Resolving the boat people dilemma – did pragmatism trump principle?

The decision of the Rudd Government to suspend temporarily the processing of applications for refugee status of Afghans and Sri Lankans has had a mixed reception.  Some applaud it as a sensible measure to enable better identification of those entitled to be categorized as refugees, especially in recognition of the changing conditions in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.  Some see it as a cynical, opportunistic pre-election move to placate the substantial proportion of the electorate that is opposed to the arrival of refugees by small boats.  Some have described it as a ‘cowardly’ move.  Others insist that it ‘proves’ that it has been ‘pull factors’ all along that have been responsible for the increased arrivals, not the ‘push factors’ that the Government insists are the most significant ones.  Others label it as evidence of the ‘failure’ of the existing Government policy on refugees, of its border protection capability, and of its guarantee that arrivals would be processed promptly.

As contributors to The Political Sword have demonstrated, some voters, even Labor supporters, are disappointed, angry and feeling let down by a Government that they believed was more principled, more humane in its attitude to asylum seekers than the previous one.  Some have expressed the view that a principled response to this distressed group of people is more important than any political consideration.  Some have seen the Rudd Government’s actions as simply reflecting a preoccupation with power over humanitarian considerations.  Others, not able to bring themselves to vote Liberal in protest, are so disgusted they are considering voting for the Greens instead of Labor at the election.

From a distance different observers see the Government’s options in simple terms.  Why can’t they accept all refugees coming our way; after all we have plenty of room?  Others though ask why the Government can’t turn these boats away, or return these ‘queue jumpers’ to their own countries?  Or why can’t the Government make the prospect of arriving unannounced so unattractive, so destined for punishment, as the previous Government did, that no one will come?  Never mind the inhumanity – just keep them out.  The conflict inherent between these positions is patent.  How should it be resolved?

This piece attempts to tease out the complexities facing any party in power that encounters this dilemma.

First, we need to accept that most politicians become so to make a difference by implementing policies which they believe will improve our nation. Cynics may disagree, but why else would they accept such modest pay to do what is a demanding, time-consuming job, to be subject to abuse and ridicule from journalists, commentators, cartoonists and the people, to be almost at the bottom of the totem pole of public regard, down among journalists and car salesmen?  Why else? 

It follows that if improving our nation is their principal motivation, having the power to do so is a prerequisite.  The pursuit of power should be seen in that light, not as it is so often seen as simply satisfying an inherent hunger for power for its own sake.  Exercising power is what politicians do, if they can.  Those who can’t become frustrated, suffer from ‘relevance deprivation’, and become angry and argumentative.  We see this every day among Coalition members in the House of Representatives.  In contrast, Coalition members in the Senate do exercise power every day, because they can.  They obstruct, oppose and defeat Government legislation.  Whether we like it or not, whether the party not in power complains bitterly about the abuse of power and their lack of it, power is essential for stable and productive government.

In exercising power, governments, and oppositions where they have it, attempt to impose their will, which in turn ought to reflect the will of the people who elected them.  While sometimes the actions of those in power may not reflect public opinion, generally political parties go to the people with a set of policies, which they believe they have a mandate to implement if the people elect them to office.  Moreover, if circumstances change and public opinion changes (as evidenced by polling and focus groups), those in power feel entitled to change their policies and modify their actions so as to reflect these changing attitudes among the people.

Returning to the asylum seeker issue, the only party that can effect change is the party in power, currently the Rudd Government.  Its efforts can be blocked by the Opposition in the Senate, as we have often seen, but only the party in power can effect real change.  So no one ought to be surprised if the party in power changes its policies or procedures if there is evidence that the existing ones do not meet with public approval.  Of course parties can attempt to persuade the people to their view if they feel the people have got it wrong, but if that is not successful they have just two options – press on regardless with unpopular policies and take the electoral consequences, or change them to reflect public opinion.  This was what the Rudd Government faced over the asylum seeker issue. 

In such situations it is never clear what is absolutely ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’.  Public opinion is influenced by many forces, and in the end it is the perceptions that people have, more than absolute truth, that governs their attitudes and behaviour.

For a decade we have witnessed in this country the growth of fear about, and antagonism towards refugees arriving in small boats on our north-west shores, notwithstanding the fact that most refugees arrive by air or commercial vessel.  Somehow boat people are anathema to a large proportion of the Australian people.  This became obvious when Pauline Hanson and One Nation were influential, and when John Howard, seeing the electoral advantages of attracting the Hansonites, followed suit.  We have seen a decade of dog-whistling, demonization of boat people with pejorative slogans, and tough immigration policies designed to frighten away these ‘undesirables’ coming uninvited to our shores. Over time, this has become embedded in the psyche of countless Australians.  Some would say they have been brainwashed into a distrust and fear of such arrivals.  So we ought not to be surprised that the reaction of much of the community and the media to boat arrivals has been adverse, and that the Government has been castigated for allowing such arrivals to escalate.

Kevin Rudd and his Government were faced with two realities.  First, a surge of boat arrivals was foreshadowed, with the vast majority of these on board initially from two countries, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, where it has been reported that the conditions that have resulted in people fleeing those countries have ameliorated to such an extent that the legitimacy of claiming refugee status has become questionable.  It is now believed many may no longer be genuine refugees, but rather ‘economic’ refugees.

