Only way to save lives is to encourage the running of safer refugee boats.

Ian Rintoul of the Refugee Action Collective is, of course, completely right:

Refugee Action Coalition coordinator Ian Rintoul said Australia’s decision to criminalise people smuggling had played a role in the tragedy.

“Australia’s push for Indonesia to detain asylum seekers and to criminalise people smuggling directly leads to the kind of tragedy we’ve seen yet again,” he said. “If the government is worried about people losing their lives at sea, they should decriminalise people smuggling so that the voyages can be planned in open and seaworthy boats.

“The policy of detaining asylum seekers in Indonesia means [they] risk imprisonment if they contact authorities if they are concerned about the seaworthiness of any boat.”

Very true, and one more reason why those who feign concern for the safety of refugees on boats but whose solution is leaving them in danger in Indonesia and making sure that the system encourages the running of disposable boats and incompetent, disposable crews, are utter liars.

As I’ve argued before.

Again:

George Newhouse, of Shine Lawyers, who is acting for the survivors of the SIEV 221 tragedy, said the heavy penalties for people smugglers meant smugglers often hired untrained “stooges”, many of them children, who had no idea what they were doing.

“To make matters worse, the government’s policy of confiscating boats means the vessels which are used to transport asylum seekers are often unseaworthy – with disastrous results,” he said.

“Just a year ago we saw the worst Australian shipping disaster in living memory when the engine broke down on SIEV 221 and the young unskilled crew had no idea what they were doing or where they were going.

There is only one way to save those lives, and treating the refugees who arrive here even more cruelly is clearly not it. The way to save those lives is to make sure the boats are seaworthy, and that means not pretending that “people smuggling” is some kind of crime. It means destroying dangerous boats and prosecuting those who run them, but returning the boats and crews who run safe boats.

There’s precisely no other solution that will save those lives. Leaving people who are so desperate to flee in the dangerous location from which they’re fleeing is certainly not it.

UPDATE: had inadvertently left out link to earlier post on this subject. Fixed.

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76 responses to “Only way to save lives is to encourage the running of safer refugee boats.

  1. “Very true, and one more reason why those who feign concern for the safety of refugees on boats but whose solution is leaving them in danger in Indonesia and making sure that the system encourages the running of disposable boats and incompetent, disposable crews, are utter liars.”

    Indeed they are. Utter scum bags as well. I would have a lot of respect for these toe rags, if they would just come out and say what they really mean.

    What they would really like to say is!

    These dirty rag heads are just que jumpers. Their culture is totally inferior to ours, they smell weird and dress like they are just about to go to bed. They should stay in their own countries and not interfere with us stealing their resources(oil that is Texas tea) and turning their cities into ghettos.

    O/k I can deal with that.

  2. jordanrastrick

    Very true, and one more reason why those who feign concern for the safety of refugees on boats but whose solution is leaving them in danger in Indonesia and making sure that the system encourages the running of disposable boats and incompetent, disposable crews, are utter liars.

    Let me rephrase this:

    One more reason why those who feign concern for the safety of refugees in camps in Somalia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka etc, but whose solution is leaving them in danger in those far away places and making sure that the system encourages paying ruthless people to dangerously smuggle them from the far away places, to Indonesia or Malaysia, where we will now consider them our genuine moral responsibility, because they’re located physically closer are utter liars.

    Still a fair criticism? If so, how do you defend your apparent preferred policy of resettling <1% of genuine refugees in distant camps, and ~100% of genuine refugees who physically arrive in Australia? Since we're now in the business of acknowledging that the incentives established by our refugee policy can have unintended consequences which we must accept moral responsibility for.

    and that means not pretending that “people smuggling” is some kind of crime.

    Some people smugglers are criminals, Jeremy, even though the poor saps crewing the boats rarely are.

  3. Some people smugglers are criminals, Jeremy, even though the poor saps crewing the boats rarely are.

    Criminalising running boats means that ONLY criminals run the boats.

    The crime should be running dangerous boats, not running boats at all.

    how do you defend your apparent preferred policy of resettling <1% of genuine refugees in distant camps, and ~100% of genuine refugees who physically arrive in Australia?

    That’s not my preferred policy at all.

    But keep in mind that you’re assuming that the people in those camps all want to come to Australia. Is it not the case that many simply want to go back home once the civil wars, for example, are over?

  4. Splatterbottom

    It is cheaper to fly to Australia than to buy a passage on a dilapidated boat. The solution is to not require the usual documents for those who arrive by plane. That way the refugees would get what they want and more cheaply.

    The fact is that the policies introduced by Rudd and continued by Gillard are killing hundreds of people. Such is the price of making middle-class wankers feel good about themselves.

  5. “The fact is that the policies introduced by Rudd and continued by Gillard are killing hundreds of people. Such is the price of making middle-class wankers feel good about themselves.”

    What utter, unmitigated, unadulterated horse shi!.

    SB does the Limbo.

  6. jordanrastrick

    Criminalising carrying guns means that ONLY criminals carry guns.

    Hmmm, now where have I seen that argument before? :P

    Even though I think immigration barriers should be radically lowered, I suggest the international community has some legitimate interest in trying to control, by law, the movement of people across national borders.

    If you don’t make the organised groups who profit by marketing services to circumvent those controls subject to criminal sanctions, how exactly do you enforce the controls?

    But keep in mind that you’re assuming that the people in those camps all want to come to Australia. Is it not the case that many simply want to go back home once the civil wars, for example, are over?

    No, I’m not making that assumption. You’re beginning to clutch at flimsier straws.

    Refugees who want permanent resettlement should be given pathways to permanent resettlement; refugees who want temporary asylum should be given temporary asylum.

    Even if only a few percent of the people in camps have no preference to waiting or resettling in a Western country, versus waiting in the kind of camps the UN runs in the third world – which is utterly implausible, but whatever – those people still outnumber the people who arrive physically in Australia. The standard implict “Left” platform here is to resettle ~100% of those who arrive, and much, much less than 100% of the rest. Which creates a strong incentive to physically journey here, which is unnecessarily dangerous to the refugee, and creates a black market for criminals to profit from.

    I’ve never heard you advocate any policy position other than this.

    So,

    That’s not my preferred policy at all.

    Please provide details of your preferred policy.

    The Greens, in as much as their platform is explicit, subscribe to my description above. They will increase the humanitarian intake a little, end mandatory detention, process everyone onshore…. and, do nothing to address the fact this still forces the vast majority of global refugees to take a dangerous and expensive journey to get here if they want a realistic hope of asylum.

  7. Criminalising carrying guns means that ONLY criminals carry guns.

    Hmmm, now where have I seen that argument before?

    Doesn’t mean it’s false. It’s silly in the case of guns because carrying guns makes things more dangerous for everyone around the gun carrier, whether they intend to use it to commit a crime or not. What’s the legal, safe use of a lawfully-carried gun?

    Whereas there’s a very legal reason for safe boats to run – because it is entirely lawful and legitimate for refugees to seek asylum here.

    Please provide details of your preferred policy.

    Make sure that whatever we do helps people rather than making things worse.

    Deporting them to Malaysia makes things worse. Destroying boats simply for arriving rather than for being dangerous makes things worse. Locking people up in the desert makes things worse.

    We may not be able to solve the world refugee problem, but we can do our part to not increase suffering.

  8. jordanrastrick

    What’s the legal, safe use of a lawfully-carried gun?

    There’s few that are safe, but firing in self defence can quite definitely be legal.

    Make sure that whatever we do helps people rather than making things worse.

    Deporting them to Malaysia makes things worse. Destroying boats simply for arriving rather than for being dangerous makes things worse. Locking people up in the desert makes things worse.

    We may not be able to solve the world refugee problem, but we can do our part to not increase suffering.

    That’s not a policy, that’s a series of criticisms of the major parties policies. People who claim to care about this issue should be able to do better than the “Tony Abbott special” of opposing everything that’s on the table without offering a constructive alternative.

    I say again: just as the current policy of destroying boats creates an incentive to launch unseaworthy vessels, that leads to pointless deaths, even though that was not the intention of the policy; likewise, the policy of preferentially resettling physical arrivals creates an incentive to try and physically arrive, leading to pointless deaths, even thought that’s not the intention of the policy. If advocates of the former policy share some blame for its unintended consequences, then the same goes for latter

    I ask again” what would you Jeremy, or any other proponent of a platform resembling the Greens or Labor Left, actually do? You’ve already said you will decriminalise smuggling from Indonesia to Australia where no one is put at risk; what will you do about the leg of the journey from Afghanistan, Sri Lanka etc to Indonesia? Or does the lack of Australian news media coverage of deaths on that part of the journey mean it ceases to matter to us?

  9. Jordan, anything short of being as cruel to refugees as Indonesia “creates an incentive” to try to come here.

    What would we do about the leg of the journey from Afghanistan to Indonesia? Whatever we can. It’s an international law problem. I’m not sure we have the power to do much about it, but “deterring” such a trip is no excuse for being inhumane to those who’ve made it.

    That’s not a policy, that’s a series of criticisms of the major parties policies. People who claim to care about this issue should be able to do better than the “Tony Abbott special” of opposing everything that’s on the table without offering a constructive alternative.

    There’s no magic solution. But step one is not doing the things that make things worse. Step two is looking at ways to help as many people as possible.

    But that’s not the priority the country’s currently following. Simply stopping doing the nasty things we’re currently doing would be a huge step forward.

  10. jordanrastrick

    But that’s not the priority the country’s currently following. Simply stopping doing the nasty things we’re currently doing would be a huge step forward.

    So you do not really have much of a constructive policy alternative. You will reduce the suffering of the few people who make it here by not locking them up for a year. You will do nothing to reduce the suffering of the vastly greater number people who are currently in Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka or any other place.

    You will change the policy on boats in a way that a) makes it more profitable for smugglers to send people here, since they get their boats back; b) marginally reduces the risks of the Indonesia to Australia journey; c) does not reduce the risk of the source to Indonesia journey, at all.

    Its hard to tell if the net effect will be to even reduce the loss of life at sea overall, since even though they are safer trips overall, the higher profitability will result in more boats departing. We’ll a few more refugees settling here, though; that’s something at least….

    But step one is not doing the things that make things worse.

    Do you think that destroying boats makes things worse, because it leads to the use of lower quality boats and hence more loss of life at sea – yes or no?

    Do you think that preferentially resettling physical arrivals makes things worse, because it leads people to attempt to journey here – yes or no?

    If the former is “yes” and the latter is “no”, why are the two different?

    Step two is looking at ways to help as many people as possible.

    Looking at ways? Seriously? This is akin to a climate policy of: “Step One is not to have a carbon tax; step two is to look at ways to reduce carbon emissions, without a tax.”

