For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve got expensive facilities in which to imprison you indefinitely

The House of Representatives divides on the critical issue of whether there should be any limit on how long we lock up genuine refugees who’ve committed no crime:

Or:

But, voters – it’s not all your fault: the 99% of MPs on the left side of the photograph don’t represent 99% of the population. If the MPs in the House of Representatives matched the way people actually voted in 2010, there’d be 18 people on the right.

Which is still pretty pathetic. Actually, yes – go with that sense of shame.

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30 responses to “For those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve got expensive facilities in which to imprison you indefinitely

  1. thenewertestament

    You forgot the next two lines… “With courage let us all combine, To breach international law and unnecessarily inflict psychological trauma Australia Fair”

  2. I’m personally very happy that our refugee intake has been increased while our intake process has been made both safer and fairer. These are all great outcomes for Australia and for refugees as a whole.

    Here’s hoping that the outcome of this new policy is the same as the last time it was implemented – i.e. boat arrivals dwindle to almost nothing and the detention centres slowly empty until they become effectively unnecessary.

    It’s certainly preferable to the Green’s policy of encouraging desperate people to risk their lives trying to get here.

  3. Neither safer nor farer: not being Indonesia or Malaysia encourages desperate people to try and get there. Not being a war zone encourages ppl to try to get here. As for fairness: locking up ppl who arrive by boat is fair? Whilst visa-overstayers roam the community?

    Locking up children, indefinitely, is “fair” in your eyes?

    We’re adding cruelty to an already awful process. It will simply make matters worse.

  4. Splatterbottom

    Too right, Jeremy. Nauru is far worse than drowning at sea. And besides, I can solve that problem. We can sell off our few remaining naval vessels and buy ferries, and also nationalise Qantas, to provide the carrying capacity to meet demand. There will be a short-term housing problem, but we can require every Australian household to adopt a refugee family and if the Aussies are not culturally sensitive enough about it we can jail the fuckers and give their houses to the refugees.

  5. I guess we will see about the ‘safety’ issue – if this policy change significantly reduces the number of boat arrivals then this will show that the ‘push factor’ argument you have adhered to over the previous few years was faulty, and that our onshore processing system is indeed a direct cause of the recent massive spike in boat arrivals. I hope you will be able to honestly reconsider your view if this does, in fact, occur.

    Of course if the change does not lead to any drop in arrivals then this will force me to reconsider my current view, which is that our on-shore processing acts as an incentive for boat arrivals and is therefore the cause of hundreds of deaths.

    Re ‘fairness': any change that re-enforces the integrity of our formal refugee intake program will (by definition) improve equity of outcome. Obviously it’s a poor result for the family that gets here by boat – but it’s a great result for the family that gets resettled from a refugee camp as a result of the extra spaces.

    Kids in detention is a shitty outcome – obviously – but it’s better than dead kids at the bottom of the ocean.

  6. Mondo, what surprises me about your argument – and the argument of many like you, is that you assume that to have offshore processing, you MUST lock children up indefinitely. Why, exactly?

    Why must we – if we have to have offshore processing – make it in tents, or on an island where the facilities are draconian, and not, say in the intermediary third parties people are actually fleeing to?

    If this policy is actually about “stopping the boats” and not about “punishing those brown people”, why isn’t the offshore processing centre in Indonesia, where majority of refugees getting on boats ACTUALLY GET ON THE BOATS? Why not have directions to the place? Why not advertise where it is far and wide? Because God knows the amount we’re spending on locking people up would still probably cover everyone who came along and wanted to apply.

    The answer is because this isn’t about fairness. It isn’t about saving lives, and it isn’t about the people involved at all. It’s all about mitigating front headline “MORE BROWN PEOPLE ALERT” news that Labor thinks they’re losing votes on.

    The fact that Labor voted against not locking children up indefinitely when it was called as an amendment – in other words, they could have had their awful policy and NOT done it – speaks volumes.

  7. Hi Kerri

    I don’t assume that an offshore processing system mandates the indefinite detention of children. I’m not sure where you’re getting that from.

    Equally I have no problem with offshore processing in Indonesia or other intermediary destinations as per your suggestion. If Australia was able to negotiate an agreement to return boat arrivals to Indonesia to be processed there I would support such a proposal.

    Unfortunately, however, Indonesia will not agree to this as far as I’m aware – which is why we look to other countries like PNG, Nauru and Malaysia.

