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An Open Letter to Bill Shorten

Dear Bill

I’m finally moved to write to you because of three decisions the Labor Party has made this week that seem to me to be totally at variance with what Labor says it stands for. I recently heard you speak about the need for renewal in the Labor Party, and this doesn’t seem to me to be the way to go about it.

Forgive me if I’ve got any of this wrong; I’ve only got the mainstream media to go on. But from what I can tell, the Labor caucus has this week voted in favour of continued off-shore processing of asylum seekers– continuing the shame of Manus Island and Naru, supported the continuation of the school chaplaincy program, and agreed to the creation of Abbott’s Green Army.

There are many reasons why people like me oppose off-shore processing. I would hope you understand what those reasons are, but just to remind you, it’s because the policy is cruel and inhuman and in breach of Australia’s international obligations. It also happens to be far more expensive than other reasonable alternatives. I hope you’ve read Julian Burnside’s thoughtful article about other possible policy responses. Here’s some of my suggestions. But perhaps even more important, it undermines Labor’s whole argument that it always puts the good of the community ahead of selfish and bigoted interests. Labor can’t show moral leadership on anything while it continues with this degraded and degrading policy.

I understand that the caucus is nervous about the electoral success of ‘stop the boats’. It is also reasonable to be concerned about the deaths at sea that are a result of people smuggling. I don’t expect you to come up with a new policy tomorrow. But I’d like to see you start the process. Admit that the New Guinea solution isn’t a solution at all. Talk to stake holders. Set up a consultation process. Get the best advice – consistent with Labor principles. Forget about the focus groups. For goodness sake, show that you care. You want to lead Australia? Start doing it by having a bit of moral courage on this issue.

Free, compulsory and secular. That’s the battle that’s been fought for public education in Australia in the past, and should still be one Labor is committed to. OK, so it’s not free – there are some costs met by parents – but Labor is rightly engaged in fighting for proper funding for public education through the Gonski reforms. Compulsory? No argument about that. And why not secular? It could be said that state aid to private schools – increased dramatically under the Howard government, and shielded from cuts in Hockey’s first budget – makes a mockery of the principle of separation of church and state. But why make things worse by supporting a program that aims specifically to support the ‘spiritual’ wellbeing of students as well as their social and emotional wellbeing? I know that the High Court’s decision finding the program illegal is about the funding model, not the principle of separation of church and state. But that’s no reason for not welcoming the decision and suggesting it’s time for rethinking the whole program. It’s not as if there was even any electoral damage to be done; it’s hardly a popular program. Again, get some advice. Listen to some experts. Look at where the resource could better be spent. And stand up for principle.

The third area I believe the party is supporting – and where I question their doing so – is the creation of Abbott’s 15,000 strong ‘Green Army’ of unemployed 17-24 year olds. Nine participants and one supervisor will work for 20-26 weeks on projects that will be proposed by the community. Even though touted by Greg Hunt as ‘an environmental and training program’, this is essentially a ‘work for the dole’ scheme, and Labor has supported these in the past; think Whitlam’s RED scheme. But surely these programs have been reviewed? Do they really work either as sustainable conservation projects or in upskilling the participants in ways that help them find real jobs? In this case it is reported by Bernard Keane in Crikey that ‘participants would be paid as little as half the minimum wage for working up to 30 hours a week. OH&S and other workplace protections would not be available because participants would be exempted from the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988, and, most importantly, the Fair Work Act.Is this really something you think Labor should be supporting? Participants will actually be employed by ‘Service Providers’ – private sector bodies selected through a request for tender process – no doubt a nice little earner for someone. What controls will there be to ensure that appropriate training – the only justification for the scheme – will actually take place? What about occupational health and safety? Pink batts, anyone? Then there’s the whole question of what sort of projects will be funded. Maybe there will be some good things done for heritage, weed control, public amenity and the like, but let’s not pretend a scattering of local projects can really contribute to a coherent plan for conservation and biodiversity, let alone act as  a response to climate change.

But isn’t the Green Army supposed to be planting Tony Abbott’s 20 million trees? I’ve never read anything better on the tree planting scheme than the list of questions Ad Astra proposed in a post on The Political Sword in February 2013. As far as I know, none of them has been answered. Could you perhaps make it your aim to ask Tony Abbott these questions:

  • From where will the trees be sourced? What sort of trees?
  • How large an area will be needed to plant them?
  • As you have stated that semi-arable land would be used, since all the existing arable land is needed for farming food and fibre, where will you find the large amount of land you will need?
  • How will you transport the [Green Army] to semi-arable locations, house them, and provision them?
  • How long will it take to plant 20 million trees?
  • Once planted, how will the trees be watered and nurtured until growth is well established in their semi-arable locations? At what ongoing cost?

Bill, would you really want to be involved in this?

I’m not suggesting that the ALP make policy decisions by vote of its members. But it needs some process of consultation beyond a caucus vote. I understand that day to day decisions need to be taken quickly, and that there are policy documents in place to guide such decisions. But equally I’m tired of having to listen to the party getting it wrong, sometimes disastrously so. Why can’t Labor collect and act on the best possible advice? After all, we have a wonderful example before us of a government that despises expertise, and relies wholly on its favourite vested interests for policy guidance. Show how different you are. Mean something by renewal. It’s not enough to know that we have the worst government Australia has ever seen; we need a principled, vital and informed alternative. And that’s your challenge Bill. You can’t imagine how much I want you to succeed.

More from Kay Rollison:

Book Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith

Framing the budget

Book Review: The Black Box, by Michael Connelly

Queuing Up


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  1. Sir ScotchMistery

    Dear Mr Shorten,

    Do your polling re refugees somewhere else but St Mary’s in Sydney’s west.

    Surprisingly, you will probably find that proper Australians, as in those who are capable of thought and who actually contribute to our country, don’t see the “boaties maaaatee, Gis a beer willya” as being any sort of issue.

    Ask young Labor how they feel about your f*-knuckle chase after Tony Abbott mentality feels to them.

    Also find another organisation to do your focus groups. The fact that you get all the people into your focus group is rather a reflection that the folk who were polled were as a group, nett costs on the economy. Some of them were fourth generation unemployed. Bill, mate, they don’t represent anything but the soon to be (again) residents in Parklea Prison. They don’t actually know what a job is mate.

    Funny though isn’t it how shit comes back to bite your ….. The libs looked at the same group and got the same answers you …….. Western Sydney is not typical of Australia. Most of us are essentially useful, not like that scum out there who tell you what they think you want to hear for $70 for 90 minutes. Then off to the pokies, not to a barbecue in the back yard discussing politics. Mate most of them can’t even spell “politics”.

    For goodness sake. Go out and talk to proper people instead of that trailer trash. You wouldn’t even walk in the same street they live in, let alone go visit with them. Be real. This country is better than that.

  2. John Kelly

    Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have made much of their determination to eliminate wasteful spending across all levels of government yet in one particular area they seem more than happy to waste billions of dollars without any apparent concern for more prudent alternatives.

    The cost of maintaining asylum seekers at Christmas Island, Manus Island and Nauru is in the order of $5 billion dollars annually. This does not include the costs associated with our navy patrolling the Timor Sea in search of refugee boats attempting to reach Australia.

    If Abbott and Hockey were genuine in their efforts to return our budget to surplus, one would have thought this would be an area of prime concern particularly when much cheaper alternatives are available, ones that would actually add value to the economy generally.

    As Julian Burnside has pointed out, if we were to resume onshore processing and subsequently release asylum seekers into the community, allowing them to work while their claims are being assessed, we would be adding value to the overall economy. Even if we were to pay Centrelink benefits to those who were unable to work, we would generate economic activity within local communities in retail and housing.

    This does not in any way hinder the operations of border protection. The government could continue its policy of turning back the boats, as appalling as that is. It could continue to claim success in stopping the boats, as pathetic as that sounds.

    The Labor Caucus recently rejected a motion to adopt onshore processing and closure of Nauru and Manus Island detention centres. They have missed a great opportunity to redress this disgraceful policy.

  3. charybds


    Your party has been moving steadily to the right for at least 2 decades ..
    Today there is only right and more right .. and then There’s Abbotts lot ..

    It’s time you started attempting to develop policies based on the views
    of the people you aspire to represent. (Note the use of the term ‘represent’)

    Representation means that you (as a party) attempt to take the views and
    wishes of the members of the PUBLIC who voted for you as;-
    into parliament where the actions which set the conditions in this country
    are decided upon.