    Apparently, we are incapable of thinking more than one minor adjustment to the law ahead in this debate. Instead of formulating an actual policy to help people, we are to have a policy of trying to come up with a policy. Oh, what progress.

  11. “I suggest the international community has some legitimate interest in trying to control, by law, the movement of people across national borders.”

    National borders, and nations in general, are a very 19th century construct that are increasingly silly in the modern age. Mega-corporations and the rich know no borders – they can move and do whatever they like irrespective of location, and getting visas and other permissions is trivial. It is only the poor that are stuck within their own borders and not allowed to move elsewhere without the permission of their “betters”. I’d really like to know: what is the “legitimate interest” in keeping people fenced in economically or socially and punishing anyone who tries to jump the fence?

  12. jordanrastrick

    National borders, and nations in general, are a very 19th century construct that are increasingly silly in the modern age.

    I agree national borders are in many ways stupid, but we’re stuck with them for the time being, and I’m a pragmatist.

    I’d really like to know: what is the “legitimate interest” in keeping people fenced in economically or socially and punishing anyone who tries to jump the fence?

    I support a move to globally open borders, but only over the medium term (a few decades). I don’t think civil institutions in countries are currently equipped to deal with maximal immigration; the change would be too rapid. Specifically, governments wouldn’t be able to plan or build physical infrastructure quickly enough, xenophobia would be inflamed faster than people can grow used to new arrivals in net immigration countries, and social values could become dangerously incohesive. This is the “legitimate interest”. It is selfish, but its also sensibly risk averse from a global perspective: if we lose the strong, successful and relatively progressive civil institutions in countries that have them, the world is a lot worse overall, and the future of humanity is a lot more dicey.

    So, I advocate radically but incrementally increasing migration – an order of magnitude at a time, say. Once societies have had a chance to adjust to people moving across borders freely, then you can do away with migration controls (although you would want to perform basic security checks, quarantine etc).

  13. So you do not really have much of a constructive policy alternative. You will reduce the suffering of the few people who make it here by not locking them up for a year.

    Well, that’s a change for the better.

    You will do nothing to reduce the suffering of the vastly greater number people who are currently in Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka or any other place.

    I’d increase the number of such refugees that we take. Why, what’s your better solution?

    You will change the policy on boats in a way that a) makes it more profitable for smugglers to send people here, since they get their boats back; b) marginally reduces the risks of the Indonesia to Australia journey; c) does not reduce the risk of the source to Indonesia journey, at all.

    Actually, (a) is probably false, in the same way that prohibition was very profitable for gangsters. If we stop treating as criminals those who transport the refugees here, then legitimate operators will enter and compete and the criminal syndicates won’t be able to charge as much for as little. (b) Significantly reduces those risks – haven’t you seen all the coverage about how the boats are overcrowded, unseaworthy, with untrained crew etc? (c) Well, no, but what would?

    Do you think that destroying boats makes things worse, because it leads to the use of lower quality boats and hence more loss of life at sea – yes or no?

    Do you think that preferentially resettling physical arrivals makes things worse, because it leads people to attempt to journey here – yes or no?

    If the former is “yes” and the latter is “no”, why are the two different?

    1. Yes – don’t you? 2. No, because it’s not “preferential”. It’s not one instead of the other.

    Looking at ways? Seriously? This is akin to a climate policy of: “Step One is not to have a carbon tax; step two is to look at ways to reduce carbon emissions, without a tax.”

    Only in the sense that the Liberals don’t really think that carbon emissions are a problem, so doing nothing is in fact better than doing something.

    In the case of destroying boats and ignoring safety standards, doing that IS worth than not doing that.

    Apparently, we are incapable of thinking more than one minor adjustment to the law ahead in this debate. Instead of formulating an actual policy to help people, we are to have a policy of trying to come up with a policy. Oh, what progress.

    Avoiding worse policies is better than following worse policies.

  14. Jeremy wrote: “Criminalising running boats means that ONLY criminals run the boats.
    The crime should be running dangerous boats, not running boats at all.

    If we knew who the people are who are running the boats why wouldn’t we use whatever reasonable means at our disposal to dissuade them? Isn’t a significant part of the problem that we claim not to know who these people are?

    In any event, I don’t see it as our responsibility to be set-up a costly – and in my view, futile – surveillance operation for such a purpose.

    Jeremy wrote: But keep in mind that you’re assuming that the people in those camps all want to come to Australia. Is it not the case that many simply want to go back home once the civil wars, for example, are over?

    Not that many I’d suggest Jeremy. Certainly, not many who have made it here have expressed any wish to return to their place of birth, in my experience. And why would they?

  15. jordanrastrick

    I’d increase the number of such refugees that we take. Why, what’s your better solution?

    The same as my policy solution to pretty much all Federal issues :P I’ve mentioned it before in dribs and drabs on comments here over the years, but an overview would certainly be useful:

    * I’d establish a charter city or three on the Australian mainland, reasonably close to existing capitals and connected by very fast train. (These would serve to accomplish a variety of policy goals besides this one.)

    * I’d auction off some of the visas to the charter city for humanitarian places. People (or agencies, UN workers etc working on their behalf) could apply at Australian embassies and consulates, or at missions set up in refugee camps. Bids would be ranked, on a combination of need (UNHCR assessed, for instance), ability to provide documentation to verify identity security etc, and willingness to pay. The most highly ranked bidders get visas. I’d probably start with an intake of a hundred thousand or so a year, making up maybe 30% of the charter city’s overall visa issue, depending on how things go. I’d probably also kick start things with a largish intake from our region, just to relieve the current pent up demand for smuggling.

    * After a set minimum number of years of living in the charter city, contributing a certain amount of tax etc, residents could apply for full Australian citizenship.

    * Refugees who arrive here by boat or plane would also be granted visas to the charter city, and be just as free to work, send their kids to school, and so forth. However, they would be significantly disadvantaged compared to applicants from overseas in applying for citizenship. Since there is a substantial minimum marginal cost for smugglers to bring people here, most or all refugees with means will prefer to apply to and pay the Australian government, to be brought here in much greater safety, with a much better chance at resettlement.

    * If the model is successful, with some luck it might be adapted in other Western countries, which would actually have a chance of dealing with the issue globally, not just couple of million people or so likely to end up in Australia under the scheme.

    * More details on request….

    Actually, (a) is probably false, in the same way that prohibition was very profitable for gangsters. If we stop treating as criminals those who transport the refugees here, then legitimate operators will enter and compete and the criminal syndicates won’t be able to charge as much for as little

    So you are proposing to create a legitimate market for refugees to buy their way in (although with the funds still going to middlemen). Well, that’s some of the way toward my policy.

    1. Yes – don’t you? 2. No, because it’s not “preferential”. It’s not one instead of the other.

    I vote yes for both; was just trying to argue that your answers for the two points are contradictory.

    For the purposes of this discussion, can we give “preferentially resettling” in this context the following objectively accurate definition: from the refugee’s perspective, the outcome of being smuggled here is a massive increase probability of receiving asylum or permanent resettlement in Australia.

    Do you agree that, using this definition, the answer to the second question is now, clearly, “Yes”?

    Avoiding worse policies is better than following worse policies.

    The empirical evidence to prove or disprove the importance of any given alleged “pull factor” – Nauru, towing back boats to Indonesia, TPVs, Mandatory Detention – is weak. So while your policies have much better intentions than Tony Abbott’s, its hard to say definitively if they would actually lead on net to better outcomes.

  16. Im sure you’ve all seen this quote from one of the surviving refugees in the Fairfax press today:

    “Why does Australia not close the border?,” said Esmat Adine, a 24 year old Afghan. “Everyone is coming because the border is open. Everyone is going there and they are being accepted. “If Australia does no want asylum seekers to come to Australia [by boat], it is a better way to close all the borders and then no-one will come.”

    This guy may just be talking out of his bum, but the bottom line is that there is a very, very high likelihood that the current policy is causing people to risk their lives and die in reasonably significant numbers.

    The evidence is pretty much conclusive now, from the spike in boat arrivals immediately after the change in policy, the repeated arrivals of large numbers of boat people since then, and now from the mouths of refugees themselves – our policies encourage boat arrivals. I don’t see how intelligent people can deny it anymore.

    So let’s be serious – creating a legalised people smuggling industry is a completely unrealistic solution. It will never be politically palatable here, nor should it be given the obvious shortcomings. We can’t just set up a legal marketplace for people smuggling – it would undermine our entire refugee intake system. It’s not going to happen.

    And in the meantime people are dying in tragic and avoidable circumstances. It’s not acceptable to me – it shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone. We have to do something, even if it means bringing back the Pacific Solution.

  17. We can’t just set up a legal marketplace for people smuggling – it would undermine our entire refugee intake system.

    So? Setting up a system whereby boats are as dangerous as possible is much worse.

    And in the meantime people are dying in tragic and avoidable circumstances. It’s not acceptable to me

    Me neither. Which is why I want the thing that’s encouraging it changed.

    It will never be politically palatable here

    Not while people make excuses for cruelty to the refugees who arrive here as some kind of “deterrence”, as if anything short of being worse than Indonesia would “deter” desperate, genuine refugees from trying to get here.

    Jordan – your idea is terrifying. A separate group of people – including children – in the country but with second-class rights? It’s like a form of apartheid.

  18. Although, to be fair – Tony Abbott being Prime Minister might stop the boats. I certainly wouldn’t choose to move to a country that would elect him.

  19. narcoticmusing

    I wonder if we might have a better scenario if we were to enable a combination of SB and Jeremy’s response – so; make it legal to transport refugees here by boat (but criminalise unsafe practices). This would mean competition and legitimate operators. Now, if we combine that with SB’s idea above of reducing barriers for correct documentation to get on the plane (such as by having some form of security detainment for processing or something here) – then the planes would likely be cheaper anyway. No more issues.

  20. narcoticmusing

    but the bottom line is that there is a very, very high likelihood that the current policy is causing people to risk their lives and die in reasonably significant numbers

    Mondo – I’d like to see you find ONE person in Australia let alone Afghanistan that actually knows (properly) the Australian policies for immigration. Now, compare that with how many people know the media version of it. Boat arrivals or not are not due to a knowledge or not of Australian immigration policy, it is due to our own broken media, our own broken opposition selling that our borders are open to the world, a bunch of asshats making a profit from the whole thing, and a lastly, but most importantly, a place of desperation beyond the understanding of all of us in our nice wifi app’d worlds.

  21. jordanrastrick

    Jeremy,

    Jordan – your idea is terrifying. A separate group of people – including children – in the country but with second-class rights? It’s like a form of apartheid.

    My mother is a non-citizen permanent resident. As such, she, and the hundreds of thousands of people like her, have fewer legal rights than citizens. Is that apartheid, or did you mean to make a more specific and substantial criticism of the idea?