    The answer is because this isn’t about fairness. It isn’t about saving lives, and it isn’t about the people involved at all. It’s all about mitigating front headline “MORE BROWN PEOPLE ALERT” news that Labor thinks they’re losing votes on.

    No Keri. For me this issue is about saving lives and restoring fairness to the system. Your assumption that this policy is all about pandering to racists may be correct in some cases, but it’s a non-sequitur in terms of our present discussion.

    Unless, of course, you’re suggesting that everything I’ve written on this topic to date has been a lie to cover an underlying racism.

  8. Mondo, the reason I assume you think Offshore processing mandates the detention of kids is this comment

    “Kids in detention is a shitty outcome – obviously – but it’s better than dead kids at the bottom of the ocean.”

    If I’ve read it wrong and you’re outraged that Labor voted to lock up kids indefinitely, that outrage seems to be missing from your comments so far.

    Seriously, if this was about the people, why not vote against locking kids up indefinitely? What possible excuse do Labor have for that?

    “No Keri. For me this issue is about saving lives and restoring fairness to the system.”

    Fairness? You’ll have to elaborate on that one.

  9. I guess we will see about the ‘safety’ issue – if this policy change significantly reduces the number of boat arrivals then this will show that the ‘push factor’ argument you have adhered to over the previous few years was faulty, and that our onshore processing system is indeed a direct cause of the recent massive spike in boat arrivals. I hope you will be able to honestly reconsider your view if this does, in fact, occur.

    I’m curious about your definitions for “significantly” and “massive” in the paragraph above, but my main response would be that I disagree that boat arrivals are a problem.

    They are reflective of many problems, of course – the problems of war and oppression from which refugees seek refuge. And the fact that the boats are unsafe (because we make no distinction between safe and unsafe boats, and because we destroy any boat that arrives so those sending them might as well send disposable ones), overcrowded (because there’s no additional penalty for overcrowding them, just more money), and crewed by incompetent, disposable dupes (because anyone with experience knows they’re going to be locked up) is certainly a problem. And, sure, it’s unfair that Australia chooses to take a place from the formal resettlement queue for every unexpected arrival (by boat or plane).

    But those problems aren’t caused by boat arrivals, and they won’t be solved by treating refugees more cruelly.

  10. As for SB – false dichotomy. We could torture every person who gets on a boat, and torture might technically be better than drowning, but it’s hardly a justification for it.

    And I think you massively overstate the number of people who tried to get here before mandatory detention.

  11. OK, Keri and Jeremy.
    The issue at hand is to find the best means to stop asylum seekers from drowning at sea.
    What’s your suggestion?
    I and about a thousand asylum seekers a year are dying to know.

    Cheers.

  12. Step 1 – Stop making the boats death-traps.
    Step 2 – The Greens’ policy.

    By the way, “saving” them from drowning at sea only to leave them to die in camps instead isn’t really much of an improvement. (For them, anyway. It’s nicer for Australian politicians.)

  13. It’s a pretty funny policy – it doesn’t really address any of the issues.
    If your concern is people drowning at sea, well, they will be able to continue to do so. The bottom line is that if people are desperate enough to get on a boat, they will get to Australia. That was the experience of the previous ‘solution’ . Despite all the fist-thumping rhetoric, most of the people detained on Naura were eventually, and quietly, settled in Australia.

  14. The Greens policy document is a very nice pice of work that is 99% on the money, and it falls down mainly in areas of acknowledging reality in a few of the discussion points, as opposed to major problems with the actual final policy position outcomes.

    ( This paragraph is probably the most glaring:

    “Offshore processing such as the ‘Pacific Solution’ did not work as a deterrent. Boats continued to arrive after the Pacific Solution was established, and people still drowned at sea. The
    reduced arrivals should be seen in light of relatively lower global displacement numbers over those years”

    )

    Which is something akin to:

    “Seat belts have not worked as a safety measure. People have continued to die in car accidents after seat belts were made mandatory. The reduction in fatality rates in recent years must be viewed in the context of factors such as stronger drink driving laws. “

    Or perhaps even

    Smoking never killed anyone! Non smokers all end up dying. Here are some things you should think about, that aren’t smoking, which are correlated with (and likely involved in the causation) of premature death.

