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Houston report: hard heads deliver $1 billion asylum seeker plan

The expert panel on asylum seekers has made 22 recommendations, including the establishment of a capacity for processing…

The Houston panel, including, from left, National Security College Director Michael L'Estrange, former defence force chief Angus Houston & refugee advocate Paris Aristotle. AAP

The expert panel on asylum seekers has made 22 recommendations, including the establishment of a capacity for processing asylum seekers in both Nauru and Papua New Guinea, in a report expected to define the government’s future policy on asylum seekers.

The report, which the panel described as “hard-headed but not hard-hearted” and “realistic, but not idealistic”, also recommends the government continue to build on the current arrangement with Malaysia.


Read the full Houston panel report here.


Panel leader Angus Houston said there were no quick and easy solutions to the problem, but that the panel’s recommendations were driven by a sense of humanity as well as fairness.

“Like all Australians we are deeply concerned about this tragic loss of life at sea … to do nothing is unacceptable,” Mr Houston said.

Other recommendations put forward by the Houston panel include increasing the current humanitarian program from 13,000 to 20,000 immediately, and expanding it to 27,000 within five years.

The panel also weighed in on the approach of turning back boat arrivals, saying it could be operationally achieved and would act as a disincentive to people smugglers.

However Mr Houston said it would only be an option if a range of safety of life, diplomatic and legal conditions are met.

“Currently the panel doesn’t believe those conditions exist though they could in the future,” Mr Houston said.

The panel recommended urgently advancing bilateral cooperation on asylum seeker issues with Indonesia, including the allocation of an increased number of humanitarian program resettlement places for Indonesia, enhanced cooperation on surveillance and search and rescue operations, and changes to Australian law in relation to Indonesian minors and others crewing unlawful boat voyages from Indonesia to Australia.

The panel also recommended an increase of 4,000 places in the family migration program, with measures designed to incentivise asylum seekers to use “regular pathways' for migration to Australia, as opposed to more dangerous maritime routes.

“We believe current family reunion concessions for immediate family applicants where they are sponsored by a person who arrived by irregular maritime means should be removed,” Mr Houston said.

The recommendations, should they be adopted, will come at a cost to the government of A$1 billion a year; however Mr Houston said the cost needs to be offset against expenditures currently incurred as a result of managing the increasing number of unauthorised arrivals.

The report largely fails to pick up on the recommendations of The Conversation’s asylum seeker expert panel, which drafted a position tailored to the Houston panel.

It proposed the immediate doubling of Australia’s annual refugee and humanitarian resettlement program and the establishment of asylum claim processing centres in countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan and Malaysia.

It also recommended Australia take a leadership position in the Asia Pacific, working in partnership with its neighbours to implement fair and just measures in responding to asylum seekers in the region.

Today The Conversation will bring you the reactions of experts to the Houston panel’s recommendations.


Helen Ware, Professor, International Agency Leadership at University of New England

I think their tag line ‘hard headed not hard hearted’ is a reasonable summary of what they’ve achieved.

It is a step forward, but subject to whether the opposition goes with it, because I don’t think the Greens will.

The addition to the humanitarian program is an excellent start and they’re talking about 27,000 by the end of five years. They couldn’t go much more than that in terms of what Australia can cope with.

They had to say Nauru because the opposition has pushed it very hard, therefore if it doesn’t work they will say ‘We did that and it still hasn’t worked’.

The theory is you will save money because you’re going to save money on people coming in via irregular routes. But it means a lot of empty processing centres here which is quite bizarre.


Nick Economou, Senior Lecturer, School of Political and Social Inquiry at Monash University

This committee has potential to embarrass the government just at a time when it doesn’t need it. It seems to me they’ve endorsed Liberal policy.

The late Fred Daly, the Labor MP, once said governments ought not to have inquiries unless they know what the outcome will be.

Scott Morrison will spend the rest of the day telling the electorate “I told you so”.