    (Again; note the use of the term ‘representatives’)
    The term implies that you act in accordance with the wishes of the afore-
    mentioned people.

    Please reconsider (as a party) your common practice of deciding for your
    own interests how you will behave whilst pretending to be ‘representative’
    (That word again..) of the views of the general public.

    Australia is losing it’s identity, it’s freedoms, it’s solidarity, and it’s self respect
    at the hands of self interested ‘politicians’, who seem determined to reduce us
    to mere market segments, for the benefit of the the corporate lobbyists with
    the highest budgets.

    We need people of courage in your role/s .. not artful dodgers who swan
    about avoiding controversy and achieving little more than the accumulation
    of their own retirement benefits. Often at the expense of ours ….

    Time to grow a set Labor .. we have never needed you more.

  4. Jennifer

    Well said, Kaye. You said it all for me. I hope you get a response to your letter and that it can be published here.

  5. Clare De Mayo

    Kay wrote: I’m not suggesting that the ALP make policy decisions by vote of its members

    Oh heaven forbid the rank and file had some real clout in the party! That might be, actually, maybe, DEMOCRATIC!!!! As it stands, the rank and file are leaving the party in droves. I for one will never vote for a party that endorses hell holes like Manus and Nauru. It is not enough for Labor to think they can lay low and wait for the Abbott government to self destruct. Australians want a real, morally principled, progressive alternative. Right now, Labor is NOT it.

  6. Doug Evans

    Hi Kaye
    Always enjoy your writing. It’s easy when you find yourself in furious agreement. Perhaps you could add a PS to your open letter with a few questions about the truth or otherwise of that upstanding citizen Kathy Jackson’s claims about Shorten and branch stacking to the Abbott ritual union witch burning currently underway. You are no doubt aware that Labor having conducted its own (doubtless objective and exhaustive) investigation into its flagging electoral relevance has determined that it’s all the fault of K Rudd and the accursed Greens who (like you) just wont stop criticizing Labor’s self evident general all round magnificence. Nothing to do with their serial bungling, their constant leaking against their factional foes to the MSM, their stunning levels of graft and corruption. Not a bit of it. It’s all someone else’s fault. Of course it is! Make a mental note of the name of the Labor apparatchik who is behind this piece of soul searching Jane Garrett who is rapidly clawing her way up the greasy pole. Young(ish) Jane is Labor’s future. God help them. God help us all!

  7. Carolyn Janson

    You said it for me, Kaye. Have you sent this to Bill Shorten? If not, please do. He needs to be swamped with our thoughts, and yours here are of high quality.

  8. Suziekue

    I too was deeply saddened to hear of Labor’s decision to support these three issues. I have been a Labor voter since the 1970s but I guess I must be a Green voter at heart, because I cannot understand Labor’s support for these issues. They run against the grain of what I thought were Labor values. So, sorry Bill, but you just lost my vote.

  9. john921fraser


    The ALP, Shorten and Abbott don't have the guts to go for a Double Dissolution.

    Because its most likely the ALP would have to truly share government with the Greens.

    Failing that either the ALP or Abbott would have to deal with so many Independents + Greens it would be unacceptable to both of them.

    But that option would, in all likelihood, be the best outcome for Australia.

    It would be 3 year lesson in politics would be a good thing for both major parties.

    Get them both back to their grassroots.

  10. john921fraser


    A three year lesson in politics would be a good thing for both major parties.

  11. Kaye Lee

    I no longer look to our politicians for leadership. They have become the worst type of followers, looking around for approval all the time, too scared to take a stand and do what is right for fear of bad press or Gina’s wrath or electoral backlash. It seems every Prime Minister feels they must go meet with Rupert Murdoch. Why? I long for the politician that has the courage to tell Rupert to get f*d, I don’t care what you think or what you say. I long for the politician who stands up, tells the truth, and tells the spin doctors to go get a real job.

    Sir ScotchMistery, I have read many times of your disdain for Western Sydney. I spent my school years there and I got a wonderful education and am still friends with lots of people I went to school with. They are very caring, intelligent, astute people. I would suggest those who have a Vaucluse address are the selfish ones. I do not blame people who have been misinformed. For that, I blame the government and a complicit media.

  12. mars08

    Labor and Shorten clearly think that they can win government by doing nothing more than NOT being the LNP.

    There’s a good chance that they are correct. But it’s not enough to get my vote.

  13. Jennifer

    Oh Kay! You’re speakin’ my language!

  14. john921fraser


    I can't think of a good enough reason NOT to stay with the Greens.

    Sorry about the shouting caps.

  15. Kaye Lee

    I saw a Labor MP interviewed the other day, (can’t remember which one since they are all reading from the same script prepared by kids who did an advertising course), and they refused to give Labor’s position on a range of topics saying “We are not going to disclose the policy we will take to the 2016 election now”.

    Does that mean that they will draw a salary for three years whilst totally abrogating their responsibility to do the job for which they are being paid?

    Labor should not just be telling us what is wrong with a policy – they should be offering a better alternative. I feel like I am back in primary school with kids building barricades on their desk so no-one could copy their work. It’s all about who gets the credit rather than actually finding the best solution.

    The Coalition are riding the “Stop the boats” wave – they don’t care about the financial, humanitarian, health and reputation cost. And nor, it seems, does Labor. Their approach is to claim credit for starting the Manus Island debacle.

    A pox on both your houses.

  16. Jan Dobson

    As boring as it is to say so, I take my right to vote very seriously. I also tend to vote for the local member who, I think, most embodies those characteristics I think are important rather than a party. So in my time I’ve voted across most of the spectrum. I’ve found though, more and more often, I’m now voting for the person who has the best chance of defeating the candidate for the party I find most objectionable at this time. And I think Mr Shorten and the ALP are counting on me continuing to do so.

    They may be sadly mistaken. This LNP government, and an opposition which is willing to enable some of its most appalling policies, is becoming the impetus for many good people to consider entering politics and many are doing so as independents. Australian Labor (and The Greens) need to look to our history as complacency may be their downfall. For at this minute, give me any reasonable alternative, and they will not receive my support or my vote.

  17. Jennifer

    Again, I couldn’t agree more.

  18. Kaye Lee

    Jan Dobson,

    “I’m now voting for the person who has the best chance of defeating the candidate for the party I find most objectionable at this time. ”

    I hadn’t actually ever crystallised that into words before, but I have been doing the same thing. I want to be inspired by someone like Ted Mack or Tony Windsor. I want someone with courage. It depletes us all to have to vote to defeat someone rather than voting for a vision for our country.

  19. Garth

    Kate Lee… You’re sounding quite cranky today 🙂 Don’t blame you.. It gets to the point where you just want to scream. It’s bad enough having a political duopoly but when you can’t even trust a party (ie. Labor) to stand up for their traditional values, what the hell is a person to do?? Some days I honestly wish i’d never taken an interest in politics cause this is doing my head in (and aging me well before my time)!

  20. Garth

    Sorry, Kaye. Bloody autocorrect doesn’t like your name it seems.

  21. Kaye Lee


    I have turned into a twitter and bisted old woman since Tony Abbott became Loto. Prior to that I was fairly conciliatory, trying to work with whoever I had to. This lot are beyond working with.

  22. mars08

    Kaye Lee:

    I want to be inspired by someone like Ted Mack or Tony Windsor. I want someone with courage…

    It’s obvious that… on current trends… Labor is incapable of meeting your needs.

    Personally, I just can’t imagine voting for the ALP ever again!

  23. Kaye Lee

    I wish I had more faith that inspired courageous people could make a difference. The two party system makes them just a breath of fresh air in amongst the putrid stench of corporate sellout.

  24. OzFenric

    No arguments on the offshore processing decision: offshore processing is expensive, and degrading, and does real damage to vulnerable people and to Australia’s international reputation. It has arguably shown some small level of success in deterring boat-borne refugees, but it’s more likely that the “never settle in Australia” argument is at the core of that success. So why not process them on-shore, preferably with ties into local communities, but retain the draconian restrictions on eventual destination if you really must? That solution would be far more humane and moral, a lot cheaper, and would still have the desired outcomes.

    The green army is a joke. As I’ve argued before in order for the Coalition’s Direct Action Green Army of tree planters to have the stated outcome: “to plant enough forest to absorb 15 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2020″, it will be necessary to plant 15 billion trees, requiring between two and four hundred thousand square kilometres of land. And apparently this will be done by 15,000 members of the “Green Army”. That’s more than 25 square kilometres of land each, planting 100,000 trees in each km^2. That’s going to be fun to manage.

