Thursday, September 01, 2011


If Julia Gillard is to get out from the position Graeme Richardson describes her as being in she needs to do a lot more work in reframing discussion.

I gave one example of this yesterday in putting the mining tax into the context of supporting manufacturing.

The next challenge is what to do in response to the High Court decision on the "Malaysian solution."

The very first thing to do is to find language to describe and analyse the problem. The problem is not "asylum seekers" or "refugees", "Queue jumping" or even "boat people." Before we choose the words let's look at the issues.

The following propositions I believe would be supported by the vast majority of citizens.


1. Population targeting is an appropriate Government activity to ensure that the services and resources are available to meet the needs of people. How rapidly the population should grow, if at all, is a matter on which reasonable people can differ.

2. Immigration control is a part of population targeting. There are three basic groups of people we want to welcome to our country - skilled migrants, resettled refugees and family reunions. The mix between these three is part of population targeting. As a compassionate and humanitarian nation we will explicitly target a number of resettled refugees.

3. We want to welcome tourist and business visitors to the country both for social and economic reasons. Visitors should not overstay their welcome.

4. People who arrive in the country through "irregular means" (that is other than through immigration controls) and people who overstay their welcome should, in principle, be returned to where they came from, forcibly if necessary.

5. However, circumstances will arise where irregular arrivals and over-stayers cannot be returned as either their origin cannot be identified, they cannot physically be returned (their country won't permit them entry) or they justifiably fear for their safety if returned.


1. Most refugees in the world have escaped from one country to a neighbouring country by land. Relatively few travel large distances seeking relocation. Many of these refugees do not want to be permanently resettled, they want to return home.

2. There are far more refugees in the world than countries willing to resettle them.

3. A trade has developed in selling transportation services to refugees. These services all charge excessive fees and place the refugees in danger.


1. To dissuade refugees from making unsafe sea voyages to Australia and from paying excessive fees.

2. To rapidly identify the correct treatment for any irregular arrival or over-stayer in Australia (that is whether they are a refugee for resettlement or a person to be returned/deported).


1. How to dissuade people from getting on boats.

2. Whether people who can't be immediately returned should be permanently settled or only offered temporary settlement.

3. How people should be treated while we assess how they should be treated.


Arising from this it looks to me like more needs to be done to make being a boat operator an unviable life imprisonment in Australia an option, or even a deterrent?

We need more flexibility in our ways of treating people. It would appear that the more co-operative the applicant is in helping us assess them the better the treatment would be a good idea. So, if someone has "papers" they should be a candidate for community release, a person with nothing and who offers nothing should be detained.

Detainees also need to be "separated". The detainees who are new arrivals or newly apprehended should be treated very differently to those that are getting closer to a deportation order.

We need to ensure that all the individuals are accorded the level of political and legal rights that we hold dear, but that at the same time rapid assessment is beneficial. Rather than the Howard-esque attempts to deny legal rights we should expedite them.

That doesn't get me to the end point of a reframing. But "unauthorised entrants" is probably a better term than refugees or asylum seekers - both of which pre-judge the individuals status.

Breaking the problem in to its components and not trying to use the processing mechanism as a deterrence from getting on a boat is another.

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

1 comment:

ian said...

Many countries do (or have in the past) assessed refugees, but this does not mean they are offered residence in the country of refuge.

I find the "policies" of either side of politics unacceptable.

I think Australia should humanely and efficiently assess potential refugees. Those who enter by unacceptable means or who are otherwise deemed unacceptable should beheld for resettlement in a third country.