I’m sure that the opposition will ignore the criticism of their policy and seize on the Nauru option. That’s what they’ve been running hard and fast and often.

I would expect that the Greens will continue to keep their hard line policy as they have in the past. For the Greens to prevaricate and become pragmatic on this would be electorally dangerous for them. They have to realise this is a core issue in the rise of the Greens and if they mishandle this they could put themselves in electoral jeopardy.

The government has managed to snooker itself once again.


Andrew Jakubowicz, Professor of Sociology and Codirector of Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre at University of Technology, Sydney

Even though Houston said over and over it’s not a political document he did say also it was a realistic document.

What they wanted was a total package - short term, medium term, and long term and I think it’s got that.

There are issues on whether the government will buy on it. The Greens are walking away from the whole thing and saying it has to be a deal between the government and the opposition.

If the deal is that there’s a short term thing that at the same time immediately increases the intake from Indonesia, which is the crucial question, it seems to me that’s what it’s doing.

The aim of opening Nauru and Manus (PNG) is really not to use them if they can avoid it. Nauru and Manus is a sort of warning and in the submission that I made which looked at the question of the social psychology of asylum seeking, I argued there had to be something that would effectively raise the salience of alternatives for asylum seekers.

Once they’re in the system from the countries of origin there’s a psychological process where every step they take locks them into their original decision.

The challenge is to crack that so they take advantage of a real alternative. The problem is there’s been no real alternative and I think what the report offers is areal alternative.

There’s not that much attention on it but really the issue is onshore processing in Indonesia.

It’s not a Malaysia, Nauru or Manus solution, the real issue is how do you crack the bottleneck in Indonesia and how do you get people in the asylum seeker system to use something that will actually work.

While there will be a lot of flame and energy focusing on Nauru and Manus that’s a very small sideshow in the overall thing. Once the blockade in Indonesia starts to move then the whole situation will change.

What this strategy says is if you walk out of Jalan Jaksa and go to the UNHCR, you will be processed quickly, and if you’re fair dinkum you’ll be out of there, you’ll be safe and what’s more we’ll fly you to Australia and you’ll be in the community and you’ll have full rights to apply for family reunions through the humanitarian program. If you decide you want to go with the people smugglers then its going to be more difficult.

At the moment we’ve said if you go with the asylum seekers you’ll have a hell of a time, but there’s no real alternative.

A very serious examination of the psychological dynamics that are associated with the asylum seekers process in order to ensure safety is really important.

In the dynamic of safety seeking once you sink your capital into the people smuggler loop you’re stuck there, there’s no capacity outside that to escape it.

The Houston plan is so different to anything we’ve had up to now.


Andrew Markus, Pratt Foundation Research Chair of Jewish Civilisation at Monash University.

There is much factual detail in the Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, some of it not previously readily accessible. It provides a basis for more informed, less emotive debate – which is not to say that there can be confidence that it will achieve that outcome.

Many will be surprised that the projected cost of managing unauthorised arrivals incurred by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship alone between 2011-12 to 2015-16 was expected to be a very substantial $5 billion, assuming arrivals at the rate of 450 per month. Arrivals have been close to three times that level since April 2012. The known loss of life at sea since October 2009 is 604 people, with survivors ‘deeply traumatised’.

The report states that the numbers seeking asylum internationally, including Asia, is likely to increase. This is seen as an issue of direct relevance for the ‘integrity of Australia’s borders’, linked to ongoing community support for Migration and Humanitarian Programs.

A dual approach is suggested to reduce unauthorised arrivals. While significantly more generous in its recommendation of numbers to be resettled and with a heightened focus on regional co-operation, it has much in common with the disincentive principle that informed Howard government policy.

First, there should be enhanced regional cooperation and bilateral arrangements to better assist asylum seekers – and control their movement. Second, an immediate increase in Australian resettlement places, with a higher proportion allocated in the South-East Asian region (a bad outcome for refugees in Africa), to encourage asylum seekers to apply through regular channels.