Second, Rudd was faced with public opinion polling that showed that two thirds favoured returning boat people to their own countries, with the same proportion feeling the Government was 'too soft' on asylum seekers, and more believing that the Coalition could be trusted to handle asylum seekers better than Labor (34%/23%): Essential Research Report April 9, as reported by Possum on Crikey Pollytics Morgan Polls – Migration and Partisan Stereotypes. 

So what should Kevin Rudd have done?

One option would have been to fly in the face of public opinion, to insist that the existing approach was appropriate, that all who arrived by boats, no matter how many, be accepted, treated humanely, processed as rapidly as possible, and if Christmas Island became overcrowded, taken to the mainland for processing.  This would have maintained the principled approach initiated on his election and would have satisfied those who supported such an approach. Rudd would know though that this would invite even more savage attacks from the Coalition and much of the media, louder dog-whistling, more fear mongering, and likely increasing anger and apprehension in the electorate to the extent that many could change their vote from Labor to another party, so much so that the Government could be defeated at the coming election.  He would have seen coming another election campaign like the 2001 one: ‘We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come’, one so powerfully persuasive for John Howard, and likely to be just as persuasive for the Coalition, already echoing this slogan to an electorate conditioned to that view over the decade of the Howard Government.  He would know that if such a campaign was as successful as it was in 2001 his government could lose power, power to do anything about boat people, or for that matter power to do anything about any other policy initiative.

Alternatively, he could take the view that UNHCR appraisals are correct in that conditions are now not as adverse in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, and therefore there may be fewer legitimately fleeing danger and persecution, fewer genuine refugees among those reaching our shores in small boats.  He could take the view that reports of a surge of boats soon to head for Australia are correct.  Further he could take the view that as he was elected to serve the voters and since they now are expressing concern at the number of boat people arriving to the extent they now see the Coalition as better able to handle these arrivals, that he ought to adapt his position to more closely reflect the feelings of the electorate by suspending processing until UNHCR had determined the situation in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan more accurately.  He would know that such an action would in time be likely to slow the arrival of boats as the guarantee of entry into Australia became more problematic, the ‘product’ offered by people smugglers less attractive, and the cost and risks involved less acceptable.  He would know that such an action would likely find favour with the electorate and likely blunt Coalition and media attacks on his border protection policy.  He would know that such an action would give substance to his claim of being ‘tough’ on people smugglers, tough on border protection.  He would know that if that were so, the danger of defection of Labor voters to another party would be reduced, and the possibility of electoral defeat over this issue lessened.

So he chose the second option. 

There might have been other options; if there were, what might they have been?

Some see Rudd’s resolution of the boat people dilemma as a triumph for pragmatism and applaud it; others see it as unprincipled and cynical.

What do you think? 

Given the circumstances, what would you have done if you were PM?

 

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kerry

12/04/2010Not sure I agree with your statement: "Alternatively, he could take the view that UNHCR appraisals are correct in that conditions are now not as adverse in Sri Lanka and Afghanistan" - considering the UNHCR is carrying out a review, as it periodically does, and has yet to reach a conclusion. However, if I were PM, first of all, I would change the media ownership rules to drastically limit that SOB Rupert's influence on the general populace - which has brought about the pandering to the dog-whistle response. Secondly, I would stick to my humanitarian guns - I just don't see how difficult it is to say (over and over and over again) that the vast majority of illegal immigrants arrive by plane/that the percentage arriving by boat is miniscule in comparison/that we have international obligations - I'm sure I could get it down to a 'sound bite' for general consumption Thirdly, I'd wait until our troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan before prematurely proclaiming a pseudo "victory" regarding amelioration there Fourthly, I'd wait until the outcome of the electoral process in Sri Lanka before prematurely proclaiming amelioration there. Fifthly (if there's such a word): I'd admit to a terrible mistake re that poor Indian chap and his 92-year-old mother - what a dastardly act!- the trigger, I'd say, for many of starting to think that Labor is clinging on to power for power's sake, rather than standing up to the xenophobia generated by Murdoch and his ilk.

