Wednesday 24th of September 2014

our humble little christian soldier .....

our humble little christian soldier .....

from politicoz ….

When it comes to asylum seekers, the government is at an impasse, and the situation is not helped at all by the absurdities served up by the opposition.

Their policy of towing the boats back to Indonesia has been called unworkable and unsafe by almost everyone, including the navy. It runs counter to Indonesia's wishes, so would hinder any wider cooperation - yet Tony Abbott made no attempt to address this even as he met the Indonesian President a few days ago.

And the opposition's moral rhetoric is equally confused. Asked if his attitudes to asylum-seekers was un-Christian, Tony Abbott responded by claiming boat people were acting in an un-Christian manner by seeking to come to Australia 'through the back door'. Which is odd: the majority of asylum-seekers aren't Christian, and in any case the question wasn't about their attitude - it was about his.

Having argued against the Malaysia solution on humanitarian grounds, it's clear Tony Abbott will not engage seriously on this issue until he is forced to.

Tony Abbott yesterday claimed boatpeople were acting in an un-Christian manner by 'coming through the back door' and should not be encouraged to 'jump the queue' with people-smugglers. Asked on ABC Perth radio why his attitude to asylum-seekers was unchristian, the Opposition Leader responded: 'I don't think it's a very Christian thing to come in by the back door rather than the front door.'"

Tony Abbott says a Coalition government would turn back asylum boats without permission from Indonesia because he would forge such a strong relationship between the two nations it could withstand the odd disagreement. He made the declaration yesterday as the Indonesian government confirmed the issue was not raised when Mr Abbott had a private meeting with the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang.

 

tony abbott takes us for mugs...

 

 

From Julian Burnside...

 

Tony Abbott says that boat people are "un-Christian" for coming to Australia the way they do. 

Specifically, he said:

"I don't think it's a very Christian thing to come in by the back door rather than the front door. ... I think the people we accept should be coming the right way and not the wrong way. ... If you pay a people-smuggler, if you jump the queue, if you take yourself and your family on a leaky boat, that's doing the wrong thing, not the right thing, and we shouldn't encourage it."

It is not surprising that Mr Abbott has a view about the moral dimension of refugee issues. It is entirely appropriate that he should consider the matter from the perspective of Christian teaching, given that he trained for the priesthood. I would go so far as to say that more politicians should pay attention to the moral implications of the policies they have to determine.

What is striking is that Mr Abbott could get the matter so spectacularly wrong, both as to the facts and as to the moral equation.

First: the facts. Mr Abbott should know that there is no queue when you run for your life. The recent execution of an Afghan woman by the Taliban (another example of a very well-established pattern) gives some idea of why people seek asylum. A significant proportion of boat-people in the past 15 years have been Afghan Hazaras fleeing the Taliban. If an Afghan were to embrace Mr Abbott's scruples and look for a queue, the obvious place would be the Australian Embassy in Kabul. The Department of Foreign Affairs website informs us:

"The Australian Embassy in Kabul operates from a number of locations that are not publicly disclosed due to security reasons. The Australian Embassy in Kabul has no visa function."

So where is the queue?

http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4123872.html?WT.svl=theDrum

 

Tony Abbott is an idiot.... Alan Jones is an idiot....

 

walk a mile in these shoes ....

Tony Abbott says that boat people are "un-Christian" for coming to Australia the way they do. 

Specifically, he said:

"I don't think it's a very Christian thing to come in by the back door rather than the front door. ... I think the people we accept should be coming the right way and not the wrong way. ... If you pay a people-smuggler, if you jump the queue, if you take yourself and your family on a leaky boat, that's doing the wrong thing, not the right thing, and we shouldn't encourage it."

It is not surprising that Mr Abbott has a view about the moral dimension of refugee issues. It is entirely appropriate that he should consider the matter from the perspective of Christian teaching, given that he trained for the priesthood. I would go so far as to say that more politicians should pay attention to the moral implications of the policies they have to determine.

What is striking is that Mr Abbott could get the matter so spectacularly wrong, both as to the facts and as to the moral equation.

First: the facts. Mr Abbott should know that there is no queue when you run for your life. The recent execution of an Afghan woman by the Taliban (another example of a very well-established pattern) gives some idea of why people seek asylum. A significant proportion of boat-people in the past 15 years have been Afghan Hazaras fleeing the Taliban. If an Afghan were to embrace Mr Abbott's scruples and look for a queue, the obvious place would be the Australian Embassy in Kabul. The Department of Foreign Affairs website informs us:

"The Australian Embassy in Kabul operates from a number of locations that are not publicly disclosed due to security reasons. The Australian Embassy in Kabul has no visa function."

So where is the queue?

Leave aside that the location of the Australian Embassy is a secret, the larger point is that refugee flows are always untidy. The idea that desperate people will conduct themselves as if waiting for a bus to take them to the shops is not only ludicrous, it reveals a complete lack of empathy, or even understanding, of why refugees flee for safety in the first place.