Linked to the increase in places is a disincentive against irregular entry, so that those who choose that path ‘will gain no advantage’. On arrival they will be sent offshore, with no prospect of permanent resettlement earlier than if they had ‘applied to the UNHCR within the regional processing arrangement’.

The resettlement options of those found to be in need of protection will be explored with the UNHCR and other countries, with the possibility of indefinite residence in a location such as Nauru or voluntary return to their home country.

And if the hoped for regional co-operation and incentive of increased resettlement places do not work in stopping irregular arrivals? It seems that the only remaining option is to increase disincentives, whatever that might entail.


Lucy Fiske, Lecturer in Human Rights at Curtin University.

There are several problems with the expert panel’s report. In no particular order:

The report purports to address both immediate domestic concern with boat arrivals (how to ‘stop the boats’) as well as progressing a potential regional framework. However, the report is vague on how to move forward regional measures, offering no substantive steps that could be taken in the short, medium or long term. On the other hand it is alarmingly clear on deterrence measures which could be implemented immediately with bi-partisan support – as such the implementable steps are designed with Australia’s national political impasse in mind. This approach all but guarantees a resurrection of the Pacific Solution, a policy framework which pays little or no regard to human rights or international law and which would require amendments to Australian law in order to be lawful here.

The ‘no advantage principle’, while having a catchy appeal, is punitive pure and simple.

Core to the punitive elements are that refugees arriving by boat will be compelled to wait in Nauru or Manus for the same length of time a wait elsewhere might entail. Where is ‘elsewhere’? Approved refugees routinely wait years, even decades in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Pakistan, Iran, Kenya. There are serious issues with the international refugee protection regime and the global efforts of the UNHCR are directed at improving processing times not extending them.

Refugees making boat journeys will also be refused the opportunity for family reunion. Again, this measure is in direct contrast to UNHCR guidance on global refugee protection. The UNHCR states that the “family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State” and that family reunion is an “essential right of the refugee” (http://www.unhcr.org/3b30baa04.pdf p.3). It is also very much in keeping with Australian values – the well being of families is at the heart of Australia’s economic, social, educational, cultural and political life. Apart from the cruelty of this recommendation, it has been shown to correlate strongly with an increase, not decrease, in boat arrivals as refugees’ wives, husbands, children or parents take the only option left open to them.

Rather than contributing to improved regional mechanisms, the ‘no advantage principle’ aims instead to erode Australia’s framework and ensure we offer no better protection than non-signatory neighbours.

The expert panel appears to have paid little attention to submissions made by legal, health, welfare workers or academics with decades of experience in the field. The result is a report which remains firmly in a ‘border protection’ framework with little attention to human rights, mental health, legal principle or international relations.

Join the conversation

58 Comments sorted by

  1. Marilyn Shepherd

    pensioner

    Of course having prisons all over the Asia Pacific is illegal - what on earth is wrong with all white Australian's who think they can order people around in this way?

    Any push backs will be automatically appealed in the high court, the panel has compeletely ignored the rights of the refugees under the convention and they pretend not to understand that the refugees who drowned only did so because we let them.

    Refugees are not migrants, it is not about our ridiculous deterrence policy which is illegal in itself, it is not about us.

    Itt is about innocent people tortured and traumatised by war.

    We are already at the end of the line, by pretending that people who get to the end of the line after being shoved out of every other country along the way we are just going around in human trading circles.

    Why don't we just let asylum seekers fly here? No more prisons required anywhere then.

    God, they are stupid old men.

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    1. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      Marylin, once again with the racist, sexist insults. I assume that you made the comment just to vent and fully expect it to be deleted. I know that's how I felt about my rant at you below. Really though, do you honestly expect to convince people of the efficacy of your position when you don't back any of your assertions up? HOW do you propose to stop people coming here in boats? That is what needs to happen if drownings are to stop. It is a SEPARATE issue to asylum seekers etc. If you can make this distinction, it may be easier to come up with an actual solution. cheers

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    2. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      You are of course at liberty to sponsor as many as you wish!

