Going behind the hysteria to examine the PNG deal

Yesterday, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that Australia and Papua New Guinea had entered into a Regional Refugee Agreement, to address the issue of boat-borne asylum seekers.

In a joint media conference, Rudd spelled out the plan. Asylum boats will be intercepted as usual, taken to Christmas Island for preliminary processing (medical and security checks), then moved to the Manus Island detention facility for refugee assessment under UN protocols and supervision. Those deemed to be genuine refugees under the UN convention will either be settled in PNG, or in a third country. Those who do not meet the refugee criteria will be deported to their home countries or – if that was not possible – to another country. No refugee processed on Manus would be resettled in Australia.

In return, Australia will increase its humanitarian intake, upgrade and expand the Manus detention centre, and significantly invest in PNG infrastructure. There is no cap on the number of asylum seekers who may be processed through Manus.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that media – mainstream, independent and social – figuratively exploded as this announcement rolled out. The overwhelming reaction was negative. People swore that the ALP had forever lost their vote, that Rudd was showing his racist colours, that he was just using the plight of people to win an election. It was, in short, hysterical.

Over the years, I’ve condemned hardline policies relating to asylum seeker issues, regardless of their origin. At its base, this is a human issue. Not a political one. There are human beings involved, who are fleeing for their lives and seeking a safe haven. There is nothing dangerous about that – those who bleat about ‘border security’ and ‘protection’ deliberately play on fears and insecurities that have nothing to do with the people who become victims all over again just for wanting safety for themselves and their families.

But – and here’s the thing – there is an issue here. Not that there are hordes arriving on our shores to take our jobs and threaten our wimmins, all while turning us into Muslims with their sneaky ways (thank you, Senator Bernardi). The issue is that, no matter what, people are still putting themselves in the hands of criminals who have no interest in preserving life once money has changed hands. And people are dying at sea. Nothing – nothing – has changed that; not relaxing entry requirements, threatening to send people to Malaysia, or actually sending them to Nauru.

So, with that in mind, I took a look at this arrangement between Australian and Papua New Guinea.

Before moving on to discuss the Agreement in detail, let’s start with what it doesn’t mean.

1. Australia has not ‘slammed the door on refugees’, despite the incendiary headlines of today’s Age.

The RRA does not apply to those who are deemed refugees using normal channels, only those who arrive by boat (or who are intercepted on their way here). We still have a humanitarian intake and resettlement, which was increased last year by 6000, with further increases flagged over time.

That this is painfully obvious, and yet apparently ignored by those reporting the story in the media, smacks of nothing more than scare-mongering for the purposes of ratings and profit. It’s completely irresponsible to suggest that this RRA would let to Australia refusing any refugees.

2. The RRA is not a reinstatement of the infamous ‘White Australia’ policy.

Where do I start, with this one? It’s so ridiculous it shouldn’t have to be addressed – yet social media is full of cries to the effect that the RRA constitutes racial profiling, as part of an official policy to deny ‘brown-skinned’ people a place in Australian society. This is nothing more than an assertion – there isn’t a shred of evidence to back it up. In fact, there is good evidence to suggest otherwise.

Under the White Australia policy, would-be immigrants (note: not refugees) who did not conform to a certain ‘Britishness’ (or, at least, northern European Anglophones), were either denied entry altogether, or required to pass prohibitively difficult tests. Some of these tests were deliberately administered in a language unknown to the person seeking entry, virtually guaranteeing that they would fail. The choice of language for these tests was at the discretion of the administering officer.

The abolition of this policy, over time and by both Left and Right leaning governments, is one of Australia’s great achievements. That is absolutely undeniable. But to suggest that the RRA with Papua New Guinea seeks to reinstate it ignores – wilfully ignores – a number of facts.

As mentioned above, we still have a humanitarian refugee intake. Refugees are not immigrants in the usual sense. They are people fleeing unbearable conditions in their own countries, seeking resettlement elsewhere. Determination of refugee status is made according to certain conventions set down by the UN and agreed to by signatories.

Additionally – and surely this should not have to be pointed out – the overwhelming majority of people granted refugee status are not ‘white’ in any sense of the word. Refugees resettled here tend to be Iraqi, Afghani, Somali, or Tamil – and will likely continue to be, until conditions in their home countries change drastically. They are not about to be denied refugee status on the basis of their ethnicity.

