Government backflip on asylum policy

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Following an independent report on asylum seekers, produced by an expert panel, the Government has decided to adopt all 22 recommendations and will today aim to reintroduce its migration bill to Parliament.

The expert panel was put together following the recent spate of asylum boats getting into trouble off the coast of Australia. It was tasked with coming up with a solution for a safer and faster option for processing asylum seekers. The main recommendation of the panel, led by former Defence Chief Angus Houston, is that asylum seekers should be processed on Manus Island and Nauru. It has also been recommended that the Malaysian people swap should be built on further. Removing the family reunion concession for people who arrive by boat, as well as stopping onshore processing where possible, should see a reduction in the number of people jumping on boats to reach Australia.

Julia Gillard also agreed in principle with a recommendation to increase the humanitarian intake from 13750 to 20,000 people per year. In order to reach an agreement on the way in which Australia processes asylum seekers, the Government is prepared to be more flexible on its position.

However, it won’t be all plain sailing for the Government’s migration bill, with the Greens rejecting the offshore processing recommendations and the Coalition yet to respond.

Read the full story at

Time for action

Former Defence Chief Angus Houston and the panel of experts, which was tasked with recommending solutions to Australia’s asylum seeker issue, have delivered a report which will hopefully see an end to unnecessary death at sea for the poor unfortunates who seek refuge. The members of the independent panel were “deeply concerned” about the loss of life at sea and have sought solutions which are “hard-headed but not hard-hearted”.

For my mind, the recommendations seem to be on the money. Sure, they are tough and they are not perfect, but if adopted and implemented, they would provide Australia with a much better framework to help those desperately in need. The panel has adopted a “no-advantage” principle “whereby irregular migrants gain no benefit by choosing to circumvent regular migration mechanisms”. Surely this is what most people want? No body wants to see anyone who has a genuine cause for seeking asylum simply sent back to where they have fled from, but neither do they wish to see an advantage given to anyone who simply has the gall and the means to pay for a one way ticket on a shonky boat bound for Australia.

In accepting such recommendation the Government has done an almighty backflip and for this they should be applauded. Yes, applauded. This is people’s lives we are talking about. Not an extra tax, or petty bureaucracy, but a decision on whether people live or die, reach safety or are turned away without a thought or care. There are some policies which should simply be bi-partisan, where the common good should overcome the political one-upmanship and snippy comments to which we have become so accustomed.

And the loss of life is becoming increasingly worrying. Since October 2009, 604 people have died at sea while en route to Australia, compared to 360 in the eight years before that. The number of people reaching our shores has also increased, with 7500 arriving in Australia this year alone, when the number for the whole of 2011 was only 4500.

So, to our politicians, I implore you to put your petty prejudices aside and consider the migration bill which will pass though Parliament today with fresh eyes and an open mind. Don’t say no simply for the point of saying no.

Are the recommendations a step in the right direction, or is Australia still being too lenient on asylum seekers? Is it time for all parties to work together to find a humanitarian solution to the issue of asylum seekers?

You can read the full report from the panel of experts at

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Written by Debbie McTaggart


Total Comments: 56
  1. 0

    This is indeed an emotive subject and we are keen to receive your constructive comments on the topic. If you could put personal prejudices aside and keep comments relevant, this would be appreciated.

  2. 0

    Given that there is no perfect solution, I agree that this is a good start to an insoluble problem. As this is a global problem it is to be hoped that the wealthier countries of the world will put money and resources into speeding up the processing of refugees in the camps so that they don’t get to such a point of desperation that they feel the need to risk their lives and those of their children on the dangerous voyage to Australia in unseaworthy craft.

    • 0

      I think that you got that 100% correct on the very first response. If Oz put the major part of its overseas aid for just one year into clearing the camps then there would be no boats and a manageable daily trickle of asylum seekers post the process. But hell that is way too radical for the oh so innocent so called do-gooders who play politics with desperate peoples lives.

  3. 0

    One can only hope that both the opposition and the Greens will get behind these recommendations and not play dog-in-the manger here. If the incumbent government are willing to accept expert advice and reverse their position, then they are to be applauded, not pilloried.

    While you have also stated the same Debbie, could you just refrain from inflammatory phrases like “ALMIGHTY BACKFLIP”, both in your article and the head line. Once a journalist always a journalist ay Debbie. Mixed message girl – that single phrase will bring all the right wing-nuts out of the closet to politicise the discussion while you bleat about everyone putting their predjudices aside. Very mixed message. Don’t bother to defend yourself – pull the article and edit it now.

    • 0

      Spot on – journalism versus ‘points of view’ – that alone could go on forever but you are not the only one to have moaned about the media writing/presentation skills on this website. I guess none of us ever stop learning.

    • 0

      Debbie was asked to put up the warning about personal prejudices as our last article on asylum seekers attracted a large number of comments that were racist and had to be removed.