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    3. Asef Hussain

      Consultant

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      >>Why don't we just let asylum seekers fly here? No more prisons required anywhere then.<<
      So you in clear mind and sober head declare that we should fly in all 47 mil or so refugees world wide ? And then you call members of respected expert panel "old stupid men" ?

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  2. Robert Jones

    Retired

    If the arriving boats contained white christians they would be allowed on shore with welcoming arms. They would be accommodated in the homes of thousands of volunteers. They would be immediately introduced to all the care and welfare assistance available to the native born.
    What does this say about the present arrivees. Are we suspicious of them based on their inability to accept Australian values. Do we really want more ghettos of burka-clad, aggressive n'er-do-wells who think it's their right to plug into the great public tit. Do we want whole suburbs of disaffected young men with funny haircuts, bushy beards, four wives and dozens of kids, all on welfare.
    Personally, I don't care. I will be dead and gone before the caliphate is declared.
    However, our politicians should recognise the fact that the vast majority of Australians don't want them, or anyone like them here.

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    1. Marilyn Shepherd

      pensioner

      In reply to Robert Jones

      What a lot of old cobblers. There are already hundreds of thousands of them here, they are our neighbours and friends.

      Why do racists like you get to say what the majority of us think.

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    2. Robert Jones

      Retired

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      Why do fools like you get to call me racist?
      I suppose I'll have to explain it to you. If the people arriving on boats were more like us, there would not be the present discussion. The Australian public would welcome them with open arms. However, as they are not like us, there appears to be a bit of reluctance to accept.

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    3. Steve Brown

      logged in via email @yahoo.com.au

      In reply to Robert Jones

      "Do we really want more ghettos of burka-clad, aggressive n'er-do-wells who think it's their right to plug into the great public tit"

      The great irony of your ill informed and ill thought out comments is that the people who wash up on our shores are those who have fled persecution from the very Islamic totalitarians you lament.

      It didn't occur to you at all that they flee to a capitalist democracy because they wouldn't mind a bit of capitalism and a bit of democracy? Perhaps a little more reading of world affairs and a little less talk back radio might be in order Bobby.

      And if you want us to believe that refugees constitute a disproportionate amount of welfare recipients then get real and show some data. This isn't the news limited opinion section where anything goes. You actually have to substantiate your claims if you don't want to be laughed at.

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    4. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Steve Brown

      "And if you want us to believe that refugees constitute a disproportionate amount of welfare recipients then get real and show some data."
      Steve, respectfully, if you are advocating for change in current practice, surely it is you who should show this data? If the figures were clearly stated, there would be one less point to argue. Cheers

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    5. Robert Jones

      Retired

      In reply to Steve Brown

      Stevy, where is your data. I'm not sure if the biggest problem the western democracies face is the Islamic threat or the threat from the bleeding hearts within. This forum is not the personal domain of blinkered fools like you Stevo. I thought it was a place where serious discussion could take place. However, if you would step outside of your cosy middle class ghetto, the evidence in working class suburbs is there, if you could only see.

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    6. Donncha Redmond

      Software Developer

      In reply to Robert Jones

      Isn't that the definition of racism?

      Australia has a long history of complaining about foreigners and their different ways which will lead to the downfall of the country. We'll get over it in due course and our country will end up better for it, just as it has improved with the addition of Italians, Greeks, Vietnamese and Lebanese before the Muslims we're currently whinging about.

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    7. Robert Jones

      Retired

      In reply to Donncha Redmond

      Big difference is all of these immigrant groups managed to successfully settle and to contribute to the society. And our country is all the richer for them. They didn't bring with them their internecine rivalries or their hatred of just about everyone else.

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    8. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Steve Brown

      Then why do they not go to Lebanon or Dhubai? I was not aware that Tamils were muslim or fleeing a muslin country especially when their ancestral homeland is just up the road. They want to live in an industrialsed country with good social security.

