I read two articles relating to asylum seekers today. The first by Jonathan Green on ABC’s The Drum, titled Australia’s political heartland: hate, fear, prejudice. The other article was the complete opposite: Violent asylum seekers out on the streets, says insider, published in The Age. The truth is probably somewhere in between. I have no doubt the whistleblower is on song when he says:

… he was speaking out because the department has created a ”toxic environment” where people blamed each other and outsiders such as staff from Serco and there was no real leadership.

”Just because you have run a passport office . . . doesn’t mean you can run a high security detention centre,” he said.

It reminds me of a conversation I had earlier today about people in this day and age being reluctant to accept responsibility. Let’s all just blame someone else, shall we? It is a social disease and I have no doubt it also infects our government departments, especially one under such pressure. There is no denying DIAC is under an immense amount of pressure. Why? Because the problem the department faces is a political football and true leadership and solutions are not forthcoming.

The bottom line is, the current situation IS NOT working. When I say that, I am often asked, “What solution do you suggest then?” In some respects, this is a fair enough question, given I am saying the current situation isn’t working. In other respects it is not a fair question of me, as I am not an expert in the field, such as those who formed the expert panel. I am merely the wife of someone who was an asylum seeker. Despite my lack of field experience, I think I can apply a little logic.

We also have a lot of noise at the moment about rorting of 457 visas. I do not see a difference between some “agent” charging $40,000 for a 457 visa and a people smuggler. All one and the same to me, I’m afraid.

The world has a massive number of displaced people. That is accepted by all, I understand. The detention system is costing the arms and legs of a nation to run, so we are told, and some companies are making an awful lot of money, taxpayers’ money, to run these things.  This is not investment, it is flushing money down the proverbial drain. There is NO return on investment here for the taxpayer dollar.

Let us take a completely different approach.

  • Cancel the 457 visa scheme altogether (or at least reduce considerably).
  • Close the very expensive detention centres – (short term housing only required for the security checking and processing period)
  • INVEST the funds saved to put the asylum seekers, once accepted as refugees and granted permanent residency, through training courses.
    • English Proficiency Training – to ensure other training is effective
    • Cultural Awareness Training – to ensure integration
    • Occupational Training – to enable employment
  • Employ the refugees.
  • INVEST money in working with the United Nations to develop a new Refugee Convention that caters for today’s global environment.
  • INVEST more money in stopping the people smugglers.

Let us understand this once and for all. No matter what is hoped, desired, argued, debated: there is NO magic stopping the boats. It is not going to happen UNLESS we stop the people smugglers. We are penalising the wrong people at the moment. While we penalise the asylum seekers, the people smugglers will continue to ply their trade. Stopping them needs greater cash investments which we can’t afford because we are wasting too much money on penalising the innocent. Even if we stop the people smugglers, boats will still come. The first boat that ever sailed here with asylum seekers on board was not a people smuggler boat. It was just young men desperate for a safe haven.

Refugees Waiting For Food

Refugees Waiting For Food (Photo credit: Mennonite Church USA Archives)

Yesterday, someone likened stopping the people smugglers to the drug trade. There is NO similarity. The drug trade is based on supply and demand. Kill the demand, the supply goes elsewhere. Asylum seekers is not a supply and demand situation as much as some may like to think of it that way (hence the deterrent approach). Remember back to the gas chambers of Nazi Germany. Those people would have fled anywhere they could have. HOW MANY WERE SMUGGLED TO FREEDOM? Drugs are a luxury item, our lives are not.

Innovation is what is needed here. New ideas for a new time. As I write this I am reminded of watching Cory Bernardi on Q and A about renewable energy. Oh, heavens, we couldn’t possibly stop pulling resources out of the ground because it might upset our current economy. Frankly, Cory, preserving the current economy will be a waste of time of the earth implodes because we dragged all the stuffing (oil, iron, etc) out of it. His short-sightedness and lack of innovative thought stunned me. He doesn’t look that old, really, so I wonder how and why he so lacks innovative thought.

We are attacking the asylum seeker problem from the wrong premise: that if we spout this “no advantage” nonsense loudly enough and long enough, asylum seekers will stop coming. It isn’t happening and Abbott doesn’t have a magic wand to make it happen either, so if you think a change of government is going to solve the problem, it isn’t. This isn’t something the Australian government has any control over and will never have any control over, unless we take control of all the trouble spots of the world. I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Australians also need to stop assuming asylum seekers have to be poor to be genuine. Utter nonsense. Some damn well might be by the time they get here, but there isn’t a rule that people have to be poor to be subjected to persecution.

Let’s have a little innovation. That might just stop the boats. It’s worth a try. Remember, the wheel is really a very simple object, but such an innovation.

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14 comments on “STOP THE BOATS

  1. […] When I decry our treatment of asylum seekers I am often asked for solutions. Here is one I prepared earlier, in case you were wondering: STOP THE BOATS. […]


  2. Sad fact is there is political mileage in refugees and boats and asylum seekers. No real thought is given to removing the conditions that make people flee their home countries to go somewhere to feel safe. Corruption at the highest level (think Karzai in Afghanistan) ensures that status quo. Instead of bombing and shooting the shit out of a country some investment in empowering the country would reap a greater reward. Just think of it as an ounce of prevention being infinitely more beneficial than a ton of “cure”. equality in rights, income, security and opportunities drives the refugee cycle, till those parameters are met, there will be people with reason to move for fear of persecution and intimidation etc…take away the reason for having to move and you will have a solution to the “problem”. Hard yards for sure but to do nothing or keep doing what we are is just insane.


  3. Robyn, once again you have given this asylum seeker problem a lot of thought.

    If we can get the ALP across the line perhaps they will be open to hearing possible solutions from people who care about people who generally make excellent citizens, once they have passed all the ID checks etc.

    There will always be the need for somewhere to process these desperate people, while checking health etc. and you are right, it is such a waste of money. But while the detention centers are run by private enterprise, they will always cost the tax payer a lot more than if they were gov. run. How cynical is that thought.


    • When I spoke of closing the detention centres, I didn’t mean those required for SHORT TERM detention while security checks are done, I meant this massive explosion in costs while we house people for 5 years under the “no advantage” rule.

      We get absolutely NO return on our investment and in many cases the profits are going to overseas companies. At least with education and building a workforce we get active participants in society – that is, a return on our investment.

      I find it extremely short-sighted to say “Oh, we’ll just lock ’em up for 5 years, that’ll keep the others away.” Totally ineffective (as we have seen), punitive, a waste of money and most importantly a waste of innocent lives.

      what hasn’t been considered, at least not in any of the media I have read, is this: locking people up for 5 years seem to me to be a grand way to develop home-grown disaffected residents.


  4. http://berlioz1935.wordpress.com/

    Berlioz aka Peter just published a fictional story about boat people. Please, have a look!


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