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Operation Sovereign Borders

Operation Sovereign Borders specialist teams (Transit Security Elements: TSEs) in training. ADF/Andrew Dakin

There’s a time-tested ‘law’ in the history of modern self-government: when a bounded nation-state democracy prosecutes war abroad, the spirit and institutions of its democracy are usually vandalised at home.

The Life and Death of Democracy analyses many historical instances of a rule that most definitely applies to the Abbott government’s Operation Sovereign Borders. Let us not mince words. In waters well beyond Australia’s north-west shores, it is now prosecuting a form of war against people who have already suffered rape, torture, war, poverty and humiliation.

At taxpayers' expense, with guns at the ready, the war involves physically pushing and shoving these unfortunate people back towards the places where they suffered injustice in the first place. Those who are captured are locked up in ‘detention centres’. There they become victims of military speak: renamed ‘transferees’ and ‘customers’ of law-breaking ‘people smugglers’.

At home, the government directing the military operation behaves no better. It grows more arrogant by the day. As if dressed in battle uniform, the macho men of arbitrary power handle the truth carelessly. They peddle the misleading impression that our Southeast Asia neighbours are happily content with the whole risky military operation.

The government talks tough: ‘budging’, ‘rolling over’ and suffering ‘intimidation’ and ‘defeat’ are not its thing. It prefers the cavalier abstractions of ‘national interest tests’ directed at ‘illegals’ said (somehow) to threaten domestic order and public safety.

With the recent announcement that the government will establish ‘a single frontline operational border agency’ known as the Australian Border Force, matters of immigration and customs are about to be put on a war footing. That is why government ministers refuse to answer questions at press conferences; and why, by default, they reveal their hidden contempt for citizens presumed to be drongos (idiots) who’ve long ago given up on politics, hence willing to let their rulers get on with the business of keeping the country safe from unwanted invaders.

Asylum seekers processed by HMAS Wollongong. ADF/Sgt Rob Nyffenegger

In a fighting mood, the government meanwhile seems quite happy to annoy the UNHCR, even to violate Australia’s legal obligations to the Refugee Convention. In defiance of a rebuff in the Senate, it now seems to be preparing to deploy its troops against the High Court. And why not? Soon the generalissimos will be trying to win a re-election campaign by claiming that their Operation Sovereign Borders campaign has been an unqualified success.

If democracy is about humility, public openness, equality and the non-violent refusal of arbitrary power, then all these bellicose efforts to ‘stop the boats’ are anti-democratic, in every way. I tried to explain this point in an earlier posting on the concentration camps of Manus Island and Nauru.

The piece examined the political implications of the decision by the Abbott government to award Transfield Services a $1.22 billion contract to manage these camps. It targeted Mr Belgiorno-Nettis, and the newDemocracy Foundation he runs, showing how both are implicated in the whole dirty business of Operation Sovereign Borders.

It asked Mr Belgiorno-Nettis several political questions, to do with double standards: for instance, why he hasn’t divested his interests in Transfield Services, and whether he’d be willing to fund a deliberative democracy session in the camps, to give its inmates a public voice?

What has been the result? Silence. Sullied silence, even from the scholars involved in its work. The Foundation continues to snub calls for a public reply to the questions, which to many thousands of readers seemed straightforwardly reasonable.

Behind the scenes, following the publication and re-publication of the piece on many web platforms, the newDemocracy Foundation played rough. In effect, it alleged the piece was written out of sour grapes: never having received a cent from their coffers, ran the story, I plotted revenge. Then they alleged that the whole issue was a case of vox pop spin, crude media hype designed to raise a rabble against their good reputation as champions of reasoned public deliberation.

These cooked-up ad hominem allegations are diversionary. Seen from a public relations point of view, the allegations are just plain daft, in essence because by its silence the newDemocracy Foundation runs a high risk of reputational damage. Who will take seriously a privately-funded foundation that refuses to explain its view of a company that has taken on the dirty business of running offshore concentration camps?

Sadly, those who run the foundation seem unconcerned with the dangerously anti-democratic effects of Operation Sovereign Borders. For an organisation whose charter speaks of the need to find ‘a better way to do democracy’ it’s all rather surprising, and more than a bit politically curious.

Join the conversation

197 Comments sorted by

    1. chris mackay

      self employed

      In reply to Barry Strickland

      scott morrison and his consertive mates always attack people that cannot defend themselves or be heard there is no compassion in what they do only there belief that they should do what they need to do to stay in power because they can never think that could be wrong ( born to rule without question from us lower beings )

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    2. Trevor Kerr

      ISTP

      In reply to Barry Strickland

      Well spotted, Barry. I wouldn't like to suggest that Morrison's vision of a strong Oz is modelled on a nuclear-armed, modern Israel. No, that can't be right.

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    3. Henry Verberne

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

      In reply to Barry Strickland

      I would love to see a sort of boycott of Morrison's "press conferences" on the grounds that he refuses to provide any information except when it suits him.

      Will not happen of course but I urge this as a display of outrage at this disgraceful behaviour.

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    4. Henry Verberne

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

      In reply to john davies

      Could be but on the other hand it may be that he derives some triumphalist pleasure from holding press conferences where he says nothing of substance.

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    5. Gil Thorncraft

      Concerned World Citizen

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      He is doing just what his boss wants.
      As all good employees must if they wish to remain employed.

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    1. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to Dave Bradley

      Axe the tax
      Labor's disastrous debt an deficit legacy
      Break the people smugglers' business model

      I think Mr Hitler would be proud of Mr Abbott

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  1. Tony Sammut

    logged in via Facebook

    The thing with democracy is that the majority generally get what they want, whether it be unsustainable public expenditure, or stopping the boats. The boats can either be stopped now by a proportionate policy from a mainstream party, or later by another One Nation. That seems like a pretty easy choice. The far left need to let go of the idea of Australia being a haven for all comers. The demos want the boats stopped and they will get the boats stopped one way or another.

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    1. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Tony Sammut

      What demos are you referring to?
      I haven't seen a single one, but am aware of several for the opposite view.
      BTW, the far right need to let go of the idea that it is okay to persecute and punish groups of people they don't like to share their space with - we all know where that leads, don't we? Last time it was decided by all involved that we won't go down that path again! Yet here we are...

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    2. David Martin

      Naturally talented sleeper and eater

      In reply to Tony Sammut

      Why does the demos want the boats stoppped,
      but not the planes??
      Seriously....I don't get it.

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    3. Tony Sammut

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Well, I wish you luck. You and your friends who wish to welcome these people will struggle to find a serious contender to represent your views, the only option being a protest vote for the Greens, Socialist Alternative, Communist Party, and the like. Stopping the boats, offshore detention and what have you are largely bipartisan supported policies now. Them's the breaks in a two party democracy, I'm afraid.

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    4. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Tony Sammut

      Being bipartisan doesn't make it just or right. There have been other historical cases where populations of whole countries have become accomplices in crimes performed by their elected leaders. If you are happy to sit back and let them get away with murder, you can't shun responsibility at a later stage.

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    5. Tony Sammut

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      I never said it made it right - that is a separate debate, and one I'm really not inclined to enter into at the moment. However, coupled with popular support, as it is, bipartisan support does make it an inevitable policy outcome.

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    6. Tony Sammut

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      "Because a bloodthirsty majority mob demands sacrifices does not automatically mean the government has to fulfil their demand"

      It would actually, or they'd be thrown out of government. That's why I say we face a choice between a proportionate policy response from the mainstream parties now, or the rise of extreme anti-immigration parties later, as Europe is seeing right now.

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    7. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Tony Sammut

      Wrong, because if your scenario was the case we wouldn't even have a democracy since democracy is based on commonly agreed democratic principles and blood sacrifices are not included in these - striving for justice, equality and humanitarian goals, however, are.

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    8. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Hi Suzy, I'm going to ignore the Tony Sammut person and his misunderstanding about what is happening in the Australian psyche, and happening quite rapidly as far as I can tell.

      The conservatives in my area are seriously disillusioned by this govt they voted for; they did not expect this level of selfishness and are actually a trifle ashamed. I also think that they are sort of let down because there seems to be no real benefits or differences that they can see or feel from this exercise in war on…

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    9. Tony Sammut

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Henry Verberne

      Henry, it is a gross generalisation to characterise churches as not of the left. What more can I say?