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  3. Marilyn Shepherd

    pensioner

    Doesn't anyone see the stupidity of wasting $1 billion to jail people all over Asia in breach of the law when all we have to do is let people fly here?

    Yemen accepted 104,000 refugees by sea last year without all this bleating and whinging.

    And the people are just like us, 40% of us have parents born overseas or were born overseas.

    Are christian Iraqis and Iranians not like us, don't they bleed like us?

    All the lies and bullshit and the fact has not changed and will not change and cannot…

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    1. Robert Jones

      Retired

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      Wadda loada. Naive nonsense. Yes, many of us were born, or had parents or grandparents, born overseas. But the vast majority of us accepted that this was a new land, a new start, and set about making a future for ourselves.
      Unfortunately, Islam has a different objective. And in spite of all the good intentions of all the bleeding hearts, the principal objective of Islam is to render the Western democracies impotent.
      The way they do this is to use our own institutions, our own sense of fair play, our own concern for the sanctity of human life, against us.
      Our only hope is to realise what we are up against. This is a real war. Ask the people of Israel. There will be no quarter. However, we will probably not have to fight it. Our sons and daughters will not have to die. It will be the sons and daughters of India and China who will have to assume the burden of curbing this modern scourge.

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    2. Donncha Redmond

      Software Developer

      In reply to Robert Jones

      Wadda loada rubbish.

      You do realise that only 2% of Australians are are of the Islamic faith as of the 2011 Census? So, even if 100% of Muslims want to enforce Sharia law (which I very much doubt), I don't like their odds.

      Maybe it's time for you to realise what we're NOT up against.

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    3. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      And did Yemen give them full social security benefits and permanent residence? And did they pass a dozen countries before landing in Yemen?

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    4. Asef Hussain

      Consultant

      In reply to John Coochey

      She will never answer this question. As soon as asked who is going to bear the cost of their insane proposals, they go into ignorant silence.

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    5. Tony P Grant

      Neo-Mort

      In reply to Robert Jones

      All religions...Pell/Abbott protecting "child sex abusers"?

      I have heard the "fear' from many in regional Australia...Darwinism?

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  4. Marilyn Shepherd

    pensioner

    I am really sick though of the presumption that the sea is only dangerous for asylum seekers - the Costa Concordia managed to sink without anyone screaming out that we stop cruise liners.

    Article 21(2) of the ICCPR forbids any attempts to stop anyone from seeking asylum.

    And they can't punish people with no family reunion if they come by sea because coming by sea is quite legal.

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    1. John Coochey

      Mr

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      The fact that you once lived in a war zone does not entitle anyone to sail around the world until they find a rich country with generous social welfare. There is an obligation encapsulated in the Dublin Convention that you must seek asylum in or from the country of first safe haven. In the case of Australia that would really mean only refugees from Iryan Jaya

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    2. Aaron Troy Small

      Student

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      OH Ok,

      So we as a sovereign nation have no 'right' to regulate procedures and the manner of arrival? I realise a LOT of people think the UN has some vestige of sovereignty, it doesn't, the ICCPR is NOT law in Australia, neither is the UNHCR, they are merely treaties our Government has acceded to (and that the Courts construe laws as intending to give effect to IN THE ABSENCE OF CLEAR WORDS TO THE CONTRARY).

      But let us understand one thing, the various treaties DO NOT BIND THE PARLIAMENT OR THE SENATE, or override Australian law per se. Given a real majority, it is certain that Abbott & Co. will make use of such clear words and remove the capacity of the Courts to construe legislation in order to conform to our UN Obligations (if not actually withdraw from the treaties).

      This constant bickering is merely making the Australian public angry and willing to give them that majority.

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    3. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Aaron Troy Small

      Actually Aaron I think that would be the most honest course - withdrawing from the international treaties government refugees and join our kindred citizens in the region - Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Burma ...

      Big signs and razor wire up on the beach: "We don't care" and "Go Away".

      Bugger towing them back - let's use them for target practice.

