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Explainer: the legality of turning or towing back asylum boats

The Coalition promises it will “turn back” asylum seeker boats in Australian waters where it is safe to do so if it wins the next election. With Australian border patrols said to be at “breaking point…

What are the legal implications for proposals to ‘tow back’ and ‘push back’ asylum seeker boats by the Australian Navy? AAP/Scott Fisher

The Coalition promises it will “turn back” asylum seeker boats in Australian waters where it is safe to do so if it wins the next election.

With Australian border patrols said to be at “breaking point” with the numbers of boat arrivals, the asylum debate has reached a heightened pitch in intensity.

But what are the facts? Can the Coalition legally turn back boats? Can boats be towed back out of Australian waters? Or intercepted in international waters?

The Conversation spoke with Ben Saul, Professor of International Law, Sydney Centre for International Law at the University of Sydney, to gain a sense of the legal ramifications of a potential “tow back” or “turn back” policy.


Is it legal for Australian forces to turn back or tow back asylum seeker boats?

Australia cannot turn back boats if it would expose a person to return to persecution contrary to the [UN] refugee convention. That includes sending people back to countries which do not offer effective refugee protection. Those can include transit countries like Indonesia and Malaysia where there is no refugee protection status given to people who are there to claim refugee status.

The second consideration is under the law of the sea. It is not legal to turn back a boat which is unseaworthy and on which the lives of passengers are in danger or at risk. Those kind of operational decisions about the safety of boats will be particularly important in assessing whether a “turn back” is legal.

A third factor is that Australia has no right to board and search foreign vessels on the high seas, so Australia’s power to turn back boats is really confined in most cases to boats which are already in Australian territorial waters. The only case in which Australia could board a vessel on the high seas that is outside Australian territorial waters is where the vessel is not registered to another country - in other words, it is a stateless vessel, or where vessel is at risk and it’s a rescue of people whose lives are at risk at sea.


Is there any legal difference between turning back boats or towing them back? Is there any element of culpability?

It could only have relevance in certain situations - for example, if a boat is not seaworthy. But by attaching a rope to it and towing it by an Australian vessel, that would make the boat safe enough to continue back to an Indonesia port. That case is pretty unlikely though - it might arise where an engine onboard a vessel is no longer functioning, but the boat itself is safe, so it would be a way of enabling the boat to return from where it came.

That would ultimately require the safety of the vessel to be ensured, so Australia presumably would then need to tow it right back to an Indonesian port. It couldn’t just then leave the boat stranded without a motor on the edge of the Indonesian territorial sea, for example. Indonesia is fairly unlikely to accept the right of Australian naval vessels to bring refugee boats back into Indonesia.


Are there international examples of countries doing this? Have they been doing it legally?

It’s pretty rare by world standards but it has happened. I guess the most prominent example is the United States, which over some decades now has had a “turn back” - and “tow back” policy in some cases - of vessels with people coming from both Haiti and Cuba. The rationale is that according to the United States, most of those people are not refugees and therefore are just coming to America for a better life. Whether that’s legal obviously depends upon whether they are refugees: typically, many people coming from Cuba fleeing Castro’s regime were in fear of persecution, and so too in Haiti where there were various troubles, so that potentially engages the international legal responsibility of the United States.

What the United States did to try to comply with international law though was to have refugee status determination personnel onboard US coastguard vessels, which were intercepting these boats. So if a person expressed a fear of persecution they could make that claim to somebody onboard the vessel that their hearing be expedited, and a decision would then be made. Obviously that’s not optimal, and then if you expedite processing like that it might magnify the risk of making bad decisions and sending back someone who is actually a refugee.

Join the conversation

205 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. Stephen Ralph

    carer at n/a

    Presumably a country has the right to protect it's borders. So there would appear to be two opposing arguments.

    It would seem practically impossible to prove the "boat people" are genuinely refugees whilst they are on a boat in the ocean.

    And when push comes to shove, what are the penalties for Australia IF does break the law?

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    1. Pamela Curr

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      A bit of misunderstanding here- there is no requirement to prove that people are refugees on the boat. What has to be established is if they express a fear of return, they are then entitled not to be returned without a hearing/ determination to establish if they have a valid claim . This is the international law - non refoulement.

      Australia is currently engaged in a dodgy screening out process of Tamils on Christmas Island where in a secret interview process with no independent legal advice or monitoring, departamental officers screen out people and then put them on planes and send them back.
      At least one third of these people do not leave the airport but are arrested and put in Negombo prison where some are kept for over a year without charge.

      Penalties - Australia has not incorporated the Refugee Convention into domestic law nor do we have a Human Rights Act.
      Legally -none. Morally - loss of the nation's soul.

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    2. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Pamela Curr

      Pamela, issues such as "the nation's soul" have to decided democratically.

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    3. Jeffrey Weissel

      Retired

      In reply to Pamela Curr

      "Australia has not incorporated the Refugee Convention into domestic law ..."

      Pamela, not so:
      "MIGRATION ACT 1958 - SECT 36

      Protection visas
      (1) There is a class of visas to be known as protection visas.

      Note: See also Subdivision AL.

      (2) A criterion for a protection visa is that the applicant for the visa is:

      (a) a non-citizen in Australia in respect of whom the Minister is satisfied Australia has protection obligations under the Refugees Convention as amended by the Refugees Protocol; or (etc) ..."

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    4. Dennis Alexander

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Stephen, I think you might find that "border protection", though much bandied about and presumed, really only has meaning in relation to smuggling of prohibited goods and to repelling an invading force with whom we are at war - but perhaps someone at the Conversation should ask Ben Saul and post the answer. Otherwise, we could sink the yachts of the mega-rich that strayed inside Australian waters and claim we were just "protecting our borders".

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    5. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Dennis Alexander

      People smuggling is still smuggling and smuggling is a border protection issue as you point out!

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    6. Marilyn Shepherd

      pensioner

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      We don't have any borders, we have millions of miles of ocean that are not ours to order people around on.

      It is a nasty racist mindset that says we do have that right.

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    7. Marilyn Shepherd

      pensioner

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      It is not people smuggling though, never has been. It is people quite lawfully paying for transport and just because it is not Qantas does not make it illegal.

      And we don't have any borders.

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    8. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Dennis Alexander

      Dennis, surely it would be better to entice the yachts, and then slap a huge fine on the mega-rich when they enter, take the money, and send them packing?

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    9. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Pamela Curr

      I imagine Pamela that the Sri Lankan government would like in Australia have requirements for their citizens to leave Sri Lanka in accordance with immigration regulations, ie. passports and through exit/entry control.
      Sri Lankans having broken that law have to face the consequences and going to jail does not necessarily mean they are persecuted.

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    10. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      Marilyn, I think you will find 22 million people disagree with you.

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    11. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Jeffrey Weissel

      Probaly a difference Jeffrey between incorporating a Convention into Domestic Law and using it as a reference for obligations.

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    12. Whyn Carnie

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      Wake up Maralyn, when did you ever lawfully buy a ticket to somewhere without getting a visa first? Most of us out here in realworld know the rules.

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    13. Whyn Carnie

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      Objection, your honour, racism is to denigrate a whole race. And we do not have millions of miles of ocean to order people around on, just the 200km closet to our coast.

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    14. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      Marilyn we have ocean orders just as we have land borders.

      Once people smugglers enter our maritime zone we have every right, under international law, to order them about as we please!

      QUOTE
      A maritime boundary is a conceptual division of the Earth's water surface areas using physiographic and/or geopolitical criteria. As such, it usually includes areas of exclusive national rights over mineral and biological resources,[1] encompassing maritime features, limits and zones.[2] Generally, a maritime boundary is delineated through a particular measure from a jurisdiction's coastline. Although in some countries the term maritime boundary represent borders of a maritime nation
      END QUOTE

      "nasty racist mindset"
      And you are fruit cake holocaust denier Marilyn!

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    15. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      No Marilyn it is people smuggling and it is illegal under Australian laws!

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    16. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      Of course we have a border Marilyn, it being one continuous one with territorial waters all around it just as with any other nations open ocean coast.
      And then you have international waters and international marine law that applies.
      What Australia does in respect to people smugglers will largely be up to Australia and in some instances co-operation with countries to our north.

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    17. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Dennis Alexander

      But we do require passports & visas for those arriving.

      For smugglers the prohibited goods could be people.

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    18. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      The people are paying people smugglers Marilyn to leave Indonesia at least not in accordance with their immigration regulations.
      That is illegal as is the action of arriving into Australian territorial waters, claiming asylum being something else and not all claims will be approved.
      Australia has one continuous border surrounded by territorial water Marilyn.
      Have a look at an Atlas.

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    19. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Pamela Curr

      I would add the damage done to our reputation in international diplomatic circles, which could ultimately lead to negative consequences for our influence and well- being.