    The charter city residents would have far greater rights than current asylum seekers in Australia – the right to work, freedom of movement and assembly across an entire city, democratic representation at a local level, access to a much wider range of health and legal services. They’d also have a secure and straightforward progression to full and permanent Australian citizenship. It’d be a purely voluntary arrangement – they’d be free to leave at any time. And many, many more people can be helped. I don’t think I have to enumerate how many more rights charter city residents have over refugees stuck in camps in Indonesia, or Somalia.

    So what, precisely, terrifies you? That is, can you name specific bad outcomes you can anticipate are likely to occur, for specific groups of people? As I said, “more details upon request” – I have to say I’d be highly surprised if you could come up with a serious problem with the idea that hasn’t already been countenanced and addressed.

  22. jordanrastrick

    Mondo, TBH I’m most interested in your reaction to the charter cities idea, since you seem to be the only regular commenter here who is not currently more or less rusted on to one of the large parties’ (Greens/ALP/Coalition) policies on asylum seekers; you’re pretty critical of all of them, as far as I can tell.

    So let’s be serious – creating a legalised people smuggling industry is a completely unrealistic solution. It will never be politically palatable here, nor should it be given the obvious shortcomings.

    Personally, I feel that charter cities, while a radical and novel political idea and thus a tough sell at first, are:

    A) Much more palatable politically over the medium term than Jeremy’s legal smuggling industry, in that refugees wouldn’t get dumped in impoverished outer suburbia as they currently are, with the infrastructural and social problems that creates and the xenophobia it inflames.

    B) Lacking in other major shortcomings of legalised smuggling. For instance: the government retains control on overall intake numbers (although if it wants to price smugglers out of the market, it may have to adjust the number of visas issued a bit higher than the figures I’ve nominated); we still get to weight more needy cases more highly; we create incentives to keep rather than destroy documentation which aids security checks.

    Boat arrivals or not are not due to a knowledge or not of Australian immigration policy, it is due to our own broken media, our own broken opposition selling that our borders are open to the world, a bunch of asshats making a profit from the whole thing, and a lastly, but most importantly, a place of desperation beyond the understanding of all of us in our nice wifi app’d worlds.

    Narcotic, surely you acknowledge the lack of a functioning and morally acceptable refugee policy under any recent government is what leads to the media environment, opposition political opportunism, and profit making by criminals? The individual refugees don’t know or need to know the specific details of migration law, to be affected by these other factors; and the factors wouldn’t exist if the law worked. E.g. If the media started widely reporting there was no benefit to coming by boat anymore (as a result of a policy change), then that would surely change the number of boats.

    I’d also be interested in hearing your thoughts on the charter cities idea.

  23. narcoticmusing

    Jordan – regardless of any merit to your charter city idea, the sheer capital costs to create such a thing would make the NBN look like a tea party. It would be such a barrier that surely a pragmatist like you would comprehend that not only would it never be voted for in this democracy, the cost would be borne by the taxpayers and be so great (as they would be completely dependent on us – entire cities) that it would not be practicable. A novel idea yes, but not financially nor fiscally sound, particularly, as I say, you pretend that buildings just magically spring forth. Infrastructure is the bane of every government in this country – we can’t afford new trains for ourselves or to even link our airport to the cbd – why would be pay for strangers? Again, I ask from a pragmatic rather than idealistic sense.

  24. jordanrastrick

    It would be such a barrier that surely a pragmatist like you would comprehend that not only would it never be voted for in this democracy, the cost would be borne by the taxpayers and be so great (as they would be completely dependent on us – entire cities) that it would not be practicable

    Narcotic, your objection is a reasonable one, but its merely a result of lack of space/time here on my part to go over all the details of the proposal. This is a weakness of explaining only the aspects of the idea that pertain to asylum seekers, in isolation. The intention is that the cities are financially self sufficient – indeed, they would be legally required to be net contributors to federal revenues. They subsidise us, not vice versa. This is part of why its important humanitarian visas only make up part of the intake; you want large numbers of economic migrants as well, to ensure sustainable development.

    Much of the infrastructure is naturally private – housing and commercial real estate. The public infrastructure – subways, roads, water and schools – are funded by bonds with returns that are tied to the tax revenues of the city, which include a substantial land tax as well as other broad based taxes. (Electricity can be sourced from the NEM, and as a bonus we can require it to be 100% GreenPower, so only the wires need public financing. Hospitals and universities are slightly different for reasons I won’t go into right now.)

    So essentially the private capital provides equity rather than debt – and if the required bonds can’t be sold, the charter city doesn’t go ahead; thus fiscal risk to the government is relatively small for the scale of the project. (The original Paul Romer proposal for charter cities calls for a purely Venture Capital funded model, amongst other differences to what I’m laying out here. I strongly prefer for government to take a more active role and retain an economic stake in the project.) And unlike the farces that are existing PPPs, there are no existing stakeholders to be screwed over by the government for profit.

    we can’t afford new trains for ourselves or to even link our airport to the cbd

    Speak for yourself – Sydney has a train line connecting the airport to the CBD….

    Regardless, infrastructure is particularly expensive in our major cities for reasons of historical path dependency. We have built moderate density cities, which we can’t easily make denser because of the political interests of existing residents. And our infrastructure is designed to work for these densities; so our train systems are hugely less efficient than a Paris/New York/Hong Kong style subway, for instance, but it would be absurdly expensive to rip up the existing networks and start again (much more so than building a subway from scratch.) This was the problem that bedevilled the previous NSW government and is now bedevilling the current administration; heavy rail sucks and is expensive, but because we’ve got so much of it already, there’s not much choice but to build more.

    Also, keep in mind I would shift most of our current migration (in all categories, not just refugees) to the charter cities, at least to start with. So if we say triple the net overall intake of people into the country, a third of the marginal infrastructure investment is stuff governments were going to have to fork up anyway, to accomodate population growth in existing cities. If we can get three times as efficient delivery of services per capita in building the new cities versus building the old, which is easily plausible, Australian taxpayers are way out ahead. And even if we can’t get those kinds of gains, the economy’s ability to absorb current levels of population growth – without any buildings needing to spring magically from nowhere without financing – clearly demonstrates the basic feasibility of the idea.

    Furthermore, by placing the charter cities on routes between major capitals, we can also make other projects important in their own right – fast rail links and additional airpots – significantly more economic.

    Like I said to Jeremy…. more details on request, and I doubt there’s an objection you’d come up with I haven’t anticipated, or already heard from other people and resolved. But yes, its incumbent on me to explain the gory details…

  25. jordanrastrick

    Jeremy:

    So? Setting up a system whereby boats are as dangerous as possible is much worse.

    Part of what makes the journey so dangerous is the incentive structure. Tim Blair may be a fuckwit and the following article is thick on left-bashing hyperbole, but he also cites, you know, actual sources about the incentive structures in the economics of smuggling:

    http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/timblair/index.php/dailytelegraph/comments/cared_to_death/

    Particularly relevant is:

    Survivors of the latest doomed voyage claim that everyone aboard each paid between $2500 and $5000. Individually, those amounts would easily cover air fares to Australia. Collective amounts – Saturday’s vessel carried around 250 passengers – would be sufficient to purchase several vessels of greater seaworthiness than that which sank. Refugee advocates don’t like to discuss why these safer options are not explored. The reasons are to do with identity and culpability. Those arriving in Australia by air require passports, which makes easier the task of disproving the legitimacy of asylum claims. Those arriving from Indonesia on boats commonly carry no identification at all, allowing certain freedoms with their stories. (Additionally, the SMH reports: “Many of the asylum seekers flew from Dubai to Jakarta, where Indonesian officials are said to be ready for the migrants to arrive, charging them each $US500 to pass through the airport without visas.”) If asylum seekers purchase their own boats instead of places on boats run by people smugglers, they are liable for prosecution. So they take their chances with the smugglers.

    Emphasis mine. Feel free to prove him wrong by discussing the issue – what is your alternative explanation for why approximately $1 million can’t buy safe passage of a couple of hundred kilometers for 250 people?

    And, relatedly you still haven’t re-answered my question from before. I’ll recap, with the additional details that forestall further semantic bickering about “preferential resettlement”:

    We preferentially resettle physical arrivals in the sense that our current policies (Greens, Labor and Coalition) create circumstances such that >90% of physical boat arrivals and >50% of plane arrivals to Australia receive asylum, vs <1% of other refugees worldwide, whether in camps in our region or further afield. Thus, under any of the main party policies, refugees have orders of magnitude better odds of asylum if they're physically present than if they're overseas.

    Do you agree this leads people to attempt to journey here – yes or no?

    Jeremy – yes, or no? Narcotic – yes, or no? Lynot? Buns3000?

    Uniquerhys, as an honest advocate of a policy of completely open borders, gets a pass. Mondo has already come of his own accord to view the “lefty” policy as similarly bad or worse to the right wing one.

    Any other person here who supports the Greens’ platform or similar – yes, or no?

    For that matter – SB, since I assume he advocates Coalition policy, which (as Immigration advises) is not substantially different in the incentives it creates… yes, or no?

    Does our system motivate the world’s most vulnerable people to undertake dangerous boat journeys, and is that morally acceptable? Two simple questions. Yes, or no?

    Lets see if a single person can answer the questions straight. I predict (if there are answers at all):

    *A great deal of sound-bite rhetoric and spin worthy of a major party frontbencher
    *Lots of attacks on the equally failed policies of
    *Further technical quibbles with the premises or wording of the question
    *Zero honest yes/no answers
    *Zero alternative suggestions akin to my charter cities proposal.

  26. jordanrastrick

    Eh…. attempting to use the > sign and < sign as brackets FAIL. The second bullet point above should read:

    *Lots of attacks on the equally failed policies of [insert disliked political party here]

  27. Does our system motivate the world’s most vulnerable people to undertake dangerous boat journeys, and is that morally acceptable?

    Yes and No.

    Can’t blog from work anymore but will post a more detailed response tonight.

  28. Splatterbottom

    The real issue here is that Australia is a wealthy nation in a world where billions live in poverty. Not unsurprisingly people from poorer and more dysfunctional societies would like to seek a better life in Australia.

    Given that Australia is massively under-populated compared to the rest of the world it is immoral to continue as a walled garden. This is no small matter and requires consideration of radical proposals such as those Jordan has suggested.

    One thing, however, is clear. The abandonment of the Howard policies on refugees has been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people. Sadly those driven by their alleged “compassion” to adopt onshore processing without addressing the bigger question have been directly and knowingly responsible for these deaths. There is no way around this. Even the ever dissembling drivel-dribbling Hanson-Young knows it as she demonstrated with her “tragedies happen” response to the latest disaster. Such tragedies are the foreseeable and necessary consequence of her policies.