      What a disappointment the modern generation of people who live here has become. It used to mean something to be an Australian once. Not many of us left.

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    4. Aaron Troy Small

      Student

      In reply to Tony P Grant

      Actually Tony, based upon past conduct, I'd say Abbott's position has been strengthened. The man will go farther to the right-wing now that the ALP has taken his chosen viewpoint. After all, this is still a political football, Abbott can now point to the ever more frantic efforts of the people smugglers to push for a mandate to do something more at the next election (refusing to increase our intake, per the Houston, et al report, would be a no-brain first step, he's already hinting at that…

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    5. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Aaron Troy Small

      I'm not booing or hissing Aaron. In fact I am agreeing with you 110%.

      If you folks are so frightened of a few asylum seekers then yep - let's change the laws and get ourselves over where we belong - with all the tin-pot dictatorships and mean places who refuse to accept people in genuine need of help.

      Please don't construe or misconstrue what I am saying Aaron - I am agreeing with you - just pointing out exactly what you are talking about.

      Personally I blame bicycle helmets. We have bred…

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    6. Aaron Troy Small

      Student

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Personally I blame 'Negligence', it marks a watershed moment in human evolution, the exact moment when it became the duty of everyone else to look out for the welfare of people too stupid, ill-favoured or genetically deficient, to make it to breeding age.

      While their is argument about whether nature really operates on Darwin's 'survival of the fittest', there is little room to argue that it has the effect that the least fit, don't live long enough to pollute the gene pool.

      As a result, society has become obsessed with 'nannying' the least suited, working harder and harder to ensure that these clowns live long enough to breed (they are actually quite successful at it, given enough support and assistance - just take a good look around sometime).

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    7. Asef Hussain

      Consultant

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I think you twisting previous comment to suit your point. Majority of people objecting against uncontrolled, unlimited influx of economic refugees posing as asylum seekers , are not against humanitarian intake as such. Australia morally obliged to help people in need around the world by all means. Considering how many millions are out there, most desperate should be given priority. Contrary to that, what you suggest is to endorse illegal economical migrants arriving by boat, sacrificing those who…

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    8. Tony P Grant

      Neo-Mort

      In reply to Aaron Troy Small

      Aaron,

      Time will let us all see.

      What about longer term (post) Abbott whoever, do you think we will be forced to take much larger numbers say in 10/20 years?

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  5. Marilyn Shepherd

    pensioner

    I hope Paris is ready to explain to his many torture victims how it is that he advocated to jail and torture innocent people after we have jailed them on foreign islands for decades.

    He should hang his head is shame - his credibility is certainly shattered and he must resign forthwith.

    The other two don't matter because they don't know the law anyway.

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    1. Asef Hussain

      Consultant

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      Your dastardly slanders on a person well known and renowned for his humanitarian work are unethical, immoral and simply filthy. No one with even slightest sense of self respect will fall that low. Perhaps you should reassess your own adequacy and credibility before cursing others.

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    2. Tony P Grant

      Neo-Mort

      In reply to Marilyn Shepherd

      This seems to go with all minorities...i.e. those that rise to the top (elites) they become apart of the problem and conservative...they serve their masters well, I include "indigenous/labour/feminists/advocates for all disadvantaged, they get "purchased" jobs for life and the appropriate lifestyle!

      Statistics will back up my wide spray.

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  6. Glen Daly

    Retired

    All illegal immigrants,regardless of race,religion or country of origin,should be deported automatically to their country of origin.

    A simple,effective solution which would soon put a stop to the ingress of these vermin who seek to impose themselves on Australia.

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    1. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, I am sure that if the Kooris who were displaced by the deeds of 1788 had their choice, they would indeed decline to accept the influx of Europeans. I think that that is EXACTLY Glen's point. As a country, we can decide who and how many people to accept. Cheers

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    2. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to John Phillip

      Yes they didn't get a choice when faced with all us boat people turning up uninvited. And to those mates I've discussed it with, it seems a bit bizarre that we irregular boat arrivals would suddenly be wanting to stop people exactly like us turning up... defending what we've pinched, afraid someone else will do the same.