      Many major companies are concerned about reputational risk and take steps to avoid it. Australia as a country should also be concerned about it.

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    20. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Greg Young

      I don't think too many international companies have the high moral ground. Think clothing, minerals, oil, etc etc.

      They don't seem too concerned about their reputation or where a profit is made.

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    21. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Where did I say anything about the high moral ground?

      It is a fact that many companies constantly seek to manage their public reputation, to control coverage of bad news about them and avoid being seen in a negative light. It is very naive to believe that they do not care about this, or that they do not see a link between how they are perceived in public and their profits. That is not their morality talking, it is self-interest.

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    22. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Greg Young

      "I would add the damage done to our reputation in international diplomatic circles, which could ultimately lead to negative consequences for our influence and well- being."
      Greg, this of course is unempirical cadswallop.

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    23. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to David Thompson

      Really?

      How do you think international diplomacy works? It works through influence, which is in part dependent on what your negotiating partners think of you. Our ability to influence other nations has direct effects on our exports in the context of trade negotiations, our security in terms of UN debates and a host of other matters. Whether you give a thought to it or not, Australia's positive standing in the world has been of direct benefit to you over the years.

      If we were to wantonly tarnish…

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    24. Steve Hindle

      logged in via email @bigpond.com

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      "And we don't have any borders".
      And of course the the Earth is Flat.

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    25. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to David Thompson

      Whereas your comment is back by exactly what evidence, David?

      (It's called hypocrisy, I think.)

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    26. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Young

      Please!

      Did the damage done to the USA's reputation in diplomatic circles due to their use of water boarding and denial of terrorist suspects' access to the US courts in Guantanamo Bay result in any significant economic or other consequences to the USA?

      NO IT DID NOT!

      And nor will any significant damage be done to Australia!

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    27. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Felix, the baby-boomer luvvies have been squealing about damage to "our international reputation" ever since Keating lost office. Australia was apparently going to be "an international pariah" and "the next Sth. Africa". Year after year they threatened to leave Australia if Howard won the next election. He won four and yet they all stayed, still whingeing, but nobody listened, and they became irrelevant. It seems there's still a few around.

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    28. Yoron Hamber

      Thinking

      In reply to Greg North

      :) borders huh :)

      Sure, everyone has borders, and most countries bordering to oceans etc want to own it all :) But other people and Countries won't allow it, as they too want to own it all ::::)))

      So what does it come down too?

      Human decency I would say.

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    29. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      So you saying that in capitals proves it? What tosh.

      Of course the USA's reputation has taken a massive nose-dive. Anybody who can read can see that. At least anybody who reads without blinkers on.

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    30. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Young

      Well Greg I don't see Britain or Australia, for example, particularly ostracizing the USA for its misdemeanors.

      Both are still tight as ever with the USA and still supporting its occupation of Afghanistan!

      The consequences for the USA of flouting international law and justice standards have not been particularly onerous for them.

      And given the vagueness of the UN refugee convention, nor will Australia rescinding it lead to particularly onerous international consequences.

      The USA returns thousands of Mexicans back across the border in the realm of the violent drug cartels.

      There are certainly no international consequences for the USA doing that!

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    31. G. H. Schorel-Hlavka

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Pamela Curr

      Pamela, with the Tampa issue I criticised the Federal Government for it stand, because I held it had requested the Tampa to resque the people and was obligated then to accept the people from the Tampa. However, I do not accept that what can be best described as an unarmed invading force a country cannot defend itself merely because they may claim they have a fear. Those who are refugees must be deemed to be so when they leave their native country and arrive in the first country. If they leave a save…

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    32. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      A perfectly sound argument - for anybody who believes that Britain, Australia and the USA constitute the entire world.

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    33. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Young

      Greg Young you were referring to sanctions for rescinding the UN refugee convention, or otherwise contravening international 'laws'.

      For the purposes of that particular discussion then yes Britain, Australia and the USA (and western European countries) pretty much constitute the 'entire world'.

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    34. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to G. H. Schorel-Hlavka

      Dear GH

      Thanks for your interesting post.

      The term 'unarmed invasion' that you use was employed by Tea Party advocates of the view that refugees were terrorists in disguise, in the aftermath to 9/11. I checked and the number of refugees who have been screened and deemed as security risks on that account can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

      It follows that your terminology must apply to some other meaning, so please would you elucidate, otherwise the overall impact of your choice of…

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    35. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      No prizes for guessing you are a bible thumper Ian.

      If you conflate 'soul' with the right to democratically determine who gains entry to this country then yes.

      The concept of 'soul' is something that we all should have a vote on!

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  2. Adrian Gibbs

    Retired

    Is the Australian Government ensuring that every asylum seeker boarding a boat in Indonesia is fully aware of the dangers to which they are exposing themselves?

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    1. Adrian Gibbs

      Retired

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Yes.
      What chance does someone fleeing for their lives have of obtaining accurate news? The pollies and the media have generated so much heat and no light on this topic that it is almost impossible to get the facts here let alone when in transit from the Middle East. I have not heard any report to assure me that a serious attempt is being made to get info to the refugees at source and in transit before they have been hooked by one of the traffickers and told that they will arrive safely, and stories to the contrary are ridiculous.

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    2. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Adrian Gibbs

      The boats largely stopped coming under Howard so the illegal immigrants were getting accurate information about Australian asylum seeker policy via some source.

      There is no reason to assume that this cannot happen again with the right policy signals.

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    3. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      I think the situation has changed somewhat since the Howard years.

      The situation in some countries has deteriorated considerably, plus I think there is much more of an element of people seeking a better future......economic refugees perhaps.

      Once a pathway is established momentum will add considerably to the flow.

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    4. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      Yeah, what changed was that Rudd got in, dismantled off shore processing and signaled to the people smugglers in Indonesia that Australia's borders were open!

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    5. Ken Swanson

      Geologist

      In reply to Adrian Gibbs

      Adrian

      "Fleeing for their lives" from Indonesia after camping there for a few years or months.

      What danger does Indonesia pose to them?

      Its a con mate! The rest of Australia is just starting to wake up

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    6. Marilyn Shepherd

      pensioner

      In reply to Ken Swanson

      Really so when Human rights watch 2 weeks ago found that INdonesia is torturing refugees that is a myth.

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    7. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Adrian Gibbs

      " What chance does someone fleeing for their lives have of obtaining accurate news? "
      That people with a passport and catching a plane from somewhere to Indonesia are fleeing for their lives is somewhat questionable.
      As to the Australian Government disseminating information, Senator Carr was recently in Sri Lanka where information is being put out through the media.
      It is probably not quite the same in Indonesia for you have people from various countries transitting through and they have already made up their minds on what Australia can offer.
      What is known however is that there is much communication between those who have used people smugglers and already in Australia and those intending to do the same, when in detention, access to the internet and other communication means being provided by Australian taxpayers.

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    8. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      The only thing that really changed from the Howard years Stephen is that Rudd revoked what the Howard government had put in place and was working.
      Rudd was warned by the Immigration department that there would be consequences and inevitably it was like opening the flood gates and the surge is building.
      People a few years back would be saying Oh what is just a few thousand a year and already it is a few tens of thousands and I really wonder whether they'll even think we have a problem when it hits…

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    9. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Simplistic nonsense. As if the result of the 2007 election is the only thing that has changed in the last six years in relation to the safety and security of millions of people world-wide. What a ridiculous notion.

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    10. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Useful to check the opinion of people with some actual expertise, like William Maley from ANU, who argue strongly that it has far more to do with 'push' factors than 'pull' factors.

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    11. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      You may be right Greg but it is also possible that the push factors (aided and abetted by the people smugglers to make a motza) are stronger than under Howard. It will be interesting to see if the boats stop coming under an Abbott government but I suspect most of their chest beating is nothing more than a political play to get elected.

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  3. Mark Bakarich

    Project Manager

    Please this is a serious question, what is the strategic importance of Christmas & the Cocos islands to Australia? My understanding is they've only been Australian territiries since the mid 1950's & since it's the close proximity of these islands to Indonesia that enables the smugglers to reach "Australian Waters" so easily what would Australia lose to cede this islands to another nation. I realise they're inhabited but even if we offered each inhabitant compensation to relocate to the mainland surely this would be a cheaper option to what we are currently witnessing?
    Also I understand this is not going to stop the boats but the logistics & cost to travel triple the distance will surely act as a huge deterrant.

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    1. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Mark Bakarich

      I doubt Indonesia is going to be as silly to want the islands.

      They have 17,000 already.

      Of course we could just stop "owning" the islands and leave them to the boat people. They could establish a country themselves.

      This would be the easiest solution.

