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Operation Sovereign Borders. Doubly Disillusioned.

Image from theconversation.com

Image from theconversation.com

Over the past several years Tony Abbott has electioneered on two platforms:  that climate change is crap and that asylum seekers arriving by boats are “illegals”. Abbott also chose to create a sense of urgency, a sense of fear, the fear of the other and an impression that somehow the Australian people were under threat. The nationalistic name which Abbott conjured up, Operation Sovereign Borders consists of the same overblown rhetoric reminiscent of the Bush/Howard era, and is described in the Coalition’s Policy document as a response to “a national emergency”.

With the coming of Tony Abbott to power, Operation Sovereign Borders was described as “gearing up”, and as endorsed by The Australian newspaper, put into action by immediately “shutting down the flow of information on the arrival of asylum vessels and the transfer of people offshore”:

All requests for information from Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Immigration – on issues ranging from boat arrivals, to detention centre capacity levels, the numbers of detainees on Manus Island and Nauru, or violent incidents in the detention network – are now directed to the mobile telephone of Mr Morrison’s press secretary.

This is of such importance, such an emergency that all enquiries must immediately be directed to . . . a press secretary?

The Sydney Morning Herald hence reports:

The public might never be told whether the Coalition is meeting a key election promise in having the navy turn back asylum seeker boats, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has said.

The above is the entire crux of the matter: we might never be told whether or not Tony Abbott is meeting a key election promise and the very promise which for many, won him the election.

It was 27th April 2012 when the headlines from news.com were ablaze with the following:

TONY Abbott will tell Indonesia that people smugglers “disgorging” asylum seekers are like Australians smuggling drugs into Bali should he win government.

The Opposition Leader today said that, if elected Prime Minister, he would fly to Jakarta in his first week to explain his policy of turning back people smuggler boats.

And he would call a double dissolution election if he can’t get his tougher border security measures, including re-introduction of temporary protection visas, through Parliament . . .

“Every illegal boat marks a failure of foreign policy, a failure of security policy and a failure of immigration policy.”……..

Then Immigration Minister Chris Bowen responded with the statement that Abbott was putting relations with Indonesia at risk by again pledging to turn boats back.

“Mr Abbott’s claim that he will have a ‘Jakarta focussed’ foreign policy is questionable as he rides roughshod over the repeated and clear message from Indonesia that they would not agree to towing back the boats,” said Mr Bowen.

It seems that as a matter of public information this issue no longer exists with the urgency now relegated to weekly information sessions or via Scott Morrison’s press secretary, that every illegal boat which “marks a failure of foreign policy” will be information disseminated perhaps accurately but certainly not in a timely manner. Urgency has drifted to once a week information sessions.

Is it that Prime Minister Abbott has  little desire to fulfill his previous commitment to call a double dissolution election on this issue? “Failures” may or may not be known by the public, or even more suspect:  Is it that the Abbott government intends to set its own asylum seeker policy up for failure?

By making conditions so onerous and insulting for the Indonesian government is it that Abbott has a ready-made fall guy?  The vast majority of Abbott’s rhetoric is that he will tell Indonesia what he intends to do with their country – from turning boats back to their shores, to buying fishing boats (en mass it is assumed) from Indonesians, to setting up “transit ports” on their soil. All rhetoric speaks of infringements against Indonesia’s sovereign rights to do what they want in their own country. For Operation Sovereign Boarders to succeed it needs the cooperation of the Indonesian Government, which has not, and will not be forthcoming. For their failure to comply with Abbott’s infringement upon their sovereignty I can see that they are nicely being set-up as the fall guy.

That is only one are of failure. There are possibly more.

Again from the Sydney Morning Herald:

Under Operation Sovereign Borders two frigates, seven patrol boats and numerous Customs vessels will patrol the seas between Christmas Island and Ashmore Reef and Indonesia.

Anzac Class frigates cost about $207,000-a-day to operate compared with $40,000-a-day for Armidale Class Patrol boats.

