seekers from these dreadful camps in the Middle East and Asia? That way, the Australian people will slowly become accustomed to having these people in the community, and attitudes might improve. Sure it doesn’t solve the problem tomorrow, but at the moment there is simply no other way if we want to remain a stable and peaceful democracy.
    IMHO people like Marilyn are going to need a lot of patience, because screaming ‘the Law’ at people won’t achieve anything. Especially as they see many laws being broken every day by those in powerful positions…there is no respect for the Law under these circumstances.
    As far as the asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru are concerned…they should be processed to determine those who are genuine refugees, then be included in the first 25% of new ‘immigrants’. This has to be a joint undertaking by the government and opposition…otherwise it has no chance of happening.
    And maybe we throw in a few concessions…let the boys (mainly) keep their toys and patrol the seas up north to their hearts content, while the rest of us get on with repairing the damage left by a succession of federal politicians since the turn of the century.
    Just saying….

  42. Dogs breakfast

    Well put drsmithy. David Hand is right, the cold hard fact is that most Australians voters want secure borders and control over who arrives.

    So as Mr Hand himself puts it, this is not a refugee problem, this is a political problem. And who created this political problem in the first place. It was John Howard, using boat people for electoral means, along with a mean and stingy right wing ready to beat up a not very significant issue into electoral poison.

    If these fools had any idea just how many non-boat people are invited into this country under bogus business and 457 visas they would be up in arms, but no, they came by plane, so that’s different somehow. They are more economic refugees then these boat people, but no, they aren’t part of the calculus.

    This is a political problem because John Howard made it so. Malcolm Fraser showed the other response the liberal national party could have taken, but that might have cost John Howard an election, so mean-spirited nastiness of the worst kind is what we get, and ultimately what we are.

    Thank you John Howard. Your poison still infects us.

  43. drsmithy

    The cold hard fact in all this is that most Australian voters want secure borders and control over who arrives.

    The lie is that this was ever an issue of border security.

    If we were discovering communities of boat people settled and living in the north, rather than intercepting them at sea, or they were arriving in amphibious assault vehicles carrying guns, one could make an argument about border security.

    Vastly more people “penetrate” our borders through our airports. Yet strangely does not seem to attract the same hysterics.

    Campaigners for softer measures such as SHY et al are not helped by the social disaster that is unfolding in Germany and Sweden. Germany got over a million last year, half of them single men and there’s a good chance they’ll get another million in 2016.

    Exaggerated scaremongering is par for the course, but no more credible than the farcical “border security” angle.

    A million immigrants in a year, assuming, say, 200 per boat is 13-14 boats every day. Do you really think that’s going to happen ?

    But it is not a self perpetuating problem. Because the boats have stopped, there are no new arrivals coming into the asylum processing system and those in it will eventually be helped.

    There are few things more disgusting than the conservative crocodile tears about refugees.

  44. John Newton

    It is almost gratuitous to say there are many thorny issues here. For me they include

    1. The High Court effectively ruled that the constitution condoned detaining human beings indefinitely. Could it be that the constitution needs looking at if that’s the case.

    2. Mr Keane quite rightly points out that the cruel treatment of these people is being used to deter people getting on boats. But is it deterring them or deflecting them?

    3. The government especially the LNP has been caught lying about Save The Children staff being involved in a propaganda campaign to manufacture conditions to embarrass the Abbott government. The Moss review found that this was certainly not the case, even after Immigration Minister Morrison had deported Save the Children staff members for Nauru. Moss also found evidence of rapes, and sexual assaults of asylum seekers. Then Prime Minister Abbott’s response was ‘occasionally, I dare say, things happen.’ No action was taken against whoever manufactured the allegations against Save the Children staff members, nor has there been a single prosecution of rape or sexual assault.

    4. The 2012 recommendations of Aristotle Paris et al have been ignored. No government has attempted to find a solution that involves neither the drowning of children nor the mental and physical assault on innocent people, when surely there is one.

    5. Every time the present immigration Minister Dutton opens his mouth he stuffs his foot in it. To listen to him is an embarrassment. Ho How he rose to that position speaks volumes for the level of competence of the members of this government.

    All involved in this horrible display of cruelty and torture will,one day, be bought to justice. The writing is on the wall: mene mene tekel upharsin: you have been judged and found wanting. The days of your rule are numbered.

  45. AR

    ..oops. Sorry about the bold

  46. AR

    I fell at BK’s first hurdle, that ‘people drowning at sea’ (TM) was like, y’know … a thing.
    Ergo this thing must be avoided. On behalf of the drownees.
    As the UK is deemed by France to be the cause of the Jungle at Calais because in Britain, these poor & wretched flotsam of distant shores would be treated decently.
    At least in comparison with where they were.
    France.
    The problem in this country is that a xenophobia was created which is so amorphous it can be made to fit the crisis du jour.
    It has coloured our politics shamefully, all else is tainted by the footwork & shape shifting of the political class.
    Australia has been made of immigrants at least since 1788.
    That meant that the immigrants became Australians as new tides came.
    The soi disant “50,000 Illegals” since 2007 should be compared to our annual immigration rate averaging 150,000+, more than a million people.
    Welcomed.
    What is it about that less than 5%, one in twenty of the which causes the collective psyche to fears so much as to vote for the current situation.
    Only the Greens oppose this.