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    10. Tony Sammut

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      It was your hypothetical scenario, Suzy. Now you criticise me for trying to engage with it. Unbelievable! I think you could fairly say that it would not be possible under a Western liberal constitutional democracy. Democracy per se, though, has nothing to say about blood sacrifices or other acts we may find abhorrent. Iran, as an example at the other end of the scale, allows execution of homosexuals, forced amputations on thieves, and blood money payments to excuse rape and murder.

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    11. In reply to Tony Sammut

      Comment removed by moderator.

    12. Tony Sammut

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      Thanks, Julie. I hope my comments stimulate discussion at the local.

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    13. Henry Verberne

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

      In reply to Tony Sammut

      You are surely jesting? Even within conservative christianty there is disquiet over the harsh treatment, the willingness to do whatever it takes to satisfy those who have been dog whistled by Abbott and Morrison.

      Churches left wing? No more debate with you.

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    14. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to Tony Sammut

      It is said - by folk psychologists - that beneath this need you seem to have to demonstrate your status as a 'winner' is a sad emptiness.

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    15. Jay Wulf

      Digerati at nomeonastiq.com

      In reply to Tony Sammut

      Person alleging to be one Tony Sammut said:
      > The far left need to let go of the idea of Australia being a haven for all comers.

      Dear 'Tony' you must stop repeating falsehoods and statements.
      First, The far left does not have the monopoly on decency and providing refuge to those fleeing torture, rape and genocide. Unless of course, by the same twisted evil logic you assert that the far right are the perpetrators of rape, genocide and torture and they and their invisible friend fan club are they…

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    16. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to David Martin

      " but not the planes?? "
      Seriously David!
      Planes involve documentation and regulations.
      What do you expecdt of people smugglers and you could see what the UNHCR view of them are.

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    17. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy, you are right on one thing and we sure should not be supporting people smugglers murdering people and it could be said that anybody prepared to offer support towards people smuggling has blood on their hands.

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    18. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Hi Suzy, I think what Tony is attempting to get across is that many people from different political sides support are more than happy with the SBP.
      People I talk to and see interviewed do accept that Australia needs to be much firmer than before in many policy areas, there a fair dose of tough love needed you could say.

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    19. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy, at least we are not in Europe where churches flourish.

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    20. John Newton

      Author Journalist

      In reply to Tony Sammut

      Tony, you're right. The people have spoken. But does a vote based upon hearing only simplistic slogans (cf Mr Hitler's rules of propaganda above) always turn out right? It certainly didn't in Mr Hitler's case.

      You can hoodwink a population whose noses are so attached to the grindstone – either desperately trying to stay afloat or similarly desperately trying to pay off debts they have been urged to incur – they only hear the propaganda, and have no time to read carefully pro and con arguments as I'm sure all readers of this site do.

      WE, Australians, will pay for a very long time for the actions of this government. Asylum seekers are paying now.

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    21. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Tony Sammut

      Firstly it wasn't a majority, it was a minority in a few marginal seats. The whole rationale behind the asylum seekers policies of both major parties - will it run in the marginals?.
      Secondly it isn't only the far left that have clung "to the idea of Australia being a haven for all comers" because it is enshrined in the Migration Act. All Mr Abbott needed to do was to amend the Act and remove all reference to the Refugee Convention and its provisions. I don't recollect him or anyone in the Coalition even mentioning it.
      Thirdly the idea of a One Nation party being in government is ridiculous. There are far too many samrt and decent people across the political spectrum in this country.

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    22. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Tony Sammut

      Both policies are based on simple mathematics. How many votes do I gain by supporting a policy and how many will I lose. I think you might find that for the Labor Party the numbers on their current asylum policy might turn against them. I think that happened to them on a couple of policies in the last election. Don't go betting any large sums on the bipartisanship surviving

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    23. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Tony Sammut

      One of the the first anti migration parties to arise in Europe was the PVV, fled by Geert Wilders It had spectacular rise but an equally spectacular fall once the electorated really got a solid look at them. They are now down among the "also ran" groups. Remind you of any party in Australia that ran on a similar theme?

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    24. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      Now where is your evidence that those who arrive on a plane on a tourist or other visa and then claim asylum are not in the hands of those "people smugglers" that you always drag into these Conversations.
      Tell us "what the UNHCR view of them are.[sic]"

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    25. Tony Sammut

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      "They are now down among the "also ran" groups. Remind you of any party in Australia"

      Yes, the Greens. They enjoy about the level of support. Do you consider them "also rans"?

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    26. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Tony Sammut

      You should read a more detailed and rigorous poll like the Australian Election Study done at election time for the past ten years by the ANU and you might find that the whole aslylum seeker issue is important to only 10% of the electorate in determining their vote and that 54% were either opposed or neutral on turning back the boats..
      Now are you saying that marginal electorates changing hands don't detemine elections? Or that major parties don't poll and conduct focus groups extensively in marginal…

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    27. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Tony Sammut

      Unlike the Greens, the PVV has zero influence on government. It is a coalition of the two largest parties VVD and PvDA. Their support outnumbers all the other "also rans" put together. Now remind me do the Greens have an anti immigration policy?

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    28. David Martin

      Naturally talented sleeper and eater

      In reply to Greg North

      Hi Greg,
      Call me old fashioned, but I don't, for a nanosecond,
      believe that it has got anything to do with "documentation",
      "regulation", or "saving lives".

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    29. Tony Sammut

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Do you have a link to the source of that figure, Ken. I just looked at the survey and it found that 80% considered it important at the last federal election:

      http://nesstar.ada.edu.au/webview/velocity?v=2&study=http%3A%2F%2F150.203.254.120%3A80%2Fobj%2FfStudy%2Fau.edu.anu.ada.ddi.01259&mode=documentation&submode=variable&variable=http%3A%2F%2F150.203.254.120%3A80%2Fobj%2FfVariable%2Fau.edu.anu.ada.ddi.01259_V141&gs=5

      Where did you get 10% from?

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    30. Tony Sammut

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Martin

      Ken, your original post was utterly dishonest. You said:

      "the whole aslylum seeker issue is important to only 10% of the electorate in determining their vote"

      You used the number of people who said it was the MOST important issue to support your claim, when figures on people who consider important were available in the same survey.

      You should be ashamed!

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    31. Tony Sammut

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Ken, your original post was utterly dishonest. You said:

      "the whole aslylum seeker issue is important to only 10% of the electorate in determining their vote"

      You used the number of people who said it was the MOST important issue to support your claim, when figures on people who consider important were available in the same survey.

      You should be ashamed!

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    32. Tony Sammut

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Martin

      My apologies, David. That was a reply to Ken Alderton

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    33. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Tony Sammut

      Not at all. You just don't know how to interpret complexity rather than stark black and white . Look at the questions "D1 Here is a list of important issues that were discussed during the election campaign. When you were deciding about how to vote, how important was each of these issues to you personally?"; D3 &D4 "Still thinking about the same 10 issues, which of these issues was most important to you and your family during the election campaign? And which next?". Note "election campaign". 10.1% put it at No.1, 13.8%.put it at No 2. That means 76.1% put it at No.3 or lower in their priority list.
      So you have 80% saying it was important or very important (no neutral position allowed) but 76% put is behind at leas two others. See the picture now?
      If you take it to one more level of complexity you find from Question B5 that only 54% say that the issues wer the most important thing decideingtheir vote.

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    34. Tony Sammut

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      What a crude and childish false dilemma, to suggest that it is not important to them because they considered two other issues more important. You can backpedal all you like now, but the record of your dishonesty will remain here for all to see. Shame on you!

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    35. Peter Frey

      Project Officer

      In reply to Julie Thomas

      To be blunt Julie, the Conservatives in your area who are but a "trifle ashamed" need to have a very hard look at the situation.

      They take a significant part of the blame for allowing extremist ultra-right thugs to take over their small "l" liberalism. There are no small "l" liberals anywhere - they all have sold out the hard, extreme, fundamentalist right.

      Every single current sitting liberal / national member in Parliament is still today, defiantly and resolutely refusing to engage with…

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    36. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Tony Sammut

      No dilemma. People are asked a general question and then a detailed question to fractionate the answers. I backpedal not one centimetre.This is how it is done in the real world of surveying and by political parties What they are looking for is electorates where the asylum seeker issue is Number 1 or Number 2 and dissaproval is high. If you examine th figures carefully you would find that the whole issue comes in as Number 4 or 5. As I said. You cannot handle complexity.

