On 28 June 2012, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship announced that the Government had invited Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston AC AFC (Ret’d), the former chief of Australia’s defence force, to lead an expert panel to provide a report on the best way forward for Australia to prevent asylum seekers risking their lives on dangerous boat journeys to Australia.
That panel, which became known as ‘The Houston Panel’ or simply ‘the Expert Panel’ released its report on 13 August 2012 and recommended re-opening offshore processing asylum centres in Nauru and Manus Island, PNG, which were hallmarks the the infamous Pacific Solution established by the LNP under John Howard.
The Gillard Government, desperate to neutralise Asylum-Seekers as a political issue, and unable to implement its preferred regionally-based Malaysia Solution due to the principled intransigence of The Greens and the highly unprincipled intransigence of Tony Abbott and the LNP, implemented the Houston Panel’s findings and have thus legislated to reintroduce the Pacific Solution.
Only thing, the Expert Solution is worse, by which I mean more inhumane than the Pacific Solution as the Expert Panel have decided that the fatuous concept of ‘queue-jumping’ be given official endorsement by implementing a supposed ‘no-advantage’ rule by which refugees will now be imprisoned on the detention islands for a period equal to the imagined length of the imagined queue which they have been imagined to jump. By extrapolation of UNHCR figures, the period of ‘no advantage’ for a refugee enrolled in the UN Resettlement program would be 10 years imprisonment.
But there are many more refugees in the world than those enrolled in the UN Resettlement program. Total refugees are 10.4 million with 80,000 places made available by resettling nations such as Australia. That ‘queue’ is 135 years long. Even Scott Morrisson, Shadow Immigration Minister, no friend of asylum seekers has said it can take 30 years or so for a refugee claim to be processed in Malaysia
Lesser Of Two Evils
In fairness to the Expert Panel, their intention is not to be inhumane because they enjoy driving people insane through elongated detention, but to prevent drownings at sea by making the cost of seeking asylum greater than a person would be willing to pay and thus ‘stop the boats’. The Expert Panel is recommending a lesser of two evils: imprisonment versus death and also anticipates that the boats will stop very quickly once the imprisonment policy is implemented, therefore resulting in very few people imprisoned. Says Paris Aristotle of the Expert Panel:
People are not going to be on Nauru for five, 10, 20 years or forever as people have suggested. These things are short-term interim circuit breakers.
Abbott, enthusiastic keeper and feeder of John Howard’s xenophobic flame, merely wishes to demonstrate a level of viciousness approved by xenophobic bottom-feeders inhabiting Australia’s marginal electorates which is why he is happy to endorse a recommendation implying many years imprisonment for asylum seekers.
This elongated imprisonment principle is meant to be the mechanism which actually provides deterrent and hence save lives since it is agreed by all, Expert Panel and LNP included, that Offshore Processing in Nauru does not and will not of itself deter any boat arrivals.
That’s why the Coalition are saying, deceitfully, that deterrence must be tripartite and include towing back the boats and Temporary Protection Visas along with Offshore Processing. In fact, both TPVs and Offshore processing are meaningless to deterrence. Only physical denial of entry will actually work, momentarily allowing the otherwise fine concept of ‘working’ to be sullied by association with the inhumane reality of prolonged imprisonment for innocent refugees of war.
Deterrent Opposed: Abbott Glad When People Die
So, the Expert Panel recommends the ‘no advantage’ rule because it denies entry and therefore will stop boats. Similarly the Labor Party’s Malaysia Solution included a refugee swap with Malaysia – it denies entry and would therefore ‘work’. The Coalition knew this and thus blocked the Malaysia Solution from becoming legislation as it wanted the boats to keep coming so it could blame Labor for failing to stop the boats. And if people should die, then Tony Abbott could care less as he would blame those deaths on Labor.
