The constant and ever-growing influx of “boat people” taking advantage of the Rudd government’s eagerness to class almost anyone as a “refugee” has drawn a lot of public attention in Australia, as Rudd is clearly going against what the great majority of Australians want. Three current articles below

‘Humanitarian’ boatpeople deal breaks deadlock

KEVIN Rudd and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono last night resolved their standoff, with Jakarta agreeing to accept 78 asylum-seekers rescued by Australia at the weekend, citing the plight of a sick child on board. As the 78 Sri Lankans prepared to spend their third night aboard the Australian Customs vessel the Oceanic Viking, Indonesia agreed the asylum-seekers rescued by HMAS Armidale in the Sunda Strait on Sunday would be brought to shore as soon as possible.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith and Dr Yudhoyono’s spokesman cited the sick child as a factor in the “humanitarian” decision. “President Yudhoyono has advised for humanitarian reasons and safety-at-sea reasons the Oceanic Viking will come to the port of Merak where the 78 on board will be put in temporary accommodation until international agencies have had the opportunity to process them,” Mr Smith told ABC TV last night. “We had a young girl on board who was unwell. “That’s a very good humanitarian result. It’s a very good example of co-operation between Australia and Indonesia.”

After high-level talks about how to stem the flow of asylum boats to Australia, Dr Yudhoyono’s spokesman, Dino Patti Djalal, said the Sri Lankans’ claims for refugee status would be dealt with as soon as possible by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “Basically, it is because there is a sick child on board and the President is quite concerned about the health of the child,” he said. “We need a clear framework for how to deal with this in the future so that we don’t deal with these sorts of situations on an ad hoc basis.”

He indicated that officials from both countries would be working over the coming weeks to establish such a framework. Mr Rudd and Dr Yudhoyono would discuss the matter in Singapore in November at the APEC leaders conference. The agreement came as the Prime Minister held bilateral talks with Dr Yudhoyono and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak aimed at stopping the boat surge.

Before the deal was struck in Jakarta last night, there were further indications of an emerging schism in Labor ranks over the Prime Minister’s toughened rhetoric on boats. Last night, Labor MP Michael Danby [who is Jewish] rebuked Mr Rudd over his use of the term “illegal immigration”, pointedly noting he preferred Immigration Minister Chris Evans’s “non-hysterical” approach. “I don’t like expressions like illegal immigration,” Mr Danby told the ABC.

Last night, Mr Rudd was on his way home from the Indonesian capital, where he had been attending the inauguration of Dr Yudhoyono with Mr Smith and Defence Chief Angus Houston. While in Jakarta, Mr Rudd also held talks with Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong, with people-smuggling high on the agenda.

Mr Rudd’s absence from Australia saw no let-up in hostilities between the government and the opposition, with the issue of boatpeople provoking a series of bitter skirmishes in parliament. As Mr Rudd was meeting regional leaders, a Senate estimates committee hearing in Canberra degenerated into a shouting match between Senator Evans and Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who demanded to know what the Rudd government was doing to address the surge.

“We abolished the Pacific Solution. I’m absolutely proud of that. It was a blight on Australia and a blight on our international reputation,” Senator Evans said. “But you, senator, you’ve got a choice, you either argue for it coming back, or you don’t.”

Malcolm Turnbull attacked the government for “unpicking” the tapestry of measures stitched together by the Howard government, while acknowledging they had been controversial. He defended reviving John Howard’s declaration that Australians should decide “who comes to this country”. “The previous prime minister, Mr Howard, was criticised for saying that, but the fact is, that is what every Australian expects of their government,” said Mr Turnbull.

The 78 asylum-seekers transferred from their boat to the Oceanic Viking after issuing a distress call in the Indonesian search and rescue zone, includes at least five women and five young children. At Indonesia’s request, Australia sent the patrol boat HMAS Armidale to the scene. “This is not an area or a matter where Australia is saying to Indonesia, ‘It’s your problem’,” Mr Smith said last night. “This is where Australia is saying to Indonesia, and Indonesia is saying to Australia: ‘We need to work together to address a very difficult problem’. It’s a very good example of Australia discharging its safety-at-sea obligations. My understanding and my advice is that there’s no legal obligation on the part of Indonesia to take them, and that was not a point or a view put to Indonesia by Australia.”