    However, I must disagree with the stance on the chaplaincy program. The chaplains are not in schools in a religious role. They are specifically prohibited from proselytising. They generally have some level of qualifications; in Victoria this requires qualifications in education *and* counselling/pastoral care. Despite this, they do not take part in any form of counseling, students are referred to appropriate supports as required. It’s my understanding that the High Court acknowledged the value to students of the chaplaincy program, and schools in general obviously see its value (there’s a waiting list of schools wanting chaplains).

    Labor expanded the Howard-era program to include funding for secular carers under the same program, and I think that was an excellent position to take; it makes no sense to restrict a non-religious service to being provided solely by religious organisations. It is this Abbott budget that has revoked that change by Labor to restrict the service again to religious chaplains. I think Labor had the balance right on this already, and it’s hardly surprising that I think the biggest issue is with the Abbott government’s proposed changes. As you’ve stated, the High Court decision is immaterial in looking at the merits of the program.

  25. Kathy Sutherland

    Spot on. I’m so disappointed with Bill Shorten and Labor. Very hard to distinguish them from the other mob. I think they’re so focussed on getting back into power that they are ignoring policy. No humanity, no principles and no noise!

  26. Kaye Lee

    This is the first time (from memory) that I have disagreed with you Ozfenric. No doubt there are some great school chaplains out there, but there are also many unqualified people pushing their own beliefs with no oversight. Counsellors yes…chaplains no. If you want help with troubled teenagers, you can’t have people with preconceived views on things like homosexuality, contraception, promiscuity etc…..the kids won’t go to them because they will not feel comfortable knowing their judgmental stance.

  27. S

    Kay you have said what so many real labor voters are thinking,i just hate it when voters are taken for granted,bill shorten can rubbish abbott all he likes ,but he is no better than him on so many policies,
    they are both using the poor asylum seekers for no other reason but vote getting,
    labor had a chance last week to change things but didnt ,and now we have women in detention centres who are having an abortion because they dont want to raise the children in refugee camps
    when everything is going bad for abbott, morrisson screams out no asylum seekers have arrived for so long,just to keep the hate and fear going,we have lost our soul,and i will never vote for either major parties,i am a labor voter

  28. DanDark

    We are in a new age Aquarius the Age of Science and Technology
    We left the Age of Pisces which ruled over the age of religion when we started a new millennium in the year 2000
    The age of Pisces lasted 2000 years, we can go back further for eg B.C. the Age of Taurus rules/ruled over building. And some still remain today, the great pyramids etc

    Soooo of course religion and it’s enforcers, the Pope and the ministers of all religions, even Tone’s and Co will force it on the masses, or it will become extinct, science and technology is religions enemy, and there will be a fight( climate change) but not even Tones and co can stop the Ages, and we have been in a New Age for 14 years already and religion has just cottoned on 🙂

    If we thought science and technology is mind blowing now, by the time 2025-30 comes around it will be truly astonishing almost unbelievable, but we will be living it, and not religion as we know it…

  29. Richard Creswick

    To both k’s, once again you crystallised my own thoughts. So disappointed with Labor over the points mentioned but as former leader of govt. School parent groups have always argued against religion in any form in govt schools, and from experience know that more than ever these days, public schools need counsellors not chaplains. Kaye Lee keep up the good work. I wish Bill Shorten could read this article, and the comments, but I don’t think he’s the brave leader Labor needs to combat the worst government in Australia’s history. More, there are throughout Australia now, worst governments in the history of individual states, Queensland, WA and the Northern Territory being prime examples. So much bad stuff going down everywhere.

  30. VirtualNonsense

    Well written letter Kaye. What so many of our politicians lack today is moral leadership. They’re not really interested in the betterment of Australians nor the direction Australia should be heading toward in this technological century. They are only interested in jobs for their mates, rules for their mates and getting voted in at the next election – whatever it costs, even if you have to sell your arse. They show little regard for the struggles of many in our society face and MSM seem almost complicit in this. I despair. I know there are other nations far worse off that Australia, but we’ve always been ‘the lucky country’. Where is our vision and moral duty to our citizens?

  31. Robyn Morrison

    Thank you Kaye and family for writing such succinct articles that convey the feelings of so many. I just do not understand the ALP and Bill at the moment. To support the Green Army …wrong so wrong. Not to realise that they lost so many voters last time on their pathetic stance on the asylum seekers and to continue to support Nauru and Manus. Christine Milne and the Greens are looking very strong and making a lot of sense. I want some inspiration and some action before this country goes completely down the gurgler. Very few voices from ALP’s side with good solid opposition to Abbott …I don’t consider those pathetic repeats of rhetoric nothingness coming from Bill at the moment. At the moment I am getting my inspiration from Christine Milne and most of the Greens who are doing an excellent job. Even Clive makes more sense!

  32. Mike Wilkinson

    I’m sorry! I have given up on Labor. They are more worried about retaining their seats than doing the right thing. Julia Gillard made many decisions that she knew would be unpopular and justified them with the simple statement that she was doing it because “it is the right thing to do!”. When politicians begin making decisions based on their popularity, as opposed to their moral and ethical rightness, they have lost the plot and my vote with it. Even at the end Julia said to Rudd whoever loses leaves politics for good… she lost and honored that statement. I wish she had won, we wouldn’t be seeing the ALP buckle to this kind of crap now.
    If you have any spine left Bill Shorten I make two challenges to you… stop being so chummy with Abbott and do things because “they are the right thing to do!”.

  33. mark delmege

    I see a boat load of refugees sunk between (from) Indonesia and (to) Malaysia the other day – apparently a couple of dozen drowned.

  34. Margaret-Rose Stringer

    I agree with EVERY WORD you wrote, Kaye (you are presumably Victoria’s mum – no wonder she’s the person she is). It’s as if you and I sat down and raved together for hours before agreeing that as you can put your words together better than I when I’m in a state of total RAGE, you did the writing …

    I’m going to have to vote Green next time. No other option.

  35. JulieT

    Thanks Kaye Lee, another excellent letter/article.

    I hope Bill Shorten reads it but I doubt he will.

    To quote a couple of our ex PMs….. “He hasn’t got the ticker” and his debating skills are “like being flogged with a warm lettuce leaf”

  36. Stephen Bowler

    Yes it is clear that the Labor party have succombed to the ‘self preservation society’ rules.
    whist the LNP are heading down the path of the ‘born to rule’ mentality.

    I have to reluctantly agree that the Labor Party have blown it – they clearly thought they could ride the discontent wothe LNP, and simply step back into power retaining the bits of crap legisation created by the LNP and which suits their purpose.

    I do not know about the GREENS or the PUP, so I will vote for the representative who will represent my will and my standards of morality

    So disappointed

  37. Winston Close

    Labor doesn’t get it. Labor did very badly in the Last election because the downfall started when Julia Gillard, Bill Shorten and mates betrayed Australian Labor voters when Kevin Rudd was betrayed.
    The are in self denial at their peril. We will continue on the slippery slope until ALBO is our Leader not Shorten with a lot of political blood on his hands.

  38. Kaye Lee

    When you look at the bio for John Roskam, head of the IPA, he lists his friends as

    “Friends: Bill Shorten | Andrew Bolt | Michael Kroger”

    Interesting company that Bill keeps. It appears to be too hard for him to attack the institution run by his best mate.

  39. Carolyn Janson

    This comment opens the way to dreams, of a parliament peopled by Independents, who will work, not on party lines, but for the electorate, for the country! More and more Independents, say I. We want to change the system: this is one way it might just begin. And the major parties would need, in the parlance of my mother, to pull their socks up and learn to listen to the people.

  40. Kaye Lee

    I wonder if we could get Father Rod to run for parliament?

    “Last night, ironically on the eve of World Refugee Day, I received this email from Scott Morrison via my local Member Lucy Wicks.

    Dear Rod,

    Today Australia reached a significant milestone, marking six months since the last successful people smuggling operation.
    Operation Sovereign Borders is working. The boats are stopping and this is saving lives.
    Stopping the boats is saving the Budget $2.5 billion over the next four years – around $50 million a month.
    We need your help to share the message that Australia’s borders are secure again.
    Under Labor’s watch, 190 boats arrived in the equivalent six month period last year.
    Combating the work of people smugglers is an ongoing effort.
    The Government will remain vigilant in ensuring that our borders remain strong.
    Help us let all Australians know that we are honouring our commitment to build a safe and secure Australia.
    Scott Morrison
    Minister for Immigration and Border Protection

    Firstly, I would like to say to Lucy Wicks that passing on this kind of misleading propaganda does your credibility no good.