    The very next paragraph dot point seeks to back up this argument by an appeal to Metcalfe’s advice. But Metcalfe’s advice was in fact that the Pacific solution worked as a deterrent, but he doesn’t think it would work any longer, because A) refugees and smuggler are now wise to the “you end up in Australia eventually anyway” aspect of Nauru and B) the tow back of a boat to Indonesia was probably the one aspect of Howard-era policy which was effective purely in terms of deterrence then and still would be, but is the last thing in the world you would actually want to try to put in place as a permanent measure…..

  15. The Greens policy is also on my reading very much aligned to the findings of the Houston report.

    While the documents come across as taking very different attitudes to some policy measures, it mostly seems to be down to framing. So for instances where the Greens’ policy says “Obviously turning back boats will never be possible, because there is a long list of conditions to make it acceptable that can’t plausibly be satisfied…..”, the Houston report says “In the unspecified future, turning back boats is something that government might decide it wants to look into. If this were to occur, here is the long list of conditions what would need to be satisfied…..”

    The main differences of course are the use of Nauru and Manus Island, but these are explicitly recommended as only short term measures to address the current spike in arrivals while the permanent solution is put in place. On the latter front, there seems to be more or less furious agreement:

    Increase of the humanitarian intake to the range 20-27K p.a; use of much of this increase to directly resettle from within the region, with a focus on bilateral arrangements with Malaysia and Indonesia specifically; identical legal status for boat arrivals and non-boat arrivals; more co-operation with Indonesia on preventing boats from departing and shutting down smuggling operations at the source; addressing the current massive mismatch between supply and demand for family reunion’s specifically (although the measures there are different); review/severance of the linkage between the onshore and offshore components of the current intake; plan focus on the Bali process and eventual establishment of a decent regional system, with processing centres likely to be located in Malaysia and Indonesia, and verified refugees safely transported from these locations to Australia for resettlement.

    The disturbing likelihood, of course, is that this issue falls out of the public spotlight and Manus Island and Nauru end up as permanent measures while all of these actual important recommendations fall by the way side.

  16. If I’ve read it wrong and you’re outraged that Labor voted to lock up kids indefinitely, that outrage seems to be missing from your comments so far.

    Keri – you summarised my position on this issue as “kids MUST be locked up indefinitely”. That summary was false: I have not once advocated that children must be locked up, nor that this must occur indefinitely. You are incorrect as a matter of fact (and logic) to characterise my argument that way.

    Seriously, if this was about the people, why not vote against locking kids up indefinitely? What possible excuse do Labor have for that?

    As nearly every article reporting on this has noted the reason ‘why’ most are voting against an exemption for children is that creating such an exemption could lead to more children on people smuggler boats, which would lead to more children drowning at sea. You may not agree with this reasoning and if not you should explain why – I’d certainly be receptive to your comments.

    Pretending the argumnent doesn’t exist however, or pretending that you don’t understand it is not really an effective response.

    Fairness? You’ll have to elaborate on that one.

    I have already expanded on the ‘fairness’ comment in my second post in this thread (following a similar request from Jeremy).

  17. I’m curious about your definitions for “significantly” and “massive” in the paragraph above

    Boat arrivals gave gone from 161 (in seven boats) in 2008 (the year the previous laws were relaxed to over 6,000 (in about 80 boats) in the present year (which still has five months to go). That’s a 3,700% increase (and counting) – and is what I mean by “massive” and “significant”.

    Do you seriously dispute these figures, or the aptness of the words I’ve used Jeremy?

    my main response would be that I disagree that boat arrivals are a problem.

    There are at least 600 dead men, women and children who would disagree Jeremy. The boat arrival option was distictly problematic for them.

    These deaths will be minimised under the revised rules PLUS Australia’s refugee intake will be increased by nearly 50%. It’s a great outcome for everyone except the people smugglers.

  18. Mondo, the end of the Sri Lankan civil war would (I suspect) be driving a significant amount of that, as well as the “surge” in Afghanistan (see http://afghanistan.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/22/chart-u-s-troop-levels-over-the-years/ for an indication).

    The “it worked last time!” argument (not that you’re specifically using that) assumes an apples-to-apples comparison which I don’t believe applies.

  19. I’m trying to find global data for a cross comparison, but I really, really don’t think you can credibly attribute a likely 60 fold or so increase in arrivals to push factors alone.