Dangerous to let asylum seekers jump the queue

Susan Hocking

THE current debate about how best to handle the boatloads of refugees, illegal immigrants or call them what you will, arriving on Australia’s doorstep has taken me back to a time when I was all-consumed with the lot of people trying to get into Australia, people who were failing miserably. I was a chairperson of the Australian Immigration Review Panel – a body that heard the appeals of would-be migrants to this country, people who had applied and been rejected. The panel was their last chance at entry and with that knowledge of what was at stake, it was the sort of role that gave me many a sleepless night. It was a responsibility not to be taken lightly. And it wasn’t.

It was, however, a humbling, eye-opening and frequently very sad experience. I suspect that many people born to Australian citizenship, born to peace and relative prosperity and the assumption of all kinds of freedoms, do not always easily grasp what it is that would make people rally their families and head off on a plane, often to the other side of the world, leaving behind friends and loved ones, perhaps a familiar language, culture, a whole way of life.

When that same decision is made by people who jump on leaky boats captained by people who are little more than traffickers in human flesh for dangerous and sometimes futile voyages, our confusion and disbelief are even greater. As is our suspicion and our resentment at those who appear, like uninvited strangers.

And therein lies the stumbling point for me with the waves of boat people heading this way. The people on the leaky boats, no matter how brave they may be, no matter how determined or desperate, raise my concerns because they are unknown entities. And they are jumping the queue. In doing so – and by us accepting them – they are, inadvertently or not, making a mockery of our immigration policy and our refugee programs and of the very patient people spread all over the world – be they living in townhouses in London or squalid refugee camps in Kenya – who are adhering to all the myriad, time-consuming requirements we have of those we invite in.

Those requirements enable us to know who exactly is coming to live among us, what sort of people they are and with what sort of personal histories; to know, as far as humanly possible, what they have to offer us and what we can offer them. Fulfilling those requirements – from the masses of paperwork through to the personal qualities – is not easy and the process is usually slow. But sure. It takes patience and commitment on everybody’s part. But ultimately we can rest pretty well assured that in the midst of a world on the move, we have opened the doors to people that we can be comfortable sharing our communities with.

While it behoves us to show compassion and understanding to people knocking to come in, to treat the homeless, albeit uninvited, stranger as we would a person in need knocking on the door of our own home, we have every right to wariness. We would be foolish and we would be risking the wellbeing of our own family if we simply threw that door open willy-nilly. We owe it to ourselves and to our children to think long and hard about who comes to live among us. That does not make us an unwelcoming, uncaring nation. It makes us vigilant, prudent stewards of the Australian “family”.

Furthermore, we should be wary of making assumptions about degrees of despair. In a world racked with war and poverty and upheaval, we shouldn’t assume that the people on the boats have any greater depth of loss or desperation than the Somali family, for example, or the Cambodians, or the Zimbabweans, all living in camps, waiting it out, counting the days, all their forms painstakingly filled in, doing it by the book, playing by the rules. Patient and with their hearts full of hope.

We shouldn’t assume that the boat people have the right to jump the queue because of the sheer audacity of their voyage, any more than we should expect the patient, waiting, would-be migrant to be bumped back further and further down the line because they chose to do things by the book. And to resign themselves to a quiet acceptance of that.

I have read too many immigration applications from too many patient and deserving souls to buy into the business of queue jumping. In many ways, the process of biding time, of compiling the papers and the signatories and producing the certificates and the records – of satisfying the needs of our Immigration Department – is every bit as gruelling as hitting the high seas, bound for Australia by boat. It just doesn’t grab the headlines or tug so hard at the heartstrings.

