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Grasping the Third Rail

Image from radioadelaidebreakfast.wordpress.com

Image from radioadelaidebreakfast.wordpress.com

There is a scene in The West Wing where a Democratic presidential candidate says: ‘Social security is the third rail of American politics. Touch it and you die.’ (The third rail supplies direct electrical current to trains: hence the metaphor.) Asylum seeker policy is the third rail of Australian politics as far as the Labor Party is concerned. Whatever they’ve done has been electorally unacceptable, whether it’s accepting more refugees, letting them drown or sending them off shore for processing. It’s not currently death to the LNP; their embrace of asylum seeker politics seems, vampire-like, to be invigorating them. But it can’t go on. In the name of Labor values, the Labor leadership has to grasp the rail – and not die.

It will be hard. There is no doubt that asylum seekers create political difficulties that fall into the ‘wicked problem’ category, as Vic Rollison pointed out last year. A wicked problem is one that is ‘difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. Moreover … the effort to solve one aspect of a wicked problem may reveal or create other problems’. The term ‘wicked’ in this context means hard to solve rather than evil, but the way it is being solved by the current government is wicked in both senses of the word. We must find another way. Here’s some suggestions. Electorally impossible? I’ll get to that later.

1. Recognise that the problem isn’t going away, and will likely get worse. The cruel and internationally unacceptable measures of the current government may slow the stream of people getting to Australia, but while we have persecution and wars, we will have refugees in fear of their lives seeking asylum.  For example, the Western pullout from Afghanistan will inevitably be followed by the return of the Taliban, and anyone who has helped the fight against them – military or civil – will flee. Shrinking resources of arable land and water in sub-Saharan Africa will result in violence, bloodshed and refugees. Then we have Syria, Egypt, Libya – need I go on? Then there’s the separate category of climate change refugees fleeing the rising waters that are engulfing their islands and low lying deltas. We need to be very clear to the electorate that this is an ongoing world-wide problem, far worse for many other countries than it is for Australia.

2. Recognise that the problem must be tackled on a regional basis, if not more widely. There are a number of things we can do here.

  • We need to co-operate with countries in our region, not piss them off. Unilateral action that pushes the problem back onto poorer countries will not solve it.
  • We need to restore foreign aid, both because it is a gesture of good will, and also because it helps create stable societies that don’t generate refugees.
  • We could initiate an international effort to persuade the Sri Lankans against persecuting the Tamils, which might reduce the number of Tamil refugees. This is as opposed to giving the Sri Lankan government a gunship to further persecute Tamils when they do flee.
  • We could help countries like Indonesia and Malaysia to build proper refugee camps. They are much more likely to subscribe to the International Convention on Refugees if rich countries in their region put their money where their mouth is.
  • We could pay the UNHCR to speed up processing of refugee claims for asylum.
  • We could join international efforts to slow down climate change so that there will be fewer climate refugees.
  • We could join international efforts to plan for the inevitable disruption that rising sea levels, drought and flooding due to climate change will bring.

3. Processing asylum seekers. This is the wickedest of problems. If we let them come, and process them onshore, many will drown on the way. This is not acceptable. And there is a limit to how many we can take. Even Green policy at the last election had a ceiling of 30,000. What if more than that arrive? How many is too many, given rising unemployment in Australia? The current policy of trying to scare off asylum seekers by inhumane treatment in offshore processing centres and restrictions within Australia may temporarily slow the tide, but is repugnant to anyone with a conscience. So what to do?

The best I can come up with here is a mixture of on and off shore processing. If there are properly funded refugee camps – or whatever the UNHCR recommends – in transit countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, where asylum seekers can be quickly processed, then fewer will want to take the risk of drowning. Those who do come by boat should not be returned, but could be placed at the end of the queue created by proper processing off shore. They could live in the community, because detention is cruel and destructive, but only on temporary visas. This sounds unfair, but if there is no disincentive to arriving by boat, more people will do it, and more will drown. And those refugees who have waited years in refugee camps all around the world will miss out, because other asylum seekers can afford to pay people smugglers.


5. Start a long term campaign to re-educate Australians about refugees and their experiences. Always call the government and the media out when they label asylum seekers illegal. It is not illegal to seek asylum – which the government must know. Remind the public often that over 90% of people seeking asylum seeker status are found by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to be genuine refugees. Forge an alliance with every organisation that seeks a better deal for asylum seekers. Use this alliance to get the message out to community groups, churches, trade unions, business groups, sporting clubs – anywhere people can come to see asylum seekers as fellow human beings. Produce publicity material, using social media naturally, showing asylum seekers in a positive light. There are many people you won’t ever get onside, but that’s OK: you just need more people of good will who will support decent policies.

6. HAVE THE GUTS TO STAND BY LABOR PRINCIPLES. This in itself is important in establishing the party’s credibility. It’s not enough to look the other way and hope it will all vanish. It’s not enough to ask for an inquiry into violence on Manus Island. Give up publicly on the New Guinea solution. Say it didn’t work. We can’t put refugees into a society that doesn’t accept the rule of law. This doesn’t mean renouncing off shore processing altogether, but it must be properly resourced and in cooperation with the UNHCR. We cannot continue this race to the bottom. Labor must enunciate a responsible and compassionate policy now – not a slogan, not an excuse, but a properly argued position. I believe that Labor members will accept short term pain from the media – who are likely to deride any change in Labor policy – in return for the restoration of Labor’s integrity on this issue among people of good conscience. And it is the only way that we can expand the number of people who understand the problem and care about Australia doing the right thing. Bill Shorten, Richard Marles, Tanya Plibersek – please listen, and act now. As it is, the party is losing votes to both the left and the right on this issue. And you may find that humanity may cost less than inhumanity. Be brave. This third rail won’t kill you.


