Faced with the unexpected arrival of about 400 refugees in her town, I doubt she’d say “There goes the neighbourhood”.

Time to take a page from Mary's book…Photo: Calum Robertson.

She wouldn’t worry that the presence of asylum seekers would cause a dip in property prices, or complain that the kids (most of whom will be under five) will shoplift.

She wouldn’t argue that we should make male asylum seekers take the place of Australia’s own soldiers at war. And she wouldn’t say that we should demean refugees and make them suffer in order to deter more people from coming.

(From the gushing rhetoric around these past few weeks you might think she’d part the seas so the ramshackle vessels don’t sink, then teleport the inhabitants into a land of milk and honey.)

Hyperbole aside, it’s very difficult to reconcile the recent Mary-worship in Australia with the uncharitable sentiments that have spewed forth in the wake of the Federal Government’s shift on asylum seeker policy.

The Government very suddenly announced that the Adelaide