3. The RRA is not purely an ‘election quick-fix’ (The Age editorial notwithstanding).

Now, there’s no doubt that this arrangement with Papua New Guinea cuts the legs out from under the Coalition’s stated intentions towards asylum seekers. It is likely to provide some deterrent for those who might otherwise fall prey to people smugglers’ assurances of resettlement and citizenship. (And the Department of Immigration and Citizenship has wasted no time in spreading that message far and wide, with posters popping up all over asylum seeker support pages on Facebook.) It has the advantage of being a signed agreement, rather than a simple, unilateral announcement – and there is detail available, which is more than could be said for former Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s ‘Malaysian Solution’.

That said, all those potential election benefits also have substantial effects. This is not merely a case of trading slogans. It’s arguable that the government is participating in a race to the bottom, but this is nothing new where asylum seekers are concerned. They have been pawns for years now, for all sides of politics. The real issue is policy itself.

So, if the RRA is neither a slammed door nor a new White Australia policy, what is it?

Our Navy and Coast Guard will still patrol for boats, and still escort them to Christmas Island. Asylum seekers who have come by boat will still be held in offshore detention, pending processing. Refugees will be resettled. The difference? Where those refugees – and only those refugees – will end up.

There are, however, real concerns with this agreement.

First, it begs the question of why we need offshore detention in the first place. So-called ‘pull factors’ have never been properly demonstrated. Despite the Coalition’s oft-repeated assertions, there is no proof that the Pacific Solution ‘stopped’ anything. There was a drop in boat arrivals, but in the global context, that is more likely attributable to the situation in home and transit countries. The difference between the Pacific Solution and the RRA is that it absolutely rules out resettlement in Australia. If boats drop in number once the RRA is in place, that may show that having Australia as a destination is, indeed a pull factor.

Second, the state of the Manus detention facility. To put it bluntly, it’s a dump. The housing is temporary, there are pools of stagnant water all over the camp (creating a malaria risk), and as late as July 12 this year, the UNHCR stated that the centre did not meet international standards.

Australia has pledged to spend whatever is necessary to make the permanent facility both up to standard, and able to handle up to 6000 people. And this brings us back to the earlier problem; if we’re prepared to spend that much money (and invest in PNG’s infrastructure) to keep people out of the country, why not spend money to refurbish, expand or even build new centres on the mainland? (Leaving aside, of course, the utterly insupportable decision to excise the mainland from our Migration Zone.)

Rudd’s answer is likely to be that this is a regional issue, deserving of a regional solution. That’s true enough – but is this the best we can do? The government proposes that Australia play the dual roles of bank and conference organiser. Both are undeniably important, but should we be expecting PNG – a country which we will have to prop up financially – to do most of the work for us?

The RRA may well stop boats leaving Indonesia – or, at least, preserve a status quo when it comes to our Navy and Coast Guard. Certainly, it’s nullified the issue where the Coalition is concerned – and the Greens, for all their passion, still have little detail to support them beyond assertions that we should expand our humanitarian refugee intake and restore the family reunion program. Politically, it’s a win. For all the rhetoric, Labor are unlikely to lose many votes with this agreement.

Morally, though? There are real questions that need to be answered, not least of which is: at what point did we decide we would no longer even consider processing boat-borne refugees – any refugees – on our own land?

That’s what is important here. Not hysteria, not deliberately misleading headlines, not hodge-podge rallies responding with the speed of a knee-jerk to a few bullet points.

Asking the right questions. Calmly, implacably, and constantly.

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53 Responses to Going behind the hysteria to examine the PNG deal

  1. JenniferGJ says:

    The coalition’s new plan called Operation Sovereign Borders – Now this really is WRONG. I grew up in an air force family and have been horrified by Tony Abbott’s attitude toward the military. He has an apparent need to identify with them, whilst not understanding the best and the worst of military organizations and their people. We are a tolerant and compassionate country but this could easily change if the wrong people take charge of our government. anyone remember what happened to the Norwegian captain who picked up asylum seekers when John Howard ruled Australia? Dealing with refugees is NOT about borders being sovereign.