  47. David Hand

    CML,
    You illustrate just how stuffed up Germany is with its influx of unwelcome Muslim single men. Yes, they’re from North Africa. OMG! How did that happen?? How did people from North Africa manage to masquerade as Syrians when Merkel threw open the doors to Syrian refugees?

    Pretty easy really. Refugee advocates know full well that most people who come by boat and most people who entered Germany last year are not refugees at all but are people seeking a better life for themselves and their families. The proven method is to claim to be a refugee and a harassed bureaucrat lets you in because you are now, “found to be a refugee”.

    And to all you “let them all come! We’ve got room!” set, just remember this. Australia can have open borders or it can have a welfare state but it can’t have both.

  48. Bob the builder

    This whole “moral calculus” is such bullsh*t!

    One simple way to make boats safe would be to rescind the policy of imprisoning crews and destroying boats that carry asylum seekers to make their perfectly legal claim for asylum.

    This is the policy that causes deaths – without this policy, decent boats, with capable crews, would be used, whereas the long-term policy compels the use of desperate, inexperienced crews and near-worthless boats.

  49. Lee Tinson

    Whenever there is talk of “preventing drowning at sea”, you know that the talker is putting up a smoke screen. It was just nauseating when the first politician used this excuse, and just as nauseating how quickly the rest leaped upon it to justify the cruelty they now inflict on asylum seekers.

    The decision to get on a boat is not a problem we can solve, nor is it a behaviour that Australia’s policies can or should attempt to modify. It’s a decision for each individual asylum seeker and I seriously doubt that they care about or appreciate or even believe any statements we make about concern for their welfare.

    None of our policies are generated by concern for the safety of asylum seekers. That’s where the big lie is. Our policies are generated by the racism and xenophobia of our politicians pure and simple. And they actually are acting in our name. So we are all to blame.

    Shame on us.

  50. Marilyn Shepherd

    Perhaps David Hand could tell us when we invaded and occupied and named Nauru, Sri Lanka,Cambodia, Indonesia and PNG as our territory and where he thinks our borders are.

    For the moronic, we have 60,000 of coastline, we spend $1 billion a year policing the waters off one small island 2600 kim away while the entire coast could be invaded by millions and our border force wouldn’t even notice.

    No border in the world can be allowed to come before human rights.

  51. Marilyn Shepherd

    Wherein Keane mangles his moral compass in support of racist facism and the lie that we are saving a single life or that we ever wanted to.

    The simple fact as shown on the sievx.com website is that every refugee who drowned did so because our own governments of the day let them so they could be ever more vicious.

    Keane is talking bullshit here as he usually does, there is nothing at all complex about refugee law – everyone has the right to seek asylum, it only becomes complex when we deny that right and waste billions in the process.

  52. CML

    @ John H…I was listening to the BBC World Service Radio last night, specifically a program from Germany on the asylum seeker problems there.
    ALL of the German interviewees agreed that the perpetrators of the Cologne sexual assaults (and others) were from North Africa, NOT Syria. Further, they all said that those guilty of such atrocities were hell-bent on giving the Syrian refugees a ‘bad name’.
    It appears that the young men coming from North African countries have been radicalised, hate the ‘West’ and all it stands for and don’t want the Syrians coming to, or staying in, Europe.
    That gave quite a different perspective from the one you present!

  53. Maria Topping

    “But the government’s reflexive invocation of the need to stop the boats is similarly simplistic — and hides the fact that it has consciously adopted a policy of deliberate cruelty that has destroyed any moral case for what Australia is doing to asylum seekers.”

    Uh, that fact is not exactly hidden. It’s pretty obvious what they are doing to these people and the reasons are entirely political.

  54. paddy

    It’s a deeply and profoundly shameful thing, to be an Australian in 2016, still listening to a constantly updated version of “here comes the yellow/brown/Muslim peril”.
    Whether it’s disguised as “we don’t want them to drown” or “there’s not enough room” or “they must form an orderly queue”. It still makes me sick to the stomach.
    As a certain dog once famously tooned. Let them all come.

  55. Pamela

    “responsible policymakers must always consider the consequences of every policy.”

    The Expert Panel knew from the previous experience of Nauru, the likely consequences.They witnessed first hand the suicide attempts, mental breakdown, illness and death which occured after 2001.