Seven frigates at $207,000 a day means that Operation Sovereign Boarders would cost the taxpayer over $520M a year for the Navy’s contribution alone. Then there are the Global Hawke Drones, if he decides to go ahead with them, at a cost of $US218M each. How many might he want? In an environment of a budget emergency, how long before the taxpayers rest a little uneasy about the enormous expense of detecting or intercepting the boats that are apparently going to stop coming?

Then there are other logistics. Officials would conduct health checks on the ship or at the port, and the smuggled people would be taken to nearby airports for charter flights direct to Nauru and Manus Island. They can’t go to Indonesia, of course, because Indonesia have sensibly rejected Tony Abbott’s invasive plan.

And which port, by the way?

So we are now back to where we were at any period over the last six years, but at a higher cost to the taxpayer. However, Tony Abbott can no longer blame Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard so he will directly blame Indonesia. Will this be an excuse to not call a double dissolution? We’ll see.

Operation Sovereign Borders will not only go down as Tony Abbott’s biggest policy flop but one of great expense.

But we’ll never hear about it.

* A post by Michael and Carol Taylor

55 comments

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  1. TommyP

    STOP THE ABBOTT

  2. Miss Lou

    Having built his Election campaign on 3 and 4 word slogans, lets hope the Australian People do not forget, and hold him and the Liberal Party Accountable.

  3. PeterF

    Perhaps using the armed forces in this way is a means of keeping up their ‘fighting momentum’* until the new Minister for Defence* can find a suitable conflict for them to be engaged in. (* his words.)

    What have we done to deserve these idiots?

  4. PeterF

    By the way, I am reliably informed (by someone who has read countless legal statements by these boat people) that, by overflying many countries where they might have claimed refugee status before getting on a boat in Indonesia, they actually have placed themselves outside the international convention. In this way they might well be described as ‘illegal’. No matter how they are described, they are still using their money to gain an advantage over refugees who have spent years in camps. In this, they do not deserve to be placed ahead of those who have waited so long.

  5. Tracey

    Agree with the sentiments, but there is a maths problem. You quote 2 frigates and 7 patrol boats but then multiply the cost of the frigates by 7 instead of by 2.

    They cannot hide what they are doing though as many articles state as quite simply Navy personnel will not be kept under lock and key. They will mention if they are involved in illegally towing boats back or breaching Indonesian Territorial Waters without the intent of returning asylum seekers.

    Abbott and Morrison may be dishonest but the Navy personnel are not. They have been trained to repel invaders, not attack asylum seekers.

  6. kayelee1

    “How did nobody think of this before? When nobody acknowledges there is a problem, then there is no problem.
    When nobody is allowed to know about a problem, the problem goes away.
    This will be a Golden Age my friends. Foreign debt? Pfft. What foreign debt? Climate catastrophe? Are you effing kidding me? That last, deeply disturbing report of the UN’s Climate Change Boffin Squad?
    Shut up you!
    See how easy it is? I can only hope that state and local governments heed the power of Abs’ word, or his refusal to say any words, or let anyone else say any words about anything of which Abs does not approve. Hospital waiting lists? Shut up, New South Wales! Too many serial killers? Zip it, Adelaide. Somebody stole your footy final? Nobody wants to hear from you, North Queensland Cowboys.
    In fact, the more I think about this the more powerful the power of STFU becomes.”

    http://www.smh.com.au/comment/blogs/blunt-instrument/what-we-dont-know-cant-hurt-us-20130924-2uaqd.html#ixzz2flVXy9Ux

  7. once was blind

    Patiently waiting for department of treasury and finance to fall under the umbrella of national security.

  8. Carol Taylor

    PeterF, there is no onus on anyone who is claiming asylum to make that claim in any particular country. Plus it is not possible to place that condition on people..for example, X country might be closer and X country might claim that they treat eg. Christian converts fairly but the truth is often far removed. Similar did happen with the Tamils *no persecution* it was claimed, it was not the truth.

  9. Carol Taylor

    Tracy, non-authorised Navy personnel will not make public statements however they also are firstly bound by the Law of preservation of life at sea – this was the concern of former Chief of the Navy Admiral Barrie, that Tony Abbott’s instructions would endanger not only the lives of asylum seekers but that of enlisted personnel.