HillbillySkeleton

12/04/2010Whilst I know that I cannot be exactly pertinent, I think that what I wrote this morning on the previous blog, with reference to today's front page story in 'The Australian': http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/afghan-refugees-in-no-mood-for-turning/story-e6frg6n6-1225852510283 I believe is still relevant. So, I will cut and paste it here also: I think if you closely scrutinise that article it actually reinforces the impression I have of the questionable nature of the bona fides of some of these people attempting to come to Australia. Also I would make the general comment that it is funny(peculiar) how The Australian suddenly has sympathy for the plight of these people, intimating that they have every right to attempt to come here. Nevertheless, to the substance. * '...Pakistan-born Rahim...' Age 25. Tends to suggest to me this man has never set foot in Afghanistan, let alone been personally subject to persecution by the Taliban. * "This is not a good decision. There is no peace in Afghanistan, and here in Pakistan there are many problems. We have no money to bring up our children. Economically, we are weak and uneducated." 'There is no peace in Afghanistan...' I think the fact that Afghanistan has just successfully conducted elections(corruptly but successfully), suggests to me that it is not exactly in the teeth of war either. There is no peace in Kyrgystan or Thailand, there is no peace, particularly, in Pakistan, where most of these people are residing, but they are not seeking to leave there for that reason. In fact, Rahim and his family have grown up there, and he has lived there for 25 years! 'We have no money to bring up our children. ECONOMICALLY we are weak and uneducated.' Sounds like one of those egregious Economic Migrants, that the Coalition loves to rail against with their confected rage, to me. * 'There's peace in Kabul and other big cities but all the people living here come from villages and rural areas."' So he admits to peace in large swathes of Afghanistan, the capital and big cities, where the majority of its population lives, but seeks to claim special exemption for himself because he, or his parents(!) came from a rural area or village over 30 years ago!?! A village which he no longer has direct contact with. And we should give him refugee status? Also, where can it be shown that every village and rural area is not quiescant and is war-ravaged? * 'While three million Afghans have returned home from Pakistan since the Taliban overthrow in late 2001, more than 1.7 million remain.' So, the majority of Afghan refugees to Pakistan have returned home to Afghanistan. Can't say as I have heard of any mass slaughter of refugees returning home to Afghanistan lately. They must therefore have safely returned home, I would surmise. * 'Many who returned did so only to contend with violent struggles over land, an increasing scarcity of resources and finally a Taliban insurgency that now threatens to topple the state if the US and NATO military surge fails to halt its advance.' So, it appears what they are having to contend with, when they return home after 25 to 30 years, are economic problems, such as struggles over land and resources. Also, a very big 'If' is posited that, IF the Nato and US surge fails, THEN the Taliban will advance. So, such a scenario enables an Afghan refugee who has lived in Pakistan all his life to claim a clear and present danger to their lives, how? * 'So concerned is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees about the situation for returning Afghan refugees it has cautioned not only against forced returns, but also warned that voluntary repatriation should be slowed until the country is able to feed and accommodate those who have already returned.' This assessment by the UNHCR tends to suggest to me voluntary repatriation back to Afghanistan is OK but should only be SLOWED to allow the country to feed and accomodate those returning. No suggestion of mortal danger to the returning refugees there. * 'The vast majority of Afghans who remain in Pakistan live in squalid refugee camps or slums on the edge of the country's major cities. They struggle to find jobs and educate their children.' Maybe they should go home then? * 'John Dempsey, a Kabul-based worker with the US Institute of Peace,...' His evidence is then presented that, because of the sporadic effect of the Taliban here and there, and the lack of resources for returning refugees that the rest of the world should take them instead. A nice altruistic position, but unrealistic. * 'Rahim, for one, is not prepared to sit around and wait for his country of birth to push him back to a country he has never known.' To my mind this is the money quote. Mr Rahim doesn't want to go to Afghanistan. He WANTS to come to Australia, for essentially lifestyle and econommic reasons. That sort of reasoning from potential asylum seekers in this country does not sit well with me. For goodness sake, his father was killed in a RUSSIAN bombardment. His story has nothing to do with the present Afghan War, or the actions of the Taliban before they were overthrown by NATO or the US. He is not seeking to flee to Australia because he is in fear for his and his family's life, but because: '"I wanted to go to Australia because the agent said it would be easy and the government there was flexible," said the father of four.' Doesn't that just say it all? So, I feel sorry for Rahim and his family and the squalid conditions of the refugee camp that they must live in. I don't think that qualifies them for resettlement in our country as genuine refugees though. Hence, I think that the PM has made the correct decision, to at least spend some time reassessing the situations wrt Afghani and Sri Lankan Asylum Seekers. And I call them Asylum Seekers deliberately because I do not feel that they are refugees from any clear and present danger. In fact, I would much Rather our Asylum Seeker places were given to genuine refugees. I have sympathy for those fleeing torture and deprivation, but not for someone whose ties to persecution are over a quarter of a century old.

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12/04/2010kerry Thank you for responding so soon and for the detail in your response. I agree that exactly what UNHCR has said is clouded with uncertainty. We cannot know whether the Government has better defined intelligence. One might presume that is so and that is why it has acted so definitively, but we can’t be certain. It will only be when the UNHCR has completed and published its current periodic review that we will have better data. News Limited journalists and shareholders would disagree with your first point, but not many others. Rupert’s influence on politics around the world is profound and unhealthy in democratic societies. It would be a challenge to come up with sound bites along the lines you suggest. I wish the Government would do so to counter the incessant dog-whistling coming from the Coalition and the media. While it would be hard to counter in a people conditioned to it for a decade, I just wish the Government would try. Afghanistan seems to be several ‘countries’, may never be free from internal conflict, and may always need an external presence to control to some extent the conflict there. What I hear being said is that some areas are less problematic and people coming from those areas are much less in need of protection, and less eligible for refugee status. We are stuck with the information fed to us; independent assessment is difficult unless one has access to those on the ground in Afghanistan, which almost nobody has. The election is over in Sri Lanka and a big win for the Government that defeated the LTTE is predicted. There is optimism that there will be much less conflict in the years ahead. Having visited Sri Lanka many times during the height of the civil strife, I know that danger to residents was largely confined to areas where the Tamil Tigers held sway. There were of course terrorist bombings elsewhere, but it was the Jaffna peninsula and the north-east that were the most hazardous to those opposed to the LTTE cause. My guess is that there would be many, many fewer Tamils who might need protection in the future, and therefore many fewer who would be eligible for refugee status. Like you, I don’t understand what is really behind the deportation of the Sri Lankan with the elderly mother. It is ironic though that the Murdoch press, which has fostered so much antagonism to refugees, has made such a meal of this case. So long as it’s something with which to flail Rudd, it seems to be OK for News Limited.