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    37. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Peter Frey

      I agree. I think that R.G."Pig Iron Bob" Menzies would be on the barricades along with Malcolm Frazer and all the Liberal leaders in between.
      At least "Pig Iron Bob" had enough courage of his convictions to face the very hostile mob at Wollongong that gave him his nom de guerre

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    38. Peter Frey

      Project Officer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Yes Ken. Something dark and sinister happened along the way since then. And not a single conservative, who would have observed the insidious take-over of their party and idealogy, has ever spoken out or stood for their principles.

      I applaud Malcolm Frazer but I suspect the liberals these days simply ignore him.

      If conservatives are truly shocked or even just a trifle upset then they need to stand up today after one on the lowest acts of any "Australian" government, and start loudly demanding…

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    39. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Ken, re " Now where is your evidence that those who arrive on a plane on a tourist or other visa and then claim asylum are not in the hands of those "people smugglers"
      I will leave it to our authorities to be doing their work to detect if there are people smugglers getting people documentation for plane travel to Australia that could not otherwise have been made by people getting passports and visas in normal ways.
      If you have evidence that it is happening, I would ask if you have a civic duty to pass on information to the authorities.
      As for the UNHCR views, go to their web site and have a read.

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    40. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to David Martin

      Nothing wrong with older fashions David though I do recall most of my bell bottoms and platform soles from the sixties and early seventies have found new homes except for a few favourites stashed away.
      Perhaps you are hinting at something else other than wanting to maintain standards of how much of our lives are governed by acceptance of doing things in particular ways as often dictated by regulations.
      Regulations do govern life in most countries.

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    41. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      You are the one suggesting that all those asylum seekers who come by plane are doing it independently compared to those who come by boat who are totally in the grasp of the people smugglers as you keep reminding everybody. I just thought you might have some basis for saying it other than speculation.

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    42. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Well Ken, I have not suggested too much at all on people arriving by plane other than there being documentation and regulations involved and it seems you that are on a speculation theme with misinformation being stated.

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    43. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      And there is no documentation and there are no regulations for arrivals by boat? How many of the air arrivals get an ASIO check? Which misinformation was being stated?

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  2. David Stein

    Businessman

    John, it's not helpful to your cause to misuse the term 'concentration camp'. You went down this road before - in the article linked here.
    Most people understand the term to be defined by Nazi concentration camps in WWII, regardless of other historical references.
    This sort of hyperbole does no favors to those who genuinely care about the horrible mistreatment of asylum seekers. You are simply creating diversionary arguments and debates. Maybe that's your intention, I can't be sure. In any event, a factual discussion is sufficient to describe the horrific Abbott government policy of returning people to face their oppressors.

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    1. John Inglis

      Managing Director at Positronic Solar

      In reply to David Stein

      David, as you are probably aware, the term 'concentration camp' was first used in the context of the Boer War, a war Australia enthusiastically participated in.
      Your diversionary argument does not detract from Professor John's thesis that democracy is being trampled in Australia.
      At the risk of being accused of a Godwin violation, I believe the current government can accurately be described as fascist.
      It creates a dangerous 'other' to unite the nation in opposition, it is particularly opaque, it has no respect for parliamentary process (cf B.Bishop), although 'elected' it rules exclusively for the benefit of a select few corporations.
      I wonder how long it is until we have white Australians banged up in Villawood for presenting a danger to the State?

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    2. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to John Inglis

      I have to agree with you (see you in camp ;)), democratic process may have got them in, but they show little adherence to its principles. And the campaign that got them there, promises of work, wealth and infrastructure, followed by a secretive, manipulative campaign since the election are reminiscent of the NSDAP win of the election in the Weimar Republic...
      But then, the construction of 'camps' and roads and rails to get people there falls under 'infrastructure' - something our PM wants to be known for for posterity.
      My conscience certainly does not allow me to ignore the alarm bells.

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    3. David Stein

      Businessman

      In reply to John Inglis

      I'm not sure what your point is - that the term 'concentration camp' is appropriate because it was used in the boer war? If that's the case, then you should object to its use as not being sufficiently strong to represent the government's treatment of these people. It would be absurd to suggest such a thing. No, the term is used because of its emotional connection to WWII.
      I repeat - I strongly object to the misuse of the term 'concentration camp'.
      It's a shame those who seek to lead the fight on this very important issue feel the need to build walls with language.

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    4. John Inglis

      Managing Director at Positronic Solar

      In reply to David Stein

      You might want to read up on the history of the Boer War.
      What were initially refugee camps rapidly became concentration camps in which one third of the inmates, 30,000 people, died.
      The parallels with the current situation are pretty obvious.
      What were set up as a refuge became capital punishment for not being British.
      I think using the term, 'concentration camp' in this context where Australia has form, is appropriate.
      Its a cliche, but if you don't know your history you won't know what you're up against.

      http://www.sahistory.org.za/topic/women-children-white-concentration-camps-during-anglo-boer-war-1900-1902
      Have a read of this article, the echoes of Kitchener in the babblings of Morrison and Abbot are eery.

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    5. David Stein

      Businessman

      In reply to John Inglis

      History? Well there's this thing called World War 2. You are attempting to argue that using the term 'concentration camp' conjures up a reference to the Boer War rather than the concentration camps of WWII. It's just not a sustainable argument, and I don't think anyone would attempt to argue that it is.
      I repeat, those using the term 'concentration camp' are putting up walls where there should be alliances on this very important issue and are doing asylum seekers no favors.

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    6. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to David Stein

      It may be an understandably sore point with many people directly affected by the Nazi camps of WWII, but that cannot confer ownership and control of the term "concentration camp" upon such secondary victims.
      I am sure that the gypsies, homosexuals and religious dissenters who died in those WWII camps would be happy to have evidence of their suffering compared to those of the Boers in those original British Imperial concentration camps, rather than have another form of culturally imperial colonising deny their sufferings altogether, in order to quarantine, as it were, all of the attention to just one of the many victims.
      That tendency to claim ownership and control of the term, "concentration camp" is very offensive to some.

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    7. David Stein

      Businessman

      In reply to James Hill

      James, the whole point of using the term 'concentration camp' is to create controversy and attract attention. Otherwise, why use it? Are you saying those using the term in relation to Manus and Nauru are not intending to compare them to Nazi concentration camps?

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    8. John Inglis

      Managing Director at Positronic Solar

      In reply to David Stein

      The Nazi concentration camps are but one example of their application.

      It's a very effective way of creating an 'other' and simultaneously exterminating them and setting them up as an example of what happens to enemies of the State.
      Three other examples, all universally recognised as concentration camps:
      The Germans killed 100,000 Namibians in concentration camps in the 1900s, Turks utilised concentration camps during their genocide against the Armenians and Stalin utilised concentration camps…

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    9. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to David Stein

      David, with respect, those of us who have become familiar with the original history of the term would be somewhat immune to the problem you highlight which is the diminution of the scale of the Holocaust by comparing it to very much smaller examples of the same horrors.
      Which does not discount your observations about the ability of people to opportunistically tarnish their political opponents at the expense of genuine sorrow and suffering of victims.
      Is that really the case here?
      Certainly, well…

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    10. David Stein

      Businessman

      In reply to James Hill

      James, I don't agree with everything you say but I appreciate how elegantly stated and thought through your last contribution is.

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    11. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to David Stein

      Thanks, David, I thought your position deserved some degree of consideration and respect.

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    12. Donald Newgreen

      Research Group Leader

      In reply to David Stein

      Hello David, it is important to get names and meanings right. I can remember as child shortly after WW2 being corrected by my mother, who liked to call a spade a spade, that the camps such as Auchwitz set up by the Nazis we not concentration camps but death camps. So the distinction was indeed known. The primary (indeed sole) purpose of a death camp was to immediately and intentionally kill the inmates on arrival, the only ones spared (briefly) being the few unfortunates selected to run the killing…

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    13. Sean Douglas

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to David Stein

      David the only person creating a 'controversy' and 'attracting attention' about the words concentration camp is you.

      My high school was like a concentration camp some days. Over crowded and run by tyrants with zero empathy and minimal accountability.

      One UN explantion goes "The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of ..."