    Narcotic’s point as to the political difficulties of implementing a radical solution is well taken. Perhaps we can’t afford the luxury of an NBN or an or the exquisitely titillating but utterly useless carbon tax if we want to fulfill our moral responsibilities. And perhaps we need to have a national discussion about the approach we are to take. The fact that something is difficult is not a reason not to pursue it.

    In the short term I would deny the traffickers the product they have to sell by reversing the current Green/Labor policy of assisted suicide and returning to something like the Howard policies which at least didn’t kill boatloads of people. That should greatly reduce the deaths and in the longer term at least allows us to have some chance of limiting immigration in accordance with whatever policy we finally adopt.

    For what it’s worth I would look at a trial scheme giving small plots of fertile land to newcomers with a view to allowing them to feed themselves or to sell it and move on.

  29. “For what it’s worth I would look at a trial scheme giving small plots of fertile land to newcomers with a view to allowing them to feed themselves or to sell it and move on.”

    Geeee who would have thunk it? SB you really are a lefty well done.

    A Kibbutz in the Australian outback a farmers co-operative no less,
    splendid idea. Being a muso myself I could teach them to sing around the campfires, Kumbaya mayhaps.

  30. jordanrastrick

    A Kibbutz in the Australian outback a farmers co-operative no less, splendid idea.

    Indeed; before the British Mandate partition plan got momentum, there were proposals to establish Israel in the Australian outback….

    SB,

    In the short term I would deny the traffickers the product they have to sell by reversing the current Green/Labor policy of assisted suicide and returning to something like the Howard policies which at least didn’t kill boatloads of people

    How do you feel about the Malaysia solution, or something equivalent like sending arrivals to a regional processing centre (maybe in Nauru) and accepting an equivalent number (or multiple thereof) of UNHCR approved refugees from Indonesian and Malaysian camps?

    The Immigration department believes that this – creating an actual queue – is what will stop the boats, much more than offshore processing, TPVs, mandatory detention, etc.

  31. Splatterbottom

    Jordan, the bottom line is that we need to accept a lot more people into this country. It is not in our interests to be a privileged enclave. I am quite happy with a Malaysian solution approach with a queue that incentivises people to use more orthodox chanels, or indeed with allowing people to fly in provided there are, as Narcotic suggested, enough disincentives to prevent the process being abused. If the number of refugees increased tenfold in the first year, this should be manageable.

  32. narcoticmusing

    Jordan – I’m not sure if you’ve realised, most of us are responding to the blog, not to your idea. I agree, your concept has some merits, yes, but you must realise that to disagree with you doens’t make someone wrong. To not have an alternative policy does not mean a person’s view is invalid.

    Nevertheless, I will attempt to provide some constructive critiques of your plan, admitting that as your posts were so long and I have a very hectic job, I didn’t read every one of them. Overall, I find your plan a ‘nice idea’ in another world but it not only will have a wide range of horridly unintended consequences (I won’t bother providing a list of horribles), but it is utterly unrealistic in the whole primarily due to your concept of how to manage infrastructure and capital is fanciful at best. Have you ever worked close to government? Do you know how budget cycles work, especially with capital? Where will the money come from? PPP’s are a joke – they work to outsource risk, not to reduce cost. Your idea exists in a fantasy of altruism that doesn’t exist in Australia. Refugees and immigrants don’t have the sort of cash you would be asking them to front up to pay for this – unless you policy is screw the poor and only take the rich – oh wait, we arely have tha policy. So how does it fix anything? And to provide the NSW train line (which is under threat of being closed down despite it charging extra) is a joke. You are talking about a pathetically small distance (NSW airport to Syd). Your charter cities would be significant distances from cities, or else they’d be in places that have their own local demand. Surely our existing city centres across Australia that are yet to have adequate public transport would be a bit pissed that they subsidise an ENTIRE CITY with infrastruture.

    Maybe I’m just too cynical but you are living in a dream if you think that a democracy would vote for this.

  33. jordanrastrick

    I agree, your concept has some merits, yes, but you must realise that to disagree with you doens’t make someone wrong.

    By definition, if I disagree with you, I think you’re wrong. Everyone should maintain some doubt about their own beliefs; and it may well turn out that I’m wrong, naturally. If you can provide solid arguments for the superiority of your own position, hopefully I will be able to change my mind easily.

    Have you ever worked close to government? Do you know how budget cycles work, especially with capital? Where will the money come from?

    Yes. I’m a Senior Analyst at a consultancy that specialises in data and financial analysis in areas of public policy and infrastructure; most of our clients are NGOs, Local Governments, and State Government agencies.

    I also am relatively close to many people who have worked at very high levels in government.

    And finally, without trying to make to big a deal of this…. of all the people I’ve discussed this with at any length in person, 100% of those with an analytical background (finance, maths and science academics, and private-sector finance careers) have been broadly supportive of the feasibility; only humanities-types have ever seriously argued the the idea unworkable.

    So, if you want to undermine my confidence in this on a financing front, you’ll need to be more a lot more specific in your criticisms.

    PPP’s are a joke – they work to outsource risk, not to reduce cost.

    Yes, I know. In this case, its a deliberate attempt to outsource risk, rather than a deluded attempt to reduce cost as per most Australian PPPs. This is supposed to be a profitable venture, so inherently there is risk; when you want to spread risk out, its traditional to use equity.

    Your idea exists in a fantasy of altruism that doesn’t exist in Australia.

    Again, is not altruism, its a for-profit venture. Specifically, gains from migration are huge, and close to “free” (minimal negative externalities) from an economics point of view. Currently, most or all the gains are captured by migrants, or wasted by poor government planning for population growth; and most potential gains are unrealised because the market for visas is hideously undersupplied by governments.
    See trillion dollar notes on the sidewalk.

    The idea here is to let the migrants gain a lot, but also take a share for the Australian taxpayer, in exchange merely for a relatively small piece of land we’re not using for much anyway. The solving of our asylum seeker problems etc is, in a way, incidental.

    To not have an alternative policy does not mean a person’s view is invalid.

    Some policy has to be put in place. A person without an alternative may still of course make valid criticisms of certain options, but in the end, there will be a policy, and we must pick whatever the best option on the table is. Someone without an alternative has no real grounds to argue “No, don’t pick that policy” to every proposed alternative. Its a logically incoherent preference – its just as possible to implement the views of someone who agrees with all policies as disagrees with all policies. I.e., its not possible at all.

    Refugees and immigrants don’t have the sort of cash you would be asking them to front up to pay for this – unless you policy is screw the poor and only take the rich – oh wait, we arely have tha policy. So how does it fix anything?

    Some do have the cash. They also, importantly, have the prospect of earning more cash, and paying tax, if we let them work here instead of locking them up or leaving them in camps.

    The policy does advantage the rich over the poor, but substanially less than the current policy (since we will account for needs as well as willingness to pay, which people smugglers don’t.) It also fixes the “people constantly drowning” bit of the current arrangement, which I thought we all considered to be a bit of an issue.

    So how does it fix anything? And to provide the NSW train line (which is under threat of being closed down despite it charging extra) is a joke. You are talking about a pathetically small distance (NSW airport to Syd).

    I only mentioned airport lines because you brought it up…. I’d argue its under threat of going into receivership because of charging extra; the operators underestimated demand elasticity and so have priced themselves out of the market. In any case, that was their risk as a private company; if they go bankrupt, the line will still physically exist and service customers.

    Distance is far from the sole determinant of the cost of rail infrastructure. For instance right of way matters, a lot (the sydney airport line is entirely tunneled; thats a lot more expensive per kilometer than above ground rail.)

    Your charter cities would be significant distances from cities, or else they’d be in places that have their own local demand. Surely our existing city centres across Australia that are yet to have adequate public transport would be a bit pissed that they subsidise an ENTIRE CITY with infrastruture.

    As I already hinted at, the idea is in fact to provide infrastructure to the major cities that they otherwise wouldn’t get. And the charter cities can be physically quite far from existing centres but if they have good transport links they don’t have to be far in travel time, which is the metric that counts.

    For instance, a Very Fast Train from Melbourne to Sydney is not going to be economically viable at the moment. A Sydney to Canberra one might be, barely, if you put a second airport somewhere along the route.

    If you now put a charter city “X” with a few hundred thousand population somewhere on the corridor, then suddenly a Sydney to “X” very fast train is more viable than a Sydney to Canberra train was previously.

    And if you finally put another charter city “Y” between Melbourne and Albury/Whadonga, a train route:

    Sydney – [Airport] – “X” – Canberra – Albury – “Y” – [Airport] – Melbourne

    becomes possible.

    Note for current commerical grade fast train, the Sydney to “X” commute would be substantially faster than the commute on existing public transport for people living in outer suburbs like Penrith, Campbelltown etc. And of course the Very Fast train can actually stop in these places on its way out of the city and turn the current 1 hour+ long trip into a 15 minute one. I assume more or less the same holds for Melbourne.

    And the financing doesn’t have to displace spending on other infrastructure, because fundamentally its backed by tax revenues from population growth we wouldn’t otherwise experience without the charter city.

  34. Julian Burnside QC has added to the debate via the following piece at ‘The Conversation’:
    http://theconversation.edu.au/if-were-serious-about-stopping-the-boats-we-must-take-more-refugees-4820

  35. narcoticmusing

    its a for-profit venture – and who puts up the capital? who funds the starting point? Again, you haven’t addressed the capital issues at all.

    Note: I am not a ‘humanities-type’. I do not have a humanities background. And anyone that has worked in government will tell you that consultants that work for government don’t understand government – that is why government hires them again and again for the same task because none of them get it. I’m not saying you don’t but it is atypical for a consultant to have the first clue on the machinations of govt b/c by definition they are convention and confidential.

    The initial capital ask would be staggering and thus never achievable.

  36. Splatterbottom

    FRom Burnside: “One thing is sure enough: if the risk of drowning is not a deterrent, then shipping them off to Malaysia or Nauru won’t be.”

    This is a monumentally stupid statement – the sort of sophistry one expects from a professional advocate. No doubt Burnside can see the obvious flaws in this argument. What grates is the contempt for his audience that this implies.

  37. Ah! Splatter at his best. Pluck a para from a piece. Make a sweeping ad hominem statement with no meat in respect to that para and drift off.

    About as convincing as him being a ‘centrist’ :roll:

  38. jordanrastrick

    Narcotic,

    its a for-profit venture – and who puts up the capital? who funds the starting point? Again, you haven’t addressed the capital issues at all.

    Capitalists. Specifically:

    Developers, who specialising in sourcing financing to fund infrastructure with substantial risks (and in lobbying governments to get planning approvals, but that normally significant issue doesn’t apply here).

    Venture capitalists. If entrepeneurs can get tens of millions of funding to anchor a boat off San Francisco to give a thousand people a chance to work around U.S. immigration barriers, it seems hundreds of millions to build a real city on land for many more people is far from out of the question.