  10. Pam Rawlings

    It seems to me we are now being run by a dictator. Not only that but he also wants to be a dictator in Indonesia. I am still wondering what fools voted this party in.
    He is also hiding from the media, so the question is what is he afraid of?. He seems to be leaving everything to his Ministers. I did not think he would be able to continue hiding but it looks like he has managed to pull it off. I do not think it will be long before most people will wake up to him, hopefully sooner rather than later before the lot of them ruin this beautiful country.
    Still waiting to see how they are going to tackle our so called budget emergency. We are after all in crisis according to them. It would seem now that they have obviously fixed it and only in a matter of days.
    I am so over these morons it is going to be a long 3 years.

  11. J.Fraser

    Anybody seen the Opposition yet.

    Anybody heard from the Opposition Leader yet.

    Forget the navy.

    Navel gazing from the ALP has now reached a crescendo.

    And “Slick” Abbott has another free run courtesy of the ALP.

  12. Brian

    Hide the facts and you hide the truth. Simple as that. The hyperbole surrounding this phoney crisis made it essential to keep the facts from the Australian public. Remember that what they do they are doing in our name and I bloody well want to know what that is. Good or bad. These bastards cannot be allowed to throw a blanket over these issues and expect us to shut up. If they refuse to keep us informed they do not deserve to be regarded as a legitimate government and should be seen as corrupt as the Nazis in Germany. They too gained power by legitimate means. What they did with that power was both criminal and corrupt and it was the citizens who failed to act. Every government is obliged to act for the welfare of the nation. Not their own political necks.

  13. Marilyn

    Peter F, that is complete and utter hogwash. The only people supposedly outside the convention and protocol are those who already have protection in other countries who we import as migrants.

    There has never, ever been an exclusion clause like the one you claim.

  14. Carol Taylor

    Pam, one thing that I wrote as part of my notes for this topic was an *imagine if* piece. Imagine if another country told Australia that they were going to turn boats back to our shores – imagine if another country said that they were coming here to buy Holden cars en masse from impoverished western suburbs individuals to stop these vehicles being used in activities concerning their countrymen and women (laughable, plus insulting but dangerous interference when it’s another country saying it) – imagine if another country said that they were coming to our shores to set up a “processing centre” before loading persons unknown onto charter flights and shipping them off to other destinations against their will. I would think, especially on the latter that Australia would be fully justified in calling the Federal Police plus the army should any other country attempt such a thing on Australian shores. However, apparently to Abbott this is all fine and dandy..because it’s only Indonesia…just arrive and take over…

  15. Carol Taylor

    I am absolutely positive that Abbott is doing a rapid backpedal on his commitment to hold a DD election on this issue – he is currently setting the scene – a vast amount of rhetoric and window dressing coupled by censorship on not only boat arrivals but the fate of any boats that are turned back.

  16. doodyrichards

    Fear Campaign, so 20th century of Australian anti-convicts transportation!!!! Abbott brings the old soul back

  17. Fed up

    Abbott should not be holed up in his bunker but in NY, talking to the leaders from our region about how we deal with the boat Trude.

    This should have occurred, before Morrison’s stage managed stunt.

    Yes, all the leaders, are in one place in NY.

    Abbott as usual, is showing no respect for common civility.

    This would give his time, to gather information, as to where there departments are at. This will give them time to collect their thoughts, and prepare for cabinet meetings next week.

    Thee is nothing, keeping Abbott in the country at this time, that cannot wait.

    Not saying much, that agrees with what Malcolm had to say.

  18. aslsw

    PeterF, the idea that there is a queue of refugees waiting in camps is a myth. Just look at Australia’s own humanitarian program – we select those refugees that we accept not on the basis of time spent in a camp, but on a range of other factors (age, health etc). Imagine there was a queue at your local Woolworths. How long would you wait in the queue if the checkout operators selected the rich guy at the back to serve first, followed by the well dressed women behind you and then the cute guy further down the line?

  19. Fed up

    Carol and Michael, we will hear about it. This is the age of new technology, and like all good Australians, we are quickly learning to use it, too it’s full potential.