As it happens, more than 90 per cent of boat-people who have arrived in Australia in the past 15 years have been accepted, eventually, as genuine refugees. Mr Abbott should understand this: it means that they are people to whom we owe a duty of protection according to our own laws, and according to the obligations we voluntarily undertook when we signed the Refugees Convention.

Second: the moral question. Mr Abbott should know, better than most politicians, that the Christian doctrine he claims to understand and espouse emphasises the message of welcoming and protecting the stranger. The parable of the Good Samaritan is just one example. Nowhere in Christian teaching (and nowhere in any moral code) is the message of kindness to strangers qualified by reference to their method of arrival.

From time immemorial, victims of persecution have fled for safety. It is usually untidy. The flight of Jews from Europe in the 1930s is an obvious example, and one which should focus our minds on the need for a response which is informed by moral learning rather than by political opportunism.

And how is it that it is "the wrong thing" to do whatever you can to try and save yourself and your family? What bizarre twist of reasoning makes it wrong to do whatever is necessary to save your family? Perhaps Mr Abbott needs to watch The Sound of Music again: the von Trapp family were refugees; the nuns were people smugglers; they did what they could to help the von Trapps through the back door.

Third: the dog whistle component. Many politicians here and overseas have found it easy and expedient to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment in recent years, just as it was easy, in earlier times, to stir up anti-Jewish sentiment.

It can hardly have escaped Mr Abbott's attention that a significant number of boat-people in recent years have been Muslims. It is inconceivable that he failed to notice that some people, hearing his comments about boat-people being "un-Christian", would have understood him as criticizing boat-people because they are Muslim, not Christian. It is a sad reflection of the depths to which political debate has fallen in this country that an avowed Christian could stoop to such shabby tactics.

Finally: A question for Mr Abbott. Imagine, just for a minute, that you are a Hazara from Afghanistan. You have fled the Taliban; you have arrived in Indonesia, where you will be jailed if you are found; you can't work, and you can't send your kids to school. You will have to wait between 10 and 20 years before some country offers to resettle you. But you have a chance of getting on a boat and heading for safety in Australia. What will you do?

I know I would get on a boat; I know that most Australians would get on a boat. I imagine that Tony Abbott would get on a boat.

I challenge Tony Abbott to answer this question directly and honestly: What would you do, Mr Abbott, if you were in their shoes?

If Mr Abbott answers this question, we can take another look at his criticism of boat-people as "un-Christian".

If he is not willing to answer it, then we have a fourth reason to disregard his criticism of boat-people.

Julian Burnside AO QC is an Australian Barrister and an advocate for human rights and fair treatment of refugees. He tweets @JulianBurnside. View his full profile here.

our national disgrace .....

We must hope Tony Abbott is lying when he says he will turn back the boats. If he is not lying and actually means it, he is ignorant, foolish and reckless. Let me count the ways.

As every expert on the subject has painstakingly pointed out, the people smugglers have wised up. They have shown they are willing to destroy a refugee boat to prevent it being sent back, at whatever cost in life and limb. We saw that in 2009 when SIEV 36, carrying 47 Afghans, exploded in a pillar of smoke and flame off Ashmore Reef. Nine Australian Defence Force men and women on board were blown into the water and were lucky to have survived. Abbott blithely dismisses this by saying that's what people join the ADF to do, which is about as crass as it gets.

Another trick is to disable a boat's engine, most likely by tipping a bucket of sand into the fuel tank. If that cannot be repaired - and it would be very difficult - then Abbott would have the navy tow the boat back to Indonesia. That is fraught with more trouble. These boats are frail and unseaworthy and a tow would be hazardous and perhaps impossible. But if it could be done, the safest speed, in a calm sea, would be no more than five knots, or a fast walking pace.

Do the sums: Christmas Island is about 175 nautical miles from the Java coast. That's a tow of 35 hours. For all that time you would need to keep Defence Force personnel on board the thing, turning them over on four-hour watches, at serious risk to themselves from hostile passengers and crew. You are also taking that navy patrol boat out of the search for other refugee vessels. And if it's at the end of its patrol, it might not have the fuel to do the tow and then get back home again anyway.

Then we get to the Indonesians, who have stated explicitly they will not accept the boats back. Under the Abbott "policy", we would be giving defiant offence to a friendly neighbour vital to our regional security and on whom we rely for co-operation in managing the refugee tide. Tough-talking Tony could visit Jakarta until he was black in the face - if they would have him - but he will not get around that one. As it is, the Indonesians are tired of Australia shouting at them about asylum seekers.

There is one more thing. The international conventions for the safety of life at sea (SOLAS), require ships' captains not to place people in harm's way and, more specifically, to rescue them from danger. These are not airy-fairy notions but ironclad international and Australian law, built up over centuries of seafaring. These laws cannot be lightly set aside by some jerk in Canberra hollering down the phone to a naval commanding officer in the Indian Ocean, as Peter Reith's office infamously did in the ''children overboard'' affair.

The chances are Abbott is lying. This is the man who famously told Kerry O'Brien a few years ago that you should only believe him if you get it in writing. But he knows this sort of hairy-chested populism plays well in marginal electorates. Disgracefully, for him that's all that matters.

Mike Carlton