Friday, July 26, 2013

Marshall Rudd & drummer boy Burke vs Admiral Abbott in new G&S show

This photo comes one of the refugee groups via Paul Barratt. The caption reads:

Another Australian Government anti-boat campaign billboard (see the circled sign) over Hazara massacre, Quetta 2011:"Don't come by boat; it's too dangerous"

Further comments follow the the photo. 

Anti boat ad Quetta

I have no idea whether this photo is accurate. But in those circumstances, the billboard would actually seem like an advertisement for people smugglers.

As I write, Mr Abbott has unveiled his military solution. Admiral Abbott read one headline. Meantime, Minister Burke has rushed off to Manus island for an on-ground investigation and to defend the Rudd solution.

This is all silly stuff, like something out of Gilbert & Sullivan. How have we let the debate get to this point?

There are no easy solutions on the refugee question. Our options really involve picking between the least bad solutions. The political refugee arms race is costing us a fortune, is twisting our foreign policy and is actually damaging our society. There is no rational debate anymore, just responses.

Refugees and the people smuggler subset is a global problem that has domestic implications. It is one of those hard problems that cannot be solved at domestic level. The only thing thing that we can control is our response.

I have this dream where one of our political leaders gets up and says we can't solve this problem, we can only respond as best we can. Here are the issues as we see them. This is what we are going to do. I know its not perfect, we will listen to arguments, we will change our approach as new evidence emerges, but that's where we stand.

In the meantime, we are driven back to Gilbert and Sullivan and H. M. S. Pinafore.    

When I was a lad I served a term
As office boy to an Attorney's firm.
I cleaned the windows and I swept the floor,
And I polished up the handle of the big front door.
I polished up that handle so carefullee
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen's Navee!

Marshall Rudd and Admiral Abbott should bear that in mind. In the end on something like this, ridicule is the only answer.


The debate rolls on. The Lowy Institute blog has useful coverage from the PNG side: What the PNG asylum seeker deal really means for Australia's aid program provides an entry point. The story has received a degree of international coverage. This is the Wall Street Journal take. The UNHRCR has expressed concern.

Quickly reading across what coverage I could, the Australian popular response measured by comments is, as you might expect, very polarised. A key issue is will it work?

Update Two

This is the Economist's take on recent developments.


Anonymous said...

There are two quite separate issues:

1. How to more effectively combine with the nations in our region to provide for a more 'ordered' regional response to the problem of refugees in our region.

2. How to treat those people who actually (quite within their rights) arrive on our shores, after not-drowning.

The answer to 1 is a matter of continuing diplomacy, not assisted by our present election fever.

The answer to 2 is a source of great shame for any person who would call themselves Australian - because depending upon your timescale, we are all immigrants, and for the past 200+ years, probably just as unwelcome.

Any discussion of the former is not assisted by talk of 'military solutions' or 'shipping them off to PNG' without the prior considered consent, and public acknowledgement, of the other nations involved. Both solutions are 'set up to fail', and it's an embarrassment that they are not more widely derided.

Any comparison of the refugee's plight with a penalty for wearing an inappropriate seatbelt is just in too poor taste for words.


Anonymous said...

Jim, just a further musing on this approach to discouraging refugees:

The justification for ever more harsh treatment of arrivals seems to be that said treatment will discourage further attempts, thus saving lives by reducing or stopping the drownings. I think on this very blog there was a comment to the effect that anyone remotely sympathetic to the arrivals was actually responsible for the deaths at sea.

So my thought is: why don't we apply the same logic to overweight people, or drinkers, or (gulp) smokers?


Jim Belshaw said...

Good morning, kvd. Gulp indeed!

I agree with you on 1. On 2, my views are a little more mixed than yours, although I am in obvious agreement that the whole thing has become farce.

Time for some economics and a bit of history today, but not on refugees!!