    As for “short term circuit breaker”- how could it be short term when it was specified that the people sent to Nauru could receive no advantage over the millions waiting in camps in Africa for 30 years or the Refugees waiting in Indonesia for resettlement some 40 years hence by current rates. No Nauru is intened to be a life or death sentence. The only chance is an offer of a place in somewhere even poorer less safe and with less protection than Nauru if Australia can find it. So far knocked back by Kyrgstan, Phillipines, Timor south American Countries etc but grabbed 4 places for 40 million dollars from Cambodia.
    No thinking Australia believes that Manus or Nauru are sustainable solutions- they are just political fixes.
    The question to be asked and tackled seriously is WHY Australia believes we have a right to CLEANSE THE COUNTRY OF ALL ASYLUM SEEKERS- or put simply on what grounds do we assert the right to be an asylum free zone at a time when this movement of people seeking protection is the greatest Human Crisis of our time? What gives us the right?

  56. Venise Alstergren

    Perhaps politicians should ask themselves…”Is it better to send asylum seekers to an out of control ‘leper colony’ or is it better to watch them drowning themselves at sea?

  57. John H

    Well said David Hand. You have very eloquently refuted all the arguments put forward by opponents of offshore processing. Like the editorial in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, Bernard Keane is quick to denounce offshore processing but silent when it comes to offering a viable alternative. And yes the behaviour of Syrian refugees in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland has destroyed any goodwill towards Syrian refugees that may have existed.

  58. Lachlan Duncan

    If we are going to engage in “moral calculus”, i think it is important to make sure the assumptions we use are based on fact. For instance, I have not seen any evidence that a punitive dentention system or offshore processing, actually saves lives. I would be interested if anyone could provide that documented evidence for me. Also, are we looking at the calculus of the whole picture? Is punitive detention actually deterrent? Again, is there any independent evidence for this? If offshore detention is a deterrent, where are people going instead? Perhaps they are going to other countries where the journey is just as dangerous? If they are choosing to stay in their own countries – maybe this is more dangerous than an Indonesia / Australia sea hop? So if we are going to look at moral calculus, we need to look at the complete picture and not just a small part of it. My guess that the government is not really interested in this sort of calculus. I would suggest that the people taking these journeys look at these equations pretty closely and choose to take the option where they are least likely to die.

  59. Jaybuoy

    @DH.. In the meantime these people are kept as “heads on pikes” as a warning to others.. even an offer from NZ to take some of the families was rebuffed..so much for “reprocessing” … using human misery as a policy tool is inhuman and unworthy of us..

  60. graybul

    “And responsible policymakers must always consider the consequences of every policy.”

    Oh that that was the only driver, motivation. Policymakers however, draft their policy based on the known intent of those that employ them. And those that employ them in this case, are politicians. Politicians believe in the art of the possible, at the centre of which is personal belief, retention of power and the accepted guiding philosophy, ideology of those around them that allocate power.

    As an individual, an Australian, in the full knowledge of this Nation’s beginnings, our history of a fair go, stability, trust and belief in each other, has led me to, over recent decades to deeply question our political leadership. To imprison, detain indefinitely, and under our law to facilitate murder, rape, and abuse of women and children reflects exactly our nation’s beginnings in 1788.

  61. David Hand

    The cold hard fact in all this is that most Australian voters want secure borders and control over who arrives. Any government that relaxes such measures faces a massive electoral backlash. This is why Labor has a bipartisan position over asylum seekers.

    This bipartisan position is that asylum seekers who arrive by boat will not be settled n Australia. That is why the campaign to let them stay is dishonest. Success of such a campaign would give people smugglers a product to sell and the boats would start again.

    Campaigners for softer measures such as SHY et al are not helped by the social disaster that is unfolding in Germany and Sweden. Germany got over a million last year, half of them single men and there’s a good chance they’ll get another million in 2016. We can expect plenty of emotional causes for refugee advocates to get excited about when Sweden tries to deport its unwelcome arrivals. Australians look at that and breathe a sigh of relief that the boats were stopped.

    But it is not a self perpetuating problem. Because the boats have stopped, there are no new arrivals coming into the asylum processing system and those in it will eventually be helped.

  62. Nicholas

    Bernard Keane’s anodyne centrism won’t solve this problem. His assumptions about the nature of the problem are just as flawed as those of the disingenuous people he claims to be separate from.

    He assumes that it is morally better for large numbers of persecuted people to be killed, raped or tortured out of our sight in their home countries than for a much smaller number of them to die at sea while trying to escape.

    He assumes that Australia faced overwhelming, unmanageable numbers of unauthorised maritime arrivals, and offshore detention therefore serves a necessary and justified deterrent role.

    Both of those assumptions are spectacularly flawed. Bernard Keane would be better served by interrogating those two assumptions than by espousing centrism for centrism’s sake. Being at the centre of a heavily skewed, deeply misguided national approach to asylum-seekers doesn’t make you right. Focus on what’s right rather than where you sit relative to others.

  63. Jaybuoy

    Saving other people from drowning by making the ones you have saved wish they had…it would make Joseph Heller envious..

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