The issue of asylum seekers descending on Australia in little boats is a knotty one.
Most of us wish these people no harm. Open borders, however, is a prescription for spending an unlimited amount of tax-payers’ money. The truth is that there is no way to repatriate anyone who arrives here, claims to be a refugee and asks for asylum.
Australian governments are expert at damping down demand. In health care, for example, it is the clever use of waiting lists that puts a limit on spending. In its highest form the process is so clever that the list itself is short whilst somehow the waiting time is extremely long, referred to a public hospital for a hip replacement, cool, you’re just a few waiting lists away from the waiting list for surgery!
Essentially this is what we do with boat arrivals. We make it a lengthy and unpleasant experience to deter those thinking of trying it.
It’s the worst possible strategy for inducting new citizens.
The Howard years saw the rise of a strategy that made the welcome so harsh that arrivals slowed to a trickle.
The Greens, the love media and a large chunk of the Labor party thought it inhumane. The Green/Labor alliance abolished the strategy.
From what I can gather from the Greens, their stance is – these people are in desperate need, it is our moral duty to assist them by resettling them in Oz, no matter how many, no matter what cost, no matter what impact on our society.
Before we take on this task let’s ask how big it is. Start with some basics.
Draw a line somewhere in the scale of peoples’ incomes, call it the poverty line. Everyone below that line lives in relative poverty. If you have nothing, you are destitute, this is absolute poverty. According to Wikipedia the World Bank estimated 1.29 billion people were living in absolute poverty in 2008. According to Poverty.com 25,000 people die of hunger every day. That’s absolute, for relative Global Issues.org tell us that over three billion people live on less than $2.50 a day.
If you can afford to pay to be smuggled to Australia you are in better financial shape than more than half the world’s population.
Australia is a rich country. You can check our population with The Australian Bureau of Statistics. I did. On 13 August 2012 at 15:35:58 (Canberra time), the resident population of Australia was projected to be 22,698,652 people.
That is, there are 57 people with absolutely nothing for every single Australian. If all Australians were to live on something slightly less than 2% of their current income and divide the remainder between the destitute then you and they would be living on $3.25 a day (based on Australian average earnings of $68,791 a year.) That’s not too bad, you’d still be in the wealthier half of the world’s population!
But surely, the needy can’t all want to migrate. No not all of them, according to Gallup surveys in late 2010 twenty-six percent of North African adults said they would choose to move to another country permanently if they had the chance. If just one percent of the three billion living on less than $2.50 a day headed our way it would more than double our population.
Once signed up to the UN’s charter on refugees no country has control of its borders. We do though have control over the lives we of those we must take. If the system is to be one of “who dares wins” then the prize must be worth less than the effort.
On the other hand our refugee intake should be of generous proportion, should be well managed and well supported. Those who seek to jump the queue should be sent to the back of it.
The twenty-two recommendations of the Houston Report provide a strategy that could go a long way to achieving a sensible solution. Among them …
The panel recommends that a capacity be established in Nauru as soon as practical to
process the claims of irregular maritime arrivals transferred from australia in ways consistent with australian and
Nauruan responsibilities under international law (paragraphs 3.44-3.55).
The panel recommends that a capacity be established in png as soon as possible
to process the claims of irregular maritime arrivals transferred from australia in ways consistent with the
responsibilities of australia and png under international law (paragraphs 3.56-3.57).
The panel recommends that in the future those who arrive in australia through
irregular maritime means should not be eligible to sponsor family under the shp but
should seek to do so within the family stream of the migration program (paragraph 3.71).
Encouragingly, the Prime Minister has said that said she would move immediately to reinstate the Howard government processing centres in Nauru and Manus Island. Family reunion for boat arrivals will also be scrapped as a matter of urgency and all 22 recommendations from the Houston panel report adopted in principle by the government.