      Dictionary .... concentration camp noun
      : a type of prison…

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  3. Paul Felix

    Builder

    I have read these threads, in particular Tony Sammut.
    The reality is we have extreme anti-immigration parties now, sadly they are the ones who have developed this so called proportionate response, they are, in fact, the mainstream parties now. They are trashing even Howard's minimal legacy on immigration generally and refugees in particular.
    I have no idea what we can do, what I do know is that what we are doing is wrong on pretty well any count you wish to name, except of course persecuting refugees…

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    1. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Paul Felix

      "The reality is we have extreme anti-immigration parties now, sadly they are the ones who have developed this so called proportionate response, they are, in fact, the mainstream parties now."
      Um no. The reality is we have the highest rate of immigration in the world. A policy with overwhelming popular support, and clear policy of the mainstream political parties.

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    2. Paul Felix

      Builder

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      Sure if you are young, white highly educated, and middle class. You cannot be a parent, disabled, sick, poor.
      It took my wife 9 months to migrate here (she is a SES Public servant), we were told that if all was the same except her skin color, it would have taken another 2 years - that was under the much more generous (compared to today) system of Howard
      We have just reduced our refugee intake by 30%+ and are including previous arrivals in future numbers.
      Compare us to Lebanon, Turkey, Pakistan, India even the EU where millions of refugees live. You see most countries don't have restricted numbers, we are one of the few, most allow people who want to apply for asylum to enter and have their claims processed.
      They do not put them behind razor wire.
      I don't, and did not, dispute your last sentence. It is your position that makes so many people sick to the stomach.

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    3. Tony Sammut

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Paul Felix

      "We are politically in bed with Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, among the most repressive and anti democratic governments on the face of this planet."

      Don't worry. There'll be another free and fair election in a few years. Hope that resolves things to your satisfaction.

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    4. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Paul Felix

      Paul, you claimed "we have extreme anti-immigration parties now", which is false. It is true we have an extreme anti-boat people polity, which while regrettable is not the same as extreme anti-immigration.
      "Compare us to Lebanon, Turkey, Pakistan, India even the EU."
      I'm pretty sure every Australian already has, and responds with a very loud "No Thanks"! The numbers and fact of social cohesion and ethnic harmony attest to that. Immigration and boat people are different categories, or asylum-seekers…

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  4. Ross Barrell

    Aikido Student

    Interesting piece, John. More than a little scary.

    Makes one wonder if this government will move to get around the high court and the constitution to suspend the next election "in the national interest."

    Maybe we should start listening for the jack boots coming down a street near you. And remember, that mobile phone has GPS and your location can be noted.

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  5. Jena Zelezny

    research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

    Sri Lankan refugees are not invaders.

    Why are there two different stories about the situation in Sri Lanka? Why is it that Abbott names the place as a"peaceful country" when Milne describes white vans "disappearing people" (as was the case in Argentina).

    Where is the missing boat. Why have the phone calls to shore stopped. And why is the Government silent about the "operation". Again Sri Lankan refugees are not invaders. We are not at war. We have a right to expect information from an elected government.

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    1. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      It seems that we are, the War on Terror allowed torture and suspension of human rights in 'civilised' democracies, now the War on Refugees is reason to militarise this nation, suspend human rights and imprison innocent people.

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Jena Zelezny

      " Why are there two different stories about the situation in Sri Lanka? Why is it that Abbott names the place as a"peaceful country" when Milne describes white vans "disappearing people" (as was the case in Argentina). "
      Jena, there was a parliamentary delegation to Sri Lanka last year, even before the CHOGM there and I do not know that Christine Milne has been to Sri Lanka.
      That aside, there are refugees in refugee camps in many countries and there should be no special consideration given to people avoiding refugee camps over those in refugee camps.
      As for the missing boat, I suppose it is somewhere out in the Indian Ocean and it is current government policy not to be divulging details of interceptions.
      You would need to know what kind of communications equipment was on board the boat and how reliable it is to guess what could happen to phone calls.
      First off, the missing boat would have to be located and the Indian Ocean is a huge body of water.

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    3. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      Are all these "refugees in refugee camps in many countries" anxious to come to Australia? How many of them have applied to come or have given some other indication that they are keen to come.

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    4. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Well Ken, I am sure you are aware that some of what you ask or indications as to that is able to be obtained easily enough.
      For instance refugee resettlement to Australia applications per annum has been reported in Immi reports to be up to 50,000 whereas UNHCR report the higher percentage of refugees in Pakistan for instance would like nothing better to be able to return to Afghanistan and in fact it has been hundreds of thousands that have been reported as returning to there.
      I expect that with some fifteen million refugees and about twice that number for IDPs you will find significant variations.

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    5. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Greg North

      So your answer, if I can tease it out of the verbiage, is there are about 50,000?. Per year? How many of those are assessed in a year? How many assessed meet the legal requirements and are granted visas?

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    6. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Greg North

      Have you been to Sri Lanka Greg? Where would Milne get her info. from. Do you think that she has conjured it from thin air?

      We know now that those onboard that boat were handed back to the Sri Lankan Govt. i.e., the very authorities from whom they were attempting to escape.

      I don't accept your position (the government's position) on refugees Greg - I find it anti-human. It is a paranoid perspective based on fear of the other and fear of loss i.e., loss of (white) privilege. We are not at war therefore there is no reason for the Government to frame these "interceptions" as military secrets.

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    7. Jena Zelezny

      research for second PhD in Humanities and Social Sciences (Performance Studies/Theatre & Drama/Dramatic Literature/Visual Arts) at La Trobe University

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      thanks for this Suzy. We are, as citizens in peace-time (supposedly) entitled (oops bad word) to be kept informed of what this government is doing in our name. All processes in peace-time are meant to be transparent.

      This country is not practicing democracy any longer.

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  6. Peter Frey

    Project Officer

    Lies told often enough become "truths". Relentlessly, deliberately with-holding information is designed to confuse. Vilifying groups and targeting them under the banner of patriotism seeks to unify bad and even good men to their cause.

    This regime is increasingly fascist.

    They are usurping this democracy by trampling the checks and balances we have and ignoring the lies they told to get to power and the very electorate itself.

    Again I point out, every single current sitting liberal / national…

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    1. Mike Jubow

      Forestry nurseryman at Nunyara Wholesale , Forestry consultants, seedling suppliers.

      In reply to Peter Frey

      Peter, are you going to send your post to your local Federal member? I have already sent one of my own regarding the 'Elder Abuse' they commiting through the budget and other draconian, heavy handed, brutal policies enacted under the guise of a budget. I have not let my local member know of my revulsion of their actions with the Tamils yet but that is something I am formulating now.

      Would you have any objection to me quoting your post with acknowledgement of your authorship in this next letter? It will add a lot towhat I am going to express.

      In fact, I believe that it is the duty of all fairminded citizens to write to their respective members letting the politicians know in no uncertain term that we believe they are doing the wrong thing, politically, economically and are anti-democratic and unempathetic non-transparent and handle the truth very carelessly.

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    2. Peter Frey

      Project Officer

      In reply to Mike Jubow

      Hi Mike - I live in a Federal Labor electorate and a liberal state electorate. I can assure you that my local liberal member knows what I think and how I will be voting.

      I note that Abbott is spending tens of millions of dollars monitoring sites like this one so I feel assured he is getting value for money there but I feel that the money is wasted when it comes to the point of getting the message that he should go, now. Today.

      Anything we say here is in the public domain, on record, easily and freely quoted.

      Good luck with your endeavours. Do you intend to meet in person and see if they look you in the eye because the experience of Xenephon in the Senate is that they refuse to engage. It will be interesting - and I would look forward to knowing what the reaction was.

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    3. Mike Jubow

      Forestry nurseryman at Nunyara Wholesale , Forestry consultants, seedling suppliers.

      In reply to Peter Frey

      Thanks Peter. I doubt if they will have the manhood to respond to me but I won't let it pass without letting them think they are getting away with this crap.

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    4. Mike Jubow

      Forestry nurseryman at Nunyara Wholesale , Forestry consultants, seedling suppliers.

      In reply to Mike Jubow

      should read," without letting them know they are not getting away with this crap scott free".

      Whenever I don't review what I have written before submitting, it comes out garbled.