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12/04/2010HillbillySkeleton I realized this morning when I read your comment to the previous post that it would be relevant to this one, so I'm pleased you have re-posted here. We can expect more such articles from [i]The Oz[/i], which having castigated Rudd for his ‘soft’ approach to asylum seekers, will now publish every hard luck story it can get its hands on to castigate about being too ‘tough’.

Ostermann

12/04/2010Hi All It appears on the surface that Rudd has been wedged and I don’t envy his position at all, I think the last thing Rudd wanted to do was make this call, this why it has taken a while but with the opposition dividing the country as Howard did over the same issues for the same reasons Rudd possibly didn’t have much choice, the UNHCR report was pennies from heaven to some extent it helped to defend the change in position. The real issue I see is people profiteering from others misery and politicians capitalising on that for their own gain especially when they themselves have little or nothing to offer. Tony Abbott cries “we will do anything to stop the boats from coming” but he himself doesn’t know what, except to reintroduce Howard era policies, and this where we are getting caught out Trafficking in people is an age old profession, and that is the issue we are dealing with, I know easier said than done, but if our elected officials spent more time working together over the problems of people trafficking and finding solutions and less trying to win over voters then maybe solutions could be found. Closer working ties with Indonesia is a good start, but after the treatment of Indonesia by the Howard government they are skeptical as Downers confesses “we just towed them back to Indonesian waters and Indonesia took them back with gritted teeth” I cannot say what I would do if I were PM but I think what Rudd should do is to bring Abbott and Morrison to task over their dog-whistling and basically educate them publicly over Humanitarian Rights and force the opposition into a Bi-partisan support for the proper treatment of asylum seekers or lose face with the Australian public. Here is how Fraser dealt with the Vietnamese refugees stark contrasts I think http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/fraser-the-unsung-hero-of-humane-refugee-policy/story-e6frg7ax-1225815259755

BH

12/04/2010Rudd will never beat the Murdoch press on this one. They will back Morrison and Abbott all the way to the election so, altho I am not happy about the decision, I accept that it is the only one available to the Govt. at the moment. Kerry, it would be just great if the Govt. could abolish the stranglehold that Murdoch has on the print media but, knowing it can't be done easily, he has to work in other ways. I was more upset in 2001 when Beasley' Labor allowed Howard to get away with the dogwhistling. That was the time to nip it in the bud. Even if Rudd is nervous about this now I'm glad he is at least reconsidering for a few months. BTW a close Dr rellie who has been working on CI says huge numbers are purely economic refugees and admit as much. I know those who jump because they have the money would be fairly valuable here as they have initiative I'm in two minds about them being sent back.

lyn

12/04/2010TODAY'S LINKS PART 2 Asylum Seekers a Retrospective, Ken parish Club Troppo Tony Abbott’s propaganda line that the Rudd government has gone soft http://clubtroppo.com.au/2010/04/12/asylum-seekers-a-retrospective/ Immoral? Evil? Maybe, but that’s politics for you…By Bernard Keaneeee Crikey http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/04/12/immoral-evil-maybe-but-thats-politics-for-you/ Asylum Seekers "Leaders following the opinion Polls, The Australian Observer http://aussieobserver.blogspot.com/2010/04/asylum-seekers-leaders-following.html Asylum seeker fears and irrationality by Kim, Larvatus prodeo http://larvatusprodeo.net/2010/04/12/asylum-seeker-fears-and-irrationality/

janice

12/04/2010This is an extremely complex issue without it being coloured by dog whistles and political football tactics. The Coalition beating their tomtoms, together with their supporters and media pals have muddied the waters to such an extent that it is difficult to sort out the wheat from the chaff. It is for this reason that I believe the Rudd government has suspended asylum claim processing temporarily. I believe the majority of Austalians are sympathetic to asylum seekers generally but within that majority there are many who are questioning whether the claims of refugee status of boat people are legitimate. I get the impression from people I hear discussing the issue that they fear people smugglers are running the show for their own interests and are actively arming their 'clients' with a set of tactics to follow to ensure acceptance for permanent residency in this country. Because I am not privvy to the information upon which the government makes its decisions, and as the opinions of journalists and even bloggers is based on speculation and the twisted information that make up the dog whistles, it is impossible to offer a concerted opinion as what else the government could do that it is not already doing. In which case, for me it is a matter of trusting the government to do what is right for the nation. A thought has been nagging me though that the government might look at offering Indonesia/Malaysia a deal to secure their co-operation in putting the skids under the people smugglers. A deal that perhaps Australia would take x number of these refugees who would be candidates for a leaky boat trip, in return for their co-operation to stop the people smugglers putting people onto leaky boats bound for Australia. But, the government may already be negotiating along these lines as well as exploring other options. Whilst I, for one, am a sucker for a hard luck story ( even stray and homeless animals find their way into my care and I've been taken for a ride on numerous occasions by people looking for sympathy and succour), I realise that this nation of ours cannot hope to make much of a dent into the vast numbers of people who want to share the benefits we enjoy. Therefore we should not turn our backs on genuine refugees but we need to be discerning in regard to those seeking to come here on economic grounds.

