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Barr joins with premiers in pledge on asylum seekers

By Noel Pratt 8 February 2016 44

Barr pledge

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr has joined premiers of Victoria, NSW, Queensland and South Australia in pledging support for refugee children and their families threatened with return to Nauru after last week’s High Court decision.

Mr Barr wrote on Facebook yesterday:

My friend [Victorian Premier] Daniel Andrews, has written to the Prime Minister about the future of the children and families who were brought to Australia from Nauru.
I am pleased to endorse Premier Andrews’ letter. I commend his compassionate leadership and that of other state and territory first ministers.
The Australian Capital Territory is a Refugee Welcome Zone.
The city of Canberra stands ready to provide a safe, secure and welcoming environment for these children and their families.
There are children among this group who were born in Australia and these are, indeed, exceptional circumstances.
We can, and should, show compassion.
After all, for those who’ve come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share.

On Sunday morning Barr tweeted “Yes and yes” in response to questions from the Canberra Refugee Action Committee as to whether he had seen Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ pledge to look after the families, and whether he would do likewise.

Premier Andrews’ letter to the Prime Minister offered to assist and care for the children and their families. Victoria would, he said, “…accept full responsibility for all of these children and their families including the provision of housing, health, education and welfare services. I want these children and their families to call Victoria home.”

I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister today. #LetThemStay

Posted by Daniel Andrews on Friday, 5 February 2016

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird followed suit saying NSW was “prepared to help” should the Prime Minister ask, with the Queensland and South Australian premiers subsequently adding their commitments.

On Sunday, a spokesperson for Mr. Barr indicated that the Chief Minister did not have a longer statement to make immediately: “The Chief Minister has indicated on his social media that he supports the stance taken by Mr. Andrews, but this is ultimately a Federal issue. Last year, the ACT was declared a refugee welcome zone by our Minister for Multicultural Affairs Yvette Berry.”

On Sunday more than 250 asylum seekers in Australia including 37 Australian born babies, were facing an uncertain fate following the High Court’s majority decision on Wednesday that there was nothing illegal in Australia’s off-shore detention regime. Disturbingly, the court ruling was only made possible as the result of retrospective legislation passed by both the Government and Opposition while the case was in train. It is a decision that gives the government carte blanche to return these asylum seekers – brought to Australia from Nauru for medical reasons – to the tiny Pacific Island at any time.

But there is no compulsion on the government to send them back.

As Daniel Webb the Human Rights Law Centre lawyer leading the case stressed, it just takes one stroke of the pen for Prime Minister Turnbull to allow these asylum seekers to remain in Australia.

This doesn’t seem to be a pen stroke that the Prime Minister or the Minister for Immigration were thinking of immediately after the judgement was brought down however. Indeed with no thought of the potential damage to already traumatised people they opted to set another agenda reverting to Abbott-era phrases, of preventing people smugglers from prevailing over “our sovereignty” stopping deaths at sea and protecting our borders. The Opposition for its part resorted to urging the government to find suitable third countries for re-settlement.

Defying this approach there has been an upsurge of public protest against returning these asylum seekers to Nauru. Last week thousands of Australians hit the streets, including in Canberra, demanding “Let Them Stay”. Churches have come out citing the old practice of sanctuary and the Greens and human rights groups have urged the government to allow the asylum seekers to remain in Australia.

And now we have Premiers and Chief Ministers of both political persuasions declaring they stand ready to support the asylum seekers.

Could it be that this represents the beginning of a shift to some kind of honest political acknowledgement of how Australia’s refugee policy is damaging other humans? Could it give the Opposition the face-saving lever it apparently needs to shift out of craven lock step with the government; and maybe even provide voters with a humane alternative policy that abides by our international obligations?

In the meantime the public protest continues with further rallies around the country organised for Monday including one at St John’s Church in Reid at 6pm tonight.

And at 6.30pm on Tuesday, February 16, the Canberra Refugee Action Committee is holding a forum looking at how the media deals with the refugee issue. It will feature First Dog on the Moon, Ben Doherty from the Guardian, Paul Bongiorno from the Saturday Paper and Michelle Dunne Breen from Canberra University discussing Spin and Secrecy; Refugees and the Media.