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    2. Andrew Farrell

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Bakarich

      I've been wondering this for ages, it's never discussed, rarely even mentioned. But here are some details about the 'National borders' we are protecting - why exactly these are Australian escapes me:

      Christmas Island
      Annexed by British Crown 6 June 1888
      Sovereignty transferred to Australia in 1957 (Singapore was paid £2.9million for 'forgone phosphate value')
      Estimated population 1,513 (2013 est)
      - 70% Chinese, 20% European, 10% Malay (No indigenous population)
      - 36% Buddhism, 18% Christianity…

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    3. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Andrew Farrell

      Andrew there has been more than one occasion in here where people, including myself, have suggested we give Christmas Island to the Indonesians.

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    4. Whyn Carnie

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      I once worked with a very Christian, Welshman, who made the statement about wartime England, "Fight for the place, you couldn't give it away.".
      There is nothing on Christmas Island, except for the period when there was a casino, that Indonesia would desire, unlike Irian Jaya or East Timor.

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  4. margaret m

    old lady

    Abbott & Co with support of media is responsbile for non debate and division and threat to social cohesian.
    Abbott wants to tow back the boats to a country that is not signatory to the convention but NO ONE POINTS OUT THAT HIS OBJECTION TO IMPLEMENTING THE MALAYSIAN SOLUTION ABBOTTS REASON IS IT'S NOT A SIGNATORY TO THE CONVENTION.

    Where is the media reporting all the fact and factors obviously not.

    Comment this morning guest suggests placing assyslum seekers moved to the regional areas brilliant…

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    1. Henry Verberne

      Once in the fossil fuel industry but now free to speak up

      In reply to margaret m

      Abbott and his LNP are hypocritical about the refugee convention. The reason he did not support the Malaysia solution is that it suited him to have Labor struggling with the boats and not assist in a bi-partisan manner to come up with a solution.

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  5. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    "Australia cannot turn back boats if it would expose a person to return to persecution contrary to the [UN] refugee convention. That includes sending people back to countries which do not offer effective refugee protection. Those can include transit countries like Indonesia and Malaysia where there is no refugee protection status given to people who are there to claim refugee status."

    Face it! You lot have lost the argument.

    There is now talk in mainstream politics about rescinding the UN refugee…

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    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      And Indonesia has not given any indication that they will stop the Australian navy from turning around boats.

      And further Indonesia has said that it accepts that a country has a right to preserve its border integrity and sovereignty.

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    2. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      "Face it! You lot have lost the argument."

      Let's see. Professor of International Law discussing matters central to his area of expertise, versus the opinion of a landscape gardener.

      I know whom I'm willing to believe.

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    3. Whyn Carnie

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Greg Young

      I'm not too sure exactly what it is Prof Saul knows or teaches. Perhaps I'd be happier if a Prof of Australian Law wrote the article. I do know what a landscape gardiner does and he does not need a University Degree or Doctorate to do it.

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    4. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Greg Young

      Greg, the expertise here is not with professors, but with the electorate and the legislator. WE will decide...

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    5. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to David Thompson

      Rubbish. International Law and what it says is not a popularity contest.

      Honestly it amazes me the ignorance people are happy to flaunt here.

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    6. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Whyn Carnie

      Nice example of a non-answer there Whyn.

      Then again, if you are unable to fathom what a professor of international law at a reputable university knows or teaches, and what relevance that might have to a question of [wait for it]...international law, then I think we can work out the quality of your thinking.

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    7. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to David Thompson

      No David, the EXPERTISE on international law resides with experts in international law. The POWER to change governments and their policies, to some extent rests with the electorate.

      It can be helpful to exercise sufficient intelligence to recognise that distinction - tends to make you less likely to do stupid, dangerous things like, say, engaging in an illegal war on the basis of false intelligence.

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    8. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Young

      "Let's see. Professor of International Law discussing matters central to his area of expertise, versus the opinion of a landscape gardener. I know whom I'm willing to believe. "

      LOL Are you still standing by this now Greg Young?

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    9. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Ah yes, "LOL" the internationally-recognised irrefutable argument, sign of deep intellectual engagement everywhere.

      What has happened in the last few days that has changed international law?

      Please try to avoid posting trite nonsense.

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  6. Stephen Ralph

    carer at n/a

    Speaking of legal......

    don't countries such as America and China break UN conventions on a regular basis.

    Isn't Guantanamo Bay breaking UN regulations. Wasn't torture in Iraq illegal etc.

    It seems there is a lot of hypocrisy rampant.

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  7. Christopher Seymour

    Business owner at Location

    All the legal points are fine - but the real issue is that people are losing their lives by putting to sea in dodgy boats. The most vulnerable are the women and children. The humanitarian approach would be to take a very tough line on boats from Indonesia so that the people smugglers are put out of business and no one is tempted to risk the journey. This should be coupled with an expedited process to review claims for political asylum from refugees in Indonesia.;

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    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Christopher Seymour

      NO!

      That is just replacing the white sugar with brown sugar.

      Going to Indonesia SHOULD NOT entitle them to expedited ANYTHING!

      They can wait their turn behind refugees in UN camps around the globe!

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    2. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Christopher Seymour

      With 17,000 islands to choose from, if people want to get on boats and risk their lives, they will.

      There is no way to stop people at the source (either the original country or Indonesia), it's a matter of what to do once the boats pass beyond Indonesian waters.

      Refugees are an international phenomenon - this issue needs to be put into perspective.

      It is perhaps saddest of all that the two major political parties cannot get together to solve this issue rather than letting it be a political football.

      It is an indictment that the daily tit for tat continues. Neither side has any credence on this issue whilst the pathetic argy bargy goes on.

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    3. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Stephen Ralph

      The boats largely stopped arriving under Howard, regardless of what the rest of the world did about the problem!

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    4. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Christopher Seymour

      The fact is the "international law" discourse has collapsed. It might have had coherence and integrity during the post-WWII Cold War era where people were much more likely to accept more authoritarian governance. But for those of us born after that era, "international law" has no democratic legitimacy. Rudd is definitely on to a winner in rewriting these "laws".

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    5. john tons

      retired redundant

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      What is conveniently ignored is that the international situation under Howard was significantly different to the one that prevails today.
      We cannot underestimate the level of civil unrest in the Middle East - there are many people who have just giving up on ever being able to live in a peaceful, stable community.
      If we are genuine about wanting to stop the boats then we could work with both Indonesia and Malaysia and undertake to run refugee camps on their territory. Those camps would have…

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    6. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to john tons

      You heard Chris Bowen recently!

      Asylum seeker processing is expensive regardless of whether it is done on shore or offshore (so much for Sarah Hanson Young's rubbish).

      So it is not as simple as just scrapping all skilled immigration and replacing it with humanitarian immigration. Doing so has long term economic implications for Australia.

      Not only does humanitarian immigration need to be balance against environmental and social sustainability, bit also economic sustainability.

      It is smply not a matter of doing an emotional knee jerk to the world's refugee problem.

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    7. Marilyn Shepherd

      pensioner

      In reply to Christopher Seymour

      Yeah, and not one other person on the planet dies. YOu need to stop reading the deranged propaganda because they don't care if people drown, they let them.

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    8. Marilyn Shepherd

      pensioner

      In reply to john tons

      Yes and our only response seems to be do spend more to help less.

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    9. Marilyn Shepherd

      pensioner

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      No it is not. If we didn't jail people in expense prisons and pay foreign prison companies and let refugees work it would cost practically nothing.

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    10. lavinia kay moore

      child and family counsellor

      In reply to David Thompson

      international law has collapsed because it no longer has any legitimacy? Why not just erase all laws which you dont design and implement personally? You know, those that you dont agree with?
      In democracies sometimes the populace votes in those who end up governing very undemocratically in the sense that the politicians/ rulers are no longer caring about governing by the people for the people.
      To call Iranian asylum seekers economic migrants ignores the fact of Iran's repressive government. To…

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    11. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      Not according to an admission by Tony Burke.

      He publicly stated recently that on shore processing and community release is no less expensive than off shore processing

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    12. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to lavinia kay moore

      Future Australians have rights too Iavinia. And what we do now in emotional knee jerk reactions to illegal immigrants will have consequences for them.

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    13. Whyn Carnie

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      We should gaol them all after they arrive as invaders not wearing uniform. We should not gaol them in expensive prisons either, just old fashioned correctional institutions. Build a few in the NT (Government owned) and give our first occupants first dibs on running and working in them them. Win-win all round.

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    14. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to lavinia kay moore

      lavinia, democracies change laws all the time when they no longer suit contemporary society.

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    15. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      " Yes and our only response seems to be do spend more to help less. "
      Exactly the reason why we need to stop the people smuggling industry Marilyn.
      So we can stop lives being lost and help many many more around the planet in a far more equitable manner.
      And you you continually rant and rail against action being supported to stop those who are responsible for thousands of deaths.