    Secondly, Mr Morrison has asked that I share this email. I do so gladly so that people may see this dishonest propaganda for what it really is. The use of language is interesting. The basis of this falsehood of that our borders are threatened. How can a few thousand weakened, terrified, dehydrated people threaten our borders? These Asylum Seekers are precisely that Asylum Seekers. They are not invading, or sneaking in or coming through the back door. The very nature of their journey means that the wish to declare their presence.

    The entire foundation of the government’s policy is based on the lie that our borders are not secure. And this kind of propaganda is needed to sell the deception.

    Not in our name Mr Morrison. You do not lie in our name.

    Fr Rod Bower


  41. Carolyn Janson

    Father Rod in Parliament! That is one wonderful dream! I second everything he says here, and I can say that if I were younger, I would run for Parliament with him. Sadly, far too many decent people are still not wanting to know about this political war we have been forced into; I get complaints about the number of political posts i put up, with the clear message that they just want to get on with their lives. There will not be much life left to them if they don’t join the fight. I thank Father Rod from the bottom of my heart, for his faithful work.

  42. Rustynuts

    Thanks Kaye.
    “When you look at the bio for John Roskam, head of the IPA, he lists his friends as,
    Friends: Bill Shorten | Andrew Bolt | Michael Kroger”

    I have always wondered about Shorten, is that proof he is the worm within?

    As my name implies I have always been a rusted on Labor person, I have been concerned for many years about Labors drift to the right and lately Mr WD40 (Bill) has been working overtime with his rust removing qualities. I really am looking for some progressive policies but can’t see anything from Labor, Bill running around patting abbot on the back and agreeing with his terrible policies is not what I want to see.

  43. Chris Crash

    Nice job Kay. Unfortunately, it only underlines how & why we got the Abbott Government in the first place. This bunch are stuck permanently in their own skid marks. Sad really!

  44. darrel nay

    Thanks Kaye for sharing your thoughts. We all know that Australia is a ‘little fish’ in the new globalised corporate world. Bill is now limited to policies which coalesce to the international trade agreements we have been signed into. The UN and the private banks now dwarf Australia and are using corruption and gradualism to dissolve our independence and herd us into Agenda 21. The issues Kaye raises are real and valid, but, I think the modern Australian political debate collapses our discussion into the Hegelian Dialectic.

    Personally, I believe that compulsory education is held up to be an ideal when it actually reflects the trend to authoritarianism at the expense of individuality. I love knowledge, wisdom and the opportunity to access an education but clearly compulsory education is a different animal. Compulsory education is a limited version of education which ultimately acts to remove our choices.

    We love the alternative this site provides to the collapsing dinosaur media.

    Cheers everyone.

  45. William Bowden

    I would also like to know why Labor has endorsed the nightmarish spend on the failed Joint Strike Fighters. It rarely seems to be discussed these days, must be the price of admission for the US alliance – an entry tax if you will, but I’d like to know what Labor is doing!

    As for the rest of the letter I heartily agree.

  46. Dan Rowden

    I think with respect to Asylum Seekers, and refugees in general, there are two questions the “Left” must answer definitively before speaking about offshore processing and the abandonment of such. Those questions are:

    1. How many asylum seekers/refugees should we take?

    2. What do we do when we’ve reached that quota? i.e. what sort of policy do we adopt to stop more coming?

    I don’t think there’s any meaningful conversation to be had about this unless those questions are answered, more particularity the second.

  47. Olivia Manor

    The Greens are looking increasingly attractive.

  48. DanDark

    You need to stop the insanity of dictators first in,Syria, Afghanistan ,Sri Lanka ,Fiji, Iran ,Iraq etc the whole world is over flowing with people escaping their own country, until we address this world wide attack by gov’s on their innocent people, it will be always be a huge problem, so stop the WARS, that is only solution.

  49. Kaye Lee


    I agree. Look to the causes rather than the symptoms. Increase foreign aid, stop wars and human rights abuses, eradicate poverty and hunger, provide shelter and clean water and education, improve living standards, and take action on climate change.

  50. DanDark

    Yep unless you attend to the root of disease, a bandaid will not cut it, and compared to the rest of the world, the numbers coming here a minute in comparison, like their is millions in Turkey in camps, over 50 mill displaced people world wide now, we need to get real about the push factor, not the pull factor,
    Australia wake up Tasmania has just sunk 🙂

  51. abbienoiraude

    Thank you Kay Rollison for a fabulous letter.
    You covered three very important areas ( although we all know there are many more).

    Dear Bill,
    Please read Ms Rollison’s letter and know she speaks for many desiring and hankering for Labor to step up and grab ‘LEADERSHIP’ (now there’s a word) from the fickle and cruel LNP.
    Leadership and Statesmanship are very specialised abilities. They incorporate the talent to stand up, speak of a vision, create a moral compass, communicate to the electorate in an intelligent and meaningful way. Not many people have this ability let alone a chance to practise and perfect their ideas and ideals for a whole Nation.
    I am not sure, Bill, if you have it. You are not a good communicator, not like Rudd nor Gillard. We know you had a hand in that awful mess ( the true ‘Labors Mess’ not the one about the budget and surplus and debt bullshit) that removed/reinstated leaders within Labors tenure in Government. You should not have messed about with the People’s will and it should have been kept within the Labor Party’s internal concerns. Airing dirty washing in public is never pleasant. Anyone within a party has the democratic right to put their hand up for the leaders role. Saying they didn’t, leaking to the MSM and putting Rudd as the fall guy ( with all the judgements that entailed) just divided and conquered (pitting Labor supporters even NOW to show hatred toward one or the other) allowing this dreadful group,The Neo-Conservatives, to now ‘run’ Australia. They aren’t you know. They are running us (the voters) to be the minions the slaves the plebeians of Corporations within Australia and business’ far and wide.
    The TPP is going to be the permanent change, the downfall of the real Australia, you know the one where we believe in ‘fair go’ and ‘stand by your mates’ and ‘give a bloke a chance’…all that olde worlde ideal of true Australian-ness.

    So if you don’t listen to the ‘rank and file’, if you don’t sense a ‘groundswell’ against offshore processing of OUR asylum seekers, if you don’t hear how we left supporters don’t want religious to come into public schools and be anywhere near our vulnerable children, if you don’t know that the Green Army is a Conservative demonisation of the unemployed, one that we (Labor supporters) find abhorrent because we think any job is worth a basic wage, not slave wage, then you, Sir, have not been listening to us, your electorate, and have been listening to the rich and powerful.

    We want to hear your vision, your moral sense of what is right NOW…not just before an election. We need the Labor party more than ever, to stand for the vulnerable, the worker, the family, the aged, the disabled, the poor. If you won’t or can’t ‘speak for us’ then we will find someone else who will and that most likely will be The Greens or some Independent person of character.

    Yours Sincerely

  52. Carolyn Janson

    Abbie, would you send this to Bill Shorten via his email? He surely will not read it here, but emails get to him. I’ve sent one this morning, it is easy. Just look for Bill Shorten “contact” and go from there. I think we need to bombard the man with emails, so he really knows what we want and what we don’t want!

  53. Wayne Turner

    Nice letter.The problem I feel Labor has,excluding the MSM,that they can’t control because Abbott is just a little puppet for Murdoch and their choosen big business interests.Are:-

    They can and are opposing what is very unpopular in the electorate eg: Changes to university from the budget.

    But they FAIL to oppose what is popular policy,regardless of how flawed said policy is eg: Off shore processing,with the cost involved,and ruining relationships with our closest neighbours.

    Basically Labor are GUTLESS and poll driven.Instead of acting from a position of principle.

    If they acted from principle they oppose the whole budget including the debt tax,that the well off that minimize their tax won’t ever pay anyway.They would oppose because it is based on the LIE of “no new taxes”,and so many well off will avoid paying it anyway.

    Labor need to act from principle,NOT by polls,stop attacking the greens when the Libs are the real enemy,plus attacking the Greens turn off many voters that don’t mind the Greens, and get off the fence where they appear to be too often because they are afraid of the MSM and opposition of said positions.


  54. Kaye Lee

    “It has been a harrowing and yet heartening time since the Immigration Minister cut our core funding. All our staff and volunteers have been overwhelmed by the financial support and warm messages of encouragement from you, our members and both regular and new supporters. We thank you deeply for your generous commitment to ensure we are an ongoing
    independent voice of justice and compassion for refugees.