    Philanthrocapitalists, who might get additional value (beyond return on investment) in knowing they are helping poor and vulnerable people and reducing global inequality.

    Companies with investment arms that have a strong interest in employing more economic migrants in Western countries than they are currently allowed to by law. Most tech companies currently fall into this category (Microsoft, Google etc.)

    Hedge funds and other speculator who want exposure to the new and interesting asset class of the tax-revenue tied charter city bond.

    Fundamentally, it doesn’t even matter who is prepared to invest. You are auctioning off bonds that return a portion of future tax-revenue (or similarly structure instrument). If the auction fails – you don’t meet the reserve, so to speak – you don’t go ahead with the charter city; the land gets returned to the farmer you bought it off, and we all go on our merry way having lost only the cost of running the auction.

    Note there is zero need to spend (and hence, to raise) hundreds of billions building entire cities all at once, which seems to be what you’re envisioning (maybe because its what’s actually happening in China?). They can grow organically, like existing cities, and positive cashflow from tax revenues of the first arrivals will help fund further infrastructure for those that follow, like existing cities. Really, the chief difference from building (and financing) the infrastructure in an existing city is that its *cheaper*, because you can make it much more efficient from the start: Apartments not McMansions, Subways not Heavy Rail, a Grid for roads instead of a old horsetracks.

    The only exceptions are the fixed costs: migration controls to create a “border”, and the very fast transport to the charter city (which has other benefits). These things are NOT pie-in-the-sky, many-times-NBN level investments; financing for them is easily plausible from the sources I’ve nominated, and as I’ve extensively argued, the latter is borderline economic in its own right before you even bring charter cities into the picture. I’ll note it is current Greens policy, for instance, to build a much more extensive network of Fast Trains than what I’m proposing, with *zero* extra demand from charer cities to justify it.

    Note: I am not a ‘humanities-type’. I do not have a humanities background.

    Fair point, although I didn’t say you were. For what its worth I don’t disapprove of humanities-types; the label is not meant pejoratively. The majority of my high school units were in humanities, and I was a Science/Arts student at uni, back in the day. The analytical skills just pay better.

    And anyone that has worked in government will tell you that consultants that work for government don’t understand government – that is why government hires them again and again for the same task because none of them get it

    If consultants don’t have any useful understanding to bring in to the picture, it raises the interesting question of why government chooses to ever hire consultants. Is government fundamentally more competent at doing all of the work, but under the (incompetent) impression they should pay less competent outsiders to do it instead?

    Moving on from that, while I certainly don’t speak on behalf of my employers or anyone else, I’m prepared to take a stab that my boss, who is a consultant with 20+ years employment history in the public sector, would disagree that we all so utterly clueless. As would the many other consultants in our sector with direct public (and private) sector experience.

    Of course there are tonnes of bad consultants out there, too. But you asked me if I have any experience in this area, and I’m telling you it is what I do for a living. Unless you’re willing to pay me to do some work, its unlikely you’ll be able to directly assess how good I am at my job. Maybe, based on my history of posting here, you think I’m a fool, and that gives you firm gounds to believe I’m incompetent?

  39. “Indeed; before the British Mandate partition plan got momentum, there were proposals to establish Israel in the Australian outback….”

    Indeed. But if you know that, you would also know the rednecks were around at that time as well. It was rejected. Same rednecks, different era.

  40. “About as convincing as him being a ‘centrist’ ”

    SB is a centrist, a centrist wingnut.

  41. Jesus, I don’t know that I have the time to respond to my own comment thread!

  42. This is a monumentally stupid statement – the sort of sophistry one expects from a professional advocate. No doubt Burnside can see the obvious flaws in this argument. What grates is the contempt for his audience that this implies.

    Why?

    Burnside is quite right. The incentive will always be here so long as Australia is a better destination for refugees than Indonesia or Malaysia.

    The only way to provide a real disincentive to the refugees is to become worse than those places. Which is clearly unacceptable, which leaves us to the only remaining alternative to save lives: providing an incentive to the “people smugglers” to provide safe boats and a disincentive to provide dangerous boats. Rather than the reverse, which is the result of the policy of destroying all boats and prosecuting all crews/owners without taking into account the safety of their vessels.

    It astonishes me that anyone can genuinely argue that destroying all boats doesn’t encourage smugglers to run disposable ones, or that ludicrous penalties for the crews doesn’t result in the stupidest, least competent crews running the boats. Or that this doesn’t lead to deaths.

  43. Splatterbottom

    Jeremy, just to be clear here, I agree with Burnside’s conclusion that :

    Our compassion for the drowned should be harnessed to a genuine rethink of our refugee policy.

    Burnside’s next sentence was this:

    One thing is sure enough: if the risk of drowning is not a deterrent, then shipping them off to Malaysia or Nauru won’t be.

    That doesn’t make sense. The fact is that in the recent past “shipping them off to Nauru” did act as a very effective deterrent. Your statement that “The incentive will always be here so long as Australia is a better destination for refugees than Indonesia or Malaysia.” Is obviously wrong for the same reason.

    “The only way to provide a real disincentive to the refugees is to become worse than those places. Which is clearly unacceptable”

    What do you mean by “worse”? Is it that Australia will be a “worse” destination if the chances of making it through the system to permanent residence are diminished?

    At the moment we have a funny system – it prioritises a limited number of those in greatest need, but also permits those with sufficient funds to buy passage on leaky boat even though most of them seem to have managed to escape from immediate danger.

    One problem with the existing policy is that we do not take enough refugees. I agree with Burnside that taking more will relieve some of the pressure, although the number of 10,000 per year is way too small. The other side of the coin is to make it plain to those who do come by boat that they have diminished chances of getting to Australia and of getting permanent residence.

    There are two ways to put the smugglers out of business. One is to re-implement something like the Nauru solution, which is unacceptable to you, and which I don’t like very much but would prefer to having hundreds of people drown every year.

    The other is to allow people to fly in without papers and process them onshore. This at least would put the smugglers out of business and stop the drownings. One problem with this is that it might attract too many people. Still, it might be worth a try in some form. You haven’t said what you think about it.

  44. jordanrastrick

    Jesus, I don’t know that I have the time to respond to my own comment thread!

    Yeah. Sorry, that’s somewhat down to me. But, hypomania. And as far as the charter cities stuff goes: you did ask.

    The incentive will always be here so long as Australia is a better destination for refugees than Indonesia or Malaysia.

    That factor is only part of the overall makeup of incentives.

    Malaysia-esque Solutions, for instance, make boat arrivals less likely to get asylum than people in camps in our region, a reversal of the current situation. In that circumstance, no matter how bad things are in Malaysia, people will prefer to stay there than get in a boat. Indeed, the worse things are in Malaysia, the *more* reason they have not to get in a boat which will put them at the back of the queue in Malaysia.

    You can keep arguing against the policy on moral grounds using bullcrappy Deontology (i.e. the consequences of the policy don’t matter, only the intentions.) But there’s no question the incentive to get on a boat disappears if asylum seekers come to understand it reduces their chances of asylum rather than increasing it.

    Lynot:

    Yeah, I rednecks are no doubt as old as civilisation. Xenophobia is part of the human psyche.

    Still, successful cosmopolitan societies have been created before, despite them; and I can only hope it can happen again.

    My hope is that charter cities can gain strong support amongst the business community, strong support amongst policy technocrats, reasonable support amongst inner city progressives, reasonable support amongst genuine critics of immigration (“the infrastructure isn’t there” etc) and, perhaps, grudging support amongst some of the actual racists (“at least they won’t be moving on to MY street anymore… “). Between these constituencies, there’s perhaps some chance for political viability.

  45. narcoticmusing

    If consultants don’t have any useful understanding to bring in to the picture, it raises the interesting question of why government chooses to ever hire consultants. Is government fundamentally more competent at doing all of the work, but under the (incompetent) impression they should pay less competent outsiders to do it instead?

    If you don’t know the answer to that then you don’t understand government.

  46. narcoticmusing

    Of course there are tonnes of bad consultants out there, too.
    That is not relevant to my comment. Even the good consultants rarely understand government.

    But you asked me if I have any experience in this area, and I’m telling you it is what I do for a living.

    No I didn’t, that is a private matter. I apologise if you felt you needed to justify yourself / experience. I won’t be disclosing what I do; it is not relevant. Your argument has merits on its own.

    Unless you’re willing to pay me to do some work, its unlikely you’ll be able to directly assess how good I am at my job. Maybe, based on my history of posting here, you think I’m a fool, and that gives you firm gounds to believe I’m incompetent?

    Again, I apologise if you got the impression I was suggesting you are incompetent. Not at all. Like I’d already posted, there are merits to your idea. I still think it is pie in the sky and has a whole list of horribles (eg border protection within our own borders – how will that fly with s92 of the Constitution for example?). Your ideas for sources of capital sound great on paper but in reality rarely eventuate and in the current market are not possible – consider that developers used the same idea as what you are suggesting in the US and now we have entire estates that are vacant and rotting.

    The most feasible policy solution that is humane I’ve seen on this thread so far is from SB: The other is to allow people to fly in without papers and process them onshore This would immediately ‘stop the boats’.

  47. That doesn’t make sense. The fact is that in the recent past “shipping them off to Nauru” did act as a very effective deterrent.

    Uh, I don’t concede that at all. Almost all of those people are now here as genuine refugees, so if that had continued it’s fairly obvious the numbers were going to rise again.

    Your statement that “The incentive will always be here so long as Australia is a better destination for refugees than Indonesia or Malaysia.” Is obviously wrong for the same reason.

    So long as the conditions in mandatory detention are better than the camps in Malaysia/Indonesia, then it’s still an “incentive”.

    My point is that looking at it in terms of “incentives” and “disincentives” is silly – unless Australia is worse than where they’re coming from, people will always want to come here and will take risks to do so. The point is to minimise the risks they face when they do.

    The most feasible policy solution that is humane I’ve seen on this thread so far is from SB: The other is to allow people to fly in without papers and process them onshore This would immediately ‘stop the boats’.

    Actually, that’s an excellent idea. Some kinks to work out, but a sensible option. No need to spend millions trying to hunt down tiny boats: simply take arrivals straight into the “applying for asylum” queue when they get off the plane without papers.

  48. Malaysia-esque Solutions, for instance, make boat arrivals less likely to get asylum than people in camps in our region, a reversal of the current situation. In that circumstance, no matter how bad things are in Malaysia, people will prefer to stay there than get in a boat. Indeed, the worse things are in Malaysia, the *more* reason they have not to get in a boat which will put them at the back of the queue in Malaysia.

    Only in the same sense that flogging everyone who arrives by boat would give them *more* reason not to get on a boat.