Some five weeks later at Palm Sunday rallies around the country the public will continue to demand justice for all refugees.

Noel Pratt is a freelance journalist and member of the steering committee of the Canberra Refugee Action Committee.

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44 Responses to
Barr joins with premiers in pledge on asylum seekers
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HenryBG 10:34 am 15 Feb 16

chewy14 said :

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/national/a-world-of-long-term-welfare-for-refugees/story-e6freuzr-1226050094427

Basically it outlines that only 31% were employed after 5 years and a significant percentage (80-90%) relied on centrelink payments for income.

However, that’s also a bit disingenuous as there are many reasons why someone might not be employed such as full time study or the fact that they were retired or disabled.

The bottom line is, resettling refugees is charity.
Charity combines duty and discretion – we are social animals and it is in our nature to share. At the same time, we discriminate between those who are more deserving and those who are less. When the resource to be shared doesn’t extend to everybody’s needs, the less deserving will miss out.

The crux of the division between the two (broad) camps on this issue is that one camp is either unable, or unwilling, to implement rational discrimination to identify the most deserving refugees and instead advocates frittering money away on those with the least needs.

Take an example:
We have agreed to resettle 12,000 Syrian refugees. What impact will this have on the 2 million-strong Syrian exodus? Virtually none. But the cost? Merely chartering planes to bring them here will cost $30million right off the get-go, even before Australia’s generous welfare system kicks in to start supporting an additional 12,000 people.
The first 4 years’ costs will add up to $700million.
http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/12000-syrian-refugee-intake-expected-to-cost-700-million-over-four-years-20150909-gjijng.html

We could build and staff several hospitals in Syria for that amount of money, thus providing decent healthcare for all of the 2million refugees, with money left over to build two more hospitals in East Africa where refugees have been mouldering in camps for years.

A perfect example of what happens when you give in to emotional knee-jerk reactions to crises.

rommeldog56 2:53 pm 12 Feb 16

Charlotte Harper said :

A couple of others have provided links now

I have consulted a friend who was in car with me at the time – we briefly discussed the media report. She has a better memory than I. She said that it was about 90% of the Sudanese illegal arrivals who were granted asylum, were still on Newstart, 7 years after arriving. There was some discussion going on at that time about some trouble in that community.

rommeldog56 11:39 am 12 Feb 16

Charlotte Harper said :

I’d be interested to read that report as I’m sure would others. I did a quick hunt around but couldn’t find it. Please publish a link if you can, rommeldog56

Someone on Mark Parton’s talkback (then) show on 2CC – a while ago. They were quoting from some research. There was some comments phoned in on the talkback – as u would expect I suppose. I wasn’t listening too hard because I was driving – but the % figure quoted stuck in my mind…….

chewy14 11:02 am 12 Feb 16

Charlotte Harper said :

I’d be interested to read that report as I’m sure would others. I did a quick hunt around but couldn’t find it. Please publish a link if you can, rommeldog56

He’s probably referencing the 2011 report “Settlement outcomes for new arrivals” from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

You can still find it on the dss website, or here’s a news story about it:

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/national/a-world-of-long-term-welfare-for-refugees/story-e6freuzr-1226050094427

Basically it outlines that only 31% were employed after 5 years and a significant percentage (80-90%) relied on centrelink payments for income.

However, that’s also a bit disingenuous as there are many reasons why someone might not be employed such as full time study or the fact that they were retired or disabled.

neanderthalsis 9:52 am 12 Feb 16

Charlotte Harper said :

I’d be interested to read that report as I’m sure would others. I did a quick hunt around but couldn’t find it. Please publish a link if you can, rommeldog56

Then latest longitudinal survey of humanitarian arrivals shows about 65 per cent of humanitarian arrivals surveyed were receiving Newstart.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies , Settlement experiences of recently arrived humanitarian migrants, released only last month:

https://aifs.gov.au/publications/settlement-experiences-recently-arrived-humanitarian-migrants

rommeldog56 8:02 am 12 Feb 16

Mysteryman said :

I’m not so sure about that. Why didn’t they claim asylum at the first safe country they entered, instead of travelling through multiple safe countries to then board a boat to Australia – destroying their documents along the way? Surely if the situation in the home country was so awful, any safe country would be an improvement? Yes? So why the desperate need to travel so much further at such a high cost?