    We are still $15,000 short of our goal, so if you know someone else who may be able to support us – please do forward this message and let them know they can donate at:

    Thank you so much for your support.

    Yours sincerely,
    Paul Power
    Chief Executive Officer
    Refugee Council of Australia”

  55. Florence nee Fedup

    I cannot help but believe the questions aimed at Shorten, are Abbott’s to answer. He is PM. It is his legalisation, his government..

    I suspect I am among many, including the Opposition, that know none will work.

    Yes, the questions are valid, but not Labor’s to answer.

    Yes, Labor is better to identify what is important, what they want to save from the previous government,. What they want to take to the next election. It is not the role of any Opposition to opposed all.

    If Abbott does get his axe the toxic taxes, CEF and MRRT through, he then has real problems.
    He tern has to talk about his government., Defend the results that come. Can no longer blame Labor.

    Gonksj, NBNCO CEF, and NDIS are policies that were right for the time., well worth fighting for.

    Trouble is, the public still has not woken up to this fact.

  56. Florence nee Fedup

    Yes, and this governments so called turn back boats, will come crashing down around their ears. Never seen Morrison so angry as he was on TV today. Yes, I believe he is beginning to lose it.

    The story has to be about Abbott and his mob, not Labor.

  57. Doug Evans

    Dan Rowden above
    The logic of your comment escapes me. What is there that links onshore processing to numbers of ‘irregular asylum seekers’ that does not apply equally to ‘offshore processing’? Why is it that ‘the Left’ must answer your questions before ‘meaningful conversation’ is possible but neither of the ‘old’ parties need to? We know the Coalition position that no asylum seeker who arrives by boat without a visa will ever be settled in Australia. What is the position of Labor (which your comment suggests no longer represents ‘the left’)? Labor is equally culpable with the coalition for the current extraordinary cruelty shown to the desperate and vulnerable people who believing that they would be given a fair go have arrived here completely legally. Much of what has been done by governments of both persuasions in our name to these desperate people is in blatant contradiction to the international obligations we have freely signed up to and has more than once been found to be illegal by our High Court. Just read what Julian Burnside and any of the U N H C R representatives that regularly speak out on this have to say. I would think that rather than implicitly pardoning the unpardonable and making patronizing demands of the ‘left’ (which apparently doesn’t include you) it would be far more appropriate to be pushing your own dysfunctional party to answer some of these questions. Pity there aren’t a few more like Melissa Parke left in this hollowed out shell of a once significant political party. Instead of blaming everyone else for their electoral decline ( the accursed GREENS, the appalling KRUDD) as Jane Garrett has done in her review of what went wrong at the last election Labor needs to grow a spine and stand up for doing the right thing. Then they might even find that people began to take notice of them again.

  58. John921Fraser


    @Dan Rowden

    "1. How many asylum seekers/refugees should we take?"
    "Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

    A poem from Emma Lazarus.

    This stanza appears on the base of Statue of Liberty.

    An aspiration …. perhaps ?

  59. Dan Rowden

    Doug Evans,

    Thanks for that rant. Can you answer my questions or not? I’m talking about real, pragmatic politics here, not what you or I or any progressive might like to see happen with respect to asylum seekers. If you can’t answer my questions, you have nothing, politically speaking, and in the end the politics matter, especially given the shitful place that the major parties have taken us.

    Basically what I’m saying is there’s a place for all the high and mighty moralising but it doesn’t answer my questions.

  60. John921Fraser



    Stop thinking !

    Your stupidity shows.

  61. Doug Evans

    Dan Rowden
    Although the problems created by the growing global tide of displaced persons (just over 50 million and rising) are complex. The answers to your questions are boringly prosaic and simple. Government sets a cap on numbers according to whatever criteria they currently use and arrives at a number – 20,000, 25,000, 30,000 are total refugee numbers I seem to remember being bandied around. They create an alternative in the countries to which these people initially flee (chiefly Indonesia and Malaysia) to the dangerous people smuggler trade. This means a process of registration – the queue which cannot be created in the homelands from which they have fled in fear of their lives. This means of course serious negotiation and adequate resource from Australian governments. They fly the annual quota to Australia in exactly the same way as they fly African refugees to Australia at present. Anyone who shows up from these countries outside of this process is returned immediately and placed at the back of the queue. I don’t underestimate the complexities implied here but this is ultimately the only possible answer. The maintenance of gulags in neighboring failed and failing states is unconscionable. Driving innocent people insane by unthinking and unfeeling cruelty may have persuaded the world’s desperate that Australians are such bastards that no-one would want to flee there but at what cost to our standing in the world and our self respect. Underlying your questions is this position. It is all very well for those ‘shouting from the sidelines’ (as Lindsay Tanner used to like to describe the Greens and others insisting on principled refugee policy) to hold to the high moral ground but REAL governments and REAL political parties must solve the problems created by increasing numbers of asylum seekers. Underlying this position is the notion that somehow or other Australia is somehow faced with a crisis. The threat of being overwhelmed by the growing tide of irregular boat arrivals. This of course was always a fiction. The pressure of asylum seeker numbers in this country have always been modest by comparison with almost everywhere else. Some time ago another online Labor supporter who would brook no criticism of the ALP on his site challenged his readers to design their own asylum seeker policy. If you want my views on how asylum seekers should be handled you can find my response to Ad Astra’s challenge here. http://duggyvans.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/lets-pretend.html It was also published on AIMN but I’m not sure whether it’s still accessible here. Now I have a question for you. What is wrong with the alternative position I described in this piece? I’ve answred your question I wonder if you will answer mine.

  62. Dan Rowden


    I’m not sure you really answered my questions. Indeed, you didn’t even begin to address my second question. I’m wondering why not. In terms of your piece replying to Ad Astra, all of my instincts are to agree with the moral component of your thoughts. I do, however, think you’re on a hiding to nothing regarding the politics, and whether we like it or not the politics of this matter. In that piece you said:

    How am I doing so far? Does it sound like a lot of impractical hippy rubbish that only a Greens supporter with no idea of what it takes to govern, could dream up?

    To some extent, yes. Free housing? Who the hell is going to accept giving free housing to refugees when we can’t even do that for our own citizenry? We have sufficient commitment from various charity and social groups and organisations and individual families to make that unnecessary. Abiding by the various Articles of the Convention will see refugees gaining the rights they are entitled to, including access to health and legal services, work etc. But then we have to politically address the issue of giving jobs to refugees when we have 6% unemployment. Far too many people have trouble with that one. They may mostly be dumb f*s but their vote counts as much as ours.

    On shore processing is cheaper? Indeed it is, by veritable sh*tloads. But if we go that way I feel we [Government] absolutely have to take back control of detention centres and get them out of the hands of greedy private organisations. Not only does it cost us more it takes away the element of public scrutiny. That to me is unacceptable.

    One of the biggest issues we face in this whole drama is that there are no “transit” countries we can meaningfully trust or rely on. Virtually none of them are signatories to the Convention and that is a huge problem, as Gillard found when the High Court struck down the Malaysian solution, which wasn’t really all that bad an idea. We cannot do deals with countries that have no legal obligation to protect people. It would be great if it were possible to do a deal with a particular transit country and, in concert with the UN, create a queue were none now exists, but unless we can convince some nation to sign up to the convention and allow UN involvement and control, nothing we try and organise with these transit countries is going to amount to much.

    The problem I see regarding on shore processing, which I personally favour, is that we will inevitably see more boat people coming. We will also inevitably see more deaths. That’s a fact we can’t just blithely shrug off. It also raises the issue of my two questions: How many do we take? What do we do when we reach our quota? Is it even an issue? With Iraq about to descend into civil war you bet your backside it’s an issue. Observations about how many refugees we take in comparison to other countries don’t speak to either question. Yes, the questions are largely political, but we have to answer them – definitively, otherwise we cannot win the politics and if we can’t win that then nothing will change.

    As to that politics, the Lowy Institute recently reported that in a survey they conducted 71% of those surveyed supported the “tow back” policy. I suspect that barely 5% of those people even know what “refoulement” is, but that’s by the by. Who is responsible for this state of affairs? Tony Abbott? Scott Morrison? Nah. In my view it is the Labor Party, primarily. They are the main culprits. They are the main reason for the overall shift in public sentiment. Of course, most Labor supporters will find this absurd given the current behaviour and policies of the conservative Government, but I think they are wrong. The reason Labor is to blame is simply that we expect Conservative Governments to be tough on humanitarian issues. We expect Labor to be the voice of social and humanitarian concern and compassion. They haven’t been, therefore the feeling that what the conservatives have been suggesting, saying and doing is essentially sound, has taken hold. The conservatives are merely doing what conservatives tend to do. Labor has been failing to meet its own ideological criteria and that’s why, in my view, things are so mucked up.

