Today, we will look at the Coalition's, and particularly the Liberal Party's policy on refugee boats. The website http://www.liberal.org.au/Issues/National-Security/Ideas/2010/Border-security.aspx states:
The Coalition will maintain rigorous offshore processing of those arriving illegally by boat, reintroduce temporary protection visas (to deprive people-smugglers of a product to sell) and be ready, where possible, to turn boats back.
What they don't say:
"Caveat emptor" - buyer beware.
Not much detail in this policy, is there? It's blatant populism - a facade that makes no attempt at detail, and relies heavily on sloganeering - the 'only we can stop the boats' (like the last Liberal government) chant. It might be popular with some voters, particularly in western Sydney, Queensland, and Western Australia, but the last Liberal-National Party Government did so by:
- breaching International Maritime Law, when it denied the Norwegian freighter Tampa permission to take almost 250 refugees to Christmas Island. It denied the Tampa, contrary to advice from the Attorney-General's Department.
- lying to us voters during an election campaign when John Howard and others claimed refugees had thrown 'children overboard', even when they had been advised that was wrong. A later inquiry verified that teh then PM & senior Liberal Ministers knew no children had been thrown overboard, but they continued to make that statement.
- breaching Australia's obligations as a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It did this with long-term, and off-shore, detention, including at Nauru. That long-term incarceration, sometimes up to 3 years, affected the physical and mental health of people. Indeed, the UN High Commission on Refugees was critical of John Howard's Liberal-National Government, saying that The Pacific Solution was
“an unfortunate precedent, being for the first time, ..., that a country with a fully functioning and credible asylum system, in the absence of anything approximating a mass influx, decides to transfer elsewhere the responsibility to handle claims made actually on the territory of the state.”The policy will do nothing to solve the problems faced by many people in (mostly) northern parts of Sri Lanka, nor minority people affected by the war in Afghanistan, nor terrorist activity in Pakistan. It does nothing to encourage Indonesia to crack down on people-smugglers.
The policy is populist, and will only serve to again damage Australia's international reputation.