  20. Country-of-origin numbers for asylum claimants might help. The population of Afghani refugee camps in India, Iran and Pakistan over time would also be a good guide (I looked on the UNHCR site, but couldn’t find anything definitive).

    Would you, however, agree that an approx 395K increase in internally displaced persons in Sri Lanka is a considerable “push” factor?

    Mind you, I absolutely think that the people-smuggling networks are better organised than they used to be and more efficient at channelling people from source and transit countries to Indonesian fishing villages… interesting to consider that an efficient and well marketed people-smuggling sector could be a powerful “pull” factor of its very own…

  21. Jordon,

    It’s never very clear cut.

    Last year, we saw a 10% decrease in boat arrivals, while world-wide there was a 20% increase, with some countries seeing an 80% in arrivals.

  22. The “it worked last time!” argument (not that you’re specifically using that) assumes an apples-to-apples comparison which I don’t believe applies.

    You might be right RR – I certainly can’t claim magical insight into exactly why the boat arrival numbers have spiked so dramatically, and I fully accept that correlation does not automatically equal causation.

    But we don’t need to speculate here – we can simply observe what happens now that the laws have been changed. If the number of boat arrivals drops back to 2008 levels then that will show that it was indeed ‘pull factors’ driving the numbers we’ve seen to date. If not then the whole offshore deterrent thing will be proved bunk.

    My money is on it working, thereby saving hundreds of lives, but I suppose we will have to wait and see.

  23. I think Abbott may have wedged himself with “Stop The Boats”. It will be interesting to see what happens after he’s elected PM. Because the arrival of even one boat after he’s elected will amount to a failure to deliver on the promise to Stop The Boats, obviously. And using the correlation-equals-causation logic that seems to be almost universally accepted these days, including officially by the LNP, even a single boat arrival will be proof positive that our refugee policy is insufficiently inhumane to asylum seekers. As Jeremy alludes to, we may find we’re putting cigarettes out in their eyeballs but who could object as long as we Stop The Boats? Just as living indefinitely in a remote detention centre is better than drowning, so too is having a cigarette extinguished in your eyeball. We are all morally obliged to stand behind whatever inhumanity the government du jour chooses to dish up to refugees until the boats stop arriving, since to do otherwise is to lure them to their deaths (and there being no third option).

  24. We’ll see, but what we don’t have to wait to see is the fact that what’s been put in place gives the government the power to imprison people indefinitely despite their having committed no crime.

    You accept that as a serious, serious negative at least, don’t you, Mondo?

    As for the boats – I reject, again, the contention that it’s boats per se that cause deaths. It’s DANGEROUS boats, which is why I’ve been advocating for policies to make them safer. As opposed to the Lib/Lab policies (destroying safe boats, encouraging disposable crews etc) that clearly make them more dangerous.

  25. Wisdom Like Silence

    How do we process them properly without holding them somewhere?

  26. You accept that as a serious, serious negative at least, don’t you, Mondo?

    Of course – you’d have to be a borderline psychopath to see indefinite detention as a great thing in and of itself!!

    For me it is choice between two evils – an escalating and very dangerous people smuggling trade that’s led to hundreds (possibly thousands) of deaths and which has completely usurped our formal refugee intake program, and prolonged detention in offshore processing locations.

    I appreciate that you see other alternatives, but those alternatives simply aren’t on the table right now (and, realistically, are unlikely to ever be).

    Something needs to be done now to address the refugee deaths we’ve seen over recent years and this is the best option presented to date. Certainly it is a more humane and moral policy than the Greens preference of maintaining the status quo and allowing more dead bodies to wash up on our shores.

  27. Wisdom Like Silence

    Boats that sink are bad for stuff, except those wooden rowboats they turn into planter boxes, which are whimsical. They’re especially bad for people moving, smuggled or not. Wonder if we could guilt Sea Sheperd into trolling the water for them and bringing them over? Actually why aren’t there any groups doing that? Are refugees any less worthy of a fleet of ships protecting them?

  28. “Certainly it is a more humane and moral policy than the Greens preference of maintaining the status quo and allowing more dead bodies to wash up on our shores.” – mondo

    That’s a little unfair in that it ignores the reality of refugee flows; asylum seekers are generally in the hands of people smugglers from the time they leave their country of origin.

  29. “We must do something!”
    “This is something!”
    “Therefore, we MUST do it.”

  30. Pingback: Deterrence” will never work or, “I told you so” in 2014 | An Onymous Lefty

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