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Showing posts with the label refugees

Don't go there, Europe

Another boat, carrying hundreds of people, sinks. The second in a week. Though none of them really want to welcome or deal with these migrants, politicians recognise they have to do something. Existing policies were supposed to deter people from trying to make this fatal crossing, but they've failed. So solemn statements are issued, emergency sessions scheduled, while people scramble to figure out what needs to be done.

It's April 2015, in Europe. But it could be the end of June 2012, in Australia, the month we cracked once and for all. Two boats sank off Christmas Island, and the spectre of more drownings forced action. We had detention centres. We had frozen asylum applications from war-torn, repressive countries. This was supposed to make a difference, but apparently it didn't, because - in the Coalition's vile phrase - there was still "sugar on the table". Back to 'offshore processing': taking these people, putting them somewhere else, to be locked…

Who is Gillian Triggs anyway?

That is the question that might well have been on people's lips for the last couple of weeks, in a not-that-wacky alternative universe. There was no need for the release of the Human Rights Commission's report on children in detention to be even vaguely difficult for the government to handle. But the Coalition has somehow contrived to turn the release of a critical but eminently manageable report into a full-blown political disaster and an investigation by the Australian Federal Police.

Put aside, for the moment, the morality and culpability of various people embroiled in this dispute. For the record, my own view is this: Gillian Triggs did handle this report in a slightly strange way, and that's probably not unrelated to the fact that her political sympathies are closer to the ALP than the Liberal Party. That doesn't make any difference to the merits of the report or the importance of responding to it rather than slandering its author, and trying to convince an indepe…

Three travesties: this week in Australian government

Here is Joe Hockey, on the BBC, lying baldly.

That may be a bit harsh. Unless he's an extremely good liar, he doesn't seem to show any signs that he knows what he's saying is untrue at all. This is not complicated stuff. I learned in Year 9 geography that Australia was among the largest per capita emitters of greenhouse gases in the world. That has not changed. You can look at the statistics here.

The Treasurer didn't actually dispute those statistics, of course. He just said they were "misleading", because they failed to take into account some important fact about Australia's economy. He didn't really say what that important fact was: maybe something to do with the cleanness of our coal, or that we have a lot of land. He was most excitable about the fact that Australia exports energy to the region; but that is irrelevant, because the statistics don't count Australian resources used overseas towards Australia's emissions, as Hockey seemed to b…

Scott Morrison In 'Basically A Racist' Shock

Well, this happened. My mum went into a spin last night when she first heard about it. Initially I thought she was being a bit unreasonable. But having read about it this morning, I can confidently say that the Coalition's new policy is nonsensical and xenophobic.

Here's what's happening: Julia Gillard last year announced the Houston Review, in classic get-the-military-involved-in-refugee-policy style. The end result of that review was that there should be a "no advantage" policy, under which coming to Australia would not get you settled any more quickly than waiting in a UNHCR camp. So there are quite a lot of people in Australia who basically aren't getting their claims processed, in order that they don't get any advantage. These people arrived over the last year, before Rudd's policy switch. They are now here. Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott are now saying that they will never get permanently settled in the country.

"I will be very clear of one thing, this party and this government will not be lurching to the right on the question of asylum seekers."

For a couple of years, I've - quietly, privately - wished that refugee politics would just go away. Not that the refugees would, but that a toxic issue and the poisonous conversation around it would cease to be live and important on Australia's political stage. That, given the apparent impossibility of a genuinely humane policy, the ALP would stop trying to win votes by outfoxing Tony Abbott - Malaysia, Manus, Angus Houston - pass something close to what he demanded, and take the issue off the table. This would not be a victory for asylum seekers, but there didn't seem to be any victory in sight for them, and there were and are plenty of other reasons not to want Tony Abbott to cruise into the Lodge.

This was not an optimistic hope. It seemed, desperately sadly, to be the best we could anticipate. Even that hope has been violently, utterly dashed.

Briefly, I thought Kevin Rudd might get us there. Suggesting that Tony Abbott's policy might lead to conflict with Indonesi…