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    5. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      No need to worry. Letters, emails etc just drop into a big black hole just inside the door of his office. The one that traps all the information on the way out.

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    6. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      That's why I always cc to local MPs, etc. Our former local LNP member had such a black hole near his office... I believe it was on the golf course he spend more time on than in his office ;) - surprisingly, the current one just acknowledged my correspondence already and kindly forwarded it to Fairfax's Palmer as well :)

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    7. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Peter Frey

      " I note that Abbott is spending tens of millions of dollars monitoring sites like this one so I feel assured he is getting value for money there but I feel that the money is wasted when it comes to the point of getting the message that he should go, now. Today. "
      So where have you noted that Peter for possibly there could be a bit more coming my way for my own despatches.

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    8. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Just watch out for an increase in coffee drinkers Suzy, easy enough to pick out in dark suits and glasses.

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    9. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      I am playing a round in the morning Suzy so anything you would like passed on?

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    10. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Greg North

      You seem to have a preformed idea about where i hang out. It wouldn't be the first time that someone assumes i work in a cafe (expectation is limited to individual experience). Actually, an increase in uninvited coffee drinkers would be immediately apparent, sunglasses or not, ...at a coffee roasterie ;)

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    11. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Greg North

      No, Greg, you go on rubbing shoulders with your LNP mates. I did watch Utopia again last night on NITV, and listened to the new Lib in the Sunny Coast seat, Mal Brough, spin a yarn about unproven, made up 'offences' that got him to initiate the NT intervention - mobilising the army at great cost to terrorise indigenous communities who could have done better with that same money being invested in housing, plumbing, health care, transport, etc. yet here he is, still 'serving' - it's questionable who he 'serves' though........

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    12. Peter Frey

      Project Officer

      In reply to Greg North

      I think it was reported in the newspapers - I possibly read it on The Age website.

      Don't worry Greg, I'm positive they won't mix you up with us! When push comes to shove as we lose this democracy of ours, I'm sure you can name us all by heart.

      Since they are watching now Greg, I nominate you for a tin star. I'm sure the regime appreciates your standing in the trenches.

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  7. Greg Young

    Program Director

    There seems little argument that OSB is likely to be breaching some laws, and the relevant UN body is officially stating its concern that we are breaching our Treaty obligations.

    It is also obvious that OSB is breaching some long-held conventions about democracy in Australia, including the appropriate use of the military, the apolitical nature of military appointments, the fact that Ministers answer to Parliament and the need for openness and transparency. That’s even before we get to the damage…

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    1. Peter Frey

      Project Officer

      In reply to Greg Young

      Presumably since you posted Greg, you have since seen Abetz on the Insiders this morning.

      His arrogance, his assurance of "confidence" that the regime is complying with international law, his talk of not commenting on "operational matters" - all confirm your suspicions.

      This follows the relentless drift away from democratic processes and as you say, it is indeed chilling.

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    2. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to Peter Frey

      Sorry Peter, I don’t watch Insiders, Q&A, The Drum and so on. I just got sick of the sight of the right-wing shills they allow on those programs to spout lies in the interests of “balance”.

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    3. Peter Frey

      Project Officer

      In reply to Greg Young

      I understand Greg, totally! Its only lately that I have stopped muting them on TV and before then I had to walk out of the room when they were on.

      Now I think I should know what they are saying because in the last few weeks the stakes seem to have got a whole lot higher to the point of being dangerous.

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    4. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Greg Young

      "I have yet to see anybody able to propose an effective way of bringing Morrison and his Department to account"
      It's called the ballot box.

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    5. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      So you believe that a government doesn't need to be accountable to the people other than once every three years. Good for you, but I expect more of the Australian government than that. I expect them to be accountable to their employers for their actions all the time, same as the rest of us are.

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    6. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Greg Young

      First of all our MPs are not our employees, they are our "representatives. Secondly, the executive is accountable to our representatives - the Parliament - every day. Thirdly, our representatives are accountable to the Constitution every day. I would also like more direct democracy, particularly the possibilities open up by digital technology. But be careful what you wish for. There might well be a hell of a lot more voices against you, than for you among hoi polloi. More accountability might make things a lot worse.

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    7. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      Aha - on Alan this we can agree - I'm not sure "direct democracy" on every issue is desirable.

      The fact that today's technology makes it possible is interesting and perhaps should be debated but its desirability has hardly been established.

      Indeed for a rather amusing (though old) take on this I can highly recommend an excellent film from 1970 staring the late great Peter Cook "The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer"

      I personally am comfortable (for all its flaws) with a representative democracy…

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    8. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      They are quite definitely our employees, because we as taxpayers pay for their salaries and perks, and they agree to perform certain duties for us in return.

      The are employed to be our representatives. You are making a distinction without a difference.

      Regardless, I am not prepared to allow my employees/representatives to go for three years on end without being accountable for the actions they take. You are; good on you. I’m not as easily satisfied.

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    9. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Greg Young

      Well, why don't you haul them in for a performance review, give them their first official warning, or terminate their employment with severance, and call security to escort them from the building immediately?

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    10. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      Y’know I’m trying to be polite with you, and you are just getting snarkier. You have certain expectations of your elected representatives and I have different ones. I’m not interested in your put-downs, as they won’t make a damned bit of difference to my expectations of my representatives. I will stick with them, and you are free to have your own, as I’ve said three times now.

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    11. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Greg Young

      I'd not lose too much sleep Greg for we have the country in good hands with many good men and women looking after our borders for us.

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  8. alan w. shorter

    research assistant

    "If democracy is about humility, public openness, equality and the non-violent refusal of arbitrary power, then all these bellicose efforts to ‘stop the boats’ are anti-democratic, in every way."
    Actually this is NOT what democracy is about. Democracy is simply a political system where public decision-making is made by the many, rather than the few, or one. It is based on a community of citizens, which explicitly excludes non-citizens from public decision-making. 'Stopping the boats' policy is democracy at work, hardly anti-democratic.

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    1. Julie Thomas

      craftworker

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      Oh here we go. Another great white man to tell us all what is really happening. Good grief, when will you old men realise how ridiculous you are?

      But hang on, here is another woman who can see the patterns of pathological behaviour that these great white men exhibit in defence of their belief in their superiority.

      Kathryn Murphy says:

      "The immigration minister, Scott Morrison, is busy, busy, busy – stopping the boats, making a great show of stopping the boats. He’s busy communicating with the…

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    2. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      Alan - with respect - you clearly have no understanding of our democracy.

      First off all public decision making is NOT in this country made by the many.

      It is made by the party that commands a majority of the elected representatives in a parliament. An important distinction.

      It is quite possible (indeed there is evidence for many such occurrences) when the decisions of that small body of elected representatives makes decisions that are AGAINST the wishes of the majority.

      However, we accept that…

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    3. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Mark I was pointing out the definition of what a democracy is. If you choose to argue Australia does not fit that definition, good luck.
      "It is quite possible (indeed there is evidence for many such occurrences) when the decisions of that small body of elected representatives makes decisions that are AGAINST the wishes of the majority."
      There is not a shred of evidence. Where have you been for the past 20 years?

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    4. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      Alan, again with respect, that's revisionism of your statement. You made a claim about what democracy is that has never benn practised in Australia (indeed never anywhere to my knowledge - even in Athens most could not even vote).

      The fact is we live in a representative democracy - which means individual decisions made by parliament are not subject to the wishes of the majority. If you are unaware of these I suggest you educate yourself. But Gay Marriage and Euthanasia for the terminally ill are two current examples - about which study after study shows the majority approve - are routinely rejected by our representatives.

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    5. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      And now you presume to lecture the Athenians that they did not live in a democracy! Talk about revisionism.

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    6. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      Seriously Alan? I suggest you look up your history, You apparently know little about that which you proffer an opinion

      There are many forms and implementations of democracy - the one we live in does not involve decisions being made by the majority - this is a simple fact. It doesn't make it not a democracy - just a representative one (the most common form today).

