Posts Tagged Liberals
Eyebrows across the state were raised today as the NSW government announced its new plan to repair the state’s ailing transport ‘system’.
The Liberal government has come under criticism recently, with numerous claims that no real progress on transport has been made since they won power in last year’s landslide election. Government officials are heralding today’s announcement as the answer to these doubts.
“We are very proud of this announcement, and rightly so,” said Premier Barry O’Farrell. “How can anyone say that this government is doing nothing now?”
Mr O’Farrell observed that this is the third new plan announced this year, noting that the previous Labor government had generally waited at least nine months between transport plans.
Former Premier Nick Greiner, the head of Infrastructure NSW, pointed out the progress that the government has made since the previous plan.
“We are completely tearing-up Parrammatta Road now.” Mr Greiner said. “This is much more radical than the tunnel under Parrammatta road that we had planned before.”
“We have also decided to focus on expediting construction of the North-West rail link.”
Some residents of Sydney were not so sanguine.
“This all sounds wonderful, but who cares if they turn Parrammatta Road into a bloody super-highway?” asked Liverpool resident Cid Ne Seider. “It’s too bloody expensive to park my f**kin’ car anyway! This lot is just as bad as the last lot!”
Coogee resident and ADF Sergeant Neve Seth Welchman agreed, saying, “you know it’s a bad sign when you go on a tour of Afghanistan and find yourself admiring the efficiency of the public transport system in Kandahar.”
NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson also condemned the report, saying that Tony Abbott is a horrible misogynist and is not fit to be Prime Minister. Meanwhile, Greens leader David Shoebridge condemned the Israeli occupation in the West Bank and called for a complete ban on commercial fishing in the Tasman.
Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian rejected these criticisms, telling Major Karnage that, “this plan is so good, the people of Sydney will not know what hit them. In fact, they may not even realise that they have been hit!”
According to Mr Greiner, Infrastructure NSW is not taking its responsibility to the people of NSW lightly.
“We have just used the windfall from cutting the education budget to launch a whole new inquiry into our planning process,” he said. “We aim to have a new plan every two months by 2015.”
Mr Greiner also said that the government are due to begin construction on the new transport system by 2020, although he stressed that this is subject to the next transport plan, due to be released in December.
No real politicians were interviewed in the writing of this blog post.
There have been two undeniable tragedies over the past few days as two boats carrying asylum-seekers have capsized en route from Indonesia to Australia (fortunately, the latest one seems to have been rescued fairly effectively and the loss of life was far less, although there was still one dead and three still missing). As most readers would know, this has re-sparked the gigantic debate about Australia’s asylum-seeker policy – which has reached a fervour not seen since… the last time this happened.
There seems to be consensus that the government has to “do something” to “stop the boats”. Just what that means exactly is under fierce debate. There are three main options being pushed, so I figured that I would summarise these for all you lovely people and then give some quick thoughts on the right way to go.
1. The “Pacific Solution”
This is the Liberal Party’s pet policy – they want to replicate what was done under then Prime Minister John Howard and then Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock. This solution is designed to provide strong disincentives for people to attempt to reach Australia by boat.
It’s kind of a two-pronged assault. Firstly, anyone who arrives in Australia unlawfully and then claims asylum will be given a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) – meaning that they are permitted to remain in Australia until it is no longer dangerous for them to be in their country of origin, at which time they will be deported “home”. This is supplemented by opening an Australian-administered asylum-seeker detention centre on a tiny Pacific atoll called Nauru, so that no one who tries to reach Australia unlawfully by boat will actually reach Australia and there are no guarantees of ever getting there.
2. The “open arms” solution
I call it that with my tongue in my cheek. This is the line being pushed by the Greens and various “refugee advocates”. At its core, the argument is that any form of offshore processing of refugees is cruel and so we should process them all in Australia and let them into the community as soon as possible.
Typically, for the people who are advocating it at least, this is a very nice and well-meaning policy but is a little detached from reality and would create huge problems if put into practise. The biggest problem is that, contrary to this narrative, not all “boat people” are just really nice, desperate people who are fleeing horrible persecution to make a contribution to our great, multicultural nation. Some of them are that, but some aren’t. In fact, the easier it seems that it is to get into Australia, the more likely it is that people who are not genuine refugees will come over.