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    16. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      "No it is not. If we didn't jail people in expense prisons and pay foreign prison companies and let refugees work it would cost practically nothing."
      Unemployment is rising Marilyn, industries are failing and/or moving abroad.
      So where are those purporting to seek asylum going to work and what are their skills and language abilities?
      Where will you house them Marilyn?

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    17. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to David Thompson

      So, David, where do you think international law comes from? A diktat from the mothership of the supreme dalek?

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  8. Whyn Carnie

    Retired Engineer

    This commentary by Prof Saul shows the folly of so called International Law. I have heard it said by some in the Legal Community that Foreign Law is repugnant.

    Under the banner line, "Is it legal for Australian forces to turn back or tow back asylum seeker boats?" three questions are begged. (1), one cannot know the future persecution of repatriated boat people, (2) how can the seaworthiness of any vessel be determined by sailors at sea, they are not qualified assessors, (3) our navy is only there…

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    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Whyn Carnie

      "our navy is only there to prevent invasion by sea, not assess the reasons for the invasion"

      The navy does what ever the government deems to be necessary!

      And the navy leadership has said so itself!

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    2. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Technically the navy's role is not to provide aid to other countries after natural disasters.

      But I am sure you have no objection to this massive deviation from their primary role!

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    3. Whyn Carnie

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      You missed the point Greg, right now the navy is hovering around Christmas Island waters, expressly to go to the aid of foundering people smugglers boats intent on sneaking out of Indonesian waters and getting close enough to us to open the sea cocks deliberately but fairly safely. If there is another event in neighbouring waters requiring our ships to go to it, what priority would you place on waiting around for more illegal immigrants to pop up or heading off on a genuine rescue mission? Bring our boats home to our capital ports first. Stop wasting our taxes tootling around outside Indonesian waters to keep international do-gooders happy. Nobody else does it!

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    4. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Whyn Carnie

      Well I agree with that Whyn.

      If more of them drown at sea and the realize that the Australian navy will no longer act as their ferry service then the people smugglers and their clients will soon get the message.

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    5. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Whyn Carnie

      Then, Whyn, I take it you don't object to Sudanese pirates exercising their personal rights in defiance of international law? I take it you wouldn't want Australian businesses to be protected by international copyright, contract or intellectual property law?

      Or am I making a mistake in thinking you want to debate the issues reasonably rather than just vent a little ugly spleen in public?

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  9. John Robert Brooker

    Retired

    I am a retired Naval officer. The Professor is correct and the 'turn back the boats' proposal is fraught with practical, legal and humanitarian problems.

    Take the recent example of the vessel that capsized under Naval escort to Christmas Island with the loss of life? It had been under escort for 6 hours and when initially found, had a functional engine and bilge pump.

    What may have happened if the Navy had turned the vessels around and forced it to return to Indonesia, as someone has has proposed, by removing fuel? (Remember towing it back is not an option). Probably another 300 deaths at sea - and who is left holding the bag?

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  10. Rene Oldenburger

    Haven't got one

    What are the International Laws and Laws of the Sea in regards to unsafe vessels leaving their shores or territory. Surely there must be provisions in those laws that addresses this as well.

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    1. John Robert Brooker

      Retired

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      Rene,
      ,
      There are international conventions setting minimum standards for the safety and seaworthiness of vessels under the flags of most nations. Remember the 'ships of shame' saga of some years ago relating to the operation of clapped out merchant ships - with many crews lost at sea?

      All commercial vessels in Australia,whether fishing or trading vessels, are subject to regular survey to ensure their safety and seaworthiness, level and skills of crew and number of passengers, if applicable, that they can carry.

      But Australia is a developed country and Indonesia is a developing country.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      Thing is Rene, officials in Indonesia at various levels will be happy enough to play ignorant of what is happening many miles away from Djakarta, be turning a blind eye locally and even possibly getting some extra remuneration for allegedly not knowing of what is going on or even facilitating it.
      So then you have all these old hulks of wooden fishing boats, new ones cheap enough to build in Indonesia and so if there is a good offer to take their rotting old boat out to sea from some uncontrolled…

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  11. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    Much is made by Labor , the media and others of " We'll tow the boats back " when perhaps that ought to be ignored for the more correct " We'll stop the boats "
    Whereas in virtually stopping the boats between 2002 and 2007, there were only something like four boats that were actually towed or turned back, stopping the boats having been achieved by the raft of policies including TPVs that made those using people smugglers realise there was no easy entry with Australia.
    The revoking of what had been…

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    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Greg North

      Putting people into indefinite detention, some for up to seven years, inducing mental illnesses, was part of what stopped the boats.
      If that is your deterent please defend it rather than overlook it.

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  12. Sue Ieraci

    Public hospital clinician

    What do commenters here think about the WWII refugees? Many people escaped death under European Fascism by crossing borders, hiding in cellars, eventually found their way here to Australia. Indeed, many of those ex-refugees, once denounced as ''reffos'', are now prominent members of our community, as are their children and grandchildren. Was Schindler a ''people smuggler".

    Is that situation different to what our current asylum seekers are doing? If so, how is it different? What about Julian Assange and Edward Snowden - are they legitimate asylum-seekers? Are the people who help them ''people smugglers''?

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    1. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      What do we think? Might be interesting to ponder for half of one school History lesson. But beyond that, not much.

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    2. lavinia kay moore

      child and family counsellor

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      well said Sue.
      From what I have read and experienced and seen every wave of migrants to Australia has faced discrimination.(I do not know about the very first Europeans to arrive)
      Migration, and that includes that involving those we catagorise as refugees, tend to increase in numbers when there are wars, oppressive governments, depressions/famines/ starvation and where there appears to be an alternative option to simply staying and be destroyed etc.
      My guess is that all of the posters in this…

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    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to David Thompson

      David, don't waste your time - Whyn Carnie has already won the award for posting the nastiest, most adolescent piece insensitivity-bravado on the site today.

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    4. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to David Thompson

      Fascism, Nazism, .
      didn't someone write that those who do not understand history are doomed to repeat it.
      An incentive for a certain totalitarian, anti-democracy religious sect to exclude potentially embarrassing "history" from its school curriculum?
      A we being dragged into a deep, dark and inescapable pit by the likes of David?

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    5. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      " If so, how is it different? What about Julian Assange and Edward Snowden - are they legitimate asylum-seekers? Are the people who help them ''people smugglers''?"

      Julian Assange went to the Ecuadorian embassy and requested help!

      He DID NOT engage the services of people smugglers and just land in Ecuador uninvited.

      And if the Ecuadorian embassy staff choose to smuggle him out of the UK then that is their business and the act of a government, not a people smuggler.

      And WW2 was 70 years ago. The situation 70 years ago does not apply today!

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    6. Jeffrey Weissel

      Retired

      In reply to Sue Ieraci

      Sue Ieraci asks "What do commenters here think about the WWII refugees?"

      Let's go back and see what can be learned from the fate of passengers aboard the S.S. St. Louis fleeing the rise of Nazism prior to WWII. In May of 1939 about 1000 Jewish refugees left Hamburg on the St. Louis bound for Cuba. The passengers had all applied for visas to enter the United States from Cuba, but at the time of sailing, these had not yet been issued. Thus the passengers were, in effect, undocumented. It is therefore…

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  13. Mike Brisco

    Scientist at Flinders University of South Australia

    Re towing back you said "Are there international examples of countries doing this? Have they been doing it legally?

    It’s pretty rare by world standards but it has happened....."

    The Australian government did tow boats back to Indonesian waters (or just outside) , under the Howard administration. David Marr documented this in "Dark Victory". That would be around the time of SIEV X. The whole was done as part of Operation Relex - thus details were not made public at the time, though Marr through diligent reporting managed to find out.

    I recall the policy resulted in deaths. I recall Marr reporting, at least two people did not make it back to shore, after their boat was towed back.

    Had the Australian government not towed those boats back - those two people might be alive today.

    It is important to remember these things. . Australia is already a member of that group of countries that pushes refugees back into areas where they are unsafe.

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  14. John Kelmar

    Small Business Consultant

    Australia has the right to determine who may enter the country. As it appears that the people coming on boats are not refugees, have no identification, and no Visa, then they should immediately be refused entry and forced to return to whence they came.

    If I tried to enter another country without identification, no visa etc I would be jailed, executed, or forced to return from whence I came without being given free housing, food, medical treatment, and being paid by the Government.