    It does not matter where one reads across the media, letters are numerous in their numbers of treating Abbott with ridicule.

    I suspect the public might believe they have finished their task, in punishing Labor, and are now ready to move on.

    I suspect that many bothered to look at Abbott. Now they have, they do not like what they see.

    The PPL is on the nose.

    Why is one surprised, that two polls released have shown decrease in support for the government, on day seven, seventeen days after the election.

  20. Fed up

    Kayelee, what is more frightening, we have a government that are incapable of identifying the many problems that do face u. If one cannot find the problem, how can they fix it.

    I an not talking about the budget emergency of Hockey’s fevered mind.

    Where is Hockey, by the way.

    Gee, that bunker must be massive.

  21. Fed up

    Minchin, asking for bipartisanship? ha ha ha ABC 24

  22. rossleighbrisbane

    I was going to write a piece about Abbott and Hockey announcing that they’ve decided to keep the Economic figures secret so that there was nothing to hamper business and consumer confidence, but I was worried that too many people would think it was real…

  23. John Lord

    My best guess is that the removal of boat arrivals from the daily news, and the deletion of their struggles at sea from the national ledger, are calculated to deprive the people aboard those boats of the last hope they had; a vocal contingent of Australian citizens who still looked at them and felt sorry.

  24. Kim Wright

    We have great discussions on line and we feel informed and sometimes I am sure we also feel that EVERYONE MUST KNOW this or that…..but they don’t. The majority still seek their information from the MSM, including radio. What we haven’t discussed is how are we going to help the resistant and those not au fait with technology get the real news. Tones only won by 30,000 votes

  25. Kim Wright

    PS I reckon we are not seeing much of Abbott because he is dividing up the silverware with Maggie

  26. Kim Wright

    John, I dont agree I think the silence re boats will be very effective with the majority who will believe that this means the problem is sorted. Good onya Tones

  27. Möbius Ecko

    Plus aslsw there is corruption, bullying, bribing, stand over threats and violence in the refugee camps that sees the ones you least want coming to a country being those who jump ahead of the most worthy. This is one of the reasons refugees leave the camps and put their lives in the hands of people smugglers.

  28. kayelee1

    “This is a government which wants to hide the truth to protect itself. It does not want to protect the national interest; it wants to damage the national interest. It wants to hide the truth to protect itself. Does anyone think this is anything other than a disgrace?” – Tony Abbott March 18, 2013

  29. Dan Rowden

    I’m sorry, but can I please see an actual quote from Tony Abbott regarding a threat of a DD election on this particular issue, rather than an assertion by a journalist from a “news” service that is regularly dismissed as everything from stupid to evil. He has certainly issued that threat in relation to the Carbon Tax (at the Liberal’s own website), but I’ve not seen any direct quote regarding asylum seeker policy.

  30. OzFenric

    Fed Up: there have been polls since the election?!?
    Should I be surprised that I have not seen them published in the media?

  31. kayelee1

    Dan I think it may have been in a speech to the IPA on April 27 2012 but oddly enough all of those speeches, which used to be available on the Liberal Party site, seem to have disappeared…or I can’t find them anyway and I used to be able to.

  32. Fed up

    Minchin seem to be saying, that nothing much will occur until after July next year.

    This is an obvious truth.

    Abbot is going to wait until into November before recalling parliament.

    Does not leave much time, to get the great load of legislation he is going to need, to demolish everything he intends.

    I do not think he will find, that Gillard has been lax, making his job easier. I think the opposite will apply,m that Gillard has left no loose ends, that allow Abbott to unravel the legislation easy.

    In fact, I expect very little will happen before Christmas. Abbott is not the type to put up a fight,m and will take the easy option.

    Two or three weeks in November, Christmas break until February, March.

    I suspect, he and his crew will stay in that bunker.

  33. Fed up

    Two at least, both saying, has gone up for Labor, down for the Coalition, on 2pp. Very close together now,

    Another has Abbott on 37% popularity, compared with Albanese 35% and Shorten 32%.

    Not good reading, for a PM of seven days.

    The amazing thing is, I have not heard ether poll mentioned on any media outlet.