      One of the strangest things I've heard any politician say was John Howard's empty rhetoric: "We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come…

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    3. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, you must know some VERY old people if they form part of the 'us boat people'. Yes you rightly picked up on some of my semantic errors - we should be able to decide who we keep. Part of that certainly involves the way we deal with those who arrive on our 'shores' invited or not. As I've said earlier, the problem of stopping people from attempting the dangerous journey by sea is an issue clearly separate from how many refugees we accept. Clearly if people are prepared to risk a journey like that when their lives aren't threatened indicate that there are some very strong 'pull' factors in this country. If these factors aren't dealt with, many more people will attempt the journey and many more will likely die as a result. In effect, doubling our refugee intake will in no way reduce the number of boat arrivals.

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    4. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to John Phillip

      Not that old actually ... some like John Coochey here popped over as an economic migrant for example. But yes folks have been turning up here uninvited by the locals for a long long time and they've never been given a vote on whether we're welcome or not. Be an interesting ballot I'd reckon.

      Pull factors don't cut it when it comes to evaluating claims for asylum... you've got to be fleeing something - all push - whether it's the Taliban or the Sunnis or the Singhalese or the Burmese.... plenty of ugliness out there. If you're just looking for a better standard of living, then one doesn't get in.

      But we could try and be more appalling than the places they're leaving. Or we could send out some ambassadors of ill-will who could wander about the globe showing what folks can expect when they get here. That'd make them think twice I'd reckon.

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    5. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to John Phillip

      This is the most recent set of figures I've found -2005 - I will try and get some more recent numbers.

      But you will see from the attached that essentially Indonesia doesn't accept refugees. They move through to other third countries. They are not permitted to stay indefinitely.

      http://www.unhcr.org/4641be5a0.html

      Can't get more push than that. It would be worth trying to encourage Indonesia to alter its position but they - unlike us - are not rich and have their own internal crises and disasters to deal with.

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  7. Gil Hardwick

    anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

    Anyone starting to think clearly about all this finally will soon realise that the issue is not asylum seekers, that's just the pretext, but the continued inability of Australian governments to make thoughtful and informed decisions, to assert leadership, to practice good governance, and get on with it finally.

    The art of politics is not about taking sides with those who agree with you against those who disagree, but with taking issue with those who most disagree with you and in that negotiating…

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    1. Aaron Troy Small

      Student

      In reply to Gil Hardwick

      Politics at the moment is dominated by two groups, neither of whom represent the vast bulk of the electorate, but who require their votes in order to cater (pander) to the two dominant ends of the spectrum.

      The average Australian, described variously as 'John Howard's battlers' or 'ALP Stalwarts' (quite a few are both), really has no dog in this, or many other high profile fights. They simply don't have an opinion, don't care and are sick to death of being lectured about where they should stand…

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    2. Asef Hussain

      Consultant

      In reply to Aaron Troy Small

      As with any legislation its all about how its (ab)used in real life. Temporary working visa, 457, by itself is not a bad thing. Years ago when my Europe centered company was looking for place to establish regional R&D center, they chose Australia, back then it still made sense. The idea was to bring in experienced people on contract to train local staff, that's how I ended up here on 457 (not sure if class was exactly same back then). Unfortunately, after two years of training one after another…

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    3. Tony P Grant

      Neo-Mort

      In reply to Asef Hussain

      You did see what happened when "the hijacked Union Mafia ALP" attempted to impose the Super profits Tax...the original?

      As for your view on our political party (s) the ALP is a much broader offering than you give it credit for...I go to branch meetings with small business folk/an Associate Professor from Macquarie University/an IT worker and several people on aged and disability pensions and a taxi driver (his cab).

      Coalition, well you only have to watch parliament, especially today when Tony Windsor gave it to Tony Abbott...pure self-interest.