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    1. Sue Ieraci

      Public hospital clinician

      In reply to John Kelmar

      ''If I tried to enter another country without identification, no visa etc I would be jailed, executed, or forced to return from whence I came ''

      John Kelmar - are you in a position that remaining in Australia would threaten your life or livelihood because of your ethnicity or political affiliations? If you are, then you could legitimately seek asylum in any of the countries that is party to the Convention, no?

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    2. Andrew Nichols

      Digital Drudge

      In reply to John Kelmar

      "Australia has the right to determine who may enter the country."

      Yes, and Australia has determined that a person who alleges that they are fleeing persecution may seek asylum here.

      "As it appears that the people coming on boats are not refugees,"

      More than 80% of asylum seekers are found to be genuine refugees.

      "have no identification, and no Visa,"

      And yet have a legal status as asylum seekers under International law, which Australia subscribes to.

      "then they should immediately be refused entry and forced to return to whence they came."

      You are entitled to your opinion. I would struggle to maintain such a morally and ethically bankrupt position myself, but thats me. Legally, of course, its just not possible.

      But is clear your opinion is based on misinformation, misunderstanding or just plain falsehoods.

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    3. John Schomberg

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to John Kelmar

      What an idiotic line of reasoning!

      Do you think the Jews that fled from the Nazis, the Vietnamese, Lao, Cambodians, Bosnians and so on asked their persecutors for a visa?

      Boy: 'Excuse me, I'm Hazara. Can I have visa? You killed my father and uncles, raped my mother. I want to leave.'

      Taliban: 'Why, certainly! Where would you like to go? Economy or Business?'

      It only 'appears' that they are not refugees because that is what the Government and Opposition want the bigots to believe as they both fight for their votes. It is not an assessment based on data, it is a politically convenient position.

      Going by Mr Kelmar's comments it is succeeding.

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    4. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to John Kelmar

      John, when the actual evidence, based on professional assessment, is that around 90% of those arrivals are genuine refugees, what makes you think you have the right to just announce that they are not and expect your arrogance and ignorance to go unchallenged?

      But I see you are quite comfortable just to make up factoids as you like.

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  15. Gary Murphy

    Independent Thinker

    It is a stupid policy that will just endanger more lives.

    As soon as the navy tries to turn them around they will sabotage the boat and then the navy will be legally obliged to risk their lives to save them.

    The people will end up here anyway. It will not be a deterrent but will increase the risks to everyone involved.

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  16. Mike Puleston

    Citizen

    It's time to revisit the hypothetical group of white Zimbabwean farmers who, quite justifiably fearing persecution, charter a yacht from Mozambique and head for Fremantle to seek asylum. Off the WA coast, the yacht is stopped by a RAN vessel. Will it be towed back to Mozambique? Will the asylum seekers be carted off to Manus Island or a similar hell-hole to rot indefinitely while their kids go mad? Somehow I don't see Australia doing this to English-speaking white folks.

    But I forget that the white Zimbabweans would arrive on a Qantas flight, flash their tourist visas, and then either go underground or claim asylum, with a far greater chance of staying in Australia than refugees of the tinted variety.

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    1. John Schomberg

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Mike Puleston

      Mike has hit the nail on the head.

      Remember how Scott Morrison thinks we should have the right to the personal medical history of an asylum seeker living next door?

      We think they are less human than us.

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  17. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    Hey Marilyn, you must feel like slitting your wrists after Rudd's press conference today.

    On the other hand I am breaking out the champagne!

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  18. margaret m

    old lady

    Intense misery of people who have left their own country because of the brutality corruptness weakness violence etc etc of their own countrymen. The problem is expanding increasing world wide.

    It is a national disgrace the Mr Abbott & Co supported by the media have sensationalised this issue turning it into a political point core issue. Mr Abbots like cannot consider the Malaysian solution they are not a signatory to the convention but still he would turn back the boats to a country that is…

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    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to margaret m

      Oh and of course Margaret you bloody lot are not responsible for sensationalizing, exaggerating and 'spinning' the issue and leveling nazi and racist slurs at those who question your position are you.

      You people got your just desserts.

      You know no moderation nor compromise and now you have pushed the vast majority of Australians and therefore both major parties to cut you off at the knees, politically speaking.

      Suffer! Hahahaaaahhahah

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    2. margaret m

      old lady

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Dear Greg sorry I caused you to have a rant made my day. We are such a funny lot.

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  19. Yoron Hamber

    Thinking

    Well, can't use USA to define international law can we? If you do you're giving them some weird veto right of what should be. The point with international law is that all countries agreeing on it should be bound to follow it. It doesn't matter for the legality, which country that breaks it, be it USA, or any other Country. It also depends on how seriously Countries is about it. International law that Countries only follow when when it fits them, mostly pointing at some other Country, is no law at all I'm afraid.

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  20. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    Ohhhh was I enjoying listening the the cavalcade of bleeding heart lawyer SEETHING on ABC 774 this afternoon.

    Happy days are here again!

    This is the most satisfying political gloat I have had in a long time.

    A word of advice to you bleeding hearts.

    To borrow a phrase from star wars......

    "The more you tighten your grip, the more of your asylum seeker related political gains that will SLIP through your fingers".

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  21. Steven Waters

    logged in via Facebook

    we have thousands and thousands in detention centers waiting to be deemed as legal to enter Australia. some have been there for years, so if they haven't been let in yet chances are they are not genuine. if it takes us that long to decide then how can you decide there and then. besides all we have to do is cite that these boats are not sea worthy and pose a risk to the lives on board and turn them back for safety reasons. after all how can we allow that if we happen to come across a unsafe boat. anyway hasn't Rudd made an agreement with Papua new guinea now where we are sending them there instead of Australia. not sure if that is legal and aren't we just creating the problem on behalf of Papua new guinea for us to take care of and clean up later.

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    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Steven Waters

      I seriously doubt it because Iranian middle class who have flown to Malaysia and then to Indonesia are not going to want to settle in Papua New Guinea.

      If there are any illegal immigrants with genuine claims for asylum among them then they will likely be happy to settle in New Guinea.

      But the number of them are so small that it is highly unlikely to cause New Guinea any problems.

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  22. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-19/manus-island-detention-centre-to-be-expanded-under-rudd27s-asy/4830778

    "There is also an interesting question in how those resettled refugees will be able to blend in. Papua New Guinea is Christian – in some parts a deeply Christian - country. There is a small population of Muslims, but as many thousands more come in, that reaction is something we will have to wait and see."

    The bloody audacity of this so and so.

    So a flood of muslims settling New Guinea is going to cause social disruption in this strongly christian nation.

    But a flood of muslims wont cause any social disruption in predominantly christian Australia.

    The sheer hypocrisy of this statement is just MIND BLOWING!

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    1. Whyn Carnie

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Don't forget that this predominantly muslim invading horde have just passed through two of the largest muslim-dominated nations to get here. Indonesia has the largest population of muslims in the International world and yet is happy to facilitate the alleged refugees passage. To cause more disruption to neighboring Christian countries? Indonesia has a specific charter, Pancasila, that guarantees freedon to five clearly defined religions, unlike many other nations.
      At the very least this trade is bringing work to politicians, professional prison operators, International jurists and university academics.

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    2. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      If anyone wanted evidence that this 'caring about asylum seekers' by bleeding hearts little more than a political game that they aim to win at any long term cost to Australia the HERE IT IS!

      This bleeding heart is expressing concerns about large numbers of muslims in a christian country that you bleeding hearts accuse us of being racist for expressing in Australia!

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    3. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Have just drawn Tony Abbott's attention to piece on the ABC website so we will see if he rings back and then makes something of it in the media.

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  23. Phil Irvine

    Grazier

    Which Territorial waters are considered here?
    There is the Territorial Sea (12 nautical mile limit) and the Contiguous Zone (24 nautical mile limit). It seems that a country has the right to exercise control over customs and immigration within the Contiguous Zone but Australia's sovereignty only extends to the Territorial Sea.

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    1. Whyn Carnie

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Phil Irvine

      Phil, I don't think it matters much which boundary. The International jurist community and people smuggler industry wants us responsible for illegal immigrants from the moment their boats depart Indonesian waters. Perhaps the next move will be to get their destination prior to leaving home and pin that on us.

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  24. Michael Leonard Furtado

    Doctor at University of Queensland

    I am puzzled by the closure for comment of today's Weekend Conversation blog by Dr Dastyari of Monash that has attracted a mere 50 or so comments, not many of them more passionately contested than in these posts.

    The tenor of her article being not dissimilar to this, I take the opportunity to remind colleagues on all sides that it may be premature to break open the champagne (for those who foresee an about-turn in Rudd's policy) or, conversely, a last hurrah by him before facing certain annihilation…

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    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      "To be a refugee, of its very nature, is to be disorderly, not simply as a matter of choice, but of the circumstances in which the desperate find themselves. "

      That depends on the nature of their 'desperation' Michael!