    Polls do not mean that much, but two trending this way, after six days, much mean something.

  34. doctorrob54

    Abbotts reason for media black out is so not to inform asylum transporters of a succussful voyage.Has he never heard some of these people carry mobile phones.

  35. Dan Rowden

    kayelee1,

    Yes, that’s an interesting turn of events. There is no longer any domain: tonyabbott.com.au That address is redirected to a default page at the Liberal’s website. That’s going to stuff up Phoneytonyabbott quite a bit. But I found the speech at the Libs website anyway by doing a search for “IPA”. The only reference to a DD election that seems to appear in that speech doesn’t seem terribly coherent:

    Temporary visas for illegal boat arrivals would be re-created, if necessary by legislation; in the unlikely event that legislation is blocked, by a joint sitting of the parliament after a double dissolution election.

    I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean. The surrounding context doesn’t help either. It may not even be the full speech:

  36. Dan Rowden

    Regarding Polls. It’s interesting that Crikey mentions Essential Research. I had an article in mind regarding the possibility that we’ve somewhat overstated the actual influence of the Murdoch media empire. I was going to use a report by Essential pertinent to that but they either couldn’t be bothered or didn’t want to respond to my request for information on the methodology and demographics. You simply can’t analyse a poll without that information. Still, it was an interesting bit of polling:

    http://essentialvision.com.au/trust-in-media-coverage-of-election-campaign

  37. Jamie

    Too little too late people, we as a nation should of seen thru this pathetic elected dickhead before casting your vote, well I hope Australia is happy now, you have elected the dumbest prick in politics to the seat of PM. What happens next will be a catastrophe unless we as a people stand up in the one voice to change it, and change it fast because the longer he and his constituency remain there the more damage they will do

  38. kayelee1

    “We have reiterated that Indonesia cannot accept any Australian policy that would, in nature, violate Indonesia’s sovereignty,” Dr Natalegawa told Indonesia news agency Antara News following the New York meeting.
    ”I think, the message has been conveyed loud and clear and has been understood well,” Dr Natalegawa added.
    But the message it seems was not heard by Ms Bishop who told Australian media 24 hours after the meeting in New York that they were in agreeance to put an end to people smuggling.
    “I put to Foreign Minister Natalegawa that Australia will be making changes to the laws in Australia so that we take away the product that the people smugglers are currently selling and that is permanent residency in Australia.”
    Asked on three occasions to respond to reports that Dr Natalegawa warned Australia not to introduce such a policy, Ms Bishop refused to answer, instead she repeatedly described the meeting as “positive and productive”.

    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/indonesia-voices-concerns-about-coalitions-boats-policy-loud-and-clear-20130925-2ucuz.html#ixzz2fqzqQlyF

  39. brickbob

    The 2nd most dangerous and corrupt organisation after the LNP is the Media in Australia and until the 2nd problem is fixed i am afraid the 1st problem will be able to do what they bloody well like and there is not a damm thing anyone of us can do about it,and if their is something we can do about the 2nd problem i would like someone to let me know.

  40. VoterBentleigh

    It’s called “Operation Sovereign Borders” because its secret aim (adopt a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, as the new PM once said) is to undermine other countries’ sovereignty. It’s what the Coalition mean when they speak of “sovereign risk”: it’s the risk a Government takes when it undermines another country’s sovereignty with offensive proposals.

  41. Kaye Lee

    Having spent three years shouting about every new boat arrival, Tony Abbott now says it is this information flow that has been a boon to people smugglers, writes Jonathan Green.

    Changing the pace. How deft. And this was no subtle variation.

    As opposition leader Tony Abbott toured the country, warning day in, day out – his message amplified by the florescent gleam of the inevitable hi-viz vest – of looming crises in border security and the economy, as well as the emergency for families and small businesses confronting first the prospect and then the reality of the carbon tax.

    There was no time to be lost. An election … now! That was the top line melody that came daily, against a steady bass of ‘stop the boats’ and ‘abolish the tax’. Day in, week out. For three outraged years.

    And then he was gone: the incredible vanishing Prime Minister. The sudden political calm was greeted by the muted golf clap of the political commentariat, who recognised the dexterity of this political craft work. The discipline. The sense of ordered, deliberate cunning.

