Andrew Bolt comments on the illegal immigrants who come to Australia on overcrowded small boats — some of which sink. The “Fatal shore” is an allusion to the fact that many of the original British immigrants to Australia died on the way because of the primitive sailing-ship technology of the time

TWELVE more dead. Now will the Rudd Government finally see that its “compassion” kills? The sinking on Sunday of a boat carrying Sri Lankan asylum seekers brings to 54 the number of boat people who have died this year trying to reach us. Yes, 54. That’s the price of the “compassion” this Government showed last year by weakening the laws that once deterred boat people from risking their lives like this.

And don’t tell me I have no right to be angry. I’ve warned a dozen times, in print and on air, that people would die as a consequence of what Rudd had done. Just last week I showed that 42 boat people had died already in sinkings off Malaysia and Indonesia, and in an explosion at Ashmore Reef, proving the Government had again deceived you in claiming there was “no evidence” of these deaths. Now we have these latest deaths – including two boys – and more will die, too, unless this deceitful and opportunistic Prime Minister undoes the mischief he has wrought.

No, I do not blame Rudd directly for these deaths. He didn’t man the boats or sink them. But I do blame him directly for luring people into such lethal voyages through his sheer foolishness, political opportunism and vanity. And I blame him for then deceitfully disclaiming all responsibility.

Let’s first nail the worst of those deceits – his claim that he’s actually been “tough” on boat people, and this year’s 12-fold increase in arrivals has nothing to do with his policies: That it’s outrageous to suggest that he’s luring people to their deaths. Well, look at the graph on this page, taken from the website of his own Department of Immigration.

See the circle? I’ve added that to mark the date in late July last year when Rudd revealed his most dramatic changes to the boat people laws. And see the number of illegal immigrants caught and detained immediately soar? Draw your own conclusion.

As for Rudd being “tough” on boat people, let’s check what he actually did that day to instead persuade them their luck was in, and Australia once more a soft touch.

Rudd had already scrapped the temporary protection visas, which allowed us to send back refugees who’d got here by boat once their countries were again safe. He’d also scrapped the “Pacific Solution”, under which boat people were sent to Nauru and Manus Island, with no guarantees they’d ever be let into Australia. And on July 29, he sent the biggest signal of all to show that unlike wicked John Howard, he was compassionate. Automatic detention of boat people was over. From now on, children and adults cleared of security risk would no longer be held. They’d be free to stay at large while the government worked out if they really were refugees. What’s more, the onus of proof would be switched: rather than making boat people prove they were no threat, the government would have to prove they were to keep them in detention.

How the Left cheered! How journalists praised. How rights activists sighed they could feel proud again. And how the people smugglers pricked up their ears.

Rudd denies he went weak, but this is how his grand gesture in July was hailed at the time by constitutional law expert Professor Clive Williams, a human rights activist and candidate for Labor pre-selection, who summed up well the mood in Rudd’s ranks: “A clear break has been made from the Howard era … this risk-based approach is more compassionate … ”

Rudd was warned against this “clear break”, of course, and not just by some who-cares journalist. The Australian Federal Police, the International Organisation for Migration and Indonesian officials all said it gave people smugglers a green flag.

Look at the graph again: he had. Or ask boat people themselves if they’d seen this signal – people who’d waited in Indonesia for months, even years, for some such sign. An Iraqi told the ABC: “Kevin Rudd – he’s changed everything about refugee. If I go to Australia now, different.” An Afghan told The Australian: “I know Kevin Rudd is the new PM … he has tried to get more immigrants. I have heard that if someone arrives it is easy.”

But Rudd was too intoxicated with the easy praise to heed such warnings. Too pleased with this chance to damn the Liberals as the nasty party which put children “behind barbed wire”. Oh, how easily Labor preened and mocked back then, and how feebly the spineless Liberals took it.

In the very month that Rudd watered down the laws, the Labor head of a joint parliamentary committee on migration toured the detention centre at Christmas Island and declared it “an enormous white elephant”. Michael Danby said his committee agreed with him, and was now wondering what to do with Howard’s “stalag”. Could they turn it into a tourist centre, perhaps?

Still laughing, Michael? Thanks to the great wave of boats unleashed in large part by your boss, this “stalag” at Christmas Island is so crammed that Rudd is now having to double its size, and has rushed over dongas once intended for Aboriginal communities.

Of course, Rudd is trying to dodge any blame. Here’s his latest spin to explain the surge in boats: “What we’re faced with in Sri Lanka is 260,000 people displaced because of the civil war.” More deceit, I’m afraid. In fact, that war ended in May with the defeat of a terrorist group the Tamil Tigers. Sri Lanka is now safer, not more dangerous, both for the Tamils and Sinhalese there.

While it’s true that some Tamils, especially those connected with the Tigers regime, are now trying to leave Sri Lanka, not least for economic reasons, it’s also true that many of the 78 rescued Tamil boat people now refusing to leave our patrol ship Oceanic Viking have said they’d actually left their island years ago, and have spent up to five years in Indonesia, waiting for this chance to sail here. And let’s not forget that many of the boats now coming are filled not with Tamils but Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqis and even, it seems, some Sri Lankan Muslims.

But it’s the lie of Rudd’s “compassion” that most needs puncturing before more people die. LET me give just one more example of how misapplied “compassion” can actually kill. The Oceanic Viking Tamils were rescued by Australia last month after issuing a fake SOS from their ship, after reportedly drilling holes in the hull. Likewise, 42 Afghans were rescued in April at Ashmore Reef and even granted permanent residency here after blowing up their own boat, killing five.

How compassionate we were both times. And foolishly so, in the case of the Afghans, who can now stay despite refusing to say which of them set off the deadly explosion.

But now check the price of this compassion. The Government has just ordered a coroner’s inquiry into the deaths on Sunday of the 12 Sri Lankans to find why their boat suddenly capsized off the Cocos Islands, just as they and 27 others were about to be rescued in Australian search-and-rescue territory. Why the inquiry? Because some of those involved in the rescue claim the Sri Lankans may have deliberately sunk their own boat. Plus, of course, an inquiry lets Rudd say “no comment” in the meantime.

Yes, it’s nice to seem good. But it’s far finer to actually do good, even if it makes you look bad. Kevin Rudd chose last year to seem good, but with the dead now bobbing in our waters, he must be judged instead by the deadly consequences. What has his “compassion” – of a flashy kind so common in this Age of Seeming – actually brought?