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The Forum > Article Comments > Human cargo > Comments

Human cargo : Comments

By Philippe Legrain, published 2/5/2007

Deterring people who dare to cross the world in search of a better life from heading Down Under is everything.

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Bravo, Philippe. I didn't think Howard could bring us any lower, but this abhorrent policy does just that. And shame on the ALP for not standing up more strongly against Australia's treatment of refugees in the past decade. I have never been more ashamed to be part of this society.

Thanks for an eloquent indictment of the worst government this country has ever had.

Emma.

PS: I can highly recommend Philippe's book "Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them".
Posted by Emma Dawson, Wednesday, 2 May 2007 9:49:12 AM
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"Australia's treatment of asylum seekers has long been shockingly inhumane."

Now there's a subjective comment. Once upon a time, anyone making such a claim would be called upon to explain how they came by that opinion. More correctly, they would explain their reasons for holding such an opinion in the next paragraph without being asked. But not any more! People can say whatever they like, and they couldn't care less about the truth, or otherwise, of their statements.

Not only are so-called journalists and writers like this one unable to use their own language with any competence, they also expect to be paid for the priviledge of bandying their own opinions about.

Take the assertion that people are treated as "chattel". Unless he has made a typo and means "cattle", he is referring to people plural as a noun singular.

But little Philippe's real intention, of course, is not to demonstrate journalistic prowess or even handed integrity, but to incense us against the Coalition Government with regard to swapping, with other countries, captured illegals whom we've caught trying to enter the country by the sneaky method.

Well, I too think the whole idea is ridiculous. Why swap some Sri Lankans we don't want for some Cubans from America who don't even remotely belong in our region? Because John Howard has lost the plot. He is a faltering left-wing pansy who should have handed the job over to Peter Costello two years ago.

Nobody has the right to to "cross the world in search of a better life", as our boy reporter thinks, and expect to be allowed into any country they choose. What has a "better life" got to do with genuine asylum-seeking? Nothing.

Illegals are nothing at all like those "millions of Britons who have moved to Australia in recent decades". They were needed and invited. They came legally, fully documented.

And, from the author's own admission, we see that the ALP is quite happy with the current situation and would do much the same thing.

Time to give up, boy.
Posted by Leigh, Wednesday, 2 May 2007 11:23:30 AM
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Pro-asylum shopper advocates are highly dishonest, so it's mildly refreshing to hear one admit it's extremely difficult to determine a real refugee from an economic migrant. That's probably why most of those who apply to the UN for asylum in Indonesia (as opposed to launching a boat towards soft-touch Australia) are rejected.

So why persist with this nonsense that we can let in anyone who comes here claiming to be a refugee and even more absurdly, let them stay permanently!?

There are hundreds of millions of very poor people across the world who could justifiably claim they want to come to Australia for a better life. Either we give them all a visa or we don't. It's morally untenable to argue we should only let in those who have the means to get to Australia.

The refugee convention was a document of its time but in the age of cheap flights, where travelling a vast distance is no longer evidence of desperation, it is completely flawed. We need to tear it up and start again.
Posted by grn, Wednesday, 2 May 2007 11:36:03 AM
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Well argued, Philippe and spot on Emma. I too am very disappointed in Tony Burke's failure to condemn the Howard Government's actions as abhorrent and inhumane. This bizarre swap idea is counter-productive, Burke is right, and the whole Howard approach is costing unnecessary billions of dollars, as he is also correct to point out. But where is the Opposition voice to rail against the moral bankruptcy of this government's treatment of asylum seekers and the way it has trashed Australia's once proud reputation as a generous and decent nation? Where is Kevin Rudd's voice on this? I don't think I've heard the word refugee or asylum seeker pass his lips yet. But then again posts like those above remind you that sadly our Opposition these days has to pander to ignorance and racism if it wants to win government. I agree, Emma, I am ashamed to be Australian at the moment. I'm also ashamed at the as-of-right way wealthy countries plunder the world's resources with little or no care for the communites they destroy along the way. We are all implicated in this exploitation whether we want to be or not and we all have a duty to ameliorate its damage on the vulnerable people it displaces. When refugees land in desperation on our doorstep, turning them away or shipping them onto someone else is not an option that civilised countries should even contemplate.
Posted by Bronwyn, Wednesday, 2 May 2007 1:32:01 PM
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Philippe Legrain is just so totally on the wrong track. Not the slightest attempt to express any sort of balance. Talk about end-of-the-spectrum claptrap!

Principle 1 any country has the right to control the movement of people inwards across its borders. It is crazy to tolerate anything more than a tiny trickle of people outside of formal immigration policy.

2 There is certainly a massive desire amongst many millions of people to come to Australia. They would if they could, as they had started to do in great numbers at the time of the Tampa incident in August 2001.

3 A strong border-protection policy is vital. This has to be done with the best standard of treatment exercised in balance with a strong deterrence factor. Striking that balance is the hard bit. Im no fan of Howard, but I think he got it pretty close to right.

4 If the developing influx in August 2001 had ensued, the attitude of the Australian people towards asylum seekers would have quickly hardened, and their subsequent treatment would no doubt have been much harsher, with a far smaller proportion of them being granted residence.

5 Australia cannot help solve the overpopulation or refugee problems by accepting large numbers of people. We need to do our bit in a totally different manner, predominantly by addressing the causes of the issues at their sources via international aid programs.

6 At this point in time, Australia desperately needs to gear itself towards a balance between the demand on its varied resource base and the ability for the weakest part of our essential resource base to cater for the demand, in an ongoing manner. Population stabilisation is an essential part of this redirection towards sustainability. We simply cannot afford to facilitate a large influx of people any longer, by either asylum-seeker or formal immigration routes.

This is the shortest article I have seen on OLO. It is certainly in keeping with the terribly poorly thought-out simplistic opinion of Mr Legrain.
Posted by Ludwig, Wednesday, 2 May 2007 1:41:11 PM
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Leigh and grn, How much longer do you think we can put up the barriers and keep the 'unwanted" out? Years? Decades? Centuries? What level of resentment will build up as a result? What in particular about the erosion of goodwill in our own region as we send asylum seekers back to struggling island nations like Indonesia and West Papua, who are not Refugee Convention signatories and have no obligation or capacity to help? Economic refugees or refugees fleeing war - the distinction will become more and more meaningless in years to come when millions more are displaced due to climate change. Once again, the poor will suffer because of the excesses of the rich. As a comparitively wealthy country, we have an obligation to assist where we can. We are only talking a few thousand refugees who, as pointed out by Andrew Bartlett in another article today, will be a net financial gain to Australia not a drain. I know population is an issue (No doubt Ludwig's out there ready to pounce!) but we are not talking large numbers. It's about doing our bit as responsible global citizens, not opening the floodgates as we've been brainwashed to believe. And by the way, people who sell all they own for one family member to travel thousands of miles in an overcrowded and unseaworthy boat to an unknown destination are indeed desperate. Another by the way, the word Chattel was used correctly.
Posted by Bronwyn, Wednesday, 2 May 2007 1:54:13 PM
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