Kevin Rudd's Address To The Nation

"People who come by boat now have no prospect of being resettled in Australia"

"If you come by boat you will never perminantly live in Australia"

"But my message to asylum seekers around the world is simple: under the arrangement with Papua New Guinea, if you come here by boat, you'll be sent to Papua New Guinea"

The Hon. Kevin Rudd

Interview with PNG MP (ABC)

"I think the way I read it is that we're going to be looking at processing them and moving them off to another country. I don't think that Papua New Guinea will be handling them."

Ronnie Knight - Manus MP

Manus Whistleblower (SBS)

Stopping the Boats

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Today we have a very special blog entry. And I'll fully immerse you into the government's message of propaganda!

Dear: asylum seekers, Fuck Off! Go and live in a 3rd world country. Love, K. Rudd

For my abroad readers, the background image of this page is the Government's propaganda ad being published around Australia in papers starting from Saturday 20/07/2013 to promote their new border protection policy.

You can see Rudd's Friday (19/07/2013) address over to the right there. Rudd's message is very clear: "People who come here by boat Will now never be accepted into Australia." Did you notice that he didn't actually say anything about visa's in his speech.

We'll start by addressing what the issues are with refugees and border protection, and then I'll offer some real solutions at the end. Hopefully by the end of my entry you will know a bit more about this topic. I think if the Government spent a bit of time actually talking about the real issues, instead of using labels like "queue jumpers" and "boat people" we may have a better understanding as a whole on these issues.

The world presently has a large number of people fleeing from Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries and seeking asylum in other countries. Australia accepts very few refugees globally speaking, and most come trough off-shore processing (eg from applications made by refugees in camps). Also, migrants to Australia have to apply for permanent residency from their home countries. So for this reason the "boat people" have often, and unfortunately, been called "queue-jumpers".

Let me make this clear: the problem for us isn't accepting refugees. We do accept limited numbers of refugees. However the Australian policy, and one that is utterly contemptible, links the number of refugees we accept each year both on-shore and off-shore. We are the only country in the world that does this. In other words, if somebody arrives here in a boat and applies for asylum they literally "jump the queue" because of our policy, and one less application will be looked at from off-shore applicants that are waiting in refugee camps to be settled into other countries. No other country caps their offshore intake by deducting the "queue jumpers" the way we do.

Let me make this even more clear: In 2010-2011, our quota (set by the government) was 13,000. We accepted 4,828 people that arrived by boat, and 8,971 people off-shore. So that's 4,828 more off-shore applications that could have been looked at.

The vast majority of boats arriving in Australia with refugees on board come from Indonesia, and sail directly for Christmas Island. Christmas Island is just 220 miles south of Indonesia - yet it is close to 1,000 miles from the Australian mainland. The boats are usually overcrowded fishing vessels, and they sometimes sink, drowning refugees. So this is a humanitarian problem.

Sometimes, though, boats actually do arrive all the way from the country that the refugees are fleeing from, and we should absolutely not be targeting those boats with this new policy.

Also, it is very expensive to process people who arrive by boats. It has cost us around $1 billion a year, and would have continued to cost that same amount over the next four years. That's around $20,000 a person, or $1.4 million per boat.

There is also a criminal element of "people smuggling" from Indonesia, and this too needs to be addressed.

So far, most of our policies have been "deterrents" - eg mandatory detention, and off-shore processing. They worked as deterrents in the past, but no longer work as deterrents because asylum seekers know that once found to be refugees we have to accept them into Australia. Rudd's new policy, will act as a strong deterrent for boats leaving from Indonesia, as did the old policies. However, It doesn't address the problem at the source (Indonesia), and it is an obscene way to treat our obligations under the Refugee Convention, to fob them off to a 3rd world country. Frankly it's detestable.

Are there better solutions? I believe so. We want to stop the boats arriving from Indonesia, not stop accepting refugees. So what follows are my ideas as a strong solution to this problem, while accepting our humanitarian obligations.

First, scrap mandatory detention altogether. It's outrageously expensive, and offers no real benefits to us or to the asylum seekers.

Second, make it much easier for refugees to apply for asylum from Indonesia before they leave on a boat.

Third, turn boats back to Indonesia, and boats that do arrive should be sent to Papua New Guinea, where refugees will not be held in detention but will be given the opportunity to apply for asylum there in exactly the same way that they could have applied from Indonesia. This effectively removes any benefit of coming on a boat since your application has to be made in the same way.

Rudd's policy doesn't address most of the issues, and worst of all it is a dreadful response to the asylum seekers. We wouldn't have this problem if it was easier and safer for asylum seekers to apply for asylum from Indonesia before coming on a boat.

The government ad you see in the background is obscene and offensive. It doesn't inform would-be refugees as to how they can legitimately apply for asylum in Australia, and secondly it is printed in Australian newspapers as "free" political advertising for the upcoming election - and that should concern everyone. The government has no right to spend taxpayer dollars for election ads. And I think it just proves that this policy is designed for political gain more than it is anything else, why else would you need to run propaganda ads to try and convince the public that your policy is right?

I know I don't have all the answers on this issue, but I am sure that there is a better way than this. And it's about time that our leaders started showing some real leadership on this issue, instead of trying to appease voters by addressing only a fraction of the problem.