    • bazzio101 says:

      Indeed! ~ The crass politicised use and abuse of desperated and disenfranchised people for political posturing must end. Simple common decency demands it. Sabre-rattling toward these unfortunate people by Tony Abbott is nothing other than threatening people who are already down and out with a kick in the guts just for good measure. I for one am certain that a person who would do such a thing does not exist in the ADF, though it appears to be a basic prerequisite for LNP politicians.

  2. Keep the discussion civil, please.

    By all means, I encourage a debate that’s both passionate and substantive; but if it descends to pointless name-callling and flaming, I will moderate, and I’d rather not do that.

    • Peter Patina says:

      You started the attack. I was giving my opinion. Now stop trolling me just because I don’t think like you. I’m not the politicians that wrote this policy. People complained about Howard when he brought in his policy too, but guess what, the boats stopped and so did the deaths. You cannot fix all problems at once, but you can try fix the worst. The worst is people dying at sea. This will fix that and I applaud it.

      • JenniferGJ says:

        When we get past our emotions, and look for more information, the discussion on this site is simply superb. Everyone seems thirsty to find out more and to become a part of the discussion.

  3. Peter Patina says:

    Any objecting to this idea, is just condoning drowning at sea. Let’s be realistic here. 75 percent of boat people are not leaving their country due to persecution, they are financial refugees, meaning they just want to queue jump to get a better life financially. I would rather take true refugees that are starving and are living in danger. These people need or help. You can bet very few of these boat people will end up living in PNG only because they can’t get the easy life (think dole bludgers) here in Australia. Queue jumpers don’t deserve our sympathy. They are not fearing persecution in their own countries so they should not be allowed in our country unless they go through the normal channels. That’s why the channels were set up, to scrutinize who deserves to come or not. I for one will now vote labor because of this sensible idea of stopping the trade in human lives by the mongrels who sell tickets for these death boats. What’s better, people dying at sea, or sipping the boats and saving lives. You bleeding hearts make me sick. You condemn this but you have no fixes for the deaths at sea, so shut up and be happy that labor has found a way to stop people from dying at sea. It’s the best solution so far.

    • holmesr64 says:

      Nice Peter- the ‘if ya’ll not with us, you is agin us’ attack, personified by George W. Bush. Nice, simple- just like you.
      So, what you”re saying is, these (lawful) asylum seekers are not poor enough for you? Too much fat on their bones? Too well shaven? Women not deformed enough? Too many limbs?
      Jeez, what a cheek they have, risking their lives and travelling across multiple countries in hiding, using all their life savings to get a spot on a crowded boat just so they can start a new life financially- WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE!!?
      Peter, you are a waste of our time. Why do you waste your OWN time typing when you obviously have no idea what you’re talking about, and you have not read anything about the issue (because if you had, you would know that most of your statements are simply wrong)?

      • Peter Patina says:

        Get this through your head, there is a finite amount of refugees allowed through our borders each year. Every economic refugee that jumps the queue, means there is one less true refugees that can be saved (operative word here is SAVED) think about that. Do you step over the starving person in the street and walk over to the well dressed man sipping a latte and say, here here, have fifty dollars, have some more latte’s. Your sense of who in this world needs help the most is very skewed. I feel sorry for your friends and family.

      • holmesr64 says:

        So you do actually agree with the premise that the only true refugee is a poor refugee?? That’s funny!
        You’d better go right back to WWII then (just before the Refugee Convention was written as it happens), and tell all those Jews who escaped from Nazi Germany that they aren’t “true” refugees, because the great majority of them weren’t destitute- they were just in fear of persecution and death. Just like those who have had the resources to get to Indonesia and THEN risk their lives on a dangerous boat.
        To be clear, one doesn’t negate the other. The government is NOT taking less of your “true refugees” because of the boat arrivals. And I am all in favour of both being welcomed in.
        Lastly, where most of the boat arrivals are coming from there IS NO QUEUE. So they are not ‘jumping’ a queue that doesn’t exist.
        Look, I haven’t got time to educated you about how our migration system works, but maybe you could do some of your own homework and find out the trruth, because much of what you have said is just wrong.