As a Liberal Party MP put it to journalist Peter Van Onselen in The Australian June 26, 2012, “so be it”
One well-placed Liberal source told The Australian that Abbott would rather see Labor continue to bleed politically with ongoing boat arrivals. If that means deaths at sea continue, he said, so be it.
This confirms the attitude of Abbott and the Coalition reported by Daniel Clune, the charge d’affaires in the US Embassy in Australia in November 2009, who reported in a diplomatic cable obtained by Wikileaks that he had been visited by a “key Liberal Party strategist” who thought it was “Fantastic” that large numbers of asylum seekers were preparing to attempt to cross from Indonesia with all the dangers that entailed. Said the Liberal Party strategist:
“The more boats that come, the better”
Pass The Chianti
So Tony Abbott judges that he is strengthened politically by larger number of refugee boats coming to Australia, and is completely fine with the fact that people will die making that journey. Politically then, Abbott feasts on the corpses of asylum seekers. Consequently he opposed measures reasonably expected to stop boat people drowning at sea.
Abbott’s moral standing on the asylum-seeker issue is demonstrated to be equal to that of a cannibal serial killer, delighting in death and feasting on corpses, one after another.
Abbott only agreed to the Expert Panel’s recommendations because it has endorsed one of the talismanic inhumane measures of his idol John Howard’s Pacific Solution, offshore processing in Nauru and Manus Island.
This, somewhat misguidedly, Abbott construes as a political victory, validating his electoral pitch and strategy of returning Australia to Howard’s Golden Age. He has no interest in the welfare or safety of asylum seekers. None. And in my opinion he overestimates the personal ardour of the general population for John Winston Howard.
Joy For Cannibal Serial Killers
The Coalition’s display of exultant, malicious glee at the recommendations of the Expert Panel was both self-serving and repulsive. The Panel had the moral sense to deliver their recommendations with an air of distaste, cognisant of the horrible effects of refugee detention and of the barbarity of their Prison Islands scheme.
The Coalition, however, embarked an 48 hours of self-congratulation, lining up 45 speakers on the rubberstamp debate on the necessary amendments to Australia’s Migration Act and ‘luxuriating”, as Jaqueline Maley put it in the Sydney Morning Herald, in the opportunity to humiliate the ALP for agreeing to reinstate Howard’s Pacific Solution, thus of course delaying the protection of lives they pretend to be concerned about.
Coalition spokespeople disingenuously claimed their bandwagon roster of speakers to the amendments was an honourable exercise in parliamentary scrutiny of the ALP government but it is doubtful a single person in Australia believed that conceit. Even The Australian, which operates as a permanent anti-ALP propaganda organ noted the speaker list was merely an exercise in self-indulgence for the Coalition.
But the Coalition, which has agreed to pass the amendments, has nominated 41 MPs to speak in the debate as it attempts to extract maximum political benefit from the government’s capitulation.
What was further distressing about the Coalition’s reaction to the Expert Panel’s findings was their continuing desire to affirm disdain for asylum seeker and to advocate even more punitive standards of rejection
Scott Morrison, LNP Shadow Immigration Minister, not only affirmed his support for the Prison Island ‘no advantage’ provisions but said that the Coalition supports a ‘disadvantage’ principle by which asylum seekers arriving by boats would be ranked behind all other UNHCR refugees. Since Morrison knows Malaysia alone has more than 200,000 refugees some of whom have been waiting already more than 25 years for asylum, that the effective meaning of this ‘disadvantage’ policy is that asylum-seekers arriving by boat will never be granted access to Australia.
Understand, a no advantage principle, which we support but we’ve gone further than that in the past to a disadvantage principle, means that those who are waiting in places around the world get first call.
Tony Abbott was quick to assert that elite combat troops should be deployed against specific asylum boats, while Scott Morrison was open to the possibility of having such troops deployed on a routine basis for ‘border defence’ against innocent refugees of war. Abbott continued to describe asylum seekers by the dehumanizing terms ‘illegal entrants’ or ‘illegal boats’, even though he knows that seeking asylum is, in fact, legal. Directly challenged on this point he simply refuses to answer.