John

12/04/2010It might be the only political option, it might be what the people want, and it might be a way to blunt the fucking Coalition, but it's just wrong. It's wrong to imprison people who are trying to leave a war zone. The government has folded on an issue that would have cost them nothing to stay strong on. I didn't think I needed to be ashamed of being an Australian anymore.

lyn

12/04/2010Hi Ad For those who may have missed 60 minutes last night, here is a very, very, sad segment on video. [b]the Indonesian fishing boat SIEV 36 exploded off Ashmore Reef, killing five Afghani asylum seekers.[/b] http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=1037286 [b]TIM DUNLOP HAS LET ME DOWN WITH A THUD[/b] Immigration fears not all about racism TIM DUNLOP The Drum http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2869937.htm?WT.mc_id=newsmail

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12/04/2010Ostermann Thank you for your comments and the link to Mike Stekatee's article [i]Malcolm Fraser the unsung hero of humane refugee policy[/i] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/fraser-the-unsung-hero-of-humane-refugee-policy/story-e6frg7ax-1225815259755 which illustrates so starkly how large was the refugee situation with the Vietnamese boat people, especially compared with the present one, and how well Malcolm Frazer managed it. It also highlights how important international cooperation is managing these situations. BH I believe a lot more ‘economic refugees’ will emerge as the conditions in their homeland makes flight from persecution a less plausible reason for seeking refugee status. janice I find your analysis and comments eminently plausible, as usual. Bernard Keane has a similar analysis in [i]Crikey: Immoral? Evil? Maybe, but that’s politics for you… [/i] http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/04/12/immoral-evil-maybe-but-thats-politics-for-you/ John You are understandably upset. It will be interesting to see how many are considered to be coming from a war zone after processing resumes. One argument seems to be that, certainly with regard to Sri Lanka, many are now not coming from a war zone as the war is over and the aftermath less dangerous. Time will tell. lyn Thank you for the video link – indeed a sad story but one of courage among our defence personnel.

janice

12/04/2010Lyn, Tim Dunlop is expressing his opinion just like heaps of other voters who were ashamed and disgusted with the Howard Government's treatment of boat people refugees. I read and hear so many people venting their spleen against PM Rudd in the same vein as Tim Dunlop has done in his article. I note most of the comments re his article agree with Tim or are pushing the right wing coalition line. However the comment below is worth reading: [quote]garibaldi's sister : 12 Apr 2010 1:20:30pm Wow Tim: "Labor is led by a moral coward of the magnitutde of Kevin Rudd" "if you have the spine to do it. Unfortunately, Kevin Rudd doesn't." "he lacked the courage of his convictions" "he didn't even have the nerve to announce the changes himself" "Seeing how easily he wilts under pressure" "Kevin Rudd runs away" "something inherently cowardly about a Prime Minister" Don't hold back mate, what are you really trying to say? And this is what passes for intelligent comment on the ABC these days. You do at least acknowledge that this is a difficult problem and that the coalition and their ilk will manipulate the xenophobia card coming into the next election. But what is your solution, apart from platitudes about cowardice and spines? And the Andren simile doesn't hold up, he was an independent(and a truly great Australian)with a very strong personal vote, not a PM trying to negotiate a solution in the face of an uncompromising and often amoral opposition. [/quote] I hope Tim reads the comments his articles prompt and gives the one from Garibaldi's Sister due thought and consideration. It is easy to accuse the PM of cowardice etc when you aren't walking in his shoes and having the responsibility of making decisions on such a complex issue. I must say Lyn, that like you I feel more than a little disappointed in Tim Dunlop's outburst.

lyn

12/04/2010Hi Janice Thankyou for the copy of garibaldi's sister : comment, I went back and read all the comments. You are right about some pushing the right wing Coalition line, and most others ageeing. I just never thought Tim Dunlop could be so harsh.

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12/04/2010lyn I’ve read Tim Dunlop’s article again and as janice has done, this time I read the comments. Tim is very emotional about this issue, as many are – it seems to evoke more emotion than most. His article is disappointingly shallow. He sounds off against the ‘weak’, ‘cowardly’, spineless Rudd, and says [i]” Had he followed through on those [immigration] changes and explained them and supported them, especially as the Opposition and sections of the media started running their usual tripe on the matter, we might've put away forever this particular political football.”[/i] That reflects his naivety. He sees a simple solution to a complex problem. His emotion may have clouded his judgement. Because he offers nothing more than this, his lack of political nous is exposed. It’s interesting that while he condemns Rudd’s approach and actions, he does not endorse Abbott’s or the Coalition’s. Nor do those commenting. While some enjoyed the opportunity to take a swipe at Rudd, how many advocated the Coalition’s approach? Tim and many of his bloggers are critical of the Coalition and the media in beating-up this matter. So we have an emotional journalist attacking and defaming Rudd but declining to be an advocate for a party with an alternative approach, and offering only superficial and politically naive advice. Many of his bloggers do no better and quite a few refute his contentions; garibaldi's sister is one. Tim is a sound journalist, but we should discount this appraisal of the boat people situation and the Government’s actions to counter an escalating problem. We should not get too upset.