      • Peter Patina says:

        Economic refugees are not running from persecution you fool. They just want an easier life than what they can get from their country. Going by what you say, we should just let everyone in if they are doing a bit tougher than us. So, let’s let in all the Greeks, cause their economy isn’t add good as ours, and Spain as well. In fact with your mentality, we could have 150 million people move in next week because our economy is better than theirs, and you would be happy with that. Thank god your in the minority. Most people are just happy to stop the senseless deaths at sea. Obviously you want more woman and children to die at sea. Doesn’t matter what you think anyway, no body cares what you have to say. The policy is in whether you like it or not. Boo hoo for you. The boats will stop, death at sea will stop, and as far as most people think, that is good. If you don’t like it, leave this country. Bye

      • holmesr64 says:

        Wow Peter, you obviously know so much about the plight of refugees- I hear Bob Carr is looking for someone to sort the wheat from the chaff. You would be perfect for the job (well you think so)!
        I’ll ignore your ridiculous ‘you want to let the world in!’ comments- ill assume you are smarter than that.
        However. Your claim that nobody cares what I think is plainly wrong- if you’ve read any of the other posts here, I am one of many who cares. I don’t want anybody to drown at sea (not that you care as they are only ‘economic refugees’ remember). But I also care about what happens to those people if and when they choose not to try their luck on a boat, unlike you. Just stopping the boats is a great election slogan to win stupid people’s votes, but stopping the NEED for the boats would be a better long term solution.
        Finally, I love that you invited me to leave this country’! I’ve always wanted someone to say that to me- its a great mark of respect that I’ve gotten under your skin, and an indication that you’ve run out of rational argument. Thanks!

      • Peter Patina says:

        Ok, let’s play your game. How do you think we can rid or planet of starving people, disposed people and economic refugees. What is the silver bullet pray tell. I am interested in what you might come up with, especially since no one in any country at any century on earth has ever succeeded in solving this problem.

      • holmesr64 says:

        Peter, NOBODY is saying Australia must save the planet. This has NOTHING to do with what we are talking about. We are talking about an immediate fix to an immediate problem, along with long term fixes to long term problems. Short term: hire enough planes to bring the 10,000 refugees in Indonesia to Australia. Let them live AND work the community while their claims are being processed (just like all of the asylum seekers who have arrived by plane). They will pay taxes, they will support themselves and they will become Australians, at a FRACTION of the cost of the current system. NOBODY drowns. The govt SAVES money. Everybody is happy.
        I know you think the whole world wants to come and live in Australia, but that is simply not true.

      • Peter Patina says:

        After that ten thousand, there will be another ten thousand and so on and so on. There must be one billion people right now that would love to live in this country than in their own. Did you even think this out. Or are you saying after this ten thousand, we then turn them back.?

      • holmesr64 says:

        Peter you’ve really got tickets on your country which is admirable, but you really need to get a grip- if things were better many refugees would prefer to stay in their country of birth.
        So- long term: we need to work with the countries of origin, and those that they travel through, to make things better, so less of them feel the desperation to escape.

      • Peter Patina says:

        Operative words, if things were better. But they’re not, hence people all over the world tying to move to a better place. If America opened its doors to the Mexicans, there’d be no one left in Mexico. Unfortunately, this problem is bigger than any and all countries to fix. Just saying let those ones in, isn’t going to stop all the other people from trying either. That just too simplistic. We did let them in, and the numbers just kept getting higher. The problem is, there is no answer, period, but we can fix the deaths at sea. This policy will at least do that. It’s not perfect, but at least some lives will be saved until someone somewhere can solve this predicament

      • holmesr64 says:

        Operative word is “if”, hence we and other countries make things better. Peter, it’s a shame you just want to give up and hope someone else will fix it. If all the countries in the world participate then these problems can be fixed. Won’t be easy, but the alternative is worse.

      • Peter Patina says:

        I agree, but governments everywhere can’t agree on anything. If all countries canned there armed forces and spent the money on the problem, it might just fix it, but, there isn’t a government in any country willing to do that. You could also blame capitalism and the endless desire of people and companies to keep making money. It’s sad, but I fear this will never change. This problem will never be solved. Everyone attempted to help out Africa, but nothing has changed. Australia has tried in the past and has even tried to prop up near by countries, but nothing works, so I go back to my original statement and say, at least if the boats can be stopped, lives will be saved, and although that doesn’t seem much, it’s the best we can hope for in the short term. Life will always be hard no matter how much we try. Too many people with too many bad governments and rulers are the curse of this world, and that has never changed all through history.