Could it be that many of these people are actually looking to resettle for economic or personal reasons? Seems like it.

Yes – they also know about Australia’s welfare system and that if they don’t get a job here to support themselves, then Australian taxpayers will support them. A report I heard a while back was that about 90% of all illegal arrivals given residency, were still on welfare after 7 years or so.

My sympathies lie much more with those in their countries who do not have the economic capacity to flee.

    Charlotte Harper 9:12 am 12 Feb 16

    I’d be interested to read that report as I’m sure would others. I did a quick hunt around but couldn’t find it. Please publish a link if you can, rommeldog56

dungfungus 10:48 pm 11 Feb 16

SidneyReilly said :

Mysteryman said :

Charlotte Harper said :

I think it’s an indication of how grim their situations were in their home countries that they’re prepared to put up with life in the detention centres rather than go back.

I’m not so sure about that. Why didn’t they claim asylum at the first safe country they entered, instead of travelling through multiple safe countries to then board a boat to Australia – destroying their documents along the way? Surely if the situation in the home country was so awful, any safe country would be an improvement? Yes? So why the desperate need to travel so much further at such a high cost?

Could it be that many of these people are actually looking to resettle for economic or personal reasons? Seems like it.

Yes it does doesn’t it? I wonder if our “free for all” welfare system is perhaps an inducement too?

I think it was a past Indonesian president (Yodohono?) who said “Australia should take the sugar off the table”. Advice that was ignored until now.

gazket 9:09 pm 11 Feb 16

Charlotte Harper said :

Many of those involved in campaigning for refugee rights do exactly that, for example Julian Burnside: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/how-you-can-offer-a-home-to-a-refugee-20150929-gjxhnc.html
Then there’s this article about the difference British actor Emma Thompson made in the life of a former Rwandan child soldier: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/life/weekend-australian-magazine/emma-thompson-and-tindyebwa-agaba-the-actress-and-the-former-child-soldier-who-calls-her-mum/news-story/681a3a077674e795c61234426765d621

These people are multi millionaires. they bought a token refugee to look good. Pretty much the same reason people buy a Prius.

SidneyReilly 8:03 pm 11 Feb 16

Mysteryman said :

Charlotte Harper said :

I think it’s an indication of how grim their situations were in their home countries that they’re prepared to put up with life in the detention centres rather than go back.

I’m not so sure about that. Why didn’t they claim asylum at the first safe country they entered, instead of travelling through multiple safe countries to then board a boat to Australia – destroying their documents along the way? Surely if the situation in the home country was so awful, any safe country would be an improvement? Yes? So why the desperate need to travel so much further at such a high cost?

Could it be that many of these people are actually looking to resettle for economic or personal reasons? Seems like it.

Yes it does dosent it? I wonder if our “free for all” welfare system is perhaps an inducement too?

dungfungus 3:22 pm 11 Feb 16

Nilrem said :

HenryBG said :

Meanwhile, I’m not hearing much noise about the atrocities being carried out to our north and for which we *do* have moral responsibility:
http://freewestpapua.org/documents/the-neglected-genocide-human-rights-abuses-against-papuans-in-the-central-highlands-1977-1978/

Here we have an actual genocide in progress (even worse than the genocide in East Timor which claimed 30% of the population) and nobody is saying “boo”.

Same as it was in East Timor, the indonesian military is using rape as a weapon of war, constituting a crime against humanity.

I have a theory that lefties are capable of assimilating Bad Things only up to a certain level – beyond that, Bad Things are *so* Bad that lefties succumb to a psychological state of Denial.

Ha ha, because “righties” are never in denial about anything, particularly climate change. 🙂

Both left and right agree that climate exists.
It is what makes it change (natural or man-made) that is in contention.
At this stage natural is the only rational answer.

Nilrem 1:11 pm 11 Feb 16

HenryBG said :

Nilrem said :

Charlotte Harper said :

The quotation marks were to indicate/note the views of others about The Guardian. I have views on some issues that would be considered leftie and others rightie. I try to keep an open mind and constantly question my thinking through reading, discussion and debate. I’ll read The Guardian but also The Australian. Not so keen on Quadrant or if that helps you categorise me.