    I do not possess, by the way, any answer to my own questions, I just know they have to be answered for the politics to have any capacity to change. They have to be answered for Labor to have any real ability to turn their own policy framework around (assuming they have any actual desire to do so). What disturbs me on that front is their relative quietude in relation to the appalling state of affairs we currently have in terms of dealing with Asylum Seekers. There is not nearly enough condemnation coming from Labor ranks regarding the situations on Manus and Nauru. That is highly troubling.

    Basically, from a purely humanitarian perspective, I’m more or less on the same page as you, Doug, but I seriously wonder about the political pragmatism of our views, especially given where we are on this. If someone could offer proper answers to my questions, and not merely “bandied about” numbers, I would be completely vocal about on shore processing and accepting however many asylum seekers are able to make it here, because that’s where I instinctively stand, but hippy dippy, lefty Green sentiments aren’t going to cut it if we don’t address the political difficulties. Taking a moral and principled stand is all well and good, but it means nothing if it doesn’t get you into Government and that’s my real concern. Asylum Seekers present a kind of Sophie’s Choice scenario for Labor. If they choose to turn their policy attitude around do they risk handing Abbott a second term? I think they absolutely do. Can public sentiment be turned around on this issue between now and the next election? Can Labor claw things back through an incremental change in stance and a concerted effort to sell that change to the electorate? At present I’m unable to see any scenario in which that is remotely likely.

  63. Kaye Lee

    Weighing in,

    I agree with everything so far so we need a plan on how to achieve it. Our immigration for any given year (without looking it up) is over 200,000. Family reunions must form part of that. Skilled labour should be a decreasing part because we should identify need and train people here to fill gaps. So it seems to me, considering the world crisis, that after that, the places should be allocated on need (an impossible ideal but a broad indication that we can take a LOT more than we do without affecting numbers or services).

    We should actively work on eliminating the push factors of war, human rights abuses, poverty, hunger, climate change. We should actively work on integration services for our new citizens providing whatever assistance we can to help them adjust to an entirely new culture. They have come from places where authorities are scary. We should be welcoming them and showing them they can trust authorities here so they can feel safe and help them to become participating contributing members of our community.

    backpackers are given a lot of working visas…could we not temporarily allow asylum seekers to do this paid work should they choose to while they are waiting for their application to be processed? I am sure there are many areas of rural Australia who would appreciate a temporary workforce who could then become a permanent boost to the community when applications are granted.

  64. DanDark

    Kaye Lee for P.M 🙂
    I vote yes 🙂

  65. Dan Rowden

    Kaye Lee,

    could we not temporarily allow asylum seekers to do this paid work should they choose to while they are waiting for their application to be processed? I am sure there are many areas of rural Australia who would appreciate a temporary workforce who could then become a permanent boost to the community when applications are granted.

    There are any number of rural and regional communities that are welcoming of that sort of idea. I seem to remember a website somewhere that lists a bunch of them. I think maybe John Fraser posted it once. I guess the one difficulty with the idea is that we can only really encourage it; we can’t actually enforce it. One would like to think that asylum seekers would take whatever opportunity was offered to them, but it’s the case that not all of them are people used to such a life. Many of them are urbanites entirely accustomed to that sort of condition. So, resistance may be an issue. Still, the willingness of regional and rural Australia to take Asylum Seekers into their folds is one of the positives we can point to in terms of the numbers we can take.

  66. Kaye Lee

    I agree it would have to be just an option that is offered, not required. Some asylum seekers are professional people who may not be interested, some would not be suited to physical labour. We also have our Green Army as an option. We need to investigate more opportunities. Some of the asylum seekers could be employed in the integration of their ethnic groups, helping to translate and advise and act as facilitators for both sides.

  67. Doug Evans

    Dan Rowden
    The answer to your second question that I gave was: ‘Anyone who shows up from these countries outside of this process is returned immediately and placed at the back of the queue.’ However as it’s cheaper to deal with them here why not do so? I gather the Tasmanian opposition has suggested they be sent there. If there are jobs in it for Tasmanians why not? Everyone else processes them onshore why can’t we? Of course there are difficulties and enormous complexities involved in the negotiations with transit countries but pretty well every other country in the world is able to manage this problem humanely. Why can’t we? Of course after a couple of decades of dog whistling from both the ‘old’ parties the path back to public acceptance of a humane policy that conforms with our international obligations is long but if the ‘sheeple’ can be herded one way they can also be herded back again. The real problem is not negative public opinion but lack of political will. The first step on the path back is to start telling the bloody truth and how hard this seems to be for our elected representatives. It’s not just a matter of starry eyed idealism Dan Rowden. As is so often the case doing the right thing by this (still) relatively small group of vulnerable people also makes economic sense and conforms with our international and Australian legal obligations. The fundamental (and disgraceful) reason why we are not doing the right thing is that both of the ‘old’ parties are afraid that it won’t play well in the marginals and that this therefore leaves them open to attack from their opposition. How pathetic is that. The nation cries out for leadership and with a couple of exceptions the Federal Lower House is full of either sharks or jelly fish. I despair.

  68. Jan Dobson

    Not that he needs my support, but the questions Dan Rowden raised are valid. I asked similar questions of Julian Burnside, whom I greatly admire, and his response was both true and not completely satisfactory to me. Those answers, and the “what can we do, they are our neighbours” response from a (I think Turkish) politician on the subject have convinced me that we need to worry less about the numbers and more about doing what is right. But it is incredibly important that we discuss this freely.

    The best results to any situation occur when everyone is consulted, although governing shouldn’t be a popularity contest. We complain that the moderates don’t come to the table. Let’s not contribute to their absence. The current Asylum Seeker policy is appalling and the language is immoral, but we need to have both a practical and humanitarian response. There are approximately 47 million refugees, some of whom have been in camps for more than two generations, and every one of them equally deserving of our help. Australia must be part of an international response. Asking relevant, well meaning questions can assist us find acceptable solutions.

  69. Diannaart


    One other point I would like to add, that Bill Shorten ;




    This is lacking across both the LNP (a dearth of thinking anything through beyond the next election) – why does Labor have to copy everything the LNP does? – we know their policies are heinous, we know they do nothing for people, environment, re-establishing Australia as a manufacturer instead of a great big pit.

    I cannot believe that thinking ideas through, looking at them from all angles, see which bits work for the long term and which bits are only useful for the short term – I do believe they call it planning has become an endangered practice.

    The only party which even attempts this are the Greens – of course if the Greens (like any disparaged group) do even one single thing wrong, they are rejected as not worthy. As a woman (or any marginalised group of people) I can talk a lot about being rejected as ‘not worthy’ – nothing to do with evidence – just outright prejudice.

    Well,Kay, write to Bill – see if he does a 180 degree change – really, I would love to see THAT happen.

    However, I have reached a point where, on the basis of Labor’s policies since the Hawke/Keating days, that Labor is wedged into its right-wing track. It can never compete with the LNP on a race of how far right can a political party go. I do believe deals made with big business and big money in general are written in blood and non-negotiable.

    Therefore, I will continue to vote Greens in the lower house, and below the line in the upper.

  70. Dan Rowden


    The answer to your second question that I gave was: ‘Anyone who shows up from these countries outside of this process is returned immediately and placed at the back of the queue.’

    Will these countries be signatories to the Convention? If not, we can’t do that.

    However as it’s cheaper to deal with them here why not do so?

    What will the cap be and why? If we have a cap, then it follows that at some point we must stop accepting refugees and asylum seekers. That means we send them back “somewhere”. If that is ethically acceptable to us at some future point, how is it not right now? Can we make the case, with sufficient moral force, that it’s better that we help to the full extent that we can, even if there will be some arbitrary point at which we have to call a halt? If the principle of helping as many as you can, while you can, is so morally self-evident, why isn’t it the easiest thing in the world to argue? Have we become such a hard-hearted place that we even have to argue that it’s better to help some than none? You could be forgiven for thinking so.

    I gather the Tasmanian opposition has suggested they be sent there. If there are jobs in it for Tasmanians why not?

    Given the last couple of elections in Tassie I don’t see Tasmanians being especially amenable. Maybe they could plant trees where there’ll soon be none.

