Wednesday, 7 September 2011

More on Asylum Seekers

Alan Kohler has raised the interesting point that the recent Government loss in the High Court is due to the incompetence of the Howard Government, not the Gillard Government. Of course almost all of the criticism in the media is being directed at the Prime Minister and Minister, with the people responsible for writing the legislation getting off scott free. But that should hardly be surprising given how the media is currently reporting political issues.

While Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has offered to assist the Government in amending legislation to allow offshore processing, he's only willing to do so if Manus Island and Nauru are ruled in and Malaysia is ruled out. Interestingly, it's being reported that in a Government briefing officials from the Immigration Department, Attorney-General's Department, DFAT and the acting national security adviser will tell Tony Abbott that:
  • A move from offshore to onshore processing will likely lead to social problems similar to those in London and Paris.
  • Tension will be created when large numbers of people overflow from detention centres into the community.
  • Around 600 people a month would "flood" into Australia.
  • The Malaysian solution represents the best way to deter boat arrivals.
  • The Howard Government's Pacific solution didn't work.
  • Detention in Australia is expensive and does not deter boat arrivals
  • Asylum seekers often send young boys on boats in the hope that they sponsor the rest of the family.
  • Towing boats back won't work.
  • Nauru and Manus Island are not a solution because virtually everyone who was determined to be a refugee was resettled in Australia.
While some of these arguments sound compelling I doubt that they will sway the Opposition Leader. In my opinion, Tony Abbott is probably more interested in not solving the problem for the Government provided he can be seen as being tough on asylum seekers. Of course he may well try to cloak everything in an argument over refugee's human rights. But we all know that's not true.

Edit: Looks like I was right. Phillip Coorey and Dan Oakes are now reporting that Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has rejected the Malaysia plan:
TONY ABBOTT is refusing to help the government revive the Malaysia plan despite being told by senior Immigration Department officials that a return to the Pacific solution will not stop the boats and that a ''game changer'' like Malaysia was needed.
Of course he wants to reject the Malaysian deal, especially if it results in more than 600 boat arrivals a month:
The same officials warned separately yesterday that the proposal by the Labor Left to revert to onshore processing would result in more than 600 arrivals by boat a month, swamping domestic detention facilities in a year, and resulting in the cultural problems facing European cities with a high influx of immigrants.
Tony Abbott's priority is becoming Prime Minister, not "stopping the boats" or "securing our borders". He's happy for things to stay the way they are:
The Opposition Leader was unmoved last night, ensuring the policy stalemate will continue.
For him the briefing was probably a waste of time. It's not like he went in with an open mind:
Before the briefing he said that ''as far as I am concerned, Malaysia is out'' and that remained his position afterwards.
It might however provide some cover to the Government. At least they might be able to deflect some of the blame for new arrivals onto the Opposition. Although I doubt they will get very far with many of the shock jocks.

Edit: An interesting Crikey article on What Metcalfe said … or is understood to have said
Edit 6/10: George Megalogenis on Diplomacy is lost amid our leader's backyard squabbling.
Edit 24/10: David Marr - Politicians' claims about arrivals have little buoyancy. Also Media Watch on Today Tonight's rather shameful and misleading claims about asylum-seekes.
Edit 21/11: Michelle Grattan notes that there's Nothing budging but body count.
Amber Jamieson in The consequences of turning boats back: SIEV towback cases examined the "case studies of boats that were previously turned back under the Howard government".

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