All that said, personally, if the boat people pass muster once they arrive here – if, when all the thorough checks are done, they do qualify as genuine asylum seekers, fleeing persecution and with no other safe place to go – I would not have a problem with them staying on. But please, only if it is not at the expense of those would-be Australians languishing somewhere right now, with very little to sustain them but the knowledge they have already played by our rules; the patient people.


Mainstream Australian concerns about immigration are muzzled

Thirteen years after Pauline Hanson struck a chord with mainstream Australia, the vacuum she left when she departed the political scene remains unfilled.

Civil rights apologists try to bottle up public concern about illegal arrivals, militant Islamism, ethnic gangs, drugs and the murderous danger zones that our CBDs have become, but from time to time the outrage erupts on talkback radio and in the letters to the editor columns. A caller from Bathurst, NSW, recently said the threat of Pacific Islander gangs in western Sydney made him pack up and leave, and he is not alone. A woman who was flying her Australian flag during the Cronulla riots had her house pelted with eggs. Police told her to take down the flag as it was inciting the Muslims.

These are today’s forgotten people, Australians of all generations who know their history and are embittered as they see their heritage, values, institutions and way of life devalued. Under Labor, the rapid-fire arrival of boatloads of illegals has, until recently, failed to generate the banner headlines of the past, no doubt heart-warming for those Greens, Laborites and Liberal marshmallows who favour the madness of some sort of open borders policy. Ex-Liberal MP Bruce Baird, now holding a Labor job, told the Ten Network’s Meet the Press Labor’s policy changes on dealing with people-smugglers had nothing whatsoever to do with the recent surge in arrivals.

As Christmas Island readies to put up the no-vacancy sign, the hitherto silent Libs have broken out, led by Philip Ruddock and Kevin Andrews, and already the polls have spiked substantially in their favour, no doubt creating more grief for Malcolm Turnbull, who is handcuffed to the usual suspects in Wentworth and whose only comment to date has been a limp-wristed call for an independent inquiry.

The chief objective of the illegals and their criminal co-conspirators, the people-smugglers, is to be allowed to come ashore on the mainland and that will surely happen soon.

Still disconnected from the mainstream, there is hardly a mumble from the Liberals as our immigration rates accelerate.

A new Australia is in the making, where our ethnic minorities will become majorities, aided by people running Malcolm Fraser’s line that we need a population of 50 million plus, no doubt to be fed by the spring of taxpayer-funded multiculturalism.

In 1976 the Fraser government was warned by the Immigration Department that too many Lebanese Muslim refugees were unskilled, illiterate and had questionable character and health standards. Cabinet documents released in 2007 revealed how Australia’s decision to accept thousands of Lebanese Muslims escaping Lebanon’s 1976 civil war led to a temporary suspension of normal eligibility standards.

With hindsight we know where Fraser stood on such matters, his sense of guilt over the Vietnam War resulting in 56,000 Vietnamese refugees coming to Australia plus 2000 or so boatpeople, culminating in him establishing the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs with his protege Petro Georgiou as its director.

Fraser has stubbornly rejected any criticism that he was responsible for sowing the seeds of unrest in Sydney’s west, instead blaming schools and communities and forgetting that at no time have the views of the Australian community been honestly and properly considered on immigration and refugee issues by any government.

It is not just multiculturalism that is fuelling anger. Included in the ranks of the forgotten people are the self-funded retirees who have seen their hard-earned super and share portfolios head south during the global financial crisis, while some MPs debate and defend their salaries and maladministration allows $82 million worth of stimulus to go offshore to Australians, many of them citizens ofconvenience.

Sadly, these mainstream Australians have no one with the courage to become their flag-bearer in these challenging times. The fear of violent reprisal and being ostracised by the political elite is a reality that tarnishes and denigrates the sacrifices of past generations. Despite this, the talkback lines hum, as this form of protest is more rewarding than contacting a Coalition office.

Fearless journalism is required to expose the many unpleasant truths and maybe, just maybe, a resurgent Nationals with a Barnaby Joyce-type at the helm could strike out on its own, embracing and claiming a large and powerful constituency that has been neglected for far too long.