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The Veiled Threat: Australia’s Campaign Against New Zealand Refugee Policy

Another twist in the farce over the stained treatment of refugees on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island has surfaced. New Zealand has been insisting for some time that it is more than willing to welcome some 150 to its shores. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, much to the irritation of Australia’s Turnbull government, has been particularly enthusiastic.

Australia has remained resolutely cold to the offer, insisting that such an arrangement would undermine its own blunt approach of discouraging boat arrivals and the industry behind it. For the perplexed on this issue, Australia keeps funding alternative camps on Manus, hoping for the remaining refugees to shut up and slide quietly to other destinations. A number are being encouraged to go to the United States in a deal US President Donald Trump deems “dumb”.

Now, New Zealand’s angle has shifted, largely prompted by the crisis following the closure of the Manus Island facility at the Lombrom Naval Base. The PNG government is being asked directly as to whether some arrangement might be reached, thereby avoiding Australian intransigence.

The response from the Australian Immigration Minister was characteristically sinister and appropriate for a former police officer. With barely veiled menace, Peter Dutton suggested that New Zealand “would have to think about their relationship with Australia and what impact it would have”. “They’d have to think that through, and we’d have to think that through.”

Dutton’s playground remarks did not stop there. He also rebuked New Zealand’s announcement that aid money would be offered to those on Manus Island and Nauru: “Well, it’s a waste of money in my judgment, I mean give that money to another environment somewhere, to Indonesia, for example.” Found wanting, Dutton has taken to lecturing a sovereign state.

Dutton then did what every Australian politician glancing across the Tasman does: suggest that New Zealand was somehow benefiting from Canberra’s punitive approach to boat arrivals. Not that New Zealand has been ever openly asked about this take of the unwanted sacrifice.

“We have stopped vessels on their way across the Torres Strait planning to track their way down the east coast of Australia to New Zealand … We have put many hundreds of millions of dollars into a defence effort to stop those vessels … We do that frankly without any financial assistance from New Zealand … If new boats arrive tomorrow these people aren’t going to Auckland, they’re going to Nauru.”

This is a repeated Australian gripe: its small neighbour benefits from having a natural shield to the north; it can afford to be more moral on issues and idealist in its aspirations. Hard, realistic Australian politicians and policy makers must underwrite this. They, goes this straw man reasoning, are the ones making the hard, unsavoury decisions.

To beef up Dutton’s claims, Australian papers have been receiving classified material (or so it is claimed) that New Zealand has become a more attractive “target” for people smugglers in recent weeks. The Queensland based Courier Mail, hardly the high priest of journalistic integrity, has been the grateful recipient of claims that “chatter” on this subject is becoming effusive.

Australian border protection forces have, according to the classified sources, also been busy, intercepting four boats destined for New Zealand, with 164 people on board. This latter point is notable in flying in the face of the military grade secrecy such interceptions supposedly command. Operation Sovereign Borders, as it was termed by the previous Abbott government, was a means of stifling the disclosure, and discussion, of any “operational matters” at sea. Boat arrivals remain mysterious and enigmatic.

The assault on Prime Minister Ardern’s position is assuming tangible form through Australian channels. A conscious and very public effort from Australian government sources is underway to diminish the humanity of refugees who have, for all intents and purposes, become subjects of mental disturbance.

Damaged and psychologically ruined, they have become the subjects of further demonisation, portrayed as opportunistic, rapacious and venal. Leaks have found their way to The Australian Financial Review, timed to ill-effect, suggesting that a group of Manus Island asylum seekers have been wooing underage girls with sexual intent.

The intelligence cable which was the subject of the leaks outlines advice from PNG from early October making a set of claims. “In addition to broader allegations of drug taking and dealing (Marijuana), there were overarching community concerns regarding allegations that some resident were engaged in sexual activities with underage girls.” Certain “residents were renting rooms throughout Lorengau and luring underage girls between 10 and 17 years of age, with money, goods, and food.”

These claims, the report concedes, were never investigated. There were never any formal complaints, and no investigations ensued. No matter – the report goes on to advance the claims of the local provincial health authority concerned by “increased interaction between the residents and the young girls from a health perspective, saying they had seen an increase in sexually transmitted infections and HIV”. In a world of innuendo, anything goes.

The report is clearly an effort to square the ledger, neutralising the concerns by asylum seekers and refugees at their general safety in being in the Manus Island community. Encounters with the local populace have been frowned upon; relations between the men and local females have also triggered the ire of community leaders. The inevitable thrust of such reports is simple: they deserve it, so why care?

The report avoids the obvious point that Australia’s pseudo-colonisation policy – of relocating refugees of considerably diverse background to the homogenous Manus Island community rather than abiding by the Refugee Convention – is itself the problem.