No Lower Limit
Abbott and Morrisson are prepared to go to racist depths on asylum-seekers. In December 2010 Morrisson encouraged the LNP to persue an anti-Muslim strategy for votes and power. Reported the Sydney Morning Herald
THE opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, urged the shadow cabinet to capitalise on the electorate’s growing concerns about “Muslim immigration”, “Muslims in Australia” and the “inability” of Muslim migrants to integrate.
This was rebuffed by his colleagues, but in my opinion Abbott is willing to play race-based politics as close to the wire of open hatred as he can go and while still maintaining plausible deniability.
Morrison’s infamous and disgusting criticism of Gillard’s basic humanity in flying children of deceased asylum seekers from Christmas Island to their parent’s funerals was seen within his party as a nauseating attempt to capitalise on anti-Muslim sentiment and was initially backed by Abbott.
But after Mr Morrison’s comments this week on the cost of asylum-seeker funerals…colleagues are privately questioning whether he is trying to pursue an anti-Muslim political strategy unilaterally.
I see Abbott’s remarks that asylum-seeks are ‘Un-Christian’ as a direct and opportunistic dogwhistle to this same anti-Muslim sentiment and strategy.
Furthermore, Abbott keeps track of and is attentive to concerns of the LNP ‘One Nation’ fringe, for example in his decision to advocate the removal of Australian funding for Indonesian schools, which idea had its genesis in One Nation lobbying of MPs and talkback radio.
Abbott was instrumental in the organisation of the secret slush fund to pay legal expenses in the campaign to destroy Pauline Hanson and return One Nation votes to the LNP, so Abbott is very aware, as Howard was, that One Nation sentiment must be molly-coddled by the LNP.
Scott Morrison zealously implements the LNP’s strategy of dehumanizing asylum seekers for electoral advantage. In summary Morrison’s comments state that he thinks that asylum-seekers are disease-ridden criminals (illegals). Morally deficient, cunning cheats (document destroyers) who threaten decent Australians (hence border security, losing control of borders) and who will make Australia an unbearable and unliveable place.
And, oh yes, he is very concerned for their safety and human rights.
So, the Coalition’s attitude to asylum-seekers in unrelentingly vicious. That why they endorse the Expert Panel extended imprisonment principle as a xenophonic bonus. In addition, offshore processing in Nauru has a talismanic, essentially religious significance as an endorsement of the teachings
policy of their former leader and living deity, John Howard.
The joy that accompanied the return of Nauru prison island was both malicious and transcendentant.
What Could Be Bad Is…
Unfortunately Abbott is going to win this particular race to the bottom.
Neither Nauru nor TPVs stopped boats (once again ignoring for a moment the barbarity of this objective). Only towing them back did. Malaysia = towing people back which is why the Coalition opposed it.
I believe the Expert Panel ‘no advantage’ test will stop boats coming once asylum seekers see that the ALP is serious about enforcing it. Until that time boats will keep coming.
But What Could Be Good Is…
The only hope for the ALP on this issue is that Abbott and Morrison continue to behave like exultant cannibal serial killers feasting on fresh kill and keep insisting on forced tow-back even all the way to Sri Lanka, minimum 5 year detentions, SAS invasion of asylum boats and such.
They just might yet repulse 1% or so of their 2PP and narrow the margin just that little bit more.
But in the short term the boats will keep coming.
I agree that ideally there should be a limit to Australia’s asylum seeker intake and I would seek to engineer a regional solution.
In view of the limit, I would withdraw from UN Convention Of Refugees, limit total asylum-seeker/humanitarian intake to 20,000 and process applications in Indonesia. Too many are drowning attempting the journey.
Any asylum seekers arrivals (air or sea) over 20,000 I would refoule to a regional partner.
If there is no regional partner I would accept all who come.