      Are they desperate to escape political persecution because they have opposed their government in some way.

      Or are they desperate to be able to earn more money and have better access to supermarkets etc.

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    2. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      The latter DOES NOT give them a legitimate claim for asylum.

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    3. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Dear Greg

      Thanks for your question.

      A refugee is a person who is outside his or her country of origin or habitual residence because they have suffered (or fear) persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because they are a member of a persecuted 'social group' or because they are fleeing a war or natural disaster.

      Such a person may be called an 'asylum seeker' until recognized by the state where they make a claim. Nearly all of the asylum seekers arriving…

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    4. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      The problem is Michael that your side regard pretty much everyone who turns up in a boat as an asylum seeker and no one as a refugee.

      Illegal immigrants arriving in a boat is not a black and white issue.

      Some are refugees to be deported and some are genuine asylum seekers to be accepted.

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    5. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Dear Greg

      Thank you for your point.

      The question of who exactly is a refugee and who isn't is determined by an independent refugee tribunal and not by 'my side', whatever that may mean.

      Unless you are questioning the independence of the refugee tribunal, it follows that we are both on the same side, as I unreservedly support both its independence as well as the safe return of non-refugees to their country of origin.

      I imagine that as a fair-minded and well-informed citizen you would have no difficulty with that position.

      Yours sincerely

      Michael Furtado

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    6. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      And by the way, many of the refugees languishing in UN refugee camps are also asylum seekers and are just as deserving of our protection as those who turn up in boats.

      More so in many case as they have been waiting for resettlement for longer and the accepted convention is that those who were in the queue first get tended to first.

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    7. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      I must acknowledge Michael that it is so much nicer to have a rational discussion with an opponent on this issue without being called a racist and nazi etc and feeling compelled to retaliate.

      "Unless you are questioning the independence of the refugee tribunal,"

      Yes I am Michael, and so are many others including Bob Carr.

      If not the tribunals independence then the criteria and procedures by which they make their assessments.

      Why is rate at which they over turn immigration department assessments significantly higher than in comparable western countries?

      And my previous question to you stands.

      Given that there are vastly more immigrants that wish to resettle in Australia than can ever sensibly and sustainably taken, at what number do we draw the line.

      We have obligations to our children, grand children and descendants that are not trumped by our obligations to the refugee convention.

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    8. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Thanks, Greg. I can see that you are far from being the incorrigible racist that some accuse you of being and I respect that you argue for a preferential option for those who have waited longer and more patiently in the endless queues that UNHCR, Medicins Sans Frontiers, The Red Cross and others have set up in hotspots around the world.

      Unfortunately, that's not the way it works. Nor might it suit the political aims of many Australians. Such displaced persons have to wait to be processed. Until…

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    9. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Dear Greg

      Thanks for this post.

      I wish to say that Senator Carr's contribution relates to Iranians, as he said, who are clearly economic refugees. They are middle-class people with access to financial resources to get here under emergency conditions. Many of them are Bahais, who are a persecuted religious minority, and who are also well-educated, with some of them people of economic substance, so the boundaries here are confused and need sorting out.

      In such confused circumstances, it has…

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  25. Greg Boyles

    Lanscaper and former medical scientist

    The comparison between Jews during WW2 and ALL current so called asylum seekers is a very shaky one.

    Nazi treatment of the Jews was a somewhat exceptional example systematic persecution and extermination that rightly deserved protection of the UN convention on refugees, if had existed at that time.

    But does that mean that every single individual throughout the world deserves the same protection due to, in comparison, minor political contests that lead to tit for tat murders between the contestant political factions???

    To take the UN refugee convention to such an extreme is just impractical and unworkable.

    The waring political factions should be made to sit down and resolve their political differences peacefully rather than trying to resolve these FREQUENT outbreaks through immigration of one side or the other to the west.

    What about focusing humanitarian efforts on preventing western countries from selling military weapons to the waring sides for example?

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    1. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      We have had a recent example of systematic persecution and extermination in the Balkans.

      But that wasn't solved through mass immigration of all Muslims out of that region.

      It was ultimately solved through the break up of the former Yugoslavia into separate nations thus separating the persecuted from the persecutors.

      The point is for you bleeding hearts that there are many other solutions to these problems that can be pursued other than permanent migration to Australia.

      And the fact that you bleeding hearts wont consider any solutions to these sorts of problems, other than a migration solution, re-enforces to me that your real interests are nothing more than wining a political contest in Australia at any cost.

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    2. Mike Puleston

      Citizen

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Whenever I read the phrase "you bleeding hearts" I know I am reading the outpourings of a right-wing bigot. How about the other terms of abuse you people habitually use, Greg, like "chardonnay-sipping, cafe-latte-guzzling leftie scum"?

      I only pop in and out of the Conversation, as I have a real life outside political commentary, but whenever I come here I will surely encounter some reactionary rant from Greg Boyles. You're a sad case, Greg. Don't you have anything else happening in your dismal life?

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    3. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Mike Puleston

      Yeah sure Mike!

      Of course you are conveniently ignoring the abuse you bleeding hearts use against those who question you position, like racist, nazi, zeig heil and many others!

      Why don't you lot lead by example and refrain from your own abuse of us!

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    4. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      We constantly hear about the asylum seeker issue being poisoned by politics!

      Well let us just remember one detail that is left out.

      It has been poisoned by politics from BOTH sides.

      Your side can be just as bigoted and abusive as ours!

      And often more so except for the few individuals like me that are prepared to throw the abuse back in your collective bleeding heart faces.

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    5. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      You collectively wanted a political war on this and you got one, except that you have now lost that war!

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  26. Robert Tony Brklje
    Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

    retired

    Technically and legally you are not turning back a "Boat of Asylum Seekers", you are turning back a marine vessel of unknown content, harbouring unknown communicable diseases, an unknown quantity of illegal goods, contaminated by unknown vermin, pests and contaminants.
    Basically you are turning back a vessel that has not passed through accepted immigration, criminal, customs or quarantine checks and as such it's contents are unknown and of unknown and possibly serious health and safety risk.
    It…

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    1. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Robert Tony Brklje

      Dear Robert

      You raise some interesting points.

      Foreign vessels that reach our shores without reference to the safeguards that you properly draw to our attention and insist upon happen to be summarily impounded and destroyed as appropriate.

      The law draws a distinction between such vessels and the people who travel on them, who, like you and me, are our fellow human beings, with exactly the same inalienable human rights.

      It is indeed, as you appear to understand, very nasty indeed not to draw a distinction between a vessel - an inanimate object - that has failed to pass through customs and quarantine, and the human persons who travel in them.

      Thank you for enabling me to point out this key distinction.

      Sincere regards

      Michael Furtado

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  27. G. H. Schorel-Hlavka

    logged in via Twitter

    It is my concern that people with law degrees present statements without fully considering what is constitutionally appropriate and permissible.
    No one in his/her right mind could accept that say an invading army of thousands of people merely because they do not carry weapons cannot then endanger the security of a nation. As a CONSTITUTIONALIST I have set out such as at my blog at www.scribd.com/inspectorrikati how to humanaly deal with refugees. Having about 1,000 odf those coming by boat drowing…

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    1. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to G. H. Schorel-Hlavka

      Dear Mr Schorel-Hlavka

      Thank you for your interesting point.

      It may interest you as a constitutionalist to know that the Australian Constitution nominates the High Court of Australia as the highest and ultimate constitutional authority in the land.

      As such, the High Court has consistently ruled in favour of the rights of refugees and against various legislative attempts to alienate or limit those rights.

      I hope this assists with assuaging your concerns about the alleged unconstitutionality of legal expertise as expressed in these columns on the refugee question.

      Sincere regards

      Michael Furtado

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  28. Tiffany Meek

    Graphic designer, psychology student

    To my mind it is important to differentiate between an illegal immigrant and an asylum seeker. They are completely different, and require a different approach.

    Illegal immigrants are those who a) wish to leave their own country and settle in another in order to better their lives, and b) choose to do so without following appropriate legal channels. Illegal immigrants relocate to another country BY CHOICE.

    Asylum seekers are those who are fleeing persecution or are at risk from things such as…

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    1. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Tiffany Meek

      Dear Tiffany

      Clearly and extremely well said! The Meek shall indeed inherit the Earth, I hope!

      All I would add would be that the most recent influx is of Iranians and that until their refugee status is sorted out (since many of them come from comfortable backgrounds and do not appear to be destitute) it makes sense to process them in PNG, out of the glare of public opinion, especially at a time when we face a general election and a very great divide on this complex and incendiary issue.

      I have no doubt that, as you explain, if their claims are spurious, they will be sent back, whether their government approves or not. And if their claims are genuine, they will be welcomed in.