    • 0

      I agree with textappa. When I read ‘backflip’, I thought “here we go again, more Abbott propaganda” but then, when I read the article, I found that you actually think the backflip is a good thing. If this is so, why put it in the title, anyway?
      The government has shown it is willing to compromise in order to stem the flow of boat people, unlike the LNP and the Greens, who have not moved an inch from their original positions. I think the general population has long lost patience with our politicians on this issue. Any perceived political advantage the opposition might have tried to gain from their intransigent position has surely evaporated by now. I want all our politicians to come together and solve the problem in the interests of all Australians and asylum seekers alike. Stop the political games already, and, yes, I am talking about you, Scott Morrison…

    • 0

      Rather pathetic two-step shuffle WEBMASTER DREW, not to mention the sheer arrogance of the fob off. There are prejudices other than racial, and we are talking about political prejudices overwhelming a rational discussion of the refugee crisis which is costing lives. Your journalist has set a negative tone to such a discussion in the header, contradictory to the body of the article – though unbelievably she repeats it there amplified with an “almighty”.
      You seem to be pretty quick on the draw when it comes to deleting really, really naughty offensive words like BS – so how about you show a bit of integrity and even handedness. Delete the offensive words “Government backflip on” and replace them with “Government reassesses”. Surely that is within the power of someone with so grand a tile as WEBMASTER. And how many nanoseconds will it take you to delete this post, I wonder?

    • 0

      Hi textappa,

      You are right that my title is Webmaster. That means I have to remove any swear words (with which BS is one) that any member may find offensive. I also have to go through the posts and remove any racist remarks as our company is liable for the comments put up. I on the other hand am not the editor of the website and do not make decisions on the titles of news pieces or opinion pieces.

      Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the title as Debbie has called a spade a spade.

    • 0

      Hi Drew – I would like to know who the editor-in-chief is. The only contact that I can see is yourself. I have asked for particular topics to be considered and sent those to you but I have had no response.

      Hi textappa – your ‘political’ sensitivity knows no bounds !! The Pacific Solution was destroyed by Labour in favour of a Malaysian Solution. That was denied by the high court and still is. Now the ‘new’ solution is the Pacific Solution [with a twist yet to be determined = length of stay] again.

    • 0

      Hi Aquatrek,

      Anything that is sent to me that is informational is always passed onto the editor who has the same website domain as my email you have and has the starting email address of editor!

      I did reply to you yesterday on one of the topics but as you can imagine we haven’t had the time today to reply to all our Q&A questions due to producing the enewsletter!


  4. 0

    This whole Oz ‘boat people’ issue has so many players in it the rules become blurred. From refugee source to destination the paths are many. Why are there large camps in Malaysia ? Why is the UN so slack on this ? As for the Labour ‘expert’ report – the whole country has on its lips the words ‘we told you so’. Shame about the ‘political’ deaths.

  5. 0

    The “issue” is, what can Australia do to minimize, preferably end, desperate people drowning to get asylum from their persecutors? If we considered that and not “how do we stop the boats” we might introduce some humanity into our collective thinking.
    There ARE ways and by implementing ALL the 22 recommendations and not just cherry picking the most politically palatable ones, it CAN be done. I particularly liked Angus Houston’s opening words that these recommendations are “hard headed, but not hard hearted”. Let’s at least give them a try and if they don’t work, try, try again. Another 67 people are missing, believed drowned, from another boat that embarked from Indonesia headed for Australia. That would make nearly 800 people that we know of that have drowned trying to get here from Indonesia. Surely, enough is enough.

    • 0

      Is the Australian government or the opposition responsible for all these deaths?If the boats are leaving from Indonesian ports or beaches or where ever surely the Indonesian authorities are responsible for checking the seaworthiness,or otherwise, of these vessels.
      The only country who can stop the boats is Indonesia.Do they want to?

    • 0

      Indonesia / Malaysia are the link pins in this debacle yet we the Oz citizens are told absolutely nothing about why these nations fail to stop, for example, a boat with over 200 persons onboard. Oz donated some patrol boats recently: where are they being used – were they part of the anti-trafficking deal ? Oz citizens are treated like mushrooms – we all know the rest of that saying.

      The LNP slogan ‘stop the boats’ is what any government should be striving to achieve. No wonder the LNP harp on and on about that having been achieved in the past. Personally I would rather see all asylum seekers processed on the mainland but that is not likely to happen.

  6. 0

    Thank goodness for some practical solutions to this growing problem. Time for all sides to take a deep breath and think about whats right not only for the unfortunate refugees but also Australians. People get angry if they perceive that newcomers are being treated better than those who have worked and paid taxes and are doing it really tough. Think this is one of the main reasons for the discontent. Previous migrants were probably helped but perhaps not to the same great extent. We also need some real facts on exactly how refugees are helped – not just emotive and probably blown up ideas.

