How about them asylum seekers, eh?

So. Julia Gillard’s asylum seeker policy. This is a hard post to write because we don’t know all – many – details yet, but that doesn’t stop me banging on about how rubbish Tony Abbott’s policies are.

If you haven’t read Gillard’s speech, I encourage you to do so. It’s very interesting.

Now, I know she’s not after my vote. As an educated, small-l liberal feminist, I’d sooner slice my own nipples off than vote for Tony Abbott. Gillard knows this. She knows that I know that asylum seekers who risk their lives to get here by boat are almost always found to be refugees. She knows that I know that there’s no “queue” in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan because there’s no consular presence. She knows that I know that asylum seekers who arrive by plane aren’t locked up like those who arrive by boat. She knows that I know that you can’t get on a plane without a passport, and many of the countries that asylum seekers come from won’t issue passports to their citizens because they’ll flee. She knows that I know that many people found to be refugees by the UNHCR wait for years and years in camps where they can’t work and their children can’t go to school, until some rich country decides to throw them some scraps.

Yet when Gillard says “let’s have a frank, open, honest national conversation on the issues of border protection and asylum seekers”, then I do expect her to be honest. One look at the newspaper headlines and comments on websites on ANY asylum seeker story over the last few years and it’s pretty fucking clear that the “national conversation” has not been honest at all. It has been dominated by those who think “blow up the boats” and “they come here and take our jobs and get on welfare” (at the same time?) are reasonable things to say. Surely a true leader would be honest about the asylum seeker myths and use the knowledge they have to educate the nation about what is real and what is false. Oh, wait. Australian politics doesn’t work like that.

So. The East Timor Solution. The involvement of the UNHCR is a good thing. But my question is this: Is the “regional processing centre” only for people picked up at sea, or can anyone just rock up and start being “processed”? Because the former is just the Pacific Solution (bad bad bad). But the latter could be less completely shit. But we would have to pull our international weight and take more refugees and take them quickly.

Last year there were 6500 asylum claims lodged in Australia. In the EU, there were 25,000 and in the US and Canada, 82,000. I’m sure they would love to have our asylum seeker “problem”.

I’m a bleeding-heart lefty. Any asylum seeker policy from Labor or Liberal will not make me happy. But this one could be not terrible. I hope I don’t regret saying that, but I suspect I will.

9 responses to “How about them asylum seekers, eh?

  1. Nipples,

    Bernard Keane at Crikey has written an interesting piece on Julia’s speech.

    At the risk of a long cut and paste job, here is an extract….

    Julia Gillard is already showing that she can effortlessly match Howard in her capacity to articulate mainstream concerns.

    Like Howard, she cannily played the free speech card. The idea that Australians were somehow holding back in their views on asylum seekers, constrained by vague notions of what was politically correct, is no more true now than it was in the mid-1990s when John Howard cast himself as the liberator of Australians’ right to express themselves however they liked.

    Nevertheless, it’s always a good look to portray yourself in such a light, even if the mainstream media in this country works to ensure that views that might actually jar with conventional narratives are kept tightly under wraps.

    That wasn’t the only straw man set up to be knocked down by Julia Gillard. In fact she started yesterday with two of them, in effect declaring her intention to set her course through the middle between the two poles of the asylum seeker debate, Julian Burnside’s contempt for ordinary voters and Tony Abbott’s indecency and “evil”.

    Both, she suggested, were unAustralian — Burnside in labelling his fellow-Australians as racists, Abbott for in effect suggesting we let women and children drown, or at least endanger our Defence personnel, as part of a “turn back the boats” policy. “Our nation would not leave children to drown,” Gillard said, presumably contrasting us with other countries where children would indeed be left to drown. “We are Australians and our values will never allow us to embrace this kind of evil.”

    To the extent that she has caught Tony Abbott out in his absurd claim that he would turn back the boats — albeit with the giant asterisk “where possible” — Gillard was correct to emphasise the point, but her real intention was to lock herself into the middle of the mainstream and portray her political opponents — her literal opponent in Abbott, and her opponents on the Left in the form of Burnside — as raving, unAustralian extremists, who lack legitimacy in national debate.

    • It is true. She did present herself as being right down the middle. But, it has to be said, the middle view has been missing for a while – we’ve just had the extreme left and the extreme right, and while both of those points deserve to be heard, that shouldn’t be all that’s heard.

      I found it interesting that the mainstream media didn’t make much of her slapdown of Abbott. Just the East Timor Solution. Because I guess publicising her slapdown of the myths means the MSM can’t keep playing on them. Or is that just me being a cynical bitch?

      • Oh you probably are a cynical bitch, but that aside, I think Julia has been very successful in showing up Tony Abbott for the rabid attack dog that he is, with her measured, reasonable approach to the whole issue.

        Tony has underestimated Julia’s capabilities I think, and he really is starting to look more and more like he’s losing the plot.

        • I think it was unfair of Burnside to call people with anti-asylum seeker views “rednecks”. People hold those views for all sorts of reasons – fear, or ignorance, or greed (“those people get all sorts of Centrelink benefits”, when it’s only about 3% of people on humanitarian visas who receive any Centrelink money), or racism, or generally being mean-spirited people. And of course, we’ve had a government and media telling us for the last ten years that asylum seekers = terrorists (not to mention Muslims = terrorists). But insulting them with the “redneck” tag just means they’ll dismiss what he says. After all, would you listen with an open mind to someone after they insulted you? When people come on here and insult me, I tend to give them what for. And then stop publishing their comments.

          • Burnside clarified his reported comments today with the news that (surprise!) some important context had been left out – the people he referred to as rednecks were the very few who are proposing vigilante shoot the boats out of the water rubbish, not just people who think we are being too generous to asylum seekers.

            That strikes me as far more in line with his various statements over the years than the widely-reported supposedly generalist slur, frankly.

            • Hi tigtog, welcome to the Nipples. I’m glad you pointed that out, because I was surprised that he was just flinging around the “redneck” label. Seemed out of character but I assumed it was because he was really frustrated with the state of the “national conversation”.

              I should clarify my own post above – I think it’s pretty sad that the best I can say about Gillard’s proposal is that it’s not as completely shit as anything the Liberals have and would propose. I think we should go into some of these refugee camps in south east Asia and say, ‘oh, 10,000 of you have been given refugee status by the UN? Ok then, let’s get you settled in Australia’.

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  3. I’m neither right nor left (and I suspect that’s true of Ms Julia too). I’d appreciate that opportunity to express my middle of the road, fence sitting opinions on this and many other subjects. And I really, really hope she’s successful in dumping all the PC bullshit we have to deal with in this country. Can’t stand it.

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