    Tony Abbott has been Prime Minister now for eight days, a period marked by his sudden withdrawal from public life, part of a broader closing down that clearly aims to remove the sense of urgent emergency that has been the backdrop for our politics since 2010.

    http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-26/green-tony-abbotts-incredible-disappearing-act/4980664

  42. Pam Rawlings

    This is just laughable the claytons PM in hiding. The problem I have with it is every parent knows that when children go quiet they are generally up to no good. I think this is what is going on now, they are a devious lot and obviously hatching yet another plot to make them look good and everyone else look bad. I do not trust anything they do or say and never will. Still I want to know if the country was in crisis and a buget emergency, why are most of them in hiding.

  43. rossleighbrisbane

    Hey, I just noticed there’s not one comment – not even a troll abusing everyone – supporting the lack of information.
    And after all those years of Liberals and fellow travellers supporting the people smugglers by reporting the boats arriving.

  44. Mattie

    After I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify
    me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a
    comment is added I receive four emails with the exact same comment.
    There has to be an easy method you are able to remove me from that
    service? Cheers!

    Matty, I think you can fix it by unchecking the box. From my own experience it takes a while for WordPress to get the message though.

  45. Pam Rawlings

    I think the tide is already starting to turn, it is getting harder and harder to make excuses for this rabid party. Only 2 weeks in and already the people who supported him are dropping like flies. I thought it would take six to 12 months. Just shows how wrong I can be.

  46. Fed up

    Indonesia gave another strong warning. According th Downer, is saying the Indonesians have it wrong. They are breaching our Sovereign borders.

    Downer said he should no be talking about a new government like this. That was a direct message.

    I see rocky road ahead, if Abbott is taking advice from this man.

  47. Fed up

    Downer on Drum. Worth catching up on.

  48. Fed up

    Abbott’s talks out in the public with his threats, before the elections. Now demands that all be done behind closed doors.

  49. doctorrob54

    Well,well,this is beautiful the Libturds are going to destroy themselves sooner rather than later,here we have
    scumbag Downer,the filth f***en ex foreign minister that knowingly moved pedophiles from nation to nation in different embassies,now dictating to Indonesia what they will do.Indo boat under the Indo.flag,what a load of shit,these are fishing boats.Downer has blown TA out the water,bishop has no respect what so ever and will
    accomplish nothing.TA doesn’t know weather his coming or going,when asked about Uni.union fees today,his pet hate and what he wants to abolish he didn’t want to talk or answer questions about on camera.
    This is going to be beautiful to watch.

  50. Pam Rawlings

    Did he have his fishnet stockings on?

  51. doctorrob54

    I bet he did have,probably that is what gave him courage.I want Downer to keep up the BS,With this idiot on one end and Hockey/Cormann on the other,declaring even though budget figures better than expected we
    are still headed down hill,and they must suffer it.How long before public wake up.

  52. Bernard Lawry

    Who is Tony Abbott ?

  53. Kaye Lee

    IMMIGRATION Minister Scott Morrison has defended instructing his department to refer to asylum-seekers as “illegals” saying it is the politically correct terminology.

    “Article 31 takes the sting out of laws in countries that make the entry of refugees illegal. It says: if you are such a country with such laws, you will no longer “impose penalties” on refugees “on account of their illegal entry or presence”.

    Australia doesn’t have such laws. Never has had. Politicians whipping up fear of refugees talk about Article 31. But Article 31 isn’t talking about us.

    The minister for immigration, on the other hand, seems to be talking rubbish.

    “People who have entered Australia illegally by boat have illegally entered by boat,” he declared the other day. “I’ve never said that it is illegal to claim asylum. That’s not what the term refers to. It refers to their mode of entry.”

    So what’s the law they break? I’ve asked Morrison’s office and had no reply. I’ve put the same question to the first law officer of the nation, the Attorney-General George Brandis. Again no reply.

    And I’ve had no luck with the prime minister’s office either.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/22/iillegals-refugees-immigration-australia?CMP=twt_gu

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