      Greens, well you maybe correct on that one.

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    4. Asef Hussain

      Consultant

      In reply to Tony P Grant

      It just proves again that two options is not really an option. No doubt on that ALP has broader base than any other political party. I have to confess I supported Rudd led ALP on last elections, more on emotional basis, his offering sounded so refreshing comparing to aging Howard. But isn't that the problem with ALP ? How much does its base decide ? Who we voted in, and who we got ? How can middle class support a party who views anyone with income above 50K as rich ? IMHO, and I don't want to offend anyone, but I think if you are young and healthy individual born in Australia and earn less than 40K, you are just lazy ass, nothing else, disabled, retired and students not in this category off course. Yet this is a category on which ALP relies in its cheap populist politics.

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    5. Tony P Grant

      Neo-Mort

      In reply to Asef Hussain

      Asef,

      I guess you mean $80K it is a point where the ALP has decided to work from...needs based.? Marginals?

      We don't vote in our PM, the caucus appoint the leader not unless you are in that individuals electorate.

      Australian politics is driven by our media and the ALP isn't the party of Whitlam any-more but they (media) got him as well!

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  8. Aaron Troy Small

    Student

    Why are we spending billions on critical infrastructure and providing jobs to enable offshore processing? The places where these centers are built will benefit significantly by the existence of these centers, with hospitals, medical centers, doctors on site, a variety of jobs and supply contracts for food, water and other services.

    Meanwhile we have Australian citizens living in comparable 3rd world conditions in Northern Australia, with no money (or will) to build the necessary infrastructure…

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  9. Tony P Grant

    Neo-Mort

    Could anybody let me know the ratio of "men to women and children" what is the breakdown?

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    1. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Tony P Grant

      G'day Tony,

      Been trying to track that down ... have read it in a DIAC paper but can't remember which. Will find out.

      As for the comment re Abbott's position, you bet it has ... they just had to arge against then vote for a package of government stuff. It's as much theirs as Gillard's now. So the Houston exercise has "worked" then. Already.

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    2. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Haven't found the DIAC paper yet - I've got a lot of them. But I did find this:

      After TPVs were introduced, the proportion of women and children amongst asylum seekers arriving by boat more than tripled, from 12.8 per cent of boat arrivals in 1999, to 27.6 per cent in 2000, to 41.8 per cent in 2001.13 Among the 353 people killed when the unauthorised vessel SIEV X sank in 2001 were 142 women and 146 children – several of whom were attempting to reunite with husbands and fathers already in Australia on TPVs.

      So we're looking at anything around forty percent - but I suspect it swings about quite a bit, possibly in response to the minute details of our procedures as this report from the Refugee Council suggests http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/docs/news&events/rw/2011_RW_ResourceKit_Ch4.pdf

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    3. Tony P Grant

      Neo-Mort

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Thanks Peter.

      Siev X 288 women and children...those that we believe are worth protecting above all, in all conflicts (wars)!

      It would seem that we are never really prepared!

      Infrastructure is larger than just highways and ports and we can't get those moving because of the "political divide" I am finding much of the events of the last decade or so extremely disturbing!

      Thanks again.

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  10. euug

    logged in via Twitter

    I'd like to know the detailed cost breakdown of these policies - that they cost billions sounds like taxpayers are being ripped off somewhere.. Perhaps some of that money could be going to the UNHCR & Immigration Department to speed up processing and make the lives of asylumn seekers in Indonesia more comfortable..

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    1. Aaron Troy Small

      Student

      In reply to euug

      I suspect a large part of those costs go to Serco, the Company that runs the Detention Centers and a massive chunk would go to paying the legal teams that challenge every aspect of every application possible. I would agree, that money could be spent much more effectively elsewhere, but it cannot be while the boats and the people on them keep coming. Unfortunately we never get to see precisely how much money these Refugee Advocates charge the Government (and of course the ever suffering tax payer) for their tireless work, I strongly doubt they are volunteering though.

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