      • holmesr64 says:

        Peter I admire your thoughtfulness- I certainly get depressed about the same things, but it depends on your perspective. Internationally I agree- it doesn’t seem that anything good is happening. But on the local level, there are so many good things happening all over the world. (Bloody hell, you’ve turned me into an optimist!)
        Hey man, I’m sorry I was rude to you- I understand where you’re coming from, we just see the world from different places.

      • Peter Patina says:

        That’s cool. Sometimes I get hot headed when some can’t see that there is good to this policy. Not much, granted, but saving the lives of innocent men woman and children, is at least a first step in a long journey. My father was polish and had a choice of two boats at the end of the war. One was going to America, the one he got on, was to Australia. I am very aware that the kindness of countries is all important. Australia helped immensely to refugees, and it hurts me to say I’m glad that these boat people won’t be allowed in Australia, but I am thinking only of the lives that will be saved. Once the trade of humans by boat is stopped, I hope Australia can then find a policy that will be of benefit for the refugees, without making them a target for people smugglers. Like I said, little steps.

  4. holmesr64 says:

    I think it’s lovely that you seek to calmly, rationally, respectably analyse the issues behind Rudd’s new policy. Unfortunately, historically lovely and detached really hasn’t gotten us very far (think Nero fiddling while Rome burned).
    Your dissection of blazing headlines is also admirable but the great majority of Australians do actually know something about the issue as it’s been around quite a while. So they know when The Age says “Rudd slams the door on refugees” it means boat arrivals, not refugees through the humanitarian immigration channels. Are you a journalist, or even a politician? Because your claim was obfuscation-of-the-real-issue 101.
    What you failed to analyse was the appalling conditions in PNG, which by almost every standard can be called Third World. Malaria, HIV, cholera is out of control. Infrastructure that is insufficient for its current population, much less refugees who will need a range of extra supports, many of which are non-existent. A good percentage of the population are openly hostile to non-indigenous arrivals, particularly Muslims. The economy is fragile at best, with a good percentage of the population existing on less than $2 per day. Sooo, you didn’t think this was worth calmly, rationally pointing out?
    Lastly, you also failed to analyse that this policy is aimed at doing nothing more than removing boat arrivals from our gaze. As long as Australians don’t see them, think about them, or help them then nothing else matters. That’s why it is framed in extremely simplistic terms. And you accused The Greens’ plan of having little detail!!
    Look I’m sorry for the sarcasm but the time for tiptoeing around the edges and being nice is over. The one good thing Rudd has done is made it crystal clear where he stands- and that is right of the Libs, but in a two-horse race Labor and Liberal are standing together, as witnessed by Arthur Sinodinos defending Bill Shorten and the Labor Government last night on Q&A. The Greens are now clearly the only major political party who has a compassionate perspective on boat arrivals- and their plans are REAL, despite your dismissive remarks. Maybe you should have read them instead of just linking to them.

  5. Rohan says:

    Mate, Tamil is neither a country nor a term ro refer to residents of one, so putting it together in the same sentence along with Afghani, Iraqi is not appropriate. Tamil is a language which is commonly spoken in the south of India, parts of Sri Lanka, Malaysia and is the second official language of Singapore.

  6. Refugee numbers are miniscule compared to the much larger number of work/holiday visa overstayers who are predominantly white, from the UK or USA. Where is the outrage over that? There is none. Instead refugees get relentlessly attacked every single day. How can you POSSIBLY say that’s not racial and keep a straight face? Of course these latest policies are racist -it’s absurd to argue otherwise when understood within the bigger picture.

    I’m glad you’re happy to sit around pondering such thoughtful questions without actually DOING anything, but some of us ACTUALLY care about the plight of human lives which are being destroyed here, all in our name. And we want to get out and actually DO something to try and make that change happen. That’s why everyone who cares about this issue should be getting out on the streets, voicing their disgust, and letting the government know that we wont be going away until this illegal and immoral policy is done away with.

    • JenniferGJ says:

      Voicing your disgust is your right. However, when you say “doing something” I immediately imagined you were spending several hours per week assisting the refugees who are settling here in Australia. What actions are you taking to assist people and would your recommend these useful actions to us please?