    Obviously the nastier we are, the more “disincentive” we provide. But there’s a limit to how cruel we can be. Or there should be.

    You can keep arguing against the policy on moral grounds using bullcrappy Deontology (i.e. the consequences of the policy don’t matter, only the intentions.)

    Both matter, but “disincentive” is no excuse for denying someone’s basic human rights.

    But there’s no question the incentive to get on a boat disappears if asylum seekers come to understand it reduces their chances of asylum rather than increasing it.

    It can’t reduce their chances of asylum below zero. And in the camps there at the moment, their chances are zero. The “queue”, such as it is, is longer than a lifetime.

  49. jordanrastrick

    If you don’t know the answer to that then you don’t understand government.

    I know full well governments often pay lousy consultants large sums to do work that should be done in house. I have my own theories as to systemic causes of this problem. I wanted to hear yours, since you’re the one making bold assertions about the competence of the public sector and of consultants, based on your own extensive government experience (which I believe is real, but you will only allude to rather than actually describe.)

    No I didn’t, that is a private matter.

    I’m afraid you did. You said:

    It it is utterly unrealistic in the whole primarily due to your concept of how to manage infrastructure and capital is fanciful at best. Have you ever worked close to government? Do you know how budget cycles work, especially with capital?

    I gave you the answers yes and yes. You then decided to challenge the relevance of experience I gave, and continue to question my basic understanding of financing and government, and so far have said precisely nothing about the actual specific details I’ve given started to describe about how capital raising would work for this idea in practice. I’m happy to have a debate on either point, but the latter is the “ball” while the former is the “man”. Which is fine, I’m happy to have either argument. But I’m glad your’e now seeming to switch tack to the former.

    I apologise if you felt you needed to justify yourself / experience. I won’t be disclosing what I do; it is not relevant. Your argument has merits on its own.

    Thank you. FWIW I’d much rather be having a slightly combative debate with you than have no one actually talk about the ideas at all.

    I felt the need because you did, in fact, ask, and you called my understanding of the issues “fanciful”, implying my lack of experience was to blame. Essentially you chose to appeal to the authority of your own knowledge of government, which you allude to without actually discussing.

    Your commenting history over the years here shows an indepth understanding of law (well beyond my own) and to some extent government. You claimed not to have a humanities background, but notably didn’t claim to be “analytic” despite this being the dichotomy I was working with. I suspect your expertise is primarily legal and your career is in government at probably a reasonably high level. Those guesses are as much as I need to know to understand where you’re coming from; if they’re substantially wrong, feel free to correct them if you want. There’s no need to describe your own qualifications explicitly, certainly not if you’re actually willing to refocus the debate on substance.

    I’m glad you think my argument has “merits”.

  50. jordanrastrick

    Eh, sorry for those scare quotes on “merits”.

    I still think it is pie in the sky and has a whole list of horribles (eg border protection within our own borders – how will that fly with s92 of the Constitution for example?

    I don’t know. You, as I suspect, would know better than me.

    The charter city would necessarily be a federal territory, ceded from atate jurisdiction ala the ACT or NT – a one-and-a-half tiers of government will make the idea infinitely more workable than three (or even four if you just tacked the idea straight on to our current system) .

    Christmas Island has been excised from our migration zone.

    These are things that lead me to suspect the idea is legally possible without a referendum, but I am not a lawyer; so this is an area where I would like more advice and research to know about the feasibility of I don’t know how restricted our parliaments

    Your ideas for sources of capital sound great on paper

    Thank you!

    I don’t think I mentioned the actual money raised from the initial auction of visas, did I? I’d expect people smuggler rates (maybe $2,000 a head) for the humanitarian intake, and at a minimum 10 times that on average for the economic migrants. If the intake over the first five years is 1 million people (roughly double Australia’s net current inflow), in the 30/70 ratio I’ve advocated, that’s $2,000 * 300,000 + $20,000 * 700,000 = 14.6 billion dollars. You know, before we sell any of those bonds.

    in reality rarely eventuate and in the current market are not possible

    I strongly suspect the timeframe for the political environment to become receptive to this idea is longer than that of capital markets.

  51. jordanrastrick

    Actually, that’s an excellent idea. Some kinks to work out, but a sensible option. No need to spend millions trying to hunt down tiny boats: simply take arrivals straight into the “applying for asylum” queue when they get off the plane without papers.

    I like this in the short term, also. But Jeremy, SB, narcotic – do you propose taking any money from the refugee

    Consider: urrent demand for the product [chance to apply for asylum in Australia, at the people smugglers’ price of about $2000-$5000 with a maybe 1-5% chance of death, is 8,000 a year.

    If you’re setting the price to merely the cost of a plane ticket, expect demand to increase. If 50,000 people fly in per annum, are you happy to deal with the consequences? Or if its 200,000? Will you build the infrastructure, fund the trauma counselling and Education services? Keeping in mind this is in addition to our non-humanitarian migrant intake.

    Since you (with the exception of SB) want to provide all this organically in major cities rather than in my specifically planned and efficient alternative, its going to be very expensive. Where are the billions for schools and hospitals and train stations going to come from? The capital markets aren’t so favourable at the moment.

    To get devil’s advocate, what if its a million people flying in per annum? There are a maybe a hundred million “genuine refugees” in the world; and hundreds of millions more people who would quite likely love to flee from “mere” poverty and corruption in their own countries, and would gladly spend their life savings to get here (we’ve agreed they won’t have papers, making it harder to asses their claims. Half the people who currently fly in are determined not to be refugees, essentially because of their papers.)

    Once you take migrants higher fertility into account, that’s population growth of maybe 6-8% per annum. Happy to deal with it? Good luck persuading other Greens its a good idea.

    One other consideration, since I know you’ll all argue (probably correctly) that most refugees can’t afford a plane ticket.

    People smugglers’ profit margins are high. Their only costs are really bad boats, the wages of teenage village fishermen, and maybe the occasional bribe to Indonesian police. They can afford to bring their price down quite a bit and still make lots of money. Possibly, to less than a cost of a plane ticket. What do you do then?

  52. jordanrastrick

    Both matter, but “disincentive” is no excuse for denying someone’s basic human rights.

    Fundamentally, this is a philosophy of morality disagreement about the importance of consequences versus other things like rules, and intentions, which is why I keep coming back to the theme.

    You say “both matter”, which sounds like a reasonable compromise between a deontological and consequentialist response (perhaps, rule utilitarianism) response. But then you say “disincentive” is no excuse as if you mean “disincentive” is never a (good enough) excuse

    Thought experiment. If sending one person to Malaysia, where they may or may not be mistreated, allows ten other people to be brought from Malaysia, and prevents three drownings, do we have an “excuse” yet? Or is it still an unacceptable violation of that one person’s human rights not to be sent back to where they were before they got here? What if I make it sending back one person to let two hundred here, and stop fifty deaths? Is there a ratio I can nominate that makes the human rights violation unacceptable? Am I (classic deontolgical fall-back argument) morally wrong to be even attempting to argue this way?

  53. narcoticmusing

    Again, Jordan, apologies, i didn’t expect when I’d said ‘have you experience with x…’ that you should have to personally justify yourself / competence.

    As for the consultants thing; there are good and bad consultants out there – few in either category understand government. Just like there are good and bad public servants. This combination often leads me to be surprised the system works as well as it does despite the amount of BS. To explain by analogy, how many IT people do you know that are brilliant programmers but don’t understand business needs in the slightest? Most. How many food snob chefs want to give you a rare steak even if you order it well-done because that is the way it is meant to be cooked rather than how you like it? I hope these analogies explain my position on this – I am not anti-consultant or pro-public servant. I just think there is a dissonance that isn’t appreciated by both sides.

    Your assumptions of me are not accurate but it matters not as I do not think my or your personal history is relevant. Analysis is part of my work every day, I won’t say more than that. I think you place too much merit on ‘analysts’ (and seem to neglect to appreciate that there are many types of analysts beyond just number crunchers).

    specifically planned and efficient alternative, its going to be very expensive I completely disagree that what you propose is efficient or inexpensive. There is little bang for buck in duplication, particularly infrastructure for people who will have massive lag times before they can be good little economic units. Further, you completely underestimate the level of xenophobia and resentment such a proposition would inflame, particularly in our somewhat neglected rural communities where you propose giving non-Australians better connections to cities/rural centre than current citizens. All of them would rightly ask – if you can do it for immigrants, why not for us? And they would want their issues dealt with first – and as current tax payers (and votes) what government could argue with them? Your idea lacks the very pragmatism it tries to invoke – it is a practical solution but it will, for practical reasons fail.

    Again, your money raising mechanisms point to rich people being able to settle only – they don’t need asylum. The money a refugee has is not going to be sufficient if they are competing against wealithy immigrants.

    I do not think, on face value, your charter cities would stand up to any constitutional scrutiny. In addition the entire thing will be so bogged down in conflict of interest corruption it will fall apart – we are talking about the most desperate people in the world, not well financed immigrants. If capitalism could solve poverty, why has it not? Because there is a conflict of interest – profit.

  54. narcoticmusing

    I like this in the short term, also. But Jeremy, SB, narcotic – do you propose taking any money from the refugee

    Do you plan on accounting for the person with nothing?

  55. Splatterbottom

    Jordan if you go with the utilitarians then maybe you sacrifice (to some degree) the few for the greater good of the many. If you are of a more libertarian bent then you may not countenance doing wrong to an individual even it is for the greater good.

  56. narcoticmusing

    I don’t think things are so black and and white SB. The problem being we live in a democracy – ideas can’t just be ‘nice’ they have to be electable. It won’t be about the indiviudal vs the greater good, it will be about the good of a bunch of Australians with a disproporational chunk of the vote or where this is the only issue for them vs the greater good of the rest of the world (or even the majority of australia) – this is a space where the ‘good of the world/australia’ argument is rarely won – it is how people are aruging against gay marriage and the carbon price (disclaimer, i don’t like the current cp model but i agree with a cp/ct in principle -this isn’t a cp thread so i won’t elaborate). Gay marraige – why is it so hard, it isn’t electable – screw the fact that the majority of Australians agree with it and it is the right thing to do, you can’t win votes with it but you can sure as hell lose votes with it.

  57. Splatterbottom

    Narcotic, a clear majority of people voted for parties that said we wouldn’t have a carbon tax and yet we have it, despite the polls showing that a majority still don’t want it. You may argue that this is a good thing as it has allowed an unpopular but ‘necessary’ measure to be enacted, but the fact remains that that policy was not electable, which is precisely why Gillard promised not to do it. (I don’t really want to talk about the carbon tax either).

    Limiting our policy suggestions to what is ‘electable’ misses the point that over time and through the process of advocacy and debate people can become more comfortable with particular ideas, as history has shown. It is a good thing that people point out the deadly short-comings of the current policy and suggest alternatives.