Once someone destroys their travel documents (as these “boat people” are want to do), it is very difficult to figure out exactly who they are. This results in a small but significant number of these asylum seekers fleeing not persecution for their race, religion or politics, but for their involvement in organised crime – or even terrorism. Ignoring that element of them is dangerous, it would take just one bomb on a major piece of infrastructure and the public reaction would mean that our borders are sealed permanently (not to mention the horrible loss of life that it would inevitably entail).
3. The “Malaysia
This was the brainchild of the Gillard Labor government and requires a little background. The most important thing to know is that the Pacific Solution worked – boats had essentially stopped coming in 2007 when Kevin Rudd was elected Prime Minister. The new ALP government then set-about dismantling the Howard/Ruddock policies, which they had been calling “inhumane” for years, and boats promptly began coming again and have been increasing ever since.
When running for the 2010 election, Julia Gillard – aware of the political difficulty that these boatloads of asylum seekers presented for her government – announced an “East Timor Solution”. This claimed to provide the same effect as the Pacific Solution, but was supposed to be somehow different because East Timor is a signatory to the Refugee Convention (a weak argument as the Nauru centre was Australian-administered, so it was not really material whether or not Nauru had signed the Convention). Regardless, it transpired that Gillard had not seen fit to run this little idea past, you know, the East Timorese. Suffice to say it didn’t go very far.
After East Timor collapsed, the government was desperate for a solution and began floundering. They then had the genius idea of announcing that they would negotiate a solution with Malaysia after they approached Malaysia, but before they had actually negotiated a solution. Malaysia was calling all the shots and they knew it, so they eventually agreed on a kind of asylum-seeker trade: they send 4,000 Burmese Christians in exchange for 800 (presumably) Iranian and Afghani Muslims from Australia. They hate Christians, we hate Muslims, everybody wins.
After the huge outcry in Australia regarding the way refugees are treated in Malaysia (let’s just say that it involved caning of bare buttocks), the government did get Malaysia – not a signatory to the Refugee Convention – to agree to respect the refugees’ rights. In an explicitly non-binding agreement.
Problem for the government was that the Convention is annexed to the Migration Act and explicitly referred to in the provisions allowing asylum-seekers to be processed offshore, so the High Court ruled that the decision to implement the Malaysia Solution was not made according to the power conferred on Chris Bowen, the Immigration Minister, which requires that the rights and protections of refugees under the Convention are respected. The government then tried to remove these protections, but this was (thankfully) blocked by pretty much everyone else in Parliament.
Offshore in general
So here comes the real analysis (woohoo!). The most common argument against offshore processing (chiefly the Pacific Solution) is that it made no real difference and the number of unlawful arrivals in Australia is just a reflection of global trends (see, eg, this). This claim has absolutely no basis in any fact or evidence. The numbers speak for themselves really. Consider this table first from the Australian Parliament:
Now, look at this table from the UNHCR:
Share of main receiving countries of asylumseekers in total number of applications
That is very clear evidence that Australia’s number of asylum seekers has not been keeping up with global trends. To the contrary, the number of asylum claims in Australia relative to the rest of the world has tripled since 2007. I don’t need to bother with more sophisticated statistics (although many have), anyone who looks at that data without blind bias can see that something made Australia far more attractive to asylum seekers in 2007 than it had been before.
On the other hand
I now have to write what is possibly the most difficult thing that I have ever written on this site.
Greens leader Christine Milne has a point.
Australia takes a negligible number of asylum seekers from Indonesia and Malaysia (somewhere in the neighbourhood of 60p/a) – the two sources of these boats. Both of these countries are not good places for refugees and in Malaysia they are actually persecuted, meaning that they still have refugee status and (as mentioned before) it is illegal to deport any refugee back there.
Disincentivising the journey is all very well, however it will not work so long as the incentive to come is still stronger. The refugees in Indonesia and Malaysia know that they have almost no hope of ever being resettled, they cannot go home and they cannot stay where they are. Getting on a boat is their only hope and while that remains true, they will continue to come.
The solution requires that incentive to be changed as well. Australia needs to substantially increase the number of refugees that we take from Malasia and Indonesia, it’s as simple as that. Once we are taking several thousand a year, they will know that they would probably make it here eventually if need be and the UNHCR camps would look more appealing than our detention centres.