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  1. john921fraser


    Hands up anyone who thinks they can negotiate with Abbott on "Stop the boats".

    Abbott has built his whole persona around that particular 3 word slogan and to back down / away from it will not happen until Australians take to the streets.


    Read it and weep for what Australians have become.

  2. Heather

    Good sensible article. You haven’t come up with a definitive solution, but you make some very good points. We need to get the discussion underway in the Labor Party.

  3. Trevor Vivian

    The labor party has lost its bearings.

    Yesterday the labor party voted with the liarberal party to pass legislation that allows cap’tn Hunt and all future ministers for environmental matters to be able to avoid scrutiny and responsibility for desision making.

    Talk about relieving themselves all over the voters. Trickle down being pissed on by both major parties.

    Labor or liarberal

    Don’t vote it only encourages them got me excluded from a voting station in the 80’s as it was deemed too political a slogan.

    Liarbor or liarberal.

    Export Abbott not jobs!

  4. Marfi

    Thanks Kay, this is an excellent article. I have been advocating for many of the suggestions you have made, but to no avail. These solutions take time to implement and do not fit neatly into a 3 year election cycle. Therefore I can’t see either party taking them on. Unfortunately political expediency wins the day in our ‘democracy’. And if the lives of human beings wins you an election, then so be it.

    As for educating people about asylum seekers and refugees – that’s a long, hard road. I used to work in community development focusing on mitigating racism and quite frankly I burned out. I became so distressed with the levels of racism in the community I had to walk away from it to do something else.

    I have spent the day on twitter today trying to call people on outrageous statements they make and it has been exhausting. There are so many RWNJ out there.

    The only thing ignorant people seem respond to is a lived experience. I’d love to give them all a “go back to where you came from experience” but even then not everyone will budge from their ideology.

    I did have some moments that gave me hope when I was working with refugees. Many times, someone who got to know an asylum seeker or refugee (say if they moved in next door), would say “oh you know, they are just like us”. So maybe there is a little bit of hope.

    I guess all we can do is our own little bit to break down the barriers, but sometimes it all seems overwhelming..

  5. Bettsie

    Great article. Totally agree that Labor needs to embrace the “third rail”. Time to say “we got it wrong” and go back to developing a more humane response to a human rights crisis. The current harsh response is not working. It might slow the boats but what a cost. One one hand the “tow backs” have caused a fracture in our relationship with Indonesia, cast aspersions on naval personal and created distrust with what is actually happening in the Indian Ocean. On the other side is the harsh incarceration of asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru. All of which is bringing condemnation from the UN.

  6. David Linehan

    Food for thought Kay and worthwhile points you make. I fear given the current thinking of the Labor Party decision makers, whoever they are, nothing much is going to change.
    Today Mr Shorten refused to support the Greens call for A Royal Commission into the riots on Manus.I don’t know what Labor has against Royal Commissions, they seem to have this object distaste of having anything to do with them.
    Of course they as a Govt basically instituted and supported off shore processing on Manus so they are directly implicated and don’t want that thrown back at them publically so its shishhhh, don’t mention Manus offshore processing. Not that there has been much processing, last count since 2012 nil i read on Twitter.
    Even the usually up and at em Richard Marles has been very quiet on that front.
    Nope all things considered, I and I’m not alone, very disappointed in the Oppositions performance thus far. i get criticised for saying but the softly softly approach is not doing anything to recapture the hearts and minds of the majority.
    Early days maybe, but lost ground is extremely difficult to regain.

  7. Pingback: Grasping the Third Rail | lmrh5

  8. mars08

    Ah, Kay… you have GOT to be kidding!!!!

    Tony says that the policy will not change. He will stand firm… even though (clearly), it is the government who are the REAL VICTIMS of recent events!!!!!

    Says the wrecking ball:

    “The Australian Government will not be deterred or intimidated by anyone when it comes to doing what we need to do to protect our borders,”… “We will not be deterred or intimidated by anyone. We will not succumb to pressure or to moral blackmail.”
    “We will ensure these camps are run fairly and if necessary firmly.”

    Why on earth would Labor back down to “moral blackmail”…. when our glorious Tony refuses to budge??

  9. jasonblog

    Excellent article. It really set the standard for the conversation that Australia should be having with regards to this critical issue.

    I had been mulling over today if it was possible in years to come that the name Scott Morrison and phrase Crime against Humanity would become synonymous.

    A couple of brief points that I’d like to make.

    I think at the moment the ALP is part of the problem. If people want real change than they need to boycott the 2 major parties and look to micro parties / independents. The PUP actually have a good policy with regards to the asylum seeker issue and could be used to reframe the conversation.