  58. jordanrastrick

    Again, Jordan, apologies, i didn’t expect when I’d said ‘have you experience with x…’ that you should have to personally justify yourself / competence.

    No problems and no offence taken. Next time, if you ask such a question, I will just say “Yes” (or “No”, as applicable.)

    As for the consultants thing; there are good and bad consultants out there – few in either category understand government. Just like there are good and bad public servants.

    Of course.

    This combination often leads me to be surprised the system works as well as it does despite the amount of BS.

    Well, thankfully institutions, like many complex systems, can perform better than might be expected from the sum of their parts.

    To explain by analogy, how many IT people do you know that are brilliant programmers but don’t understand business needs in the slightest?

    Fewer, these days, since I try to ensure all my brilliant programmer friends read <a href="http://www.joelonsoftware.com/&quot;Joel Spolsky and Paul Graham

    Your assumptions of me are not accurate but it matters not as I do not think my or your personal history is relevant. Analysis is part of my work every day, I won’t say more than that. I think you place too much merit on ‘analysts’ (and seem to neglect to appreciate that there are many types of analysts beyond just number crunchers).

    I perhaps shouldn’t have used the word “analytical” without being clearer about what I mean, especially while also mentioning the job title “Analyst” which is about the vaguest one in existence. “Quantitative” may have been better. I work closely with people who are “soft” analysts of a kind – people who do qualitative social research, people who write policy recommendation reports based on someone else’s number crunching.

    The point was merely is that finance is traditionally considered primarily a number cruncher’s area of expertise. I have built financial models used to secure multi-million dollar loans from banks; I have worked on other models to be used tendering (very successfully) for large competitive government contracts; and I am currently working on a project for assessing an area of government capital works prioritisation. I understand financing in a public sector concept reasonably well, hopefully – or if I don’t I really ought to be fired.

    I completely disagree that what you propose is efficient or inexpensive. There is little bang for buck in duplication, particularly infrastructure for people who will have massive lag times before they can be good little economic units. Further, you completely underestimate the level of xenophobia and resentment such a proposition would inflame, particularly in our somewhat neglected rural communities where you propose giving non-Australians better connections to cities/rural centre than current citizens

    I’m glad to get to the meat of the discussion.

    I don’t propose to “duplicate” infrastructure, at least not redundantly. Charter cities’ power will be sourced from the NEM, and food will be brought in by trucks on existing roads. Hospitals and universities will be built, but aside from frontline services they will naturally aim to specialise in different areas to where we

    The 70% of the intake (which is just a first stab at a figure) who are economic migrants, by definition, do not need time to become “good little economic units”. They are people paying a large sum of money (or having it paid for them by an employer) to move because they have good prospects of income. And I expect a comparable number of Australians to move to the charter cities, as well.

    The proposal does not neglect rural infrastructure, although its easy to frame it that way which means the political problem is a real one. Rural communities will have more hospitals and universities *closer* to them than they currently do, because we will have more urban centres, spread further apart. Indeed, once the concept is proven, you’d want to put additional charter cities further inland. Rural areas will gain *better* access to transport, because there will be very fast train stops in existing rural towns as well as in the charter cities themselves. And it will be funded off the costs of the visas and the taxes on the migrants. The situation is not zero sum.

    Again, your money raising mechanisms point to rich people being able to settle only – they don’t need asylum. The money a refugee has is not going to be sufficient if they are competing against wealithy immigrants.

    Nonsense. Plenty of refugees are (relatively) rich – doctors, engineers and so forth from Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. And I’m proposing (as a first draft anyway) to let some rich purely economic migrants here, mixed with a separate stream of not-especially rich refugees; just as we have now. You keep seeming to forget my original disclaimer that settling refugees is only one aspect of this idea. The intake could be 10% refugees and 90% not if that’s what would make it viable; it’d still be a big win for refugees.

    I do not think, on face value, your charter cities would stand up to any constitutional scrutiny.

    OK. Why not? Federal territories are already (ultimately) under federal jurisdiction. Government is already devolved to local authorities in those places, constitutionally. They have non-citizen residents already, with certain defined legal rights. They can be removed from our migration zone. Why can’t parliament put a physical border around them and customs and quarantine checks at the gate? What other legal obstacles need to be surmounted to make the idea work.

    If capitalism could solve poverty, why has it not?

    Capitalism will never “solve” poverty, because poverty is a relative thing. But it has helped it in an absolute sense, and will continue to do so.

    This isn’t about capitalism solving poverty, anyway. This is about *reducing barriers to migration* to solve poverty. Read the “Trillion Dollar notes on the sidewalk” paper I linked, if you haven’t already.

    The policy is essentially a compromise between uniquerhys’ open borders, which I think really is beyond the bounds of possibility, and the current awful status quo. People can’t move here to live, work, and benefit from our institutions. Even if they’re skilled professionals from Europe who are only out of work only due to a financial crisis , or even if they’re poor and could make 10 times their current wages here in better conditions. Its an injustice, and a travesty, and thoroughly irrational.

  59. Jordan, I saw a documentary about what you are proposing. It was called “District 9″.

    What, you mean … it wasn’t … a …?

  60. jordanrastrick

    Narcotic,

    Do you plan on accounting for the person with nothing?

    I already have. As I said, humanitarian visas to charter cities are issued on a metric that combines willingness to pay (and projected earnings too for what that’s worth – a doctor with no savings is still a good investment), with humanitarian need, and with ability to prove identity (and hence allow security verification etc.)

    On the other hand, your plans do absolutely nothing for people who can’t afford plane tickets.

    SB,

    Jordan if you go with the utilitarians then maybe you sacrifice (to some degree) the few for the greater good of the many. If you are of a more libertarian bent then you may not countenance doing wrong to an individual even it is for the greater good.

    Actually I’m two-level utilitarian, which means utilitarianism as the framework but obeying rules like “respect human rights” most of the time in practice, because calculating utility is hard and such rules are incredibly good shortcuts for getting the correct moral answer.

    Where there is a moral conflict over an issue that affects thousands of lives, like this, and people can’t agree, its usually because the “rules” give contradictory results: Preserve human life, respect human rights laws, show compassion to needy and vulnerable people – which should we be going. At this point, its essential to step back from the rules and think about what outcomes the rules are intended to achieve. The right to asylum does not come from a vacuum; it was created in response to the horrible outcomes when countries didn’t accept refugees from world war II.

    Is it ever morally justified to torture someone? Absolutely never, in any example I’ve ever come across from the real world. So I use that rule, and when people claim that the ends justify the means in their case, I usually conclude they’ve deluded themselves.

    BUT. I remain open to reconsidering the rule if I ever actually end up in the room with the person who won’t tell me the location of the ticking thermonuclear bomb, in my own life.

    To the extent I have a “libertarian bent”, its because I believe in practice decision makers with no real grasp of the variety of human preference are often pretty terrible at making decisions on behalf of other people. But I make pragmatic exceptions. I’m happy for the government to take kids off parents, in the worst cases. I’m happy the government to lock me up while I’m psychotic without my consent,if my psychiatrist decides its really necessary (some random psychiatrist I don’t trust, maybe not so much).

    A “true” libertarian can’t countenance such positions. But that’s… well, because they’re idiots.

  61. narcoticmusing

    Charter cities’ power will be sourced from the NEM, and food will be brought in by trucks on existing roads. - who pays for that? Why aren’t they self sufficient? If not, it means someone else is paying, at the very least prices would go up across the board due to sudden new demand.

    Hospitals and universities will be built Do you recognise how much these things cost? Do you understand that we can’t staff our current hospitals? Recruitment and retention of workforce, particularly in rural areas, is the bane of every government that provides health and education services to the public – where will these magical doctors that we can’t get to work in rural centres come from for your charter cities?

    I am not trying to be overly critical, but I really think that your idea is nice but not based in this world. You think otherwise, we’ll have to agree to disagree. You won’t convert me on it – I don’t agree with the rationales for capital you’ve given, particularly as they don’t account for conflicts of interest (ie profit before people).

    Constitutionally, you were talking about these things being on the mainland, ie in States. Even if they are only in territories, that will not necessarily give the feds carte blanch (and lets face it, the feds couldn’t run a milk bar service wise so god help us if you are expecting them to run entire cities worrth of services like hospitals) it will still mean money from State revenue (ie taxes) diverted to terrirories even more than is currently the case due to our lovely fiscal federal imbalance.

  62. jordanrastrick

    Who pays for that?

    Consumers, just as they do in the rest of Australia’s private markets in electricity and groceries.

    Why aren’t they self sufficient?

    Because a charter city is not North Korea.

    Do you recognise how much these things cost?

    Yes. Yes, I do. We…. uh, we went over this already.

    Do you understand that we can’t staff our current hospitals? Recruitment and retention of workforce, particularly in rural areas, is the bane of every government that provides health and education services to the public – where will these magical doctors that we can’t get to work in rural centres come from for your charter cities?

    I’m proposing to effectively triple (or more) Australia’s skilled economic migration program, and you seriously think one of my biggest problems is labour supply?

    You struggle to get doctors to come to this country at the moment (in part) because the hoops you make them jump through are batshit fucking insane. A friend of mine is a doctor at a big hospital. He’s Scottish. He came within a day of being deported because of some mess up with visa paperwork. Despite, you know, specifically being recruited by the government as a doctor to help deal with our doctor shortage crisis. But that’s immigration law for you.

    Ohhhhhhh. And to practice here, he needed to prove his proficiency in English. He’s from, as I may have mentioned, the British Isles. Luckily, though, he aced the test.

    Oh, no wait, there was no test. He had to provide written evidence, from his high school, about his marks in English. I think they eventually found and dug his grades out of an archive somewhere, and faxed them over. This was a compulsory requirement. For a highly qualified doctor. Who has never lived in a non-English speaking nation, and speaks only English; in fact, I’m guessing he speaks it a lot better than the whoever it was that wrote those particular regulations.

    And the reason you can’t get even foreign doctors into rural towns is because generally, educated professionals come from cities, and like cities. Most (not all) do not prefer to work in a town with 500 people; they’d rather go clubbing on weekends. They like to eat Thai food three times a week. Some of them are single, and wouldn’t mind having a widish pool of other educated professionals around to date, if possible. Rural towns, despite having their own advantages, tend to lack these things.

    Whereas a charter city, despite being located somewhere that is currently rural land, is the precise opposite of the kind of place that has a problem attracting skilled professionals.

    I am not trying to be overly critical, but I really think that your idea is nice but not based in this world.