Ardern is also facing local opposition to her refugee stance. Bill English of the Nationals insists that this is a “showpiece”, a dangerous moral binge. The Australians need to be acknowledged. New Zealand, he suggests, ought to take the efforts made by its neighbour to stop boats heading to his country seriously. And so, the wheel turns, the old arguments on power, cynicism and brown nosing, entertain us once more as people suffer.


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  1. Jai Ritter

    I can’t make sense of LNP thinking. They pay 55 million for what’s a name to take 5 refugees which turned to zero. They want America to take them and even pay 10 thousand for them to go back and face persecution in their own countries. But new Zealand offers to PAY 3 million to take 150 refugees and its the usual, it will just start up the boats, people smugglers blah blah blah bullshit.

    will the boats not start if they are sent to other countries? Will people smugglers all of a sudden jump up and say, hey guys they are being sent to new Zealand, start up the boats!

    It just blows my effing mind that anyone would take Dutton seriously.

  2. Terry2

    It’s not that New Zealand is busting a boiler to take our refugees. It is the offer originally made by John Key in 2013 and renewed by Jacinda Ardern to try and break the ridiculous stand-off that Peter Dutton has created but he just keeps digging in.

    Clearly these people on Manus and Nauru will have to be resettled in a third country eventually and if we had started transferring 150 a year from 2014 we would have cleared the Manus backlog by now.

    If Border Force have been intercepting boats on their way to New Zealand we need to hear more about this . Normally these boats would not come across the Torres Strait , they are normally off the West Coast of Australia a very long way from New Zealand.

    As regards the USA deal, I may be wrong but, after the initial 52 , I was of the understanding that the US immigration officials had left Manus and Nauru. It’s over, Trump won’t be doing anymore and neither should he : it’s our problem !

  3. David1

    Terry2…excellent points you make. As an ex pat Kiwi I regularly catch up with news from over the Tasman online and I have to say that form of information has hardly been critical of the new NZ Govt’s offer. English was as silent as the tomb when in Govt under PM Keys, he new better I suspect and has just started to mouth off at the same time Duttonn has on this,.very convenient.

    i don’t believe a word the slime ball Dutton says, he is a liar and never produces proof of rumours. This latest re abuse of young girls and dope selling, heaven forbid wonder who dreamt that up?

    I agree Trump has finished with Manus Island, he is not interested in them, they are from the wrong part of the world for starters and his base would not be impressed.

    I do not think Dutton and Turnbull have heard the last from PM Ardern, she is no push over like most of this Fake Government’s front bench..

  4. Shutterbug

    Once a pig, always a pig.
    I can not wait to see this rancid shitbag dragged before The Hague and to be tried for crimes against humanity. The wheels of justice indeed turn slowly, but surely this ‘thing’ can’t escape criminal charges for much longer?
    Swing from the nearest tree, you bastard, swing.

  5. paul walter

    There is no rational reason for Australia not to take the other 450 and the folk stranded on Nauru and probably many more to boot stranded in Indonesia and Malaysia. There is no advocacy for open borders, but a sensible accommodation of humanitarian and economic realities without admitting sole responsibility for someone else’s wars in the mid east or Africa.

    The Tories have painted themselves into a corner, addicted as they are to the lazy and vicarious fear and loathing dog whistle they have used for this century to keep a sheepish public in line

    After so long, they have forgotten how to do constructive policy and remain reliant on the tweaking of their crude shock therapy as the public atlast recovers and begins looking elsewhere for ideas that deal with long neglected ACTUAL world issues: housing, education, environmental rape, theft on an un-imagined scale by international capital and dumbing down at a stage where the country and its youth are on the verge of being driven to idiocy.

  6. Stephen Lomas

    Dear New Zealand…
    Anzac is over.
    Please get in there & get it done ASAP!

  7. Kronomex

    They’re my “irregular maritime arrivals” and My Preciouses to torture and mentally scar and you can’t have them. Gollum, gollum.

    That doesn’t work because Gollum is the classic monster, you have to feel sorry for him as he ultimately destroys himself in pursuit of thing that caused his change. Dutton, unpleasantly, reminds me too much of Himmler and Heydrich.

  8. Frank Smith

    Dutton is now trying to “wedge” NZ Labour with these statements – a typical Coalition strategy. Perhaps Mal has also been told by Trump that the US deal is now over. So we now see Australia abandoning the refugees in Manus and Nauru and claiming they are now the responsibility of PNG and Nauru. Disgusting!!

  9. Terry2

    Frank Smith

    Frank, not only is Dutton trying to wedge NZ he is threatening PNG not to let these people go or suffer penalties on the aid that we provide.

    Totally cynical and depraved.