    All of the points Kay Rollison makes are spot on. Hopefully this becomes the impetus doing something noble…

  10. Kaye Lee

    Tony Abbott in his Closing the Gap statement to Parliament said:

    “We are a great country – I firmly believe the best on Earth.
    But we will never be all that we should be until we do better in this.
    There is no country on Earth where people are made more welcome.
    There is no country on Earth whose people have more innate generosity to others.”

    Of course he was talking about Aborigines at the time – he loves to make these sort of speeches. He went on to say:

    “Yet for two centuries – with fragrant exceptions, of course – Australians had collectively failed to show to Aboriginal people the personal generosity and warmth of welcome that we have habitually extended to the stranger in our midst.”

    fragrant???? The whole bloody thing is on the nose so I guess fragrant is appropriate.


  11. Rob

    Kaye our nation enjoys the fruit of political, military and economic ascendancy until a complex issue as asylum seekers rock up to our shores and we are helplessly lost for words or solutions. But saying that I appreciated your article trying make sense of this and giving constructive suggestions.

    It is a leadership problem or the failure of it on both sides of parliament but not only in Parliament but it is a “wicked problem’ no doubt, it maybe an evil problem as well.

    I am impressed that you were willing to put out some dangerous comments and touching the “Third Rail”. Now only let Labor follow your example.

    (K. I enjoyed the West Wing series, I hope this doesn’t give away too much about me…)

  12. Rob

    Opps I meant to address Kay not Kaye.

  13. Stewart Tyssen

    Excellent article, the first I’ve read that clearly articulates what is really needed to take the humanistic view. Thankyou. You tell it as I see it. Cheers. Excellent.

  14. Dissenter

    THE LNP Government have no choice but to close the MANUS island camp. THe riot was ESCALATED by local people and PNG SPECIAL POLICE.
    THe asylum seekers provoked a RIOT but the DAMAGE AND THE ASSAULTS were carried out by local people and police.
    This will be proven. ASYLUM seekers could not give hundreds of machete wounds to themselves. THE man who died could not FRACTURE his own skull with a rock.
    THE hospital was covered in BLOOD but the ONLY VICTIMS( PATIENTS ) were ASYLUM seekers. ONE man had his throat SLIT. He did not do that to HIMSELF/
    LEAVING this camp OPEN is EXPOSING everyone there INCLUDING the staff and others to GREAT RISK.
    THE CATHOLIC Priest on the ISland was calling for the Manus people to Treat the asylum seekers in a HUMANITARIAN way.
    THAT is the problem.
    NOW we have CHINA asking US about our human rights record and shining light on our aborigines and their living conditions and our treatment of refugees.
    So … this has to be CLOSED.
    THe asylum seekers who have been injured EACH are living EVIDENCE of this abuse and they will NEED TO CLEAN IT AWAY before it is further examined in the PUBLIC eye.
    A number of people have been Flown to Australia and some are in Port Moresby in HOSPITAL THERE.
    IF this is NOT CLOSED THEN I AM CALLING ON THE LABOR OPPOSITION and the GREENS to ensure that it is PROMPTLY CLOSED this week.
    I have Written 10 letter tonight and more to come tomorrow. We should all do the same and I urge you too.
    THIS IS OUR SHAME,and we are all responsible because it has been done in OUR name as Australians.
    I have also asked GEORGE WRIGHT why there is not a Petition to close it being FILLED in right now.

  15. Kaye Lee

    They knew the riot was going to happen. Amnesty International told the government last year. Morrison has admitted he knew there was tension and that there continues to be tension.

    So how did he deal with that information? He locked up 1300 men, removed the psychologists and doctors, removed the Salvation Army, removed all intellectual stimulation, blocked access to our Human Rights Commissioner and the media, then had a meeting with them and said we won’t help you resettle anywhere but here, not that we have processed any of you. They then employ PNG security guards whose reaction to the tension was to start killing and maiming assisted by the local community. Gee I would really feel happy about resettling there. So they are stuck there with family reunion denied, hope denied, anyone who would listen locked out and the guards beating them.

    So what now….send more guards.


  16. revolutionarycitizen

    “Stop the Boats” has worked, no boats have arrived this year…

    And the number of potential asylum seekers entering Indonesia is declining, so it is a regional solution that is now having a regional benefit…

  17. Kaye Lee


    Covering your eyes doesn’t make 40 million refugees go away. Nor does it lessen the potential push factors outlined by Kay in her article.

    We have an immigration target of about 200,000. Tell me why we have thousands of people locked up both onshore and off. Tell me how much it is costing for Operation Play War both onwater and off. Tell me why the secrecy. Tell me why you would actively create a situation that will inevitably cause mass violence. tell me, if you were one of those 1300 men would you want to resettle in PNG. Tell me what you think will happen to them if they try.

  18. revolutionarycitizen

    We changed our policy to reflect the fact that over 4,000 people were killed under the last one according to its chief architect.

    We can’t take everyone and we must accept that asylum and refuge aren’t permanent constructs, resettlement should only occur when we are certain that the situation in the source country can never be resolved. Such as, we should take Tibetans because that situation will never change, we should take members of the Caucasian populations of Africa because the situation facing them will never change. We should take others from Africa who are also in immediate need of protection and humanitarian assistance.