      FYI Athens was a "direct" democracy - BUT in Athens you had to be an adult male Athenian citizen who had completed their military training - about 20% of the population - certainly not one based on a universal franchise

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    7. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      I suggest that currently Australia does not fulfill the definition of 'democracy' and had my last postgrad piece (2013) acknowledged here and in the US on this topic. Happy to give you a link if you want the separate points laid out clearly :)

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    8. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      This is debate is about challenging the author’s claim that "If democracy is about humility, public openness, equality and the non-violent refusal of arbitrary power, then all these bellicose efforts to ‘stop the boats’ are anti-democratic, in every way." My argument is that “actually this is NOT what democracy is about. Democracy is simply a political system where public decision-making is made by the many, rather than the few, or one. It is based on a community of citizens, which explicitly excludes…

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    9. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      Alan - I cannot help it if you cannot read or understand basic English. But nowhere did I claim that either Australia or Athens was not a democracy.

      I merely pointed out that your claim about what democracy is (or was) namely "Democracy is simply a political system where public decision-making is made by the many, rather than the few, or one." is false. At least in how it applies to Australia (a representative democracy where decisions are made on our behalf by a small number of representatives) or in Athens (where decisions were made by male citizens who had completed military service - less than 20% of the population and certainly not a majority).

      I cannot help it if you apparently cannot understand these facts. But facts they are

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    10. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      In addition - you cannot claim - as some have - that actions implemented by this government represeent the will of the majority - since the evidence is clear that that less than 25% of people rated the issue (let alone their position on it) as being amongst the top 2-3 concerns that determined their vote.

      What is at issue here (regardless of your or my view as to what the policy should be) is that the current actions of the government have been found to be in breach of our own laws and the latest actions likely to be in breach of our legal obligations under several conventions to which Australia has made a morally and legally binding commitment.

      You cannot wriggle out of that

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    11. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      I think you could also point out that in our form of parliamentary democracy the majority of votes matters not a jot. It is the majority of seats that is the decider. One, Johannes Bjelke Petersen lived comfortably on the fact for many years.
      Oh! the imperfections

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    12. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Good point Ken - though I think I recall that in the last election the coalition did receive more than 50% on a two party preferred basis across the board.

      At the end of the day it hardly matters. Alas Alan's misunderstanding of the type of representative democracy we live in is all too common.

      It is important to understand the reality of our democracy, how it works etc, and therefore the critical dependency (especially with compulsory voting) on an informed citizenry - which requires openness - conspicuously absent at the moment in regard to this issue

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    13. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Lord Hailsham who among other things was Lord Chancellor, the chief judicial officer of the UK, for a decade wrote a book in 1978 called "Dilemma of Democracy". It is a handbook for the realities and defects of the parliamentary system of government we inherited from the UK. It should be required reading for people discussing democracy. My copy is on the bookshelf next to me. It cost £1.99 but I’m sure that’s not the price now.

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    14. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Ken, I am surprised you would be taking dictation from an Old Etonian High Tory aristocrat, Quintin McGarel Hogg, Baron Hailsham of St Marylebone! But no, *The Dilemma of Democracy* was never a handbook for Australia because we did NOT inherit the UK's parliamentary system of government. The publication date provides the context. His Lordship was bemoaning the fact that the period of Labour government from 1974-1978, under, firstly, Callaghan, then Wilson, was evidence that the UK system was broke…

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    15. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      You do like the theory rather than the practice. How does the electoral system restrict he effect the way in which the elected parliament can behave?
      Although the House of Lords does not have a de jure veto they have one in practice. Only 10 bills since 1900 have been passed without being passed by the Lord. How does this veto limit the powers of the Parliament?
      Our Constitution is not like the US Consititution it places very few things beyond the power of parliaments. It just divides them up between states and feds.
      His main point was that under the parliamentary system, a one seat majority gives a political party unlimited power. The only issues in Australia beyond the power of some parliament are the equal treatment of people between states and free movement and trade between states. Even Section 116, freedom of religion, doesn't bind the States, hence state aid to religious schools.

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  9. R. Ambrose Raven

    none

    Bill Shorten and Labor have to choose - the sheer extreme viciousness of the Noalition’s class warfare agenda leaves the Labor also-rans and class traitors nowhere to conceal their reluctance to defend our rights. Labor, after all, recently refuse to moderate its support for asylum-seeker brutalities.

    Border Generalissimo-MP Morrison's behaviour is that of one of a junta. His contemptuous silence, the government's indifference to protest, the indefinite and unauthorised detention of the people…

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    1. Graham C Edwards

      Gardener

      In reply to R. Ambrose Raven

      All political parties are gangs. Gangs have a leader, are hierarchical, coerce members who don't toe the line and oppress non-members. The objective is to increase territory and power by out competeing other gangs.

      The only flags they fly are those of convenience. For instance both the Mafia and Bikies have opposed drug dealing in the past. The Liberal's have long ceased to be Liberal and became Conservative, Conservatives are not interested in Conserving anything, (as they once were).

      We vote for representatives who we don't KNOW from soap powder, and wonder why they don't represent us. It's TheMockRaceSee?

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  10. Rod Andrew

    Editor, teacher, engineer

    If Jesus Christ were around today, how would he be classified, based on what he said? He would be called a socialist from my reading of the bible.
    Of the political parties on the scene at the moment, which should a christian support?
    The hypocrisy of Morrison, Abbott etc is that they claim to be christians.
    Which part of christian teaching are they following?

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  11. Steve Hindle

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    "In defiance of a rebuff in the Senate, it now seems to be preparing to deploy its troops against the High Court".
    This is getting more serious by the hour, I hope no shots are fired.

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  12. Anthony Nolan

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Thanks for letting us know about how the newDemocracy mob have played their cards behind the scenes. Maybe in their silence on the matter of disinvestment of newDemocracy funding and Transfield's dirty dollars they are adopting Scott Morrison's approach of saying nothing and waiting for the mugs to forget.

    I am indeed surprised by Martin Kryigier's and Tim Soutphommasane's ongoing association. These two at least ought to have an eye for future developments and a desire to keep their reputations…

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  13. JOHN TAYLOR

    CASE OFFICER

    Are Tamil asylum seekers who are returned to Sri Lanka by agreement between Australia and Sri Lanka persecuted because of their attempt to go to Australia? And if not, then where does that leave the issue of persecution in general? And, if at greater risk of persecution from attempting to leave and being returned, then is it not merciful to deter further attempts to leave, through the application of our harsh OSB policy?

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    1. Greg Young

      Program Director

      In reply to JOHN TAYLOR

      Perhaps instead of positing all those rhetorical questions and then coming to a conclusion shakily based on them, you might like to answer those questions for yourself before deciding if your conclusion is at all sound.

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    2. Anthony Nolan

      logged in via email @hotmail.com

      In reply to JOHN TAYLOR

      So, you guys at Menzies House have been passing the bong around, have you? Nothing else could account for this sort of gibberish.

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    3. Peter Frey

      Project Officer

      In reply to JOHN TAYLOR

      Indeed, you might ask your questions of this regime instead of asking rhetorically. You obviously would agree that this regime is indeed not being transparent and accountable - and that undermines the very principles of a "democratic" government.

      To Abetz I would directly say no, I am not confident this regime is doing the right thing. To Abetz I would directly say you have indeed "disappeared" people. Don't go on TV and lecture and berate the electorate.

      Abbott now spends 43m on spin doctors to monitor the social press and presumably sites like this.

      I hope this memo is on Abetz's desk Monday.

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  14. Josef Bloew

    Regent

    On & on the discussion goes with this. Morrison is doing a great job - exactly what the the party that won the last election said it would do. We should be cheering a promise that was kept. Australia has always controlled its immigration - just like every other country tries to do - not always successfully. The Europeans are quietly cheering. Upsetting the UNHCR - they are always upset about something - they aren't paid to be happy. Trashing Australia's reputation - baloney. Do a quick trawl of the international press - the Oz hardly rates a mention unless its do do with crocodiles, snakes or kangaroos.

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    1. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Josef Bloew

      You are basically saying that Morrison is doing a great job by breaking the law (as evidenced by the recent high court rulings) and by violating our commitment to the UN Convention on refugees.

      Way to go

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    2. Josef Bloew

      Regent

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      He's conforming to the law & high court rulings as you well know - and Australia's right to control its borders (& thereby is own peoples cultural & economic security) trumps the UN convention on refugees. We have one of the highest immigration intakes in the world - we do our bit but we can't save the world. Thats why the majority voted for Morrisons mob - the other lot couldn't handle it.

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    3. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Josef Bloew

      No - legally our right to control our borders does NOT trump the UN convention on refugees so long as we are a signatory to it. You clearly have no idea what you are talking about.