      • Well if you really want to know, personally I’m studying applied linguistics. I’ve already done some work on developing better ESL resources and that’s the way I see myself best contributing. Mum spent time teaching English to newly settled refugees when I was younger and I look forward to doing similar things.
        I grew up in a small country town and when we got a heap of new Burmese refugees come in, everyone in the community really got around them -it was great. I thoroughly recommend volunteering if you ever have the chance.

        Right now though, if you want to help out, there are a few things you can do. Firstly, there’s gonna be a massive rally in every capital city this weekend -if you can make it, definitely get out there. There’s also a few petitions going around. Don’t just sign it yourself, get all your family and friends to sign as well, talk to them about the issue -I personally gathered several pages of signatures last Sunday and in the past week I’ve spoken to people across the political spectrum. Also consider ringing/visiting your local member’s office -I’m lucky enough to live not too far from KRudd’s office although he wasn’t there when i went on Monday.

        I’m really passionate about this, which is why I do so much. But don’t stress if you can’t afford so much time. Every little bit helps. 🙂

      • JenniferGJ says:

        Excellent. If most of our young people have your attitude then Australia will be a better place in the future. In the 1970s I studied East Asian civilizations and Chinese at university, followed by a two year student stint in China with nothing to do but look and listen and learn. Because all of this happened after Gough Whitlam got rid of university fees, I naturally feel affection and respect for the decision makers at the top of Australia when I was young. However, in the 1990s decisions were made (by people on both sides of politics) which caused unintended consequences. Young people from China and Taiwan and Hong Kong were suddenly seen as cash cows for our “export of education services”. Let’s hope there will be better decision making in the twenty first century.

  7. Les Thomas says:

    It’s easy to be cool and detached for those sitting back in comfort. This is not a way of “stopping the boats”. It is about the election and humanity if being deliberately disregarded. Australia is becoming an increasingly heartless and selfish place because of terrible political leadership, if it can be called that. Human rights is a universal question and if we don’t stand up for other people’s rights, we’re stupid to think they’ll stand up for us. http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/rudds-hardline-approach-will-be-disastrous-20130721-2qccy.html

  8. jonckher says:

    Great piece.

    It seems to me that the reaction to the new Pacific “solution” can be predicted based on the reactor’s assumption of whether it is “push” or “pull” factors that drive asylum seekers to take the risky sea journey to our shores.

    “Pull” factor believers will either grudgingly or enthusiastically support the new solution. “Push” factor believers will in general be completely aghast because the solution will appear to do nothing more than put another sizeable boot into very vulnerable and already damaged people.

    I am on the fence myself (and it is uncomfortable) and have more or less decided to see if the numbers of sea-arrivals (and deaths) will drop as a result of this “solution”. If it turns out that asylum-seekers will prefer to wait in their current resettlement/processing camps in the transit-countries, then the whole argument about PNG being unfit for human-habitation becomes moot (no one will end up there). And it would seem that the “pull” factor believers were right all along that Australia is actually not a bad place to wait for resettlement/processing when compared to Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand – nice enough that you will risk dying to get here.

    Regardless, the “solution” is only a solution if all you care about is “risky arrivals by sea” – this in itself being one of the massive failures of our level of debate on this regional humanitarian issue.

  9. Julie says:

    Good points to think about and privately determine my own response,. Another article which I found informative AND hopeful eas by Greg Sheridan in The Australian this morning. Yes, yes I know that is News Ltd … which is why Ibring it to your attention. Have a read …http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/dont-demonise-a-sensible-hopeful-plan/story-e6frg76f-1226682802103

  10. The logic of this makes sense to me if Asylum seekers in Indonesia do not want to end up in PNG , they will not get on boats , if they don’t get on boats that means not many will end up in PNG . Hopefully the logic is sound and Asylum seekers would rather wait in Indonesia than end up in PNG . If it worked perfectly there would be no boats leaving Indonesia at all and no people ending up in PNG.

    No boats = no risk of drowning , thats got to be better than the Coalitions idea of towing them back ..with the risk that entails .

    • jaydencordes says:

      Bit hard when the waiting time in Indonesia is 20-30 years. That’s a bloody long time when you’re living in constant fear of being arrested, can’t work and can’t go to school.

  11. richo says:

    Well Said!

  12. […] Going behind the hysteria to examine the PNG deal. […]

  13. lmrh5 says:

    Reblogged this on lmrh5.