    However, we shouldn’t be taking middle-class Iranians who only needed to fly in neighbouring Turkey to seek asylum, they’re only choosing here because we’ve got a fantastically generous welfare state. We shouldn’t be taking people from mainland China. Or resettle people from Syria where once the war is over things will return to normal.

    In reality, we should be giving more to DFAT to engage in foreign aid works that help those people in or near their countries, and we as a country should be far more willing, capable and determined to engage in conflict when it is required. The only reason why we have so many Sri-Lankan refugees is because we refused to intervene in their civil war for 3 decades.

  19. jane

    Great article Kay. Pity the 2 major parties can’t be bothered to acknowledge that a regional solution to deal with asylum seekers is urgently needed.

    I am deeply ashamed that asylum seekers are probably safer in the countries they are fleeing from than they are in this supposedly civilised country. The unfortunate young Kurdish man who was murdered would likely still be alive had he not believed that Australia would provide asylum from persecution.

    It’s astonishing that those snivelling about our paltry intake of asylum seekers are happy to let countries far less well off than we are bear the brunt of the millions fleeing persecution, war, climate change, and domestic upheaval.

    Even worse, a lot of these selfish bigots, including our inglorious Minister for Torturing Refugees, claim to be passionate, committed Christians.

  20. Fed up

    If Morrison and Abbott forgot about turning back boats, and focus on making the PNG scheme work, along with more cooperation with others in the region, they would not be in the mess they are now,

  21. Stephen Tardrew

    Great article Kay. You see if you stick by you ethical obligations from the start you will not degenerate into such appalling treatment of other human beings. Follow your moral compass and you will find solutions that are rational and just. Do not drift from ethical behavior because the more you drift the more you compromise until you are where we are today.

    Those in positions of power and control have propelled ordinary people along this path through fear of the unknown and intolerance. Appeals to logic and reason fall to the purveyors of immoral justification in the name of the moral majority. Cognitive dissonance whereby we can act unethically yet still claim the democratic moral high ground. Greatest and free-est country in the world mate. Just ask Abbot.

    A Faustian pact we will one day come to regret.

    We can criticize China, and rightly so, and now they can criticize us and rightly so.

    Where the hell are we going?

  22. Dawn Whitehand

    Agree on all counts, and have been supporting and promoting such points for years – here’s hoping!

  23. silkworm

    Stop the boats, start the killings.

  24. Gregory T

    Eligibility for PNG Citizenship

    Eligibility for PNG Citizenship (Section 67 of the National Constitution)

    A person who has resided continuously in the country for at least eight (8) years may apply to the Minister responsible for Citizenship matters to be naturalized as a Citizen, and the Minister may, if he is satisfied as to the matters there in, in his deliberate judgment but subject to the advice of the Committee, grant or refuse the application.

    To be eligible for naturalization, a person must:

    be of good character;
    intend to reside permanently in the country;
    unless prevented by physical or mental disability, to speak and understand Tok Pisin or Hiri Motu, or a vernacular of the country, sufficiently for normal conversational purpose;
    have a respect for the customs and cultures of the country;
    be unlikely to be or become a charge on public funds;
    have a reasonable knowledge and understanding of the rights, privileges, responsibilities and duties of citizenship; and
    renounce in such manner as is prescribed by or under an Act of Parliament, any other citizenship and make the Declaration of Loyalty.

    If an applicant for naturalization so requests, any child of the applicant who is under voting age at the time when the applicant is naturalized becomes a citizen by naturalization on the naturalization of the applicant.

  25. Kaye Lee


    “We changed our policy to reflect the fact that over 4,000 people were killed under the last one according to its chief architect.”

    You have repeatedly made this claim even though the official records show you are wrong. You do this a lot rc and it detracts from anything else you might say. Unless you can show me a link I will be forced to conclude that you just make this stuff up.

    “Between 2000 and 2007 (the period which includes the introduction of the “Pacific Solution” for asylum seekers travelling by boat under the Coalition government), the database documents 746 reported deaths of asylum seekers. Of those, 713 asylum seekers died at sea while on their way to Australia; 22 died in detention (the majority of those cases were suicide, but there were some deaths of natural causes); and 11 people were returned to Afghanistan and reportedly murdered for being “Australian spies”.

    Between 2008 and July 2013 (under Labor), 877 asylum seekers have reportedly died. Of those, 15 committed suicide or died of natural causes in detention centres. So during this period, approximately 862 individuals died trying to reach Australia’s mainland to seek asylum.”


    Aside from the numerous suicides, we can now start a category for how many we murder.

    And as 90% of asylum seekers have been found to be genuine refugees, I can only assume that you get your “middle-class Iranians” crap from the same place you get the rest of your information. People don’t want to leave their families and homes and risk death for a jaunt.

    At least we can agree that we have a responsibility to provide more foreign aid and to condemn human rights abuses (other than our own of course).

  26. Kaye Lee

    We will not be intimidated, we are the intimidators.
    We will not be deterred, we are the deterrant.
    We will not submit to moral blackmail, we have no morals.

    When John Howard was PM my son’s choir had to sing at a Liberal Party function. They sang this song….