      Kind regards

      Michael

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    2. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      "The Meek shall indeed inherit the Earth, I hope!"

      You can hope all you want Michael but I am afraid that a few thousands years of human history has pretty much proven that the only people that end up 'inheriting the earth' are those that are prepared to fight for it.

      Evolution red in tooth and claw an all that.

      And western civilization, of which you are a will part, has been and is far from meek despite the fact that you and I are currently living in a period of peace and political stability.

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    3. Tiffany Meek

      Graphic designer, psychology student

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      As much as I refuse to get involved in conversation that stoops to assassinate the character of an individual, which apart from anything else would be in violation of etiquette here, I will have my say in reference to 'the Meek'.

      Although the current day usage of the word 'meek' is 'gentle and submissive', or some version of that, the original definition of 'meek' was different. In some academic circles it is said that 'Meek' is one of the most difficult words to define with accuracy. Personally the closest I have been able to get to a description of 'meekness' is that it describes a person who is incredibly strong in character yet at the same time completely humble. The truly meek cannot be turned from what is 'good and right', yet go about this task without resorting to anger, force or control.

      If we use the original definition of 'meek', I have no doubt that, eventually, the meek surely will inherit the earth.

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    4. Ian Rudd
      Ian Rudd is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired accountant & unapologetic dissident

      In reply to Tiffany Meek

      Tiffany, Don't forget that the captain in a wonky boat is also at risk and also that these refugees choose to go on the boat. They are not forced to by the captain. If anything they are forced onto the boats by the life-threatening situations they face in their home countries. Australia has been in part to blame for the appalling conditions those from Afghanistan face and in the case of Sri Lanka we continue to parley with a regime responsible for the genocidal treatment of the Tamils who then, in desperation, set sail for Australia.

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    5. Tiffany Meek

      Graphic designer, psychology student

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Yes Ian, I agree that the captain is at risk, however I also think it's highly likely that the captain is probably no more than a 'dispensable' local fisherman, 'low on the rung' within the people smuggling organisation, and is probably paid off to make the risky voyage. I hasten to add that my opinion on the captains is based on nothing more than how I envisage the situation might be - I have absolutely no evidence to back up my opinion.

      On the other hand, Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers come…

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    6. Tiffany Meek

      Graphic designer, psychology student

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Hello Michael

      Thank you for your kind compliment.

      I don't know very much about the Iranian situation, therefore anything I would have to say on the subject would not be well informed. But I can say that as far as I am aware a persons financial situation is not considered in their application for asylum. This is, as you would know of course, because persecution etc can happen to anyone - it is irrelevant to their financial or social status.

      Therefore I would have to assume, given the political situation in Iran, that there are many legitimate asylum seekers coming out of that country.

      As far as I understand the most recent situation in Australia, the government is saying that whether or not a person is a legitimate asylum seeker, they simply will not be resettled within Australia. This sadly means that our country will not be welcoming ANY asylum seekers. Please correct me if I am wrong.

      Cheers!

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    7. Tiffany Meek

      Graphic designer, psychology student

      In reply to Tiffany Meek

      I need to correct my previous statement!

      As far as I understand the most recent situation in Australia, the government is saying that whether or not a person is a legitimate asylum seeker, they simply will not be resettled within Australia IF THEY HAVE COME BY BOAT. This sadly means that our country will not be welcoming ANY asylum seekers WHO HAVE COME BY BOAT.

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    8. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Tiffany Meek

      Well let's look at current Australian politics shall we.

      By your reviewed definition of 'meek' Malcolm Turnbull might be described as such and yet he was dumped as leader of the Coalition by that arrogant little twerp Tony Abbott.

      Similarly Julia Gillard might arguably be described as meek in comparison to Kevin Rudd and yet we again have Rudd as prime minister, who surely cannot be described as meek.

      Putin, Belersconi, Bush,.........not that many current world leaders could be described as your version meek.

      They are all strong in characters and anything but humble (or wise for that matter)

      Even those that are strong in character but humble rarely 'inherit the earth' sadly

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    9. Tiffany Meek

      Graphic designer, psychology student

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Personally I would not characterise Turnbull or Gillard, or indeed any of the people you mention, as meek however if you choose to do so that is your personal right. This avenue of conversation has now become about personal interpretations based on our own (yours and my) individual worldview and therefore cannot be judged as 'right' or 'wrong'. I will not debate it with you as there is nothing of any academic substance to debate. Let's get back to the subject at hand shall we?

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    10. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Tiffany Meek

      Fair enough Tiffany.

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    11. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Dear Greg

      Thank you for revealing some of the assumptions on which you base your views of the world. I did a quick search, since your participation in The Conversation tends towards being prolific and discovered much information and some tensions and contradictions that must make for an interesting if turbulent life.

      I discovered from information tendered by yourself that you are married to a Catholic and send your children to a Catholic school. I then randomly selected one of several definitions…

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    12. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      You are correct about Catholicism in my family Michael.
      But my wife is not what I would describe as a rabid catholic and if she was there is no way I would have married her.
      She and her family had a similar catholic up bringing as I had a Uniting Church one through my grandparents, with whom myself and my brother stayed during most school holidays for a week or more. But Christianity never really 'took' with either myself or my brother even at that young age.

      "Darwinism is a theory that persons…

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    13. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      "insofar as a racist is someone who advances various biological and cultural explanations about human difference, including differences relating to a perceived superiority of some 'races' over others, based on theories of genetic inheritance"

      Population size and ecological sustainability remains my primary concern with respect to immigration.

      I do have other concerns about 'differences' as you put it however those 'differences' that I am concerned are cultural clashes and clashes of values, particularly respect for democracy, freedom of speech and separation of church and state (a particular issue with Islam and Arab cultures)

      I have no problem with mixed race families and in fact would like to see this strongly encouraged in Australia because this promotes melting pot multiculturalism rather than ethnic enclave multiculturalism, which I have grave concerns over given parts of Britain and Europe.

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    14. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      "I wonder why you have objected so strenuously in your posts here to being described as a racist."

      Because it f'ing pisses me off that these f'wits seek to veto debate around immigration and multiculturalism with racist and nazi slurs.

      I WILL NOT be silenced or intimidated by such slurs and will respond in kind to anyone who tries it out on me!

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    15. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      "Is it perhaps that you consider it to be a term of abuse rather than description,"

      Oh Michael of course it is abuse - don't be daft man!

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    16. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      "Secondly, I note and delight in your observation that you and I are currently living in a period of peace and political stability, which somehow suspends the otherwise normative tensions and extreme cut-throat competition of the human world. "

      Well relatively.

      At least the cut throat competition does not include murder, genocide and oppression etc as experienced in many developing countries.

      "My question here is: what is your foundation for believing this is an aberration rather than an…

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    17. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      And the other thing that you should consider is that this 'aberration' is not proof against human evolution (biological and cultural).

      Given that the global population has ballooned massively during this 'aberration' you could justifiably say that is an evolutionary advantage for us to live peacefully and harmoniously as we currently are.

      It is just that in times of scarcity and high competition for limited resources selects for a very different type of human and societal behavior is selected for - one that is some what more 'red in tooth and claw'.

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    18. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      "It is just that in times of scarcity and high competition for limited resources selects for a very different type of human and societal behavior is selected for - one that is some what more 'red in tooth and claw'."

      And it is our job to manage our population and our immigration to ensure that we don't find ourselves in a situation where we are fighting over limited resources where 'red in tooth and claw' type traits are not strongly selected for.

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    19. Whyn Carnie

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Boat people are not forced to get on the boat, and the captain is motivated by money, a great motivator to the poor. Boat people seek to bully their way around the poor buggers waiting in the formal queue. As such they have relinquished all rights to any sympathy I may have had. Feed 'em all to the Wontoks.The bleeding hearts brigade in Australia don't seem to get the message.

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    20. Tiffany Meek

      Graphic designer, psychology student

      In reply to Whyn Carnie

      Perhaps they may Whyn, perhaps they may. Of course, if you have any evidence or a considered argument to back up that statement I'd be very interested in hearing it :)

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    21. Tiffany Meek

      Graphic designer, psychology student

      In reply to Whyn Carnie

      Are there a selection of boats to choose from? Are asylum seekers equipped with the knowledge to determine the seaworthiness of a vessel? Do they have access to the vessel prior to the journey to assess its seaworthiness? What 'bullying' are you referring to? Is it OK for the captain to put people's lives at risk to make money, whether he is poor or not? What is it that 'bleeding hearts' are not getting? What is a Wontok?

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    22. Ian Rudd
      Ian Rudd is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired accountant & unapologetic dissident

      In reply to Tiffany Meek

      Tiffany, I applaud you for going to Sri Lanka and talking to people there and of course asking the right questions. It is much easier for these fear-mongers to sit back here and demonize the refugees and the people who help them get to Australia.