HillbillySkeleton

13/04/2010Good morning all! I have just been listening to AM and have heard a very interesting piece of information wrt Asylum Seekers and their People Smuggler handlers. A woman from the boat moored in Merak, containing the Sri Lankans turned back to Indonesia, stated that she had paid a couple of thousand dollars to the People Smuggler in Malaysia. This is a well-known fact. However, she then added a very interesting addendum to the story. She stated that upon getting to Australia and receiving her visa she was then expected to go out and get a job to be able to pay the People Smuggler an additional amount of money, approximately $10,000. This means that the People Smugglers keep their hooks in people long after they have been admitted into Australia as refugees. No wonder they have been stepping up their efforts to get more Asylum Seekers into Australia! I believe that this is reprehensible behaviour on the part of the 'People Smugglers', nay, you could even refer to them as 'Human Traffickers', as we all know of the exorbitant amounts of interest that these people charge and which keeps their 'clients' in penury for very long periods of time. Indeed, it has been reported that many of the people paying off these 'debts' are unable to do so because of the way the 'debt' is stuctured. Thus, if it is the case that this is going on, and extensive investigation of this fact needs to be undertaken by the Immigration Department, then the Australian Government must move to outlaw it and freeze payments to these horrid people. Surely it is possible?

Ostermann

13/04/2010Hi All Just couldn't resist posting this http://www.canberratimes.com.au/multimedia/images/full/692817.jpg

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13/04/2010HillbillySkeleton Isn’t it disappointing that the rouges are always waiting in the shadows to take advantage of peoples' misfortunes. These are criminals as reprehensible as the stand-over men that infect our underworld. We see malfeasance of a different order operating in the BER where rip-off operators overcharge for work done there. What a pity it is when one part of society is trying to do something useful while another part seeks to unfairly advantage itself. Human nature is sometimes so beautiful, at other times so ugly. Ostermann What a telling cartoon!

lyn

13/04/2010[b]TODAY'S LINKS [/b] Labor loses its will, again ,SUVENDRINI PERERA , The National Times http://www.nationaltimes.com.au/opinion/politics/labor-loses-its-will-again-20100411-s0oq.html Push comes to shove on Asylum Seekers by Waleed Aly http://kurtrudder.blogspot.com/2010/04/push-comes-to-shove-on-asylum-seekers.html Secondary issues of primary import, by Barry Cohen , Hasluck election Blog http://hasluckelection.blogspot.com/2010/04/secondary-issues-of-primary-import.html Rudd's illegal's on their way to Australia, Aussie News and Views. Graphic intense, scroll past Al Gore http://aussienewsviews.blogspot.com/2010/04/rudds-illegals-on-their-way-to.html A matter of principle in the asylum seeker debate, Crikey http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/04/12/a-matter-of-principle-in-the-asylum-seeker-debate/ Rudd, despite handing out health biscuits, has hard calls to make by Mungo MacCallum Crikey http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/04/12/mungo-rudd-despite-handing-out-health-biscuits-has-hard-calls-to-make/ Why do we have such a spineless Government and opportunistic opposition. SPORTOLOTICS http://sportowens.wordpress.com/2010/04/13/why-do-we-have-such-a-spineless-government-and-opportunistic-opposition-business-as-usual-in-australia/ Rudd Caves In On Refugees, By Ben Eltham, New Matilda http://newmatilda.com/2010/04/12/rudd-caves-refugees Christmas Island: beyond politics, by Lucy Fiske and Linda Briskman, The Drum http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2870551.htm?WT.mc_id=newsmail Teacher bashing round #176838. by kim Larvatus Prodeo http://larvatusprodeo.net/ Watching Kevin Rudd disembowel himself with a spoon, North Coast Voices http://northcoastvoices.blogspot.com/2010/04/watching-kevin-rudd-disembowel-himself.html

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13/04/2010LYN'S DAILY LINKS updated.

HillbillySkeleton

13/04/2010What has happened to Newspoll?

Ad astra reply

13/04/2010HillbillySkeleton Nobody knows. Maybe next Tuesday.

lyn

13/04/2010Hi Hillbilly Newspoll can't be found, wonder if the results were so good, it's been hidden.

Holden Back

13/04/2010Dennis Shanahan has thrown himself on the Newspoll results to shield the offices of The Australian from the blast of reality?

lyn

13/04/2010Hi Ad and Everybody We are not alone in our thoughts as to what happened to Newspoll Update NO NEWSPOLL TODAY,Peter Brent Mumble [quote]vast right-wing conspiracy that reaches all the way to Rupert's New York office[/quote] http://mumble.com.au/

Ron Dekker

13/04/2010If we all agree that the "problem", perceived or otherwise is people arriving by boat, then the solution obviously is to stop them arriving by boat. How this is achieved whilst maintaining some sort of humanitarian values then is the crux of the problem. Given the amount of time, money and resources presently being thrown at intercepting and then looking after these arrivals in remote locations, surely it would be easier and cheaper to either buy them airline tickets/sea passage or charter planes/ships to transport them here. "Oh but there will be hoards of them coming" I hear you cry. What right have "we" got to stop them? Since we took over this island from it's original inhabitants this country has been built by migration and migrants. If you are not a descendant of our indigenous owners you are either a migrant or a descendant of one. Every wave of migration has copped it in one way or another and been met with howls of protest but they have all settled in well and contributed to our country, our culture and our society. Why should these people be any different? Cheers Ron

Ad astra

13/04/2010Ron Welcome to [i]TPS[/i]. Please come again. What you say about our migrant past is right. Only the indigenous inhabitants were not boat people. Your solution to stop boat arrivals is an innovative one. In fact most refugees come the way you suggest. I wonder how many 'in the queue' would rush to take up that option; I wonder what reaction that would evoke here. One thing I don't have to wonder about though is the reaction of the media; it would go ballistic.