    We are one but we are many
    And from all the lands on earth we come
    To share a dream
    And sing with one voice
    I am, you are, we are Australian

    I used to love it….now I am too ashamed to sing it

  27. Kaye Lee

    For your edification rc,

    Amnesty International reported about Iran in 2012:

    “Authorities maintained the tightened restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly imposed before, during and following the 2009 mass protests and sought to impose further restrictions. The security forces, including the paramilitary Basij militia, continued to operate with near total impunity and there was virtually no accountability for the unlawful killings and other serious violations committed at the time of mass, largely peaceful protests following the 2009 presidential election and in earlier years.”

    The list of targets of the regime is long and include women, LGBTI people, religious and ethnic minorities, lawyers, trade unionists and human rights supporters, and its tools of repression include rape, murder, torture, execution, arbitrary arrest and unlawful detention. Iran has persistently been the subject of criticism even by the United Nations.

    Iranians may be deliberately targeting Australia as a place of refuge, and the ones doing so may be wealthier than Iranian refugees elsewhere, but the sheer brutality of the Iranian dictatorship makes for a weak case for portraying them purely as economic migrants.”


  28. Rob

    @ Dan I think the Manus Island site maybe too difficult to sort out with the dangerous local mentality and PNG’s violent police attacks on trapped rioting refugees. A complex problem with no solution but most likely closure.

  29. Dan Rowden


    @ Dan I think the Manus Island site maybe too difficult to sort out with the dangerous local mentality and PNG’s violent police attacks on trapped rioting refugees. A complex problem with no solution but most likely closure.

    Absolutely, but I don’t think closure is likely for the reasons Waleed Aly gives in the above article.

    PNG now, itself, constitutes refoulement under the definitions of the Refugee Convention. Not that we care about International Law and Conventions anymore …

  30. Ricardo29

    This is a really thoughtful article and one which the entire Labor Party apparatus should read, then enact. Sadly, on recent performances, I think Bill Shorten I swishy ways and was the wrong choice for leader. I thought at the time, and still think, that Albanese is the attack dog Labor needs to take it up to the lying bastards who gulled an ignorant public, aided by…. Ah bugger it, you know all this. Kaye Keep your wise words coming. And rc, your contributions are so wrong that they add nothing to the debate.

  31. Rob

    Dan, I am hoping this brutal happenings on Manus island will open our hearts to not go DOWN the road that Aly at SMH so carefully stepped out for us.
    I am not sure that our two governments motive was “horror” but it has jumped to this place. But justification of any sort has no place especially from PNG’s death squad mobile team supporters and PM Abbort.

  32. abbienoiraude

    So the ‘boats have stopped’.
    So when people give up on claiming Newstart, they are no longer there.
    When people stop complaining to police about domestic violence, it not longer is happening.
    When people give up on being on a ‘housing list’ because they are homeless, means they have found a place to live ( squats, a bridge, the street).
    Just because the numbers are no longer recorded does not mean there are no asylum seekers trying to reach safety ( by boat). It just means rc that you have put your head in the sand and you believe the lies and the obfuscations, the secrecy and the silence of ‘our’ Minister and his department.

    As Kaye Lee says; 40 million refugees world wide and you think the ‘boats have stopped’???

    I really appreciate this piece written by Kay Rollison, but can never imagine a time when the ‘boats will stop’. Desperate people will always find/try desperate ways to escape horror. And if you do not imagine Indonesia’s lockups are horrible then there needs to be more exposure of how the Indonesians treat refugees. The “Malaysian solution” was hated because of the way the Malaysians treat their refugee/asylum seeker peoples. We could not ensure that there would not be rapes, beatings, starvation on their soil, so why did we think we could ensure it would not happen on a tiny island within PNG?

    They are OUR asylum seekers. They are OUR responsibility.
    The UNHCR needs our support and if we gave the money to them to make larger the centre and quicken the processing within Indonesia with Indonesia’s agreement with the promise of flying the asylum seekers here, that would have been a more humane approach that Labor could have sold with the (past) relationship we had with the Indonesian Govt as credit.

  33. Rob

    Thanks Dan for the links, throughout the history China has led in human rights abuse being accepted as necessary for the “common good”. How can China open their mouth to criticise, I do not know a greater form of hypocrisy.

    We keep hearing this again and again the “common good” for all, this attitude has led to horror that none of us want to see repeated. We don’t want to go up that hill again do we?

    But… our eyes are directed at the Government’s failures in these areas and as Australia we need to get back to basics of human treatment or quit saying we are helping refugees.

    The two sides of Parliament need to work together. I am not a fatalistic person but like Banjo’s character “we’ll all be marooned” if we keep going down this road and not take stock of the methods that are surely not working in Manus Island.

  34. Concerned citizen

    It seems like the ALP has slowly drifted more and more to the centre over the years, even straying to the right in the vain hope of appealing to all the people.

    The race to the bottom with asylum seeker policy is bewildering-losing it’s own identity and supporters to try to poach some votes from the rabid right! The only way that I can see Labor re-establishing it’s base is to go back to it’s roots and be proud of it’s history and legacy. Stop backing away from the fundamentals! The whole process of trying to back track away from union affiliation is only playing into the neo-liberal agenda that unions are bad and corrupt. Be proud of what unions have achieved and continue to achieve for the workers in this country.