      I think the people smugglers also are unfairly demonized and targeted by gangsters like Carr and Abbott and an ignorant press.

      Some time ago I attended an address by two Journalists who went to Indonesia to investigate how the people smugglers operate…

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    23. Tiffany Meek

      Graphic designer, psychology student

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Ian, your information in regards to the people smugglers is intensely interesting! This is the sort of information that needs to be made available to the general public. We need to know the truth about what is actually going on on ground level so that we can determine what is political hype and what is reality. How else can we come to a reasonable and fair view of the situation?

      It's so easy to sit back and judge, when we have little to no idea what it might be like to walk in someones shoes…

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    24. lavinia kay moore

      child and family counsellor

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      and some of the fishermen who get into providing transport for asylum seekers are desperately poor.......
      Not an excuse, but ...

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    25. lavinia kay moore

      child and family counsellor

      In reply to Tiffany Meek

      enjoyed your posts.
      I would love to think that the meek will inherit the earth.

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    26. lavinia kay moore

      child and family counsellor

      In reply to Tiffany Meek

      You probably know that an ecxtyremely high percentage of asyum seekers have been subsequently found to be genuine refugees. But have you seen the news that I read in the past week that approximately 40-50% of those on work visas, and certain students on students visas have been found not to conform with the requirements for those visas?
      Is Rudd going to deport them to Papua too?

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    27. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to lavinia kay moore

      Well given that their country of origin is on record then it would be a rather simple matter to deport them back to that country. QED!

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    28. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to lavinia kay moore

      Good point, Lavinia. And, of course, it shouldn't because human rights abuses apply across all discourses, whether of class, race or gender.

      My point was that, all other things being equal, a well-off person might find it easier to buy an airline ticket, rather than one on a leaky boat.

      In that instance moral proportionality enters the equation: desperate people will seek any means to escape their oppressors, so faced with a very difficult choice I would favour someone arriving at great risk…

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    29. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Thanks, Greg, for this.

      I'm sure you would know that the line "Nature, red in tooth and claw" (from Alfred Lord Tennyson, 'In Memoriam', Canto 56) was adopted by many as a phrase that evokes the process of natural selection.

      However, I would point out that at the end of the poem, Tennyson emerges with his Christian faith reaffirmed, progressing from doubt and despair to faith and hope. In other words the point he makes is that it is possible to grow from a dog eat dog view of the world with all its vicissitudes towards a gentler and kinder version of human nature.

      Kind regards
      Michael

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    30. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      There is nothing wrong with aspiring to such societies Michael, and I myself aspire to such a society.

      But it is rather pointless in aspiring with out a firm grip on reality that we humans, like any other animal on earth, are immersed in world dominated by evolution and natural selection.

      So 'red in clay and tooth' like traits in humans and human society can arise at any time as we see every day around the world including in western countries.

      Like I said it is up to us to manage our population and the social conditions etc such that these innate 'red in clay and tooth' traits in all of us (yes Michael including you) are kept suppressed while our more peaceful traits (which are equally innate) are encouraged.

      The more pressure you put on society through population growth and the more competition there is for dwindling resources the more 'red in claw and tooth' individual will become and society as a whole.

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    31. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Dear Greg

      Thank you for your patience.

      Outrageously absurd as it may seem to you, there are analytical differences in the use of the term 'racist'. While I have always accepted your insistence that you are not racist (and have defended you in other blogs on this count) the strength of your support for Social Darwinism, which almost no Scientific Darwinists subscribe to (i.e. the evidence shows that Scientific Darwinists are opposed to Social Darwinism, which is commonly accepted as a racist…

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    32. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Michael I don't what the hell you are assuming social Darwinism is.

      I am merely using it in terms of Darwinian evolution as it applies to human societies and their collective behavior equally to human human individuals and their individual behaviors.

      Race has nothing to do with this as far as I am concerned, given that the genetic evidence says that races don't really exist.

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    33. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Precisely my point, Greg!

      Scientific Darwinists oppose the view that we humans, like any other animal on earth, are immersed in world dominated by evolution and natural selection.

      They argue passionately against extending and extrapolating the scientific basis for their argument to apply in matters of human behaviour and persuasively point out that those who do this are xenophobes and racists, by which they mean entering the sphere of making social, moral and cultural judgments and differentiations…

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    34. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Dear Greg

      Thanks for this explanation of your position, which although persuasive, in empirical terms, does not apply to or explain all of human behaviour, since there is as much compelling evidence of people doing the precise opposite of acting in their own self-interest as behaving selfishly.

      Indeed the entire epistemological bases of history, psychology and philosophy are based on a recognition and distinction between at least two views of human nature, the first, such as your own, Malthusian and Hobbesian, and the second Christian, Rousseauesque and Lockeian.

      Thanks for letting me alert you to this.

      Kind regards.
      Michael

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    35. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Well then perhaps I am using the term social darwinism totally inappropriately.

      I will have to think of or find another term to encompass darwinism as applied to behavior of human societies.

      But if you find me again slipping back into using social darwinism, you will know what I really mean.

      " people doing the precise opposite of acting in their own self-interest as behaving selfishly."
      I don't think anyone is suggesting that evolution is an absolute perfect and incorruptible process.

      Suicide for example....well perhaps in some way you could view it as gene pool self exclusion of individuals who carry genes that are faulty in some way.

      Ever heard of the Darwin Awards?

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    36. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      LOL

      The Darwin Awards salute the improvement of
      the human genome by honoring those who
      accidentally remove themselves from it...

      http://www.darwinawards.com/darwin/

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    37. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Greg Boyles

      Good one, Greg :)

      I guess the human aspect of it is that not only does it defy rationality but it actually hurts those left behind. I had a wonderful friend, who sadly chose that path rather than tell his family that he was gay.

      Talk soon, Greg. Have a good night!
      Mike

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    38. margaret m

      old lady

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Is it racist to say that our responsibility is firstly to our own family.

      Is it racist to say we need to be realistic as to the amount of support our country can give to others and again our responsibility to ensure we can adequatley care for our existing population and mindful of the future.

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    39. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to margaret m

      Clearly not Margaret. It is being wise!

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    40. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to margaret m

      Thanks for your question, Margaret. The answer depends on why and whom and how we exclude and include refugees, surely.

      Prudence, which you invoke, is indeed a virtue, but moral law also argues for more than an expedient solution (which tends to disregard exigency/emergency) and calls for exceptional leadership and complex solution-finding.

      Most people agreed on last night's Q&A that, facing an election and a very competitive poll, the Coalition used a racist dogwhistle, to which Labor have…

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    41. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      "Coalition used a racist dogwhistle"

      Michael you are engaging in abuse via racist slurs yourself.

      You cannot stereotype all concern over illegal immigration and people smuggling as racist.

      You agree that my concerns about this are not motivated by racism so why are you blindly assuming that the members of coalition are all motivated purely by racism.

      Some of them might be but how do we really know unless we have an in depth discussion with them as you an I have?

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    42. margaret m

      old lady

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      I see the media as the source of the lack of debate the self interest of profit I see the papers have a dilema but this lack of honest open unbias indepth reporting is not to sound too dramatic damaging our democracyand I think what social cohesian we had. I think there are some issues that the Govt should be left to decide I think there is too much let's whip up a controversy to sell a paper or grab a market share. The sooner we free our politicians from obligations to any organisation and provide…

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    43. Whyn Carnie

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Michael Leonard Furtado

      Good onya Doc and thanks for the good wishes re luck. But I first encountered this saying way before Wet Willie. Back when I was getting started in Victorian Railways, circa 1960, before PhDs were fashionable.

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    44. Greg Boyles

      Lanscaper and former medical scientist

      In reply to margaret m

      You get a lot of people saying that "I am not racist but...."

      Not only are refugee advocates misusing the term 'racist' as a means of abusing border security advocates into submission, but border security advocates are rather confused by what 'racism' really is and are therefore playing the political game according to the rules set out by abusive refugee advocates.

      This needs to stop!

      Border security advocates need to stop assuming that refugee advocates are gate keepers of 'racism' and…

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    45. Whyn Carnie

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Tiffany Meek

      Can't follow why you ask the first three Qs above. The bullying I mentioned is that shown towards the asylum seekers waiting outside our consulates overseas doing it tough. Of course it is not OK for a so-called captain to willfully put lives at risk. The criminality here is that these "captains" would never make the grade as a passenger ship's Master anywhere else but Indonesia.The bleeding hearts need to make a choice between working out who are the genuine immigrants and the bullies. a Wontok is a PNG, pidgeon term, for a family or village member (=same dialect). Not much of this is really pertinent to the topic tho' and just a tad sarcastic?

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