    Overly critical? You’re not being critical enough. I wish you would make a greater number of objections. If I didn’t want to find flaws in the idea to try and correct them, I wouldn’t solicit feedback. This is a policy debate, not a group therapy session. Although it’d be nice if your criticisms were a bit more organised and coherent, not just “the idea feels unworkable so I’ll come up with a sequences of essentially unrelated reasons as to why it won’t work”. They’re mainly all individually reasonable objections, but they’re things you’re coming up with after a relatively short thought process, which means they are all in fact things I’ve already thought about myself (or at worst have considered in discussing the idea with friends), because I am in fact Not An Idiot.

    You think otherwise, we’ll have to agree to disagree. You won’t convert me on it – I don’t agree with the rationales for capital you’ve given, particularly as they don’t account for conflicts of interest (ie profit before people).

    Nonsense. We might have to agree to disagree because neither of has the time to continue the debate. But I’m not evangelising a religion to you; there is nothing to have faith in but the merits of the arguments. This is a policy proposal. I’m not sure precisely what you mean by “rationales for capital”, but either I’m right that the city can be funded through the bonds and visas and I proposed, or you’re right and it can’t; actually holding the auction to sell the bonds and visas would clearly demonstrate the objective truth of the matter.

    Constitutionally, you were talking about these things being on the mainland, ie in States. Even if they are only in territories, that will not necessarily give the feds carte blanch (and lets face it, the feds couldn’t run a milk bar service wise so god help us if you are expecting them to run entire cities worrth of services like hospitals) it will still mean money from State revenue (ie taxes) diverted to terrirories even more than is currently the case due to our lovely fiscal federal imbalance.

    I’m glad we agree on something! Actually, two things, because I HATE the vertical fiscal imbalance. With, like, a serious passion. Buy yeah, I certainly do not want the feds to do the actual service delivery. UGH.

    My current thought is to outsource hospitals to the local state – as in, pay NSW Health (or whoever) to send people over to administer the charter city’s hospital system. In fact hospitals are something that it might be worth directly integrating into the existing local Health system, because you’d definitely want to have Centres of Excellence in the charter city, and send people there to get whatever specialised treatments they offer; and likewise you’ll sometimes want to send patients in the other direction. But the logistics are tricky because of the border, and there are also complications to do with the detail of how I’d run the welfare state in the charter city, and how charter city policy development would work.

  63. Jeremy – you’re creating a completely false paradigm when you frame the pro-Malasia/Nauru position as “being nastier to the refugees than the Indonesians.”

    Both solutions are not about actively disincentivising refugees from coming to Australia – they are about removing the incentive to come here by boat. At the moment our policy actively encourages boat arrivals over other methods because it prioritises those who physically arrive in Australia over all other asylum seekers.

    That’s the problem here. Not that refugees are coming to Australia, and not that they come from Afghanistan (or wherever) – but that they are being actively encouraged to come here by boat.

    That was the brilliance of Nauru. It sent the message out that Australia was closed to boat arrivals even while we were quietly accepting boat arrivals. It worked – it stopped the boats.

    That’s why Burnside’s analysis was ridiculous.

  64. Hi analysis was also a Godwin: comparing refugees in Indonesia to jews fleeing Nazi germany is a tad contemptible.

    But he is a refugee advocate, so he has a job to do . . .

  65. narcoticmusing

    Although it’d be nice if your criticisms were a bit more organised and coherent, not just “the idea feels unworkable so I’ll come up with a sequences of essentially unrelated reasons as to why it won’t work”.

    In case you didn’t notice, it isn’t my job to fix your policy. I gave you real criticisms – for that, you insult me. Your responses were the same repetitive, not addresssing any of the cricism pie in the sky responses that obviously ‘feel’ right to you. You have obviously convinced yourself your policy is flawles sand perfect as you haven’t considered a single cricism, rather you just repeat what you’ve already said as if it makes it right if said twice. Hence my cricisms must sound repetitive to you. As such, I disagree with pretty much everything you said in your last post. Let’s just leave it there shall we? I’m done.

  66. jordanrastrick

    narcotic, I’m sorry. Just as I felt you were making it personal earlier over qualifications, I have made it personal here by implying (unintentionally) that you are not thinking “enough” when actually all you’re doing is raising points that are completely reasonable, as I should have emphasised more.

    I’m the one asking for your help with my policy, so the obligation is indeed on me have used a nicer tone, and its really jerkish to take your willingness to help, and turn it into a demand that you help even harder. I am (honestly) far from convinced the policy is flawless; I just haven’t seen the flaws, yet. This is why I’m particularly interested in your Constitutionality concerns, as I too have a nagging sense those are a tough one.

    If I had thoroughly convinced myself I was right, I would have smugly agreed to disagree when you offered to end the argument. I want an argument not because I dislike you or disrespect you (even if it comes across that way sometimes) but because I’m interested in improving ideas. Well at least, that’s what I try to guide my arguing towards, with mixed success.

    There’s probably not much point continuing now, but maybe later. Thanks, once again, for being the only person here to even look seriously at the idea (SB likes the sound of trying a novel idea but I don’t know much more of his views than that.)

  67. narcoticmusing

    Np Jordan. I simply don’t have the time to do any research and/or thorough analysis other than face value. And as I said, on that alone, it has merit.

  68. jordanrastrick

    that they are being actively encouraged to come here by boat.

    Jeremy, it seems to me you’re arguing that that the Malaysia Solution seeks to “discourage asylum seekers from coming here” by “sending them back to Malaysia” which Is Bad.

    Mondo, it seems to me you’re arguing that that the current policy seeks to “encourage asylum seekers to come here” by “not sending them back to Malaysia” which Is Bad.

    This is a pure and classic case of framing. Whether you think the government “currently creates an incentive” or “wants to change to a disincentive” is simply down to your choice of reference frame. You make the same objective claims about what is happening in the world; you are just using different language, laden with different value systems, to describe the same set of facts about policies, refugees, and governments.

    I like Mondo’s framing, because I am focused on outcomes — “What ends up happening to Refugees?” – much more than on rules, especially the ones at stake here that concern the moral character of our government – “Does Australia end up breaking human rights law?”

    But if we all keep talking from different frames, I feel we will talk past one another, forever.

  69. Mondo, it seems to me you’re arguing that that the current policy seeks to “encourage asylum seekers to come here” by “not sending them back to Malaysia” which Is Bad.

    For the record – that’s not exactly what I’m doing. I am saying that we “encourage asylum seekers to come here by boat” by delivering a superior outcome to those who do so.

    I’m not married to the Malaysia solution at all. In fact I prefer Nauru – at least there Australia can extract a reasonable guarantee over the conditions the asylum seekers are kept in.

    All I’m saying is that we need to somehow remove the incentive that lures asylum seekers to come here by risky boat journey, and that creating a legalised people smuggling trade is not a very realistic way of doing so.

  70. jordanrastrick

    I’m not married to the Malaysia solution at all. In fact I prefer Nauru – at least there Australia can extract a reasonable guarantee over the conditions the asylum seekers are kept in.

    As I understand the Malaysia solution, the refugees will not be imprisoned, as they are in Australia, with demonstrably devastating impacts on their mental health. So I’m not quite sure why the “barbaric Malaysians will treat them so badly [compared to us]” idea has gotten so much traction. But I agree that there at least are some advantages to Nauru over Malaysia.

    The main problem with Nauru, if you believe the department of Immigration, is that it involves locking people up in a rather shitty and isolated place, but is unlikely to actually stop smuggling. While its rather clear now that onshore processing is a “pull factor” (with very high probability at least), without actually trying to establish a real queue, as per towing boats back to Indonesia or the Malaysia solution, why would refugees care? The Coalition wants to claim that every aspect of the Pacific Solution contributed to the lower arrivals under Howard, but there’s no way of disentangling correlation from causation enough to have any confidence in that, and the Department of Immigration thinks it highly implausible at best.

    Or to put it another way – Nauru and Christmas Island are both tiny spots of land the middle of the ocean that aren’t part of Australia’s migration zone, where, if a refugee is prepared to endure a couple of years imprisonment, they can go on to achieve permanent asylum in Australia (or other UNHCR resettlement nations.)

    In what way are the incentives provided by Nauru different?

  71. The disincentive under Howards pacific ‘solution’ was that they would ‘never set foot’ in Oz.

    Despite the govt at the time begging and pleading for others to take the refugees that had arrived in Australia, most of them were eventually resettled here.

    That is an unavoidable reality, one that can’t be ignored.

    Whether we send them to Nauru, Malaysia, or Timbuctoo, people found to be in need of protection have to be re-settled and the chances of other countries agreeing to take largeish numbers of refugees who entered Australian territory, when they have greater numbers of their own asylum seekers, is pretty small.

    The ‘best’ that can be acheived is to make the process of re-settlement so painfully slow that it may act as a deterrant……..whether a third country will continue to agree to such a deal in the long-term in the face of a growing population of refugees (probably not very happy ones) is another matter.

  72. jordanrastrick

    @nawagadj:

    Exactly. Unavoidable, painful realities abound. The only ultimate “solutions” to “the problem of refugees” are:

    A) Reducing demand

    This involves either making the places they’re coming from better (hard) or the “price they pay” to get here very high (immoral.)

    B) Increasing supply

    This involves issuing more refugee visas. If we agree that Australia alone can’t take all the world’s refugees, then we need to still put a non-zero price on visas (monetary or otherwise) for demand to match our willingness to supply.

    Our best hope, if we are Australia and we care about refugees, is to increase our own supply in such a successful way that other supply-side countries adopt our model. This requires innovation; hence, my Charter Cities idea. The market may then actually clear (the rich World collectively certainly has the capacity to absorb migration of all refugees and many “economic refugees” to boot.)

    Readers note: even if you loathe this analysis with its “prices” and “evil economic rationalism”, you can’t escape it. Migration is a good in demand, with a supply limited by government’s border control policies. To the extent demand exceeds supply, we expect “black markets” to spring up aimed at meeting the excess, and, naturally enough, they do. So even if the government refuses to set a market price for its visas, a smuggler will do so, if their is an exploitable loophole (like physically getting to country = visa.) Whether they’re doing it for profit or out of the goodness of their own hearts is almost irrelevant; the two types can co-exist.

    Similar analysis goes for drugs, and for prostitution. Indeed, because the costs of being an outlaw are somewhat fixed, you tend to see similar actors involved in this issue on the global scale – most notably Mexican cartels smuggling drugs and people across the American border (and without having done research I’d guess the EU smuggling market is similarly structured).

    If we allow, through refusal to face up to economic realities, a similar incentive system to arise here, expect similarly ruthless and well-organised suppliers to eventually move into the market.

    Of course this is fundamentally unlikely due to open ocean being harder to cross undetected. One way you could move to bring this about is to expand the size of the “target zone” by offering free plane flights to Australia for any refugee in the south east Asian region, which is a direction some people’s policy proposals in this thread have started to move towards.

  73. Splatterbottom

    Merry Christmas all.

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