    Be strong in support of those who do not have a strong voice & protect the disadvantaged. We should be shaming those in our society who are so morally bankrupt that they would like to see harsher treatment for asylum seekers (whether genuine refugees or not). What sort of a society are we becoming? Thirsting for blood letting-where will this end? It is time for the ALP to grow some b**** and stand up for what it believes in-not be driven by polls for the elusive swinging vote. Let the LNP have their core constituency-all for the individual, selfish ambition. We need something to believe in that raises the bar-makes our society better, not wallowing in the depravity that we are seeing at the moment.

    Grasp the third rail!!!

  35. allenmcmahon

    ‘How can China open their mouth to criticise, I do not know a greater form of hypocrisy.’

    I do. Australia has applied to for a seat on the UN Human Rights Commission for the period 2018-20.

  36. Rob

    @ Allen I must agree this is a paradox. But I draw the line at comparing the human rights abuse in China’s history with Australia seeking a seat on the UN Human Rights Commission, as using a sledge hammer to crack my boiled egg for breakfast.

  37. revolutionarycitizen

    Kay, I quoted Kevin Rudd’s now infamous “1 in 12” remarks, which shows he either was lying about the numbers of people being killed, or had no idea of how many people had arrived in Australia.

    Yes, Iran is a crappy place to live, but, an Iranian is as safe in neighbouring Turkey as they are here, Turkey is closer, has a growing economy, is religiously and culturally similar and as a member of NATO is as safe as Australia is. Which means there is no case or any other reason why an Iranian would make their way to Australia, other than seeking an economic advantage.

    As for asylum seekers being our responsibility, nonsense, an asylum seeker becomes our responsibility the moment they present themselves to make the claim, before that, they are the sole responsibility of whichever state they’re inhabiting, and before that, they’re the sole responsibility of their government, and if their government is the problem we should remove that government, quite simple.

  38. mars08

    Make you wonder if there is ANY form of deterrence or disincentive which the general public (voter) would consider too harsh. Certainly it’s not rare for me to hear those around me suggest that the boats be “blown out of the water” by our warships.

  39. Rob

    @RC I agree with M.Taylor on this. The removal of an oppressive State leader or government is a messy military act, often regarded as a Declaration of War.

    It never ends at this point but continues until another generation takes revenge by religious suicide bombing or other acts of terrorism.

    What storms would come Australia’s way if we followed your suggestions that’s if we understood your comments correctly. Though your point about seeking refuge in Turkey could have merit.
    But… I am not sure if Turkey would not transport fleeing citizens back in cuffs to Iran.

  40. john921fraser


    @Michael Taylor

    Don't worry about it.

    Blind ideology trumps learning every time.

  41. revolutionarycitizen

    “RC, so you’re saying that we should remove a foreign government if we think they are a problem?”

    Absolutely, we could have ended Sri Lanka’s civil war in 30 minutes, we could have done the same thing to Indonesia’s invasion of East Timor and West Papua, we chose not to, and thus chose the consequences. The notion that we tolerate the intolerable in order to achieve “peace” is a nonsense that has allowed continuous conflict to exist in the post 1945 world, and has gotten many tens of millions of people killed.

    “If you mean what I think you mean, then I have problems with your attitude.”

    And if our government turned on us, wouldn’t you want someone to intervene on our behalf? Of-course you would.

    “@RC I agree with M.Taylor on this. The removal of an oppressive State leader or government is a messy military act, often regarded as a Declaration of War.”

    Yes, it is war, get over it, war is just another thing humans do, only the reasoning can be good or bad. A short war in Sri Lanka (not a war as such, we could have removed that country’s capacity to kill its people by air-power alone, it would have been more target practice involving real targets) and would of saved hundreds of thousands of people’s lives.

    “It never ends at this point but continues until another generation takes revenge by religious suicide bombing or other acts of terrorism.”

    I can assure you, that the only reason we tolerate Islamic and other forms of terrorism is because we’re too cowardly to do what is needed to put an end to it.

    “What storms would come Australia’s way if we followed your suggestions that’s if we understood your comments correctly. Though your point about seeking refuge in Turkey could have merit.
    But… I am not sure if Turkey would not transport fleeing citizens back in cuffs to Iran.”

    Some things are worth the sacrifice, we could have saved millions from death and misery beyond our comprehension if only we had a spine. And, no, Turkey won’t, not if it ever wants to join the EU anyway, which it does, because it wants access to the common agricultural market and its subsidies, and it wants its people to have free migration access to Europe.

  42. Michael Taylor

    RC, so you’re saying that we should remove a foreign government if we think they are a problem?

    If you mean what I think you mean, then I have problems with your attitude.

  43. Stephen Tardrew

    Revo: Bad Boy. going over the edge again.

  44. Rob

    @RC I agree about Turkey but applying such a hard line and strong arm tactics doesn’t look very kind or wise. Though at certain times tough military action must be taken into account.

    I understand at crucial times desperate measures are needed to cross the line where people say you can’t do that. It often seems to me that the neo-modernist teachers of our day counter with “there is absolutely no excuse for military action” only their different types of Peace Talks are suitable… blah blah…

    I actually agree with you about East Timor but rich oil fields were at stake in this intervention but Australia did turn up finally. (I am sure there are many situations we should have done better.)
    But how dare we try to be the regional police or army to put out leadership and governments because we have certain information that this or that is happening.