HillbillySkeleton

13/04/2010I found this article by Eva Cox in today's Crikey especially enlightening wrt the twin topics of polling by the MSM and pollsters, and the 'Boat People' debate: http://blogs.crikey.com.au/thestump/2010/04/12/poll-problems/?source=cmailer

lyn

13/04/2010HI AD Here is Grog with another delightful piece, thankyou Grog Abbott: Oh Br'er Rudd please don't throw me into the briar election , Grog's Gamut http://grogsgamut.blogspot.com/2010/04/abbott-oh-brer-rudd-please-dont-throw.html

Ad astra reply

13/04/2010HillbillySkeleton What a good article by Eva Cox. She identifies the perils of polling, especially when questions other than voting preference are asked. There is too much store placed on the answers given. Even with voting preferences too much faith is placed in the results by many analysts, who ignore MOEs and give small movements emphasis they don’t deserve. If partisan bias further distorts interpretation, one sees the sort of nonsense that Dennis Shanahan is prone to write where a finding adverse to the Coalition is likely to be interpreted as ‘within the MOE’, but the opposite is interpreted as significant. We are thankful to have a first class statistician in Possum to put us straight on poll findings.

Ad astra reply

13/04/2010lyn As usual, Grog is superb.

lyn

14/04/2010[b]TODAY'S LINKS[/b] Asylum seekers – rights thrown overboard, by Bob Briton,The Guardian http://www.cpa.org.au/guardian/2010/1450/03-asylum-seekers.html The Story of Christmas ,and how it was ruined by Australia,by Kathy Marks, Plight of the Unpeople http://theunpeople.blogspot.com/2010/04/story-of-christmas-and-how-it-was.html Green's to Join Tasmanian Cabinet, by Kim, Larvatus Prodeo http://larvatusprodeo.net/2010/04/13/greens-to-join-tasmanian-cabinet/ Rudd’s new sparring partner: John Brumby,Media Wrap, Crikey http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/04/14/rudds-new-sparring-partner-john-brumby/ Building the Education Revolution: rorts etc by Gary Sauer-Thompson , Public Opinion http://www.sauer-thompson.com/archives/opinion/2010/04/building-the-ed.php Everyone, no-one, or the people who voted for you, by Jeremy Sear, An Anymous Lefty http://anonymouslefty.wordpress.com/2010/04/13/everyone-no-one-or-the-people-who-voted-for-you/ The political risks of polling by Eva Cox The Stump http://blogs.crikey.com.au/thestump/2010/04/12/poll-problems/ THIS IS FUNNY, Pity the wife, Darryl Mason, The Orstrahyun http://theorstrahyun.blogspot.com/

lyn

14/04/2010Hi Hillbilly Skeleton Thankyou for your link yesterday by Eva Cox on Polling, very interesting. I have posted in today's links in case Ad needs it for reference later.

Ad astra reply

14/04/2010LYN'S DAILY LINKS updated.

Ad astra reply

14/04/2010Folks I'll be away from my computer for the rest of the day - back this evening.

bilgedigger

14/04/2010What would I do, you ask? I can't answer that fully in respect of the Rudd Government's pause on refugees, but on reflection I think I would lean heavily on a comment I posted on the previous blog "perhaps not ceding the power of incumbancy to a worse outcome might be the lesser choice of evil". Pragmatic or a touch of reality I can't answer even now, but I am mindful of what appears to be the opinion of a large number of people (not sure whether it's really a majority but a significant number). Governments are supposed to govern for all the nation, not just their own mob of supporters. I was very vocal against the Howard Government on this very point and so when the boot appears to be on the other foot it does gives me pause to rethink. Like one of the earlier posters the Beazley capitulation in 2001 caused me great pain. The two years since the end of the Howard Government has apparently not been sufficient time to try to get people to see the point of view of other cultures or to understand why so many people would risk their lives for a better life. Perhaps that's the failure of this Government that they did not directly confront issues such as this but surely it's also our own. The ease with which the Opposition and large sections of the media were able to whip up fear was only held beneath the surface, presumably because many of us were so sure that a Rudd Government would find many people changing their minds about previously rigidly held views on immigration and refugees. In any event, whether or not someone is fleeing a war-torn country as the majority of refugees are, or seeking a better economic outcome is not such a large issue for me. This is one area that I know full well exactly what I would do. I would do exactly the same as many people arriving here now and that is to try for a better life for myself and my family. Perhaps we in the West should not be so hung up if someone is seen to be an "economic" refugee rather that any other kind. After all, isn't Capitalism the system we live under? We buy better health when we can afford to, we buy better quality consumer goods because we have the money to do so. I think that in the future there will possibly be more economic refugees than any other because the aim of capitalism after all is to ensure that many millions of others are living penurious lives in wretched conditions so we can afford a few more luxuries.

lyn

14/04/2010[b]Hi Ad and everybody[/b] [b]HERE IS GROG WITH AS IT HAPPENED, THANKYOU GROG[/b] This morning in The Australian, Peter van Onselen wrote a column about Kevin Rudd , by Grog, Grogs Gamut [b]http://grogsgamut.blogspot.com/[/b]

