Both sides of parliament are saying that the problem is asylum seekers dying at sea as they attempt to reach Australia. Other groups claim that we are "racist" and "xenophobic" for being heartless, and that we have the capacity for an open-door approach of the Greens. There are probably millions, if not billions of impoverished, persecuted peoples who see Australia as a "rich" country and an ideal soft target for resettlement. This is despite the pressure on jobs, housing, infrastructure, food security and environmental concerns. If we need to make a deal with Malaysia, or Indonesia, we should be free to do so. The solution is to discard our alliance with the UN Refugee Convention.
Julian Burnside: Australia does not want boat people, dead or alive
The Australian government is currently embroiled in a heavy debate over asylum seekers in light of the recent tragedy. Both sides of parliament are saying that the problem is asylum seekers dying at sea as they attempt to reach Australia but, "they just don't want boat people getting here at all, dead or alive," the Australian barrister Julian Burnside told ABC radio.
Of course our government doesn't want asylum seekers. It prefers the well-heeled and educated immigrants. Burnside says Australia needs to set up a fair dinkum, fair processing system in Indonesia with the co-operation of the Indonesian government.
The safe and off-shore selection of approved refugees being settled orderly into Australia is the obvious solution to the problem but one that doesn't want to be mentioned or accepted.
Other groups claim that we are "racist" and "xenophobic" for being heartless, and that we have the capacity for an open-door approach supported by the Greens.
According to a recent Monash report, the Australian Government is running a record-high migration program, which it intends to increase in 2012–13. Just over half of the migrants are locating in Sydney and Melbourne, rather than in the resource industry states. At the same time as the Labor Government is permitting employers to sponsor an unlimited number of temporary entry 457 visa holders.
It means we will have the highest annual permanent entry level since World War Two.
The 2012–13 immigration program: record numbers, city-bound by Bob Birrell and Genevieve Heard
Population pressure already on Australia
There are probably millions, if not billions of impoverished, persecuted peoples who vie Australia as a "rich" country and an ideal soft target for resettlement. This is despite the pressure on jobs, housing, infrastructure, food security and environmental concerns.
Already Australia has shortages of public housing, hospital beds, public funding for education, and health care. The "Lucky country" has been exploited for its full extent, and housing is either un affordable or people are under mortgage stress.
The carbon tax will exacerbate the heavy costs of energy infrastructure that continually must expand for our burgeoning population.
The Refugee convention
Australia is one of 147 signatory countries to the Refugees Convention. In the 2010–11 program year, the Humanitarian Program delivered 13 799 visas. This number included 8971 visas granted to persons offshore and 4828 program countable visas granted to people seeking protection in Australia.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres warned in May 2012 that factors causing mass population flight are growing and over the coming decade more people on the move will become refugees or displaced within their own country.
"The world is creating displacement faster than it is producing solutions," said Guterres.
Guterres said displacement from conflict was becoming compounded by a combination of causes, including climate change, population growth, urbanization, food insecurity, water scarcity and resource competition.
Australian political fixation with asylum seekers
Australia’s fixation with asylum seekers arriving by boat has cost taxpayers nearly $2.4b since 2000, according to Budget and ANAO documents. The expenditure includes spending to deter, process and most of all detain asylum seekers who have arrived by boat. The cost also does not include hundreds of millions spent on border security measures adopted under the Howard Government.
We simply cannot afford to increase our humanitarian settlement while we are forced to devote a disproportionate amount of resources to dealing with boat arrivals, which is a very expensive proposition. For the first four years of any increase in our Humanitarian Program, every additional 1000 resettlement places would cost the Australian Budget around $216 million. By extension, an increase to 20 000 would cost the Budget around $1.35 billion over the first four years. (Minister for Immigration, Chris Bowen 2012).
If we need to make a deal with Malaysia, or Indonesia, we should be free to do so. The solution is to discard our alliance with the UN Refugee Convention. All the costs and debate could easily be solved.
Refugees in a changing world
The UNHCR said last year that 43.7 million people were displaced by conflict, poverty, famine and persecution — the highest number in 15 years. Our planet is not a series of endless frontiers, but a fragile spaceship with limited resources, already overloaded by humanity. There are no new colonies so settle in, no new frontiers to invade and conquer.
Mr Burnside said Australians seemed to be unable to accept the premise of the UN Refugee Convention which states that countries have some obligation to offer protection to people facing persecution and violence.
"Unfortunately, I think Australia has not quite worked out whether it's willing to carry that burden."
Mr Burnside is obviously speaking from a position of privilege and wealth! It's assumed that Australia is a vast brown and empty land with room to share for any millions of people! There's no consideration for our environmental "carrying capacity" - and social and economic constraints. Already we are under population stress, and we already have the record as the biggest wildlife exterminator in the world.
Australia should withdraw from outdated UN Refugee Convention
We need to withdraw from the outdated 1951 UN Refugee Convention. The UN should not dictate how we manage our diplomatic affairs. We are a sovereign nation. This is a relic from a different era when peoples were displaced by World War 2 and the holocaust.
The Vietnamese boat-people came at a time when Australia has room to spare and we were still a wealthy nation. Population pressure and globalization has eaten into and diluted our wealth.
The world today is a vastly different place than it was in 1951, and the ability of the Convention to address increasingly complex drivers of displacement and migration is limited. Many experts argue that the current framework is ill-suited to meet new drivers of human mobility, but the prospects of a new international agreement are few.
Need for a more equitable immigration system including humanitarian intake
In response to the demands of responsible global citizenship, and a more equitable system of immigration, we should slash our unrealistically high economic immigration levels, invest in skills training and tertiary education, and increase our humanitarian intake - selected off-shore only. The random arrival of boats, and the shipwreck disasters, would ultimately decline.
Source for part of this information and opinion was an Age article, by Rachel Olding, "Asylum seeker impasse 'pathetic': QC's plan to stop the boats," June 29, 2012.