Making generalisations about group of people doesn’t lend itself to a productive exchange on the substantive issues. And people are complex, we’re not a bunch of robots off a production line with the same package of views, or two opposed packages of views.

Methinks you’ve gone off half-cocked.

I think you need to read the thread of this conversation before jumping to (wrong) conclusions about what Charlotte was conveying.

See post #13. That was the context in which Charlotte made her comment. Apologies for not quoting #13, but I thought the context was readily apparent.

Nilrem 12:23 pm 11 Feb 16

HenryBG said :

Meanwhile, I’m not hearing much noise about the atrocities being carried out to our north and for which we *do* have moral responsibility:
http://freewestpapua.org/documents/the-neglected-genocide-human-rights-abuses-against-papuans-in-the-central-highlands-1977-1978/

Here we have an actual genocide in progress (even worse than the genocide in East Timor which claimed 30% of the population) and nobody is saying “boo”.

Same as it was in East Timor, the indonesian military is using rape as a weapon of war, constituting a crime against humanity.

I have a theory that lefties are capable of assimilating Bad Things only up to a certain level – beyond that, Bad Things are *so* Bad that lefties succumb to a psychological state of Denial.

Ha ha, because “righties” are never in denial about anything, particularly climate change. 🙂

HenryBG 12:07 pm 11 Feb 16

Nilrem said :

Charlotte Harper said :

The quotation marks were to indicate/note the views of others about The Guardian. I have views on some issues that would be considered leftie and others rightie. I try to keep an open mind and constantly question my thinking through reading, discussion and debate. I’ll read The Guardian but also The Australian. Not so keen on Quadrant or if that helps you categorise me.

Making generalisations about group of people doesn’t lend itself to a productive exchange on the substantive issues. And people are complex, we’re not a bunch of robots off a production line with the same package of views, or two opposed packages of views.

Methinks you’ve gone off half-cocked.

I think you need to read the thread of this conversation before jumping to (wrong) conclusions about what Charlotte was conveying.

dungfungus 11:50 am 11 Feb 16

Nilrem said :

Charlotte Harper said :

The quotation marks were to indicate/note the views of others about The Guardian. I have views on some issues that would be considered leftie and others rightie. I try to keep an open mind and constantly question my thinking through reading, discussion and debate. I’ll read The Guardian but also The Australian. Not so keen on Quadrant or if that helps you categorise me.

Making generalisations about group of people doesn’t lend itself to a productive exchange on the substantive issues. And people are complex, we’re not a bunch of robots off a production line with the same package of views, or two opposed packages of views.

I am glad you agree that the subject issue of this thread is not a substantive one.

Nilrem 10:23 am 11 Feb 16

Charlotte Harper said :

The quotation marks were to indicate/note the views of others about The Guardian. I have views on some issues that would be considered leftie and others rightie. I try to keep an open mind and constantly question my thinking through reading, discussion and debate. I’ll read The Guardian but also The Australian. Not so keen on Quadrant or if that helps you categorise me.

Making generalisations about group of people doesn’t lend itself to a productive exchange on the substantive issues. And people are complex, we’re not a bunch of robots off a production line with the same package of views, or two opposed packages of views.

dungfungus 9:24 am 11 Feb 16

Charlotte Harper said :

The quotation marks were to indicate/note the views of others about The Guardian. I have views on some issues that would be considered leftie and others rightie. I try to keep an open mind and constantly question my thinking through reading, discussion and debate. I’ll read The Guardian but also The Australian. Not so keen on Quadrant or if that helps you categorise me.

Even an intellectuality challenged person like me knew you were having a joke by using the tautology “leftie Guardian” as a source.

Mysteryman 8:52 am 11 Feb 16

Charlotte Harper said :

I think it’s an indication of how grim their situations were in their home countries that they’re prepared to put up with life in the detention centres rather than go back.

I’m not so sure about that. Why didn’t they claim asylum at the first safe country they entered, instead of travelling through multiple safe countries to then board a boat to Australia – destroying their documents along the way? Surely if the situation in the home country was so awful, any safe country would be an improvement? Yes? So why the desperate need to travel so much further at such a high cost?

Could it be that many of these people are actually looking to resettle for economic or personal reasons? Seems like it.

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