Sir Ian Crisp

14/04/2010The way Ad Astra explains the machinations of the Rudd government makes me glad I am alive at this watershed moment in Australia’s history. Generations to come will be envious and upset that they weren’t around to marvel at Mr Rudd’s deft handling of the tar baby of illegal arrivals on our shores. Move over Mary Mackillop. If the Tamils are oppressed Mr Rudd should explain why the whole Tamil population (estimated at 2,700,000) isn’t heading for our shores. Why are some Tamils oppressed but not others? Why are only small numbers of Tamils heading for our shores? Do those small numbers of Tamils fleeing oppression contain former LTTE terrorists? Could that explain the disquiet felt by Australians who rightly are concerned about the immiscibility of certain ethnic groups? It might be that Australians don’t want Tamils agitating for their own state from the safety of Australia. Mr Rudd still hasn’t told us why, if push factors are at play, we haven’t seen any Chechens, Thais, Basques or other groups who are oppressed arriving on our shores. Australians might also think that rather than spend money finding out just who these people are we could direct the money at other worthwhile causes. We could provide proper funding so that we might strike a few embarrassing days off our calendar. If properly funded, we could eliminate the need to sell red noses to raise money for SIDS, and there would be no need to peddle daffodils at train stations to raise money for cancer research if that cause was properly funded. Other national embarrassing days could be eliminated. I feel ashamed to be Australian when I see volunteers with begging bowls raising money for SIDS or some other worthy cause. Why aren’t infants more important than asylum seekers? We don’t have to disappoint refugees and those seeking asylum. We could launch Refugee and Asylum Day whereby volunteers could set up at railway stations and collect donations from the public, much like the fund raising that goes on for SIDS or Daffodil Day. People could feel good for one day about a cause just like they do when they give donations on the annual Red Shield Appeal Day.

Grog

14/04/2010It's time for the old "Kevin is a bad boss" story (it must be April), courtesy of Steve Lewis: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/kevin-rudd-and-ministers-emerge-as-australias-most-demanding-bosses/story-e6frf7jo-1225853806064

lyn

14/04/2010Hi Grog I love your Gravatar. Steve Lewis is the biggest, greatest, [b]GREAT BIG [/b], gossip of all times, worse than my neighbor, remember the the fake email, he had it,and then said he didn't, changed his story in 5 hours. IN PRINT. Thanks for the link.

Ostermann

15/04/2010Hi All I found this interesting little article from yesterdays Oz http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/opinion/refugee-processing-freeze-breaches-international-law/story-e6frg6zo-1225853374644 but what is interesting about it is this bit. [quote]The Australian government put a similar freeze on Afghan refugee cases in late 2001. At the time there was no announcement and lawyers were told processing was ongoing.[/quote] The question begs has maybe the opposition wedged itself on the issue by Rudd doing the same but telling us about it. As all seems very quite lately on the asylum seeker front except for Morrisons Liberal Party Website pressies.

sawdustmick

15/04/2010SIC, You must have felt ashamed for some time even through all those Rodney Years. Perhaps we could have an TA brown nose day to support all those poor unfortunate bike riders that damage to their groin muscles.

Colen

15/04/2010Sawdustmick, I doubt SIC COPS is ashamed. Why should anyone be. It is the policy of your duly elected government. You don't like it you vote them out. You are lucky you live in a free country to express your opinions without fear. As regards your brown nose day, be careful your fangs are showing they might get in the way. Could do some serious damage on those groins.

lyn

15/04/2010[b]TODAY'S LINKS[/b] Brumby’s weapons of mass distraction on display at the Press Club, by Bernard Keane, Crikey http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/04/14/brumbys-weapons-of-mass-distraction-on-display-at-the-press-club/ Poll vaults,by Scott Bridges, The Drum http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2871750.htm Really, truly eager to believe by Tobias Ziegler, Pure Poison http://blogs.crikey.com.au/purepoison/2010/04/14/really-truly-eager-to-believe/#more-5719 Wingnut as she is spoke: personal responsibility, By Mercurius, Larvatus Prodeo http://larvatusprodeo.net/2010/04/15/wingnut-as-she-is-spoke-personal-responsibility/ UN scheme to try to protect us from disease exposed,by Jeremy Sear , Pure Poison http://blogs.crikey.com.au/purepoison/2010/04/15/un-scheme-to-try-to-protect-us-from-disease-exposed/#more-5760 Brumby takes fight to the big stage, Crikey Media Wrap http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/04/15/brumby-takes-fight-to-the-big-stage/ Kind man Rudd has a dark side ,STEVE LEWIS, Daily Telegraph. SO THE GOSSIP CONTINUES http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/kind-man-rudd-has-a-dark-side/story-e6freuy9-1225853812727 Smoke and Mirrors by David Russell http://davidmrussell.wordpress.com/ Healthy cooperation, by Andrew Lynch and Paul Kildea, The Drum http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2872503.htm

Ad astra reply

15/04/2010LYN'S DAILY LINKS updated.

HillbillySkeleton

15/04/2010Ostermann, The Howard government did a lot of things to Aslylum Seeker's boats without telling the Australian people, like towing them out to sea again, according to Alexander Downer's recent admission. Then there was Siev X. I can't wait to be around in 25 years time to go into the archives about that one.

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15/04/2010Folks I've just posted [i]Memo to News Limited journalists[/i], so I'll close comments on this piece.
How many umbrellas are there if I start with two and take 2 away?