Given all of the above, here is the ideal solution in my opinion:
Combine the Pacific Solution and the surprisingly lucid Milne solution. Have a processing centre on Nauru (which, by the way, does great things for the impoverished island nation as well) but also commit to taking a few thousand asylum seekers from Indonesia and Malaysia each year. It will make the boat journeys seem unappealing while providing another option for the truly desperate people in Indonesia and Malaysia.
And no deportation to Malaysia. I was almost throwing my iPad against the wall this morning while Gillard was on it trying to sell that solution as though it is really the humanitarian thing to do. She was advocating for the removal of all the refugee rights under the Convention as ratified in Australian legislation, simple as that. It is disgraceful and inhumane – no amount of spin will change that. The principle of non-refoulement lies at the very core of the refugee framework, which means that you cannot deport someone fleeing persecution to a place where they will still be persecuted. According to Gillard and Bowen, refoulement is the humane choice. Go figure…
As you should all (hopefully) Know by now, the Liberals won Saturday’s NSW election in an unprecedented, record win – stripping away seats from Labor’s heartland that no one ever expected a Liberal to represent with swings upward of 20%. More relevant to this blog is that the Greens performed very poorly relative to everyone’s predictions, not winning a single seat in the lower house and winning only 1% of the voters fleeing from Labor (by comparison, the Libs had 11.4%).
By everyone’s account, the Greens have really collapsed in the last few weeks. Some say this had a lot to do with Fiona Byrne and her BDS effort, particularly the double-game she was playing later, trying to deny her support for the movement to the media whilst simultaneously flouting it to groups that may vote for her because of it. The Sydney Morning Herald’s editorial this morning even referred to the policy as “childish and indulgent”. Matthew Franklin and Amos Aikman give a pretty good run-down of this for The Australian, particularly regarding the Greens’ admission that the issue hurt their campaign:
Federal Greens leader Bob Brown admitted yesterday that voters were upset by Ms Byrne’s repeated misleading statements over her decision in December, as Marrickville Mayor, to support a motion boycotting goods and cultural exchanges from Israel.
Ms Byrne said early in the campaign that if elected to parliament she would push for a statewide ban. However, she subsequently labelled her comments a “falsehood” when they were reported by The Australian. Ms Byrne later denied she had “pushed” for the motion, but was revealed to have been planning to speak at an anti-Israeli-apartheid rally this week.
Asked yesterday whether Ms Byrne’s actions, which plagued the latter days of her campaign, had contributed to her failure, Senator Brown said: “I think it had an effect on it — that’s my feedback from the electorate and it’s no doubt something that the NSW Greens will be looking at.”
Another issue that was brought to light in this election is that the major parties, particularly Labor, are finally realising that supporting the Greens only hurts them. Labor NSW upper-house member and campaign spokesman Luke Foley has repeatedly called for Labor to turn against the Greens, and in only one seat – Coogee – did Labor and the Greens come to any sort of preference deal, presumably because Labor candidate for Coogee Paul Pierce is rumoured to be married to a Green. Coogee fell to the Liberals regardless.
Victorian Liberal senator Helen Kroger has written on how the Greens’ ostensible success was mostly as a result of the major parties preferencing them in order to take power away from each other. Without Liberal preferences, Adam Bandt would never have won Melbourne.
THE Victorian and New South Wales elections may have put an end to Bob Brown’s hopes of an advancing political greenslide in Australia. In the NSW election on Saturday night, the ALP primary vote dropped 13.5 per cent but the Greens picked up only 1.4 per cent, with the Coalition’s primary vote increasing 14.1 per cent, picking up the overwhelming majority of disaffected Labor and independent voters.
The Greens were relying on the Liberals to win four seats in the Victorian state election. We [Liberals] refused to preference them and they didn’t win a seat. On Saturday night, they were expected to win the inner-city seats of Balmain and Marrickville, but they now look like winning neither.
With a huge collapse in the ALP’s primary vote, the Greens should have won these seats where the swings required were only 3.7 per cent and 7.5 per cent respectively. More and more, the public is becoming deeply suspicious of the consequences of the extremist policies of selfish inner-city professionals who vote for the Greens.
These voters – usually on the government payroll and in secure jobs, living comfortably in wealthy inner-city suburbs – can afford to worry about climate change and not about jobs, mortgages and a future for their children.
These voters are largely disengaged from the general public in the suburbs.