    Everyone else processes them onshore why can’t we?

    Because it’s an attractant not a deterrent and the fact is we have clearly decided we don’t want them here at all. That’s what off-shore processing was always about. We have decided, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear but upon which we can certainly speculate that we don’t want a single asylum seeker coming here. It’s just easier for us to screw over the ones that come by boat because they’re more visible and more derisible.

    Of course there are difficulties and enormous complexities involved in the negotiations with transit countries but pretty well every other country in the world is able to manage this problem humanely. Why can’t we?

    Because we’re a pack of shitheads? I do think the collection of transit countries we have to deal with are arguably shittier than other nations have to deal with, but we could certainly be trying harder. Unfortunately we now have a Government that has a natural suspicion of, and even open disregard for the UN.

    Of course after a couple of decades of dog whistling from both the ‘old’ parties the path back to public acceptance of a humane policy that conforms with our international obligations is long but if the ‘sheeple’ can be herded one way they can also be herded back again. The real problem is not negative public opinion but lack of political will.

    Indeed. The problem there is one of the proverbial vicious cycle. Lack of political will helps mould public opinion and public opinion helps drive the politics. Someone needs to rise above it.

    The first step on the path back is to start telling the bloody truth and how hard this seems to be for our elected representatives. It’s not just a matter of starry eyed idealism Dan Rowden. As is so often the case doing the right thing by this (still) relatively small group of vulnerable people also makes economic sense and conforms with our international and Australian legal obligations. The fundamental (and disgraceful) reason why we are not doing the right thing is that both of the ‘old’ parties are afraid that it won’t play well in the marginals and that this therefore leaves them open to attack from their opposition. How pathetic is that. The nation cries out for leadership and with a couple of exceptions the Federal Lower House is full of either sharks or jelly fish. I despair.

    Largely agree, but would add that it’s a truism in politics that you can’t achieve much in Opposition. If taking a moral and principled stand doesn’t play out well in the electorate, is it worth it? It’s a big risk for Labor to adopt such a stance. I do wonder if they currently possess the political acumen or quality of personnel to turn things around. I hope they manage to acquire both because if they don’t nothing will change and the reasons to despair will continue.

  71. Kaye Lee

    We cannot just send people back. In 2006 we sent 11 Afghanis back…they were all accused of being Australian spies and murdered. Among them were 2 little girls aged 6 and 9. This case is far from unique.

  72. Kaye Lee

    Anne Frank

  73. DanDark

    Confucius say “Problem should not become excuse”

    “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”

    “When it comes to profits and morality, profits will always win”

    “People will not always believe what you say, but will believe what you do”

  74. mars08

    Let’s be clear on one thing.

    The votes that these cruel policies and harsh measures seek to attract… are the votes that truly matter

    Winning votes in the marginal seats is what it’s all about. The inner city electorates might be more open to support the humane treatment of asylum seekers… but we KNOW they are likely to be lefties anyway.

    Unfortunately, it’s more productive to go after the mercenary, disengaged, self-absorbed swing vote…

  75. Dan Rowden


    Unfortunately, it’s more productive to go after the mercenary, disengaged, self-absorbed swing vote…

    Sadly, this is absolutely true in terms of political reality. Labor has to invest as much intellectual capital as it can into finding a way to sell a change of heart and mind on Asylum Seekers to this precise demographic. Appealing to progressives is all well and good but it won’t get you elected.

  76. Kaye Lee

    That’s why the argument should be economic. That is the way to get through to these people. Show them current immigration targets (no extra people). Show them the true cost of Operation Sovereign Borders and off-shore processing. Show them how much Serco and Transfield make for their private Gaols.

    Humanise asylum seekers by giving individuals a forum to tell their story so people understand just what they are fleeing and how there is no queue to jump. Show success stories and the contribution individuals are making. Let’s hear from country towns…there is somewhere near Lismore that have a very successful relationship with a local refugee community.

    I am a teacher…I had to teach trigonometry and logarithms to kids who wanted to be hairdressers and labourers. People are not inherently cruel. They can be persuaded/taught. I should add that this is possible because there is truth in mathematics.

  77. mars08

    …I had to teach trigonometry and logarithms to kids who wanted to be hairdressers and labourers. People are not inherently cruel. They can be persuaded/taught. I should add that this is possible because there is truth in mathematics.

    And that’s exactly the point, isn’t it?

    With mathematics, it either adds up, or it doesn’t. There are no shades of grey. AND there is no third party trying to muddy the waters to suit THEIR agenda. Besides, if the answer isn’t right in the classroom, it does not present an existential threat to our way of life and exclusively halal food at the footie.

    Sadly while an individual might not be inherently cruel… we’ve seen time and again, that frightened PEOPLE are!

  78. Kaye Lee

    So we must listen to their fears and allay them.

  79. Doug Evans

    Dan Rowden
    Oh dear. So many reasons why Australia cannot manage to do what most of the rest of the world’s wealthy economies can. Institute a humane, just and expeditious asylum seeker policy. Just as you patronizingly demand of ‘the left’ that they come up with quotas and policing policies I could demand of the ‘right’ that you explain why we can’t do as well as almost everyone else does. But I know there would be no answers. You apparently read the piece I published on this topic but as I would expect of any good ‘whatever it takes’ Labor apologist dismiss it as naive idealism. You completely overlook the fact that I was writing about what other countries ACTUALLY DO not about what they say they would like to do if only the polls, the opposition, the media, the minders and backers would allow it. Suddenly I’m tired. All of a sudden I remember why I abandoned the spineless, rudderless Labor Party.

  80. Doug Evans

    Dan Rowden
    I quickly scanned the accumulated comments above before going to bed formed an impression and fired off the above response without checking just a couple of minutes ago after getting up. I have now belatedly properly read your response to me again and find that I’ve misunderstood your position quite badly. Bizarre as this may seem we actually agree (as often before) on pretty well everything. Sorry for my morning grumpiness and rudeness.

  81. Doug Evans

    Dan Rowden
    On a slightly more constructive note. The path back on asylum seekers would I reckon need three terms. A Labor Party which had (re)discovered its principles on asylum seekers might start to turn things around in the run-up to the next election by, as far as possible, not talking about asylum seekers. This is currently a plus for Abbott in the eyes of the electorate anyway and there are plenty of negatives to highlight. Then, assuming Abbott is trashed at the next election the Shorten government could quietly make whatever changes are possible to improve the situation within the framework of the existing legislation during the first term. Children in detention for example. It is still in the Labor Platform that children not be held in detention and yet Australia-wide about 1800 children are in long term detention with all the negative implications that this implies for their development and mental health. Through-out this first term a Shorten government should be doing all that it can to encourage publication of op-eds and production of TV docos etc telling the truth about asylum seekers but keeping this at arms length. No senior government ministers speaking out too strongly just commenting in response that times were changing, new conditions might require rethink sometime in future etc etc. In election prior to second term modest reform ideas that could be represented as fine tuning etc might be included in the platform. If this went well a serious overhaul of the legislation could be contemplated in a third term. I think that is how far off we are from being able to clean up this mess even if the will was present (which I don’t believe). Of course with a less Australia-friendly president and government in Jakarta (quite likely) it’s not impossible that they will decide to covertly rid themselves of the problem by putting the whole lot of transit asylum seekers on boats heading south. How would we handle that?

  82. Dan Rowden


    It’s cool. We do indeed more or less agree on most things. The questions I was posing weren’t for my own personal edification. I just think they’re questions that must be answered meaningfully for the sake of the 71% of Australians that now, apparently, support the tow back policy. I would like to think the timeframe for a policy and attitudinal turn around might be shorter than the one you propose, but you’re probably right and I’m inclined to agree with the format for it that you suggest. It is a political plus for Abbott at present and Labor isn’t really in a position to take anything to the Government head-on, other than perhaps the issue of children in detention and the overall lack of humane conditions. Of course, the fact that the’re in that position, and therefore by extension, progressives generally, is 100% their own damn fault.

    As for Indonesia, they will always be a potential problem, I fear. If for whatever reason they started throwing boats at us I think the pressure to re-institute on-shore processing might prove irresistible.

  83. John921Fraser


    @Dan Rowden & Doug Evans

    Now that you both have finally worked out that you are having a love in, how about this :

    "Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

    A poem from Emma Lazarus.

    This stanza appears on the base of Statue of Liberty.

    An aspiration …. perhaps ?