    Liam Neeson’s character in “Taken” had false information about his pretend wife who turned out to be an assassin. I reckon RC that the information that is often used for military decisions needs to be checked and double checked, add checked again before mindless military action is used.

    Anyway after such military action there is the further possible scenario of more refugees being the end result and around it goes…

  45. diannaart

    Well said, Kay.

    Apologies for not getting to read your thoughts sooner than this.

    Labor must remember that it still has a heart, that it governs for people not corporations.

    Also, leading by example has always been the most authentic.

    Abbott thinks that morality is blackmail – Labor can show what behaving humanely is really about. Anyone can be a bully – takes true courage to simply be fair.

  46. revolutionarycitizen

    Rob, there is always risk, but no-one can say that the peace movement since the end of WW II hasn’t achieved anything more than killing many millions of people by imposing an impossible standard on governments.

    What gives us the right? Being right gives us the right, self-evident righteousness, some things are right and wrong, and we shouldn’t be afraid of taking an absolutist stance when it comes to wrong.

  47. Dissenter

    Dan Rowden Thanks for the links.
    Labor appears to have POSITIONED themselves AWAY from this ISSUE MANUS ISLAND with a distance. IT is not a SAFE topic like Medicare is.
    They have SHOWN that they Too are not CAPABLE of governing, or if ELECTED do not have the LEADERSHIP, DETERMINATION, COMPASSION and DIMENSION and SCOPE to be CAPABLE of being a GOOD government.
    THIs is the party I have been VOTING for all of my life.



    There is ……nothing much ….of anything…… and I WANT TO KNOW WHY.
    Unions are LOSING their members for the same reasons….WHAT CAN WE DO??

  48. Dissenter

    OR Should we just DITCH them and VOTE for someone else.

    Right now they are a washout….pale,fragile and pathetic, lacklustre.
    PERHAPS they should all just REMEMBER NO GUTS NO GLORY and remember that they are COMPETING WITH ABBOTT WHO ( as much as I DISDAIN HIM) mastered the art of OPPOSITION.

  49. john921fraser


    The warmonger here should tell everyone his age before advocating war.

  50. Dissenter

    Labor as it is currently is Claytons party. THe opposition on mute.( MUTED)

    THis CONSERVATISM and taking the safe and easy path is KILLING the party.

    ANY OPPOSITION which DOES not believe it is WORTH WHILE ATTACKING THE EXISTENCE Of MANUS is Centre and going FOR THAT ATTACK for all their worth is a fraud. FRAUD OPPOSITION and FRAUD LABOR.

    MANUS Island RESORT is ONLY going to MURDER more of OUR refugees IN OUR CARE. GOOD people who have DONE NOTHING wrong.

    THIS CONSERVATISM is turning LAbor into the PARTY with no values if it does NOT FIND THIS ABHORRENT.

  51. allenmcmahon

    RC could be onto to something. Armed intervention has worked really really well in the past apart from, Egypt (UK France) Vietnam(by the US, China and Cambodia), Afghanistan(by both USSR and USA and earlier by England) and lets not forget the USA flexing its muscles in Somalia and my all time favorite Iraq.Although i must admit the US improves its batting average by jumping in and battering small nations like Grenada and Panama every decade or so.

    Armed intervention is a bit like neoconsevative policies no matter how many times they fail they are regurgitated with evangelical fervor by men of limited ability, apart from our Tone of course.

  52. Stephen Tardrew

    You know Revo you don’t know when a little silence would suffice. I worked with many veterans from many theaters of war and like so many kids drawn into the military by our politicians they had no idea what the hell its was all about only that they were protecting so called democracy. During their training they learned to hate, kill and react with brutality not knowing really why they were there. Many come home severely disturbed with symptoms like post traumatic stress disorder and a battery of other psychiatric disorders. Do us a favour mate join the Military, fight for God knows what, witness incredible brutality, see women and children’s bodies torn apart, or permanently maimed, then let me know how you feel about war.

    Watch one of your mates lower body torn to shreds by an IED loosing their legs and sexual organs and get back to me. You don’t see the slow lingering deaths of those who are mortally wounded or would rather be dead than continue to suffer in life. Families break down, drug and alcohol, domestic violence disturbed children, autonomic reactivity because their nervous system is driven beyond repair which includes lesions on the brain.

    If you cannot think of a better solution join the forces and live up to your war mongering ideals. I am a pacifist yet if anyone attacked this country and threatened women and children I would not hesitate but damned if I am going intervene in another country simply because we think we know the answers then leave a goddamn mess behind. Try Unexploded ordinance in Vietnam, Cambodia, deformities from defoliants 245T and D besides the land littered with mine fields. And what about depleted uranium munitions Gulf War 1 that has been demonstrate to cause cancer. Look at Iraq now that was a great success wasn’t it. Afghanistan? What the? Somalia and drone strikes. Yeah they are really going to love us. And what about all those lovely resources we covert. Google Noam Chomsky and read some of his analysis of military conflicts. And don’t give me that lefty shit he is a consummate academic and intellectual.

    And mate we haven’t even considered South America, Pinochet and a whole bunch of corporate conservative rouges that murdered their own citizens supported by the US alliance.