  14. denniallen says:

    Excellent article. Thank you.

  15. […] A fine piece examining the detail behind the policy and what it means. […]

  16. Anne Peters says:

    My concerns are for PNG and for the refugees and asylum seekers who end up there. PNG does not have the infrastructure to support those asylum seekers who are accepted as citizens. Most of us as Australians have insufficient knowledge of how PNG works to accurately interpret what this program will mean for PNG and for refugees.

    Throwing money at PNG is certainly NOT going to resolve such issues as traditional land ownership and how this affects the future rights of non PNG citizens. Nor will it provide basic health care; a social security system with income support if needed, or many other aspects of society that Australians take for granted.

    PNG has an intolerably high level of violence, largely aimed at women and children. Large numbers of refugees will be exposed to this with no redress. Laws are out-dated (e.g. homosexuality is still illegal in PNG) and corruption is rife.

    The likelihood of Australia’s money being wisely spent on the refugees is a laughable notion.

    I love PNG – it is the land of my birth and the land of my heart. And I do NOT want to see Australia dumping its political problems in MY country. Nor do I believe Australian politicians have given any thought to the future issues they will be compelled to face if this “solution” is adopted.

    I am a staunch Labor supporter and I sympathise with the need to address the “asylum seeker situation” – particularly in regard o the boats. But I sincerely believe this is NOT the answer. I can only hope that its one possible benefit might be to reduce the number of boats – but I’m not at all sure this will be the case.

    • banksiaman says:

      Precisely Ms P. A wonderful place but with more than enough on its plate. And not a lot of experience at dealing with immigration – other than us…. taking up residence, running businesses… recipe for trouble if this bit of backsliding brinksmanship actually fails to “stop the boats” and PNG finds itself looking at a significant intake.

      Depends what’s on offer in PNG really … lots of opportunities but risky.

  17. Rhondda says:

    The PNG plan, on first flush, looks like it might do what has always been at the core of my concerns – stop people from getting on boats in the first place. Potential asylum seekers are now saying they will stay in Indonesia and go through the proper channels rather than be resettled in PNG. Off-shore processing has not stopped people getting on boats and on-shore processing would be a strong pull factor and increase the numbers of people putting their lives (and that of their children) at risk, to make the hazardous boat journey. The PNG plan has nothing to do with not accepting asylum seekers, it is solely about providing a strong enough disincentive to discourage them from coming by boat. Ideally, the PNG plan will be unacceptable enough, that the numbers to be resettled in PNG will never reach the thousands. Perhaps some of the $s could then go to increasing the processing in the transit countries.

  18. Thanks for going behind the hysteria. It’s so refreshing.

    In semi-answer to your question about the need for offshore processing at all …. I’ve only got some vague recollections, sorry.

    Vague recollection 1: there was something in the Refugee Convention or associated notes warning Australia and Canada (the only nations offering Permanent Residence to refugees at the time) we would be in breach of the Convention if we failed to offer PR to every refugee that made it here.

    Vague recollection 2: I think there’s something in our own Migration Act that invokes an obligatory offer of PR when refugee status is granted to someone who made their asylum claim ‘onshore’ – excising Christmas Island from the ‘Migration Zone’ was an attempt to get around this.

    Hopefully that jogs some memories. I’ll come back with the relevant links if I find them.

  19. There certainly is a lot of knee-jerking from a lot of quarters at the moment.
    The most important thing for all of us to do is to try to watch closely what & how the RRA is implemented, how it affects both the refugees as well as how it affects the good citizens of PNG. The government will need to monitor the whole procedure very closely.
    We here on social media can & should make sure that things are kept accountable. The policy is meant to stop the criminal element of those people who are providing the boats for desperate people who want to make a very dangerous journey to Australia with the hope that they will be able to settle here.
    This policy will make sure that those desperate people will stop making the dangerous journey for a start.
    Secondly, if the demand drops, the business model for the people smugglers will be broken.
    In the mean time, it would be good if the MSM did some proper investigative journalism for a change & tried to find out who these creeps are that are making their livings out of ‘human cargo’.
    I have read somewhere that the RRA could well help the economy of PNG. I jolly well hope so & that the good citizens of PNG can stretch out welcoming arms to the refugees. I wish that it could have been that Australia could have done exactly that (we have tried & failed).
    The fact that the LNP have made the whole asylum seeker/refugee things such a poison challis is something that cannot be forgiven or should be forgotten. They alone, are the ones that have perpetuated the fear surrounding this issue. The Labor Party have wanted to do the right thing all along, but have been totally ham-strung because of the policies that John Howard introduced. The 3 word slogan of ‘stop the boats’ is abhorrent but it has been very effectively used to keep the general public of Australia full of fear. Fear of what, I must ask. The whole issue has got well and truly out of hand & now has had the need to take a completely new path.
    I hope that this will work. I hope that there will be a bigger solution sought for this problem one that the whole of our Asian neighbors can get to participate in.

