Saturday, May 07, 2011

Gillard's refugee deal

I was going to write on this tomorrow, but decided to do so now because of its importance.

So long as there is conflict in the world, there will be refugees. There is no perfect solution to the problem.

The difficulty with the Howard/Abbott approach to boat people arriving in this country lay in the fact that it focused on the end of the chain, Australia. Maybe, just maybe, the Gillard Government is coming up with a better solution. Certainly it seems more coherent than Mr Abbott's.

The announcement today of a deal between Australia and Malaysia on refugees is important. It provides for the transshipment of  800 refugees from Australia to Malaysia for processing. That may be unfair, but solves an immediate problem. More importantly, the undertaking by Australia to take 4,000 refugees already residing in Malaysia over four years provides a direct benefit to Malaysia and eases up stream pressure.

Australia can afford to take more refugees. Our problem key has been the method of arrival.

If Australia takes more, if other countries also take more, if this is done in the context of regional processing centres such as that proposed, if the load is properly shared between countries, then we will stop the boats.

Mr Abbott's concept was never going to work properly because all it did was shift burden to others. Maybe there is a better way. 

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