    Well you little beauty. Murdering of the legitimate leader of Iran then inserting the corrupt Shah with his outrageous secret police brought to you with love and affection by the CIA and Australian complicity. Remember that revolution. Well we caused that. As for the rest of the Middle East Israel and the suffering of the Palestinians yes war is the solution. I could put up dozens of links but I am sure you can find the relevant material yourself.

    Just the facts OK.

  53. Rob

    Thanks Kaye. I listen and I was moved by her courageous spirit. Good on her sticking up the wheel-chaired man and for representing Australia as we once knew it.

    Man I must say I am angry at the moment and I condemn such conditions being witnessed by Azita and so many others.

    Oh my Aussie Aussie Aussie – OY OY OY!!

  54. johnward154

    Tony Abbott appoints Lawler to Fair Work Australia. Kathy Jackson HSU and cohort plan to dump Thomson in it with fake evidence. Meanwhile Jackson sets up Phoney consultancies in her name and bills the HSU, then pays herself with cheques she has signed on behalf of the HSU.
    Judge Lawler and Jackson become lovers. She blows the whistle on Thomson and Fairfax takes the bait.
    Fairfax journo gets Walkley Award for busting the case wide open based on an amateur hour piece of evidence where Thomson’s name was spelt with a ‘P’ (Thompson) on what was a carbon copy bank pink slip. Unfortunately, the forgers wrote on the Carbon copy with first with blue ink and then black biro.
    Worse still they insert in blue ink a bank code which is a sale rejection code for every bank and vendor. That number is 211 at the top of the page.
    That did not stop the Fair Work Judge launching an investigation into Thomson’s paper trail in the HSU while Kathy hides or attempts to destroy evidence that would expose her hundreds of thousands of dollars fraud of HSU funds. Real whistle blowers inside the HSU provide Hard evidence to an investigative Blogger named Wixxy leaks. All of the Above is published on line for two years and every MSM journo got copies and not one was prepared to print a word. The ABC studiously avoided getting involved and Kathy Jackson Gives speeches to the adoring crowd at the HR NIcholls society, Abetz and Abbott an all.
    Lawler’s investigation is damning and the Parliament ensures the mud sticks to Thomson. The same mud by the way that saw Kathy Jackson’s first husband expelled from the HSU for buying favours with prostitutes. Yet Kathy still use his surname? Weird.
    When you see this all bundled up like Peyton Place stories. you have got to wonder when journos finally revisits this story who will go down; and who has benefitted from this rotten story.
    Abbott’s mob’s hands are all over this and they have been found by Judge Ares to have conspired to bring speaker Fisher down, and to get Mal Brough elected. Thereby forcing the minority Government to the polls.
    I for one, see this as corruption at the highest level, and a case of the police forces both federal and state looking away while the ruling class does their thing. Meanwhile we are told that no one is above the law. Bullshit, Mr Abbott.

  55. Fed up

    Why has there not been a decision brought down on the Rares Judgement. This length of time is ridiculous.

  56. Rob

    Thanks Stephen. Your post is a good lesson reminding us of what the cost of ongoing obedience of soldiers who just go out and do their duty often not understanding what the war is about. And as you said, sometimes fail in their physical or mental capacity to live a normal life.

    Yes, free us from such bloody wars of seeing children killed, women raped and others dragged down gravel roads and thrown in wells for amusement sake.

    Love has grown cold…

  57. Dissenter

    THanks Kaye Lee for that interview with Zeta Bokan. THis interview NEEDS TO BE SHARED MORE BROADLY.
    WIth this interview the Detention on Manus can be stopped.
    She DESCRIBES that the GUARDS g4 are locals BUT EMPLOYED by Australians. She describes their violent attacks and first hand accounts of the major injuries to refugees.
    Also the terrible living conditions and DEPRIVATIONs in the first place. THey have nothing. No activities, no clothes, no shoes, nothing. They sit and do nothing because there is nothing to do.
    She also speaks of Nauru and how the government and local people are taking all the money and nothing is going to the asylum seekers at all. Not even 5$ a day p person.

  58. Zofia

    “And there is a limit to how many we can take. Even Green policy at the last election had a ceiling of 30,000. What if more than that arrive?”

    If more than that arrived, the Greens would have the asylum seeker’s application for refugee status assessed through the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. And if the asylum seeker was granted refugee status, he/she would be welcomed into the Australian community.

    The Greens would adhere to the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, to which Australia is a signatory.

    Using the Green’s humanitarian intake of 30,000 per year and saying it’s their limit is twisting the facts to suit you.

    After reading the Green’s policy on refugees which you linked to, I see that a lot of your suggestions are already Green’s policy.

  59. Olivia Manor

    Links to photos of Manus Island accomodation have been censored, THE FASCIST STATE IS STARTING!

  60. trevor vivian

    Revolutionary bigot; back to your Biggles stories and the glory of the empire and war for the winners. You are a prime F-taard and a dill.. You think you can drop your bullshit in amongst the comments to get a rise Well Fuk you idiot. Its a pity you dont learn as the little weeny teeny bit of sense you expell is completely over run by your grandstanding idiocy. Blow it out your arse.

  61. mars08

    …You are a prime F-taard and a dill…

    Er… did I miss something?

  62. Pingback: Queuing Up « The Australian Independent Media Network

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