      Our signing up to the convention creates legal obligations about how we are supposed to control those borders - and it is clear Morrison is acting in defiance of those obligations (hence illegally) when he hands people back to those they are fleeing.

      In relation to the High Court - Morrison has on several occasions sought to exceed his legal authority as a minister - and his actions were overturned by the high court as being in breach of the Act. They were invalid and in breach of the law.

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    4. Josef Bloew

      Regent

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      You clearly have a high regard for your opinions. I too have a high regard for mine. And I think I know what I'm talking about - and I think you do too. My opinion is that our governments first duty is to its own citizens not to a UN agency. Thats regardless of what UN convention it signed. And last year that opinion carried the day & hence Morrison is part of the Oz government. Its only your opinion that Morrison is in defiance of some UN " obliigations" (as you put it). Well if he was (& he isn't) better he do that than be in defiance of the wishes of those who elected him. Morrison complied/complies with all the High Court decisions - the fact that when tested some decisions were found to be illegal doesn't mean that current decisions are illegal too. They may be - but that will be a matter for the Court -( in my opinion).

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    5. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Josef Bloew

      It is not, with due respect, a matter of opinion.

      The legal position is clear - if we sign a convention we are legally obliged to abide by it. You may well have the view that Australia should not abide - in which case you are free to express that opinion - but the law is not on your side. Australia would have to formally withdraw to give this effect.

      It is also clear that Morrison's previous actions were found to be in contravention of the law (our own migration law by the way - not the convention…

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    6. Michael Rogers

      Retired

      In reply to Josef Bloew
    7. Josef Bloew

      Regent

      In reply to Michael Rogers

      Apart from the NY Times article (first ref) its all just reporting of events - usually picked up from one of the large news agencies & repeated. Granted the crocs & snakes didn't get a mention - but nevertheless theres only one opinion piece in your list. And even that is very mildly critical. And thats my point. Australias handling of the illegal immigrants may be getting reported but there's little or no widespread condemnation of it other than by the usual (a UN agency & the "usual suspects" in Oz who are always ready with a holier than thou comment but no solutions). If its to stay stable no nation can have or tolerate unrestricted immigration. Morrison is doing a dirty job that someone has to do. Otherwise it will turn into a flood - even the Greens have a restricted immigration policy - they just never come out & say what they would do when the limit is reached.

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    8. Josef Bloew

      Regent

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Its a matter of opinion - you know that - lets not labour the point,
      "At no point did Australians vote for or against any particular policy" - in your speculative opinion (to use your words). At the last election I knew very well what policies I wanted implemented & so I voted for the person in my electorate who would support them. And most people I know seem to follow the same strategy - though obviously they don't all vote for the same candidates/policies. The previous mob didn't control the border (amongst a few other stuff ups) and thats a major reason why Abbotts lot are in government.

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    9. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Josef Bloew

      You may well know what cluster of policies you voted for - it is not germane to the point.

      As to opinion. What will yours be if, as is distinctly possible, the Tamil asylum seekers (whose claims have not been properly assessed) after being handed back to the very authorities they are fleeing - are tortured or killed - will that be "ok"?

      I know what my opinion is. It isn't okay. And any action that our government takes that even makes that possibility real is not only illegal under our obligations under the convention it is immoral and repulsive.

      Apparently not to you though

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    10. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Josef Bloew

      No asylum seeker policy was not "a major reason why Abbotts lot are in government". The top three issues "most important to you and
      your family during the election campaign?" were management of the economy,health and medicare and education. See my comments to others on this subject

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    11. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      "No - legally our right to control our borders does NOT trump the UN convention on refugees so long as we are a signatory to it."
      This shows an all too common misunderstanding of both our Constitution, and High Court rulings on that Constitution, particularly the external affairs power. Parliamentary legislation passed consistently with one of the heads of power assigned to Parliament trumps any foreign treaty (or other instrument), signed or otherwise, until such time as that foreign instrument…

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    12. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      Sorry Alan - but you are mixing up your arguments. It doesn't matter about the history of how we signed the convention. It matters only that we ratified it and obliged to follow it.

      You are also just plain wrong about our legal obligations under the convention

      http://www.alrc.gov.au/publications/22-refugee-law/refugee-law-australia-0

      22.6 The Migration Act incorporates art 1A(2) into Australian domestic law, and gives effect to Australia’s obligation of non-refoulement—not to return a person…

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    13. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      The significant matter you completlely missed was that the Refugee Convention is specifically called up in Australian legislation, the Migration Act, and its provisions are incorprated into a variety of sections of the Act. It has been this way since at least 1978 and not one government in that time ha moved to remove these provisions.
      So your statement starting "Over the past 20 years, the Australian body politic has voiced an increasing indifference to the legitimacy of that Convention..." is misleading. Our domestic law has made the Refugee Convention THE "authority forming our immigration and border policies" as far as asylum seeking and refugees are concerned.

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    14. Josef Bloew

      Regent

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      I'd suggest that at the last election a lot of people voted for Abbott etc for the very reason that they would be much tougher on illegal immigrants than the alternative candidates - very much germane (what a quaint word) to the situation its got to now.
      As seen in many other Western countries unrestricted immigration by people of a radically dissimilar culture leads to instability in the country (read riots etc)- having lived in northen England, France & the US I've seen it first hand. And we've already had sniffs of it here with the Cronulla riots (I wasn't in Oz at the time). So it is OK by me for a few to be sent back to Sri Lanka if that snuffs out the torrent it would otherwise become - and the local results that would follow. I'd love the world & humanity be a nice place - unfortunately it ain't.

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    15. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Josef Bloew

      Your first point is falsified on the evidence that Ken Alderton has already alluded to - so it is an uninformed opinion not supported by the evidence.

      Secondly I doubt anyone voted on the basis of what has just happened since at no time did the Coalition ever say that they would directly hand back asylum seekers to the authorities they were fleeing - therefore it is impossible for anyone to have voted on that basis.

      Finally - you appear to be saying the end justified the means - which I personally find morally reprehensible

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    16. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Josef Bloew

      LOL - I doubt they asked as it wasn't a "policy" position. However I could well believe that if it had been asked it might well have ranked quite high!

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    17. Josef Bloew

      Regent

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      (You still there Mark? - sorry I was catching up on the World Cup.)

      Well thats it then - I'm wrong & morally rephrehensible - completely sidelined.

      So whats your solution then to stopping the uncontrolled inflow of illegal immigrants by boat to Australia?? About half the population thinks they ought to be stopped - what would you do if you were the government?

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    18. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Really Mark? Where exactly am I "wrong"? And which case do you rest? That ancient Greece was not a democracy? That Australia is not a democracy? That Australia is a democracy? That Australian laws do not trump UN Conventions?

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    19. alan w. shorter

      research assistant

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      "The significant matter you completlely missed was that the Refugee Convention is specifically called up in Australian legislation, the Migration Act, and its provisions are incorprated into a variety of sections of the Act."
      On the contrary, my entire post was precisely about this:
      "until such time as that foreign instrument becomes municipal law, through the normal procedures of majority votes in both Houses of Parliament."

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    20. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to alan w. shorter

      And then you go on to say "Further, from a democratic legitimacy perspective, the Refugee Convention was signed and ratified by a unilateral act of the Executive.....etc etc.
      This is all about domestic law???

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    21. Josef Bloew

      Regent

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Hows that plan coming along? - any time as to when you can let us in on some details?
      If no plan then I'm sorry but I'll have to retract my concession (or is it confession??) for past errors & poor morals. "I rest my case" - unfortunately resting doesn't help much in this situation - no plan means you don't have a case to rest on.

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    22. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Josef Bloew

      No Josef - I've just been out working. But apparently you think just because you demand it someone should in less than 24 hours generate a solution to what (I think we can all agree) is a difficult problem. In classical terms it is a "Wicked" problem

      Putting aside the fact that you regard the World Cup as of greater ethical importance than this issue let's deconstruct your argument

      1) They are not illegal immigrants - there is a legal right to seek asylum under Australian Law (passed by our democratically…

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    23. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Ken Alderton

      Ken - Alan has clearly shown he has no idea what he is talking about nor an ability to admit error

      Having been totally refuted on the evidence he is incapable of acknowledging his error and instead he creates a false strawman about my comments (claiming I said Australia and Athens do not ahave a democracy when in plain English I said no such thing - merely that the forms of democracy we do have (and Athens did have) bear no resemblance to his claim that our democracy involved decisions by the majority…

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    24. Josef Bloew

      Regent

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      1) Illegal or legal they are un-welcome - even if a court rules them legal they will still be un-welcome and the problem will remain. Banging on about the UNHCR doesn't help either.