  10. Kyran

    “It just blows my f*cking mind that anyone would take Dutton seriously.”
    Mr Ritter, I could not agree more. The paucity of his ‘arguments’ should relegate any serious discussion to the front bar, after midnight.
    Our foreign minister admonished NZ for allegedly interfering in our affairs. And now our immigration minister openly threatens two sovereign nations.
    The recent injury to a detainee on Nauru has brought forward news of another death on Nauru on 2nd November. Staff are being vacated from Nauru with no stated purpose by the governments of either Nauru or Australia.
    “Sources on Nauru told the Guardian dozens of staff had already been deported, with more expected to leave the island on Saturday. The reason for the departure was not clear.
    However, some staff have been told in an email from a service provider that there is “no longer accommodation available in RPC1 so due to shortage some staff are being flown home temporarily”.”

    We have already swapped about 50 of ‘ours’ for 50 of the American’s from South America. Those currently on Manus are in dire need of the most basic of services. Those on Nauru are arrested if they protest.
    Dutton says none of that is happening. Dutton says he should be believed over everyone else. From memory, he has never been to Nauru and only visited Manus once, some time ago.
    “It just blows my f*cking mind that anyone would take Dutton seriously.”
    Over to you, Malcolm.
    Thank you Dr Kampmark and commenters. Take care

  11. Zathras

    “We’ll not only decide who comes to this country and the means by which they come” – but now we’ll also decide who goes to which other countries as well.

    There was a time that we were desperately willing to offload those refugees to any countries would take them and even paid some countries a lot of money to do so.

    As I recall, some of the Tampa refugees ended up in New Zealand. Have they since migrated here?

    Now – under the premise that they will somehow find their way into Australia they will have nowhere they can be settled (except for some in the USA by prior arrangement – maybe).

    They are being held hostage for use as political pawns in a strategy aimed at the next Federal Election and nothing else.

    There is something terribly wrong here and history will not be kind to Dutton or this whole administration..

  12. David1

    I fervently hope history will show dirt bag dutton spent 20 yrs behind bars and that would be kind to him

  13. crypt0

    Once again NZ shows Oz the way …
    Good on you, Jacinda … I only wish we had a government with a fraction of the capacity for rational thinking, and willingness to work towards a solution to OUR refugee problem , that your young government has already displayed.
    Rational thinking is not a hallmark of the abbott/turnbull mob … nor is it ever likely to be.
    One even wonders if dutton et al even understands the responsibilities and limitations pertaining to sovereign states.

  14. Will

    does Not discussing operational matters include hiding roman quadvlieg, he been MIA or AWOL for some time now. Nothing to see here!

  15. Kronomex

    Ah, I was wondering when some ill informed, and probably racist, idiot redneck who gets all his news, no doubt, from Murdoch’s rags was going to raise it’s ugly head here.
    “The writer & or comment respondents are not privy to Australian intelligence, history or motives of these people.” Neither are you except for what you read in the main sleaze media.
    “ISIS is failing against the coalition forces & are focusing on placing people & recruiting in western countries to carry out attacks.” If you are all so fired up about it then why don’t you join the army and go fight the forces of evil? I expect you would rather sit at home in your dark comfortable bedroom and be a pretend troll.
    “Dutton is doing a superb job in screening & minimising the risk to Australians.” That’s absolutlely hilarious and sad that you think that.
    It’s Lindt by the way.
    Now go away and troll somewhere else.

  16. David1

    I note, not with any surprise ‘Aussie’ uses articles with anti ALP, anti Union, anti Asylum Seeker content, the chosen method of right wing trolls. Re NZ residents, there has been no noticiable anti reaction to Labour PM Jacinda Ardern’s offer to resettle 150 Manus Island Asylum Seekers, nor was there any from previous Right Wing Conservative PM John Keys.

    New Zealanders overall are not fed a diet of misinformation and lies by their media (mainly conservative) or MP’s from the Right on this topic.
    Your comments and attack on Dr Kampmark are offensive and unwarranted. I guess that’s something that would qualify you for membership of One Nation, if you are not one already. I wondered what the stench was suddenly.

  17. Terry 3

    Even though these refugees are not on our soil we “own” them. They are ours. We decide where they live, we decide how they are to suffer , we decide who goes to NZ. That is our job as owners of these people. If we want them to work in cotton fields that what happens. So don’t get in our way when we are deciding where our slaves go. NZ has no respect for our rights as owners of these second, maybe third rate people. So Dutton is right , in Howard’s famous words, “We decide who ..” We decide their fate forever …

    Apologies for the sarcasm but sometimes in despair one has to resort to it.

    OH how will history judge us? Will we watch while some of our “leaders’ face a court in The Hague in the near future?

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