This last point is particularly important. The Greens have really shown themselves to be a fringe group of “champagne socialists.” Moving more and more into the mainstream does not seem to be moderating them, but rather exposing them as ideologues and extremists with little real political credibility. This is particularly true in NSW, where their leader, Lee Rhiannon, is a former Stalinist who supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and of course this business with Fiona Byrne.
The above image is from Damien Murphy in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. NSW election is only one day away and the Greens look poised to take three lower house seats – Coogee, Marrickville and Balmain.
There was a great breakdown of why the Apartheid comparison is “nonsense” by Bruce Loudon in The Australian, a former international correspondent in both actual Apartheid South Africa and the Middle East:
FIONA Byrne, the Greens candidate who is favourite to win the seat of Marrickville, is being plain silly in trying to draw parallels between Israel and apartheid South Africa.
In a word, it’s nonsense. Anyone who knew South Africa in the bad old pre-1994 days of apartheid and is familiar with Israel and the Middle East knows that to be the case.
…Israel is a vibrant, fully functioning, hotly contested parliamentary democracy in which every citizen can play a part. It is the only such democracy in a Middle-Eastern sea of corrupt autocracies and dictatorships that are now being challenged by Arabs seeking freedom and a new course for their countries. A place where there is completely free political debate, a completely free press and a completely free judiciary.
Contrast Israel’s democracy with the situation in South Africa during the dark days of apartheid when a small elite of whites held virtually all the political and economic power and members of the numerically overwhelming black majority – 30 million to fewer than three million – were, simply because their skin was the wrong colour, discriminated against at every level and denied any role that didn’t involve servility and servitude.
“Whites Only” signs meant that blacks were excluded from park benches, couldn’t go to beaches, had to queue in different lines at post offices, couldn’t get hospital treatment, could mostly work only as menial labourers or domestic servants, had to ride in separate elevators, and had relationships across the colour bar only on pain of being hauled before the courts and imprisoned under the Immorality Act.
For a time, blacks were even barred from placing family funeral notices in newspapers. The right to mourn the loss of loved ones was segregated. That was the evil of racial discrimination.
This message, unfortunately, has been lost on our friend Mayor Fiona Byrne, although she does seem to have miraculously realised that maybe this whole BDS kerfuffle is damaging her reputation as a real politician. Australian reporter Imre Salusinszky noted today:
A GREENS candidate in the NSW election who denied she had ever “pushed” for a boycott of Israel was slated to speak at a public rally next week in support of such a boycott, and in protest against “Israeli apartheid”.
Fiona Byrne, the Greens candidate in the inner-western Sydney seat of Marrickville, initially denied to The Australian she had agreed to address the “Sing Out Against Apartheid: Boycott Divestment and Sanctions” rally outside Sydney’s Town Hall next Wednesday.
…It is the second time this week that Ms Byrne has been caught playing fast and loose with the facts about the extent of her involvement in the global movement to isolate Israel economically and culturally.
After she denied ever expressing an intention to introduce an Israel boycott into state parliament, The Australian revealed a tape of a press conference last month where she did so.
She’s already lying on the campaign trail, this doesn’t bode well for her seemingly impending election into State Parliament.
Speaking of which, the ALP has been panicking about losing Carmel Tebbutt to Byrn in Marrickville, so has been telling everyone who’ll listen how evil the Greens are and why Liberal voters need to preference the ALP over the Greens because it’s better to have anyone except The Wicked Witch of the (Inner) West. Fair enough, and you would struggle to find someone who could convincingly dispute that.
Only problem is that apparently this only applies in seats where Labor is threatened by the Greens and the Liberals can help. On the other hand, if it’s the Liberals threatening Labor, they are more than happy to “deal with the devil” and hang on to power.
In what is seen as a compromise, the Greens in Coogee will preference “progressive independents” before Labor, but Labor before Liberal. After informal talks with the Greens but no written agreement, the Labor Party will preference the Greens in Coogee.
This is a really worrying double standard. The Greens have only got where they are today because of Labor preferences (although Liberals helped Adam Bandt in his Melbourne bid) and even though the Greens are now posing a serious threat to Labor’s standing as the party of the mainstream Left, they still seem to be repeating the same mistakes.
I could compare it to fishers who fish all of the fish out the water until there are no fish left, only these fish never tasted any good in the first place.