  20. This’ll probably work… depending on what you mean by “work”… politically here – in the titanic struggle between Barnaby Joyce and the forces of reason, yep… but in doing something interesting to PNG? In doing something to help desperate folks – not a lot. In sending a signal to the world that we can all be bastards now – you bet!

    Now I’m not sure what Moresby will look like in a few years time – it’s not too good now actually… not really up to managing its internal pressures let alone picking up the weight on this global issue. Hopefully we’ll be attaching a decent whack of money for each and every refugee accepted.

    But we are less than we were 10 years ago. Less innocent. Less caring. Less moral. More selfish and less interested in acting legally and morally. This country needs a good hot shower.

  21. Heath Graham says:

    Amen to that. I will confess to being quite horrified by this decision, but I hadn’t heard some of those more ridiculous comments.

  22. Bazzio101 says:

    The grubs selling desperate people transport to Oz are selling tickets to nowhere from now on. Waiting for the Indonesians to act on people traffickers was like waiting for Santa Clause.

  23. JenniferGJ says:

    Of course, the first reaction in my home was the hope that the PNG facilities were going to be upgraded very quickly and that those seeking asylum would be better treated than many have feared. This should not be left up to the religious charities, though people do feel very much that they can do something to make a difference – by stepping in to assist in a limited fashion or by raising money for those in need.

  24. JenniferGJ says:

    I think the gamble is that there will not be large groups of such refugees needing to be resettled in PNG. We individuals can watch the situation week by week. There are channels to express our concerns if we think they have missed something or have got any part of it wrong. We should use those opportunities and channels “calmly, implacably and constantly”.

  25. JenniferGJ says:

    I am so pleased to read this. Some very capable people who are now retired have privately expressed horror at the announcement. My reaction was to wonder where they were getting their news of the policy and the agreement. Thank you again.

  26. glengyron says:

    There are other regional agreements operating in the world, most notably in Africa which has an asylum seeker problem on a scale far exceeding our own (hundreds of thousands).

    However, the problem with our agreement is the extent to which we can actually, in good faith, say we’re upholding article 33 of the UN Convention on Refugees:

    1. No Contracting State shall expel or return (“refouler”) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

    The current Pacific Solution gets around this by saying that the Asylum Seekers are only being held in other territories for ‘processing’ before resettlement.

    Obviously this new PNG Solution is different. The Asylum Seekers will be removed from Australia to PNG to remain if they’re determined to be refugees.

    The only way this can be acceptable is if we’re convinced that they’re not going to suffer persecution in PNG.

    PNG is a very volatile nation when it comes to race related issues. In May 2009 there were significant anti-Asian riots across the country.

    Can we honestly claim that large groups of Muslim or Hindu refugees will not face fear and intimidation in PNG?

    I don’t think so.

    • You’ve raised a good point, and one that hasn’t been addressed in the media. There’s been a lot of talk about PNG’s crime rate, but not in relation to possible racial problems.

      That’s another question that should be put to the people behind this plan – how do they plan to combat this potential issue?

      Perhaps the proposed infrastructure spending is supposed to offset social problems – but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

      • bazzio101 says:

        Oz under Gillard approved extra aid to PNG for for hospitals, medication, & policing if memory serves me correctly. And, as your last article pointed out, if the press had reported fairly and responsibly, the Oz public would be more aware as well as better informed, rather than being politically manipulated by the dysfunctional Murdoch press.

    • Sam says:

      That is a good point. But I’d counter by asking if we can honestly claim that large groups of Muslim or Hindu refugees will not face fear and intimidation in Australia? Xenophobia isn’t a problem restricted to PNG.

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