      2) Lowy Institute 2014 poll

      3) Morally reprehensible again! - I thought "they" was just English 3rd person plural. Tampa was early 2000's yes? I wasn't living in Australia at the time and the internet wasn't as good as it is now so I never got up to speed on the Tampa - or into evil tribalism.

      4) Stand in front of…

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    25. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Josef Bloew

      1) So you admit you are wrong about the legality - and now ground shift to a "they" are unwelcome (you really do like identifying them as "other" don't you - do ever reflect on how bigoted that might be?)

      2) The Lowy poll shows a high degree of concern about the issue (that includes me) and a modest majority support for Offshore processing. I wonder if they would answer the same way if they were told the relative costs of on-shore versus offshore (a factor of more than 5 more for offshore) versus…

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    26. Ken Alderton

      PhD student, former CEO

      In reply to Josef Bloew

      How do you know they would have ballooned out to 30,000 to 40,000?
      We survive 45,000 457 visa holders a year converting to permanent residence. Or is your problem just non western-culture immigrants

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    27. Josef Bloew

      Regent

      In reply to Mark Harrigan

      Morally reprehensible again, perhaps bigoted, Them-Us, We-They and no moral courage to top it off - I'm pathetic.
      I've pulled your chain enough to see the self righteous commentator with all the answers - except the ones we really need which are practical & achievable.
      Over to you - you have the last word.

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    28. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Josef Bloew

      Josef - I think your words - and lack of response to the actual issues of morality/integrity here - not to mention an inability to even attempt to explore for other options (which I have put forward) says it all.

      I would like to see fewer asylum seekers come here by boat. But so long as we live in a world where people are persecuted because of the whole "Other" mentality that is not the case.

      I do not think a response that imprisons children and results in self harm is an adequate one.

      You think the end justifies the means. I don't - not when there are real human lives and human suffering at stake that we inflict by our inhumane actions - that cost us more in dollar and moral terms than alternatives

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    29. Mark Harrigan

      PhD Physicist

      In reply to Josef Bloew

      It is now clear that not only was Scott Morrison acting in defiance of the law and exceeding his authority (as evidenced by the High Court decisions). It is also clear - based on the testimony of Dr Young to the HR commission - that he is responsible for an institutional cover up of medical reports clearly documenting harm to children.

      Clearly he has violated his responsibility as legal guardian of unaccompanied asylum seeker and refugee children

      Morrison should immediately resign as Minster. And the Minister should be stripped of their role as legal guardian.

      Anyone who continues to support the actions of the government in this area is guilty of condoning institutional child abuse

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  15. Emma Jenkins

    Financial planner

    Excuse me John, but I think the integrity of our borders PROTECTS our democracy, because:

    1. It is by the action of the majority of the people of Australia who voted this government in. A majority of us chose this course of action.

    2. To protect our borders is to allow us to protect our right to decide on the way we want to live in our own country. To be compassionate is synonymous unfortunately with opening the flood gates to a massive swathe of humanity which do not share our language, culture, way of life and need significant investment to become settled productive citizens. To what end? A limit must be drawn somewhere.

    Also John, to write your own Wikipedia page is arrogant, you're not that well known, and I will be sure to mark it for deletion as advertising.

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  16. JOHN TAYLOR

    CASE OFFICER

    There has been some discussion on whether the centres on Manus and Nauru are concentration camps and when concentration camps were first used. Senator Milne weighed in to call the centres Gulags. Which I think means that they are like the slave labour camps for political prisoners in the former Soviet Union. Are the detainees political prisoners?

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    1. Michael Rogers

      Retired

      In reply to JOHN TAYLOR

      Start reading here about the original 'concentration camps' : http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/70828049.

      'Concentration camp' was a late 19th century weasel term for 'prison camp'.

      Aboriginal 'reserves' in Australia were also 'concentration' camps before the term was conjured in Cuba or South Africa. Residents of the reserves under various 'protection acts' were denied freedom of movement as well as many other rights taken for granted outside of the reserves. 'Reserve' was the weasel word…

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  17. JOHN TAYLOR

    CASE OFFICER

    Some commentators have raised the issue of Christian values. The so-called golden rule "treat others as you wish to be treated yourself" breaks down on the complexities of the border protection issue. An application of the rule would be that Australia always accepts and never turns back any arrivals on the basis that one day in changed circumstances Australians might need to leave Australia. This is clearly an unworkable position and searching for universal principles to apply is pointless.

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    1. Michael Rogers

      Retired

      In reply to JOHN TAYLOR

      This was "border protection" in Australia some 85 years ago: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/115985271

      "Border protection" is another weasel term to dupe the dull of mind into believing that seeking asylum in a country that is party to the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees is a 'threat' to the sovereignty of that country from 'illegals'.

      The basic tenet of the Convention "A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it." is neither complex nor unworkable.

      Political expediency in Australia has made otherwise.

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  18. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    " Let us not mince words. In waters well beyond Australia’s north-west shores, it is now prosecuting a form of war against people who have already suffered rape, torture, war, poverty and humiliation. "
    John, I will not mince words either and I cannot fail to laugh about your assertions and broad ranging assumptions.
    First off, the actions involved in sovereign borders are directed at people smugglers and what those people would willingly do to those they dupe one way or another and if you want to…

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  19. Mountain Ship

    logged in via Facebook

    I had personal experience . Australia will become known as fortress Australia.

    This is in itself is great.

    But we are building this fortress on behalf of the United States of America who have vowed that any fight will be on someone's territory.

    I own a ship and I cannot move anywhere without serious observation of everything I say or do.

    Queensland takes the cake for building a system that is corrupt. Something for us all to look up to

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  20. John Newton

    Author Journalist

    And I forgot, another fine piece from Professor Keane. Thank you

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  21. Peter Frey

    Project Officer

    Well Australia hits rock bottom today, on this issue.

    I don't think this issue will go away anytime soon domestically or internationally.

    To get a good perspective on today's low act by this regime on asylum seekers, see this article:

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/07/australia-returns-asylum-seekers-to-sri-lanka-what-happens-next

    It is the responsibility of Labor, the Greens and all senators to now bring this regime to account. It is impossible to see how the regime can survive this low act of handing asylum seekers back to where they came from.

    Our national madness and reputation is now going to bite us hard - we are a pariah internationally and domestically the regime lacks any credibility at all - a mockery of government and a mockery of democracy.

    A DD and an election.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Peter Frey

      Peter, you do seem to be ignoring that simplified assessments to weed out would be economic migrants claiming asylum is not new and it was only last year that the same process was applied to Sri Lankans who sailed into Geraldton WA, supposedly en route to NZ!
      In this instance, it has been safety at sea that has seen an interception and then an assessment being conducted ASAP and that at sea.
      There was one person who it was considered might have a claim and yet he volunteered to return to Sri Lanka…

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    2. Peter Frey

      Project Officer

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg - you have read my comments haven't you? Let me bluntly repeat:

      Asylum seekers have a right to seek asylum.

      Not all may be found to be refugees but all asylum seekers have a right to be treated with dignity, respect and due process.

      Australia has the capacity to be compassionate, to show empathy and to offer protection where needed.

      We are not being asked to house all refugees - Gof forbid Greg - you won't be asked to sacrifice anything.

      Let me give you an insight into what this…

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  22. Glenn Baker

    Retired

    This is a world problem since each rich nation protects it own. Many puff out their chests and talk of democracy when 24,000 people die of starvation daily.
    Scientists set a brilliant example by spending billions searching for The Higgs or sending men to Mars.
    The huge lust for energy gets bigger as the climate gets warmer and world population increases.
    The clever astronomer Martin Rees thinks this could be out last century he may well be right.

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  23. Stjepan Bosnjak

    logged in via Facebook

    "There they become victims of military speak: renamed ‘transferees’ and ‘customers’ of law-breaking ‘people smugglers’."
    The terms 'transferees', 'customers' or 'people smugglers' do not exist in 'military speak'

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