  7. 0

    When will everyone realise, and have clearly explained to them, that asylum seekers are NOT necessarily refugees. Surely, these are two constitutionally and legally separate issues, and therefore should be politically separate issues. If asylum seekers can find the money for such exorbitant fares on illegal boats, then my assumption would be that they have not had to flee from imminent torture or persecution, leaving all their wealth and possessions behind. Therefore, they should be able to afford to await LEGAL processing. This may seem like a harsh outlook, but should Australia (or any country) be held to ransom by “humanitarian” blackmail? I fully agree that genuine asylum seekers need to be processed humanely, promptly and respectfully BEFORE they reach Australia so that they can be resettled wherever and as soon as possible. Also, those denied access need to be advised promptly so that they can seek other reasonable avenues or return to their own countries if necessary.

    • 0

      Excellent reasoning Nanny Mac – please join in our meeting place where we discuss issues like this in depth. You are 100% right of course.

      Time will tell if the boats actually do stop due to the proposals to not get automatic family re-union is actually imposed – then yes – as no return on the thousands of dollars often borrowed or whipped around from the family waiting happy to wait back home to fund the air fares, living expenses in Indonesia and then the cost of the ticket on a smugglers boat to arrive illegally having no visa, and in reality no call to claim asylum, as family not with you clutching all they can carry. and usually a persecuted person does not have a passport and not free to just jump aboard a flight – if cant then bring those of the family waiting safe back home here at our expense of course to join the growing long term unemployed.
      Another item which is needing discussion.

  8. 0

    Julia Gillard is to be applauded for changing her policy regarding the boat people. She has asked for advice from a panel of unbiased experts, and although the resulting advice was not in agreement with her original wishes she has wisely bowed to what has become inevitable. It may be only the lesser of evils, but at least it’s a start. I will wait in breathless anticipation to hear whether Tony Abbott will accept this bill today, or whether he will find some reason reject it yet again even though it includes his own preferences.

  9. 0

    Today on parliamentary question time PM Gillard accepted ‘some’ blame for the rescinding of the LNP Nauru policy that was in place when Labour took government – and that included the many lives lost. Yet despite the Houston Report there is still ambiguity as to how long the detention periods on Manus and Nauru will be. At present there is still no allowance for the issuing of temporary visas. That means that the ‘solution’ as it stands is not a solution at all. Boats will continue to come until laws that work are set in place. What a mess.

    • 0

      Sorry aquatek, but, not indicating how long people will be held in detention on Nauru or Manus are the very factors that will be acting as the deterrent that will restore the balance between those that choose the regular way of gaining asylum and those that use illegally operated boats. The way the recommendations stand now is that people could be detained for several years on Nauru or Manus to ensure that the “legitimate” refugees do not be disadvantaged by those that “jump the queue”. (The “hard headed” component of the recommendations”). And granting “Temporary” visas had been PROVEN not to be a dis-incentive as over 90% of those that received them ended up receiving full asylum and that’s why the current government did not support the continuation of Nauru.
      Together with increasing our intake to over 20,000 will give those that considered coming by boat an incentive to go through the proper channels and not risk their lives coming by boat. ( The “not hard hearted” component.)
      And Nanny Mac, I don’t think that those who are fleeing from Afghanastan would want to stay there for too long awaiting “LEGAL processing.” That’s why they are fleeing.

    • 0

      I find your logic rather inconsistent at the best of times – you like to ‘lecture’ other bloggers.
      1 – When the past Nauru detention center was in place the outcome was that most asylum seekers, when suitably processed, proceeded to Oz. The boats had become a non event because the criminals were out of business. So those are the facts – not your ‘interpretation at all.
      2 – In addition it has already been shown that long periods of detention mentally harms refugees. So that I may correct another of your ‘interpretations’ the Houston Report asks that the United Nations determine how long the refugee ‘holding pattern’ would be – not what you have stated = several years. Please if you are going to debate then do so with facts.

    • 0

      Grateful, this passage in your reply; and Nanny Mac, I don’t think that those who are fleeing from Afghanastan would want to stay there for too long awaiting “LEGAL processing.” That’s why they are fleeing.
      I suggest that the (mostly) young men fleeing Afghanistan should stay and try to help the Allied Forces to rid their land of tyrants in Afghanistan.

    • 0

      I agree Oldie, but, try defending yourself with sticks when you are opposed to bazookas.

    • 0

      Yes Grateful: Our troops are training Afghans to defend the country from the Taliban; Surely these young, fit looking men would be welcomed to join these trainees?

  10. 0

    “Blinkers” keeps telling us that Nauru worked last time.But most people who were sent there found refuge in Australia anyway.Imagine the sales pitch from the smugglers now.”come and have a free holiday in a tropical paradise with a free return flight to Australia thrown in as an extra.

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