  84. Kaye Lee

    Sensible, and possibly achievable suggestions Doug. I hope you are wrong about the time frame but then I do not understand the mentality of that 71% and I hate the game playing that is politics in that they cannot show leadership in finding what is the best thing to do in this situation. If they want to stop deaths at sea, fly asylum seekers here. It would be a shitload cheaper. How do you stop the tsunami of people who will want to come? Address the push factors, establish processing centres in refugee camps and transit countries, speed up processing, increase the intake, those that come here by their own means are detained onshore with their applications put at the end of the list, reduce the cost by allowing those who have passed health and security checks to work.

  85. Kaye Lee


    Matthew 25:35-40

    New International Version (NIV)

    35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

    37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

    40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

  86. Dan Rowden

    That bloody Jesus. All he ever did was encourage people to be dependent on charity and welfare. Freakin’ pinko hippy. 😉

  87. John921Fraser


    I'm just a naughty boy.

  88. Kaye Lee

    Let us all cast off one shoe and follow the gourd.

    (Gawd you people are distracting. I AM supposed to be working)

  89. DanDark

    Lol stop it you lot
    I can’t stop ROLF
    Oh Monday Monday
    There is a song there mmmm
    I will just go find it 😉

  90. Diannaart

    Enjoying the commentary everyone!

  91. DanDark

    People pay the “experts” for therapy, Geee if they only knew about AIMN,would save them heaps of bucks 🙂
    Sanity pills are free here, come get your free day of sanity, join up and get a life time of sanity for free,
    its worth every cent,, oops that’s right its freeeee 🙂

  92. Abbienoiraude

    Carolyn Janson: It has taken me several days to get up the nerve but have taken your encouragement to send my letter off to Bill Shorten via email.

    Thank you for the support.


  93. jimhaz

    I am pro the LNP policies on asylum seekers. It is probably the only issue I am on the far Right on. Now, though I agree with the policies, that doesn’t mean I support Morrison’s modus operadum (secrecy, lies and purposefully, low duty of care).

    To this day I still believe 70-80% of asylum seekers are primarily economic refugees or that no real clear and present danger is present (dangers that are more extreme than others face in their general neighborhood), should they move within their own country or surrounding countries of the same religious denomination. As the Muslim religion and what it does to peoples way of thinking, totally appalls me – there are no Muslims I would accept as asylum seekers.

    Unlike the LNP or ALP though I would halve immigration within 5 years.
    Unlike the LNP or ALP though I would double or triple aid provided within Aust so that we could educate and house maybe 40,000 people on waiting lists – on the proviso they returned to their source country within months of finishing the course (or gained immigration to some other country as a qualifed tradesperson).

    What underlies my thinking on this is population control and the brain/personality type drain from the countries they are leaving.

    One of the main reasons l have never voted for the Greens is this issue (the other is a lack of economic coherence in their policies)

    I would suggest that people supporting changes to the current asylum seeker policy, find ways to satisfy their need to mother, in some other fashion.

  94. Möbius Ecko

    “Asylum seekers who arrive by boat are economic migrants.”

    An asylum seeker is, by definition, a person who claims to be a refugee and is waiting for that claim to be assessed. It is impossible to say one way or the other whether their protection claims are credible until they have been assessed. Historically, however, the vast majority of asylum seekers who have reached Australia by boat have been found to be refugees.

    I would suggest that people supporting the cruel treatment of asylum seekers on peddled myths find ways to satisfy their need to denigrate and demonise in some other fashion.

  95. Diannaart


    You have nothing to offer people fleeing poverty?

    Tony was lucky that Mr and Mrs Abbott got with the ten pound Pom program before it was axed. Even luckier, Abbott was just the right age to benefit from Whitlam’s legacy to a generation of university grads.

    Just sayin’

    Of course, we don’t want economic refugees now, because…. they might turn out like Abbott?

  96. Carolyn Janson

    Good on you Abbie! You’ll find as you do it, it becomes easier each time! And the more letters and emails a politician receives, the more notice he takes. I have that from a horse’s mouth ( a Labor politician in WA, now at the top of his tree.)

  97. DanDark

    Abbie keep it up, it makes you feel like you have had your say, you vote
    Last I knew it still was Australia, not Egypt, and like Carolyn said, sooner or later they have
    to take notice, I email labor when something inspires me,so far that’s only been twice since election,
    or I email and phone to let the lying fat cat libs know……
    “They are sliding into oblivion” ” sleep well” or ” have a great day”
    I am sure I have a target on my back 🙂

  98. Doug Evans

    Despite what you ‘still believe’ over 80% of irregular boat arrivals have been found to be genuine refugees. On the other hand, last time I looked over 90% of the considerably larger number who arrive by plane with tourist visas then overstay later attempting to claim asylum are found to be economic refugees. They of course are processed onshore with (I think) still full access to the Australian court system.
    You say ‘there are no Muslims I would accept as asylum seekers’ because of ‘what it does to people’s way of thinking’. Well OK but let’s be thorough about this. How about no Christians because of the slaughter of thousands of Bosnian and Kosovo Muslims by ‘Christian’ militias not so long ago? How about no Hindus because of the regular massacres of Indian Muslims? How about no Buddhists because of the treatment of Tamil minority in Sri Lanka by a ‘Buddhist government and Rohinga massacres in Myanmar by ‘Buddhist’ villagers? How about no Jews because of the appalling disenfranchisement of and violence against Palestinians?
    Life is always simpler when there is a scapegoat in view but unfortunately reality is more complex and in all these cases it is not the actual religion but the perversion of religion in the name of politics, greed and/or the global patriarchy that underlies the sort of perversions and violence that we all object to.

  99. Jennifer

    Well said, Doug. I am saving your letter for a few friends of mine.

  100. Kaye Lee

    Jesus Dan,

    “”More likely than not means that there would be a 50 per cent chance that a person would suffer significant harm in the country they are returned to.

    “Now this is an acceptable position which is open to Australia under international law and reflects the Government’s interpretation of Australia’s obligations.”

    So if there is a 50% chance that someone will be harmed if we send them back, that is ok now?

  101. abbienoiraude

    it is weird Dan Rowden but I figure;

    1 Look over here, look over here!!

    2 Since he does not ‘process’ any asylum seekers any longer I just can’t think!

    3 He LOVES being in the spotlight

    4 But most likely; If refugees had a 10% chance of being harmed they could not be sent ‘back’. Now he is upping it to around 50%. Is he seeing how much the Australian populace will tolerate in putting in harms way desperate and vulnerable people? Is he measuring just how far he can go when it comes to be a bloody mongrel?
    Does he think this will make him a strong contender for Abbott’s position when the time comes?

    In any case…he is not a nice person representing our values and morals on the world stage.

    The UN should start to sanction us asap.

  102. Doug Evans

    I gather he is trying to implement changes that place the onus on asylum seekers to prove their bonafides rather than (as at present) the onus being on Immigration to investigate their claims. This will inevitably result in many more refugees being repatriated into danger. It’s entirely consistent with L + NP cruelty.

  103. Dan Rowden


    Yeah, I get that, but I feel there’s something bigger happening. Depending on certain elements of these changes, e.g. retrospectivity, I have a funny notion in my head that this is all leading to the closure of Manus and Nauru.

  104. Kaye Lee

    They are sending people back to Iraq and Syria unless they can provide papers proving their identity and then they also have to prove that they would have a 51% or higher chance of coming to serious harm. Aren’t these guys watching the news??????

  105. Mark Wells

    Dear Bill,
    Let me start by saying that I haven’t voted Labor for over 20yrs, haven’t voted Liberal ever but as someone who was once a dyed in the wool supporter,I hope you have read the above letter.

    If you want people like me to return to the fold, then perhaps you should start by being a leader, not a follower of ‘focus groups’, not a panderer to industry contributors, which is what your party seems to have become. We need a leader who has the courage to change the conversation with the populace, not just give us gentle belly rubs and say what we want to hear. Convince us that there is a better way of doing things and you could start by having the guts to change the party and the public’s view re asylum seekers. Do you know how many people are ashamed of the way your party bowed to the ratbag press and reintroduced off shore processing?

    Your lot did not have the fortitude to stand up to Gina, Twiggy and the Murdoch press re the Super Profits Tax, why the hell should we vote for you if you don’t have the strength to follow through on a matter of principle.

    I want to vote for a statesman, a person of conviction, not some opinion poll driven jelly backed ex unionist who is quite prepared to shred all he once appeared to stand for, or did you really stand for anything at all, was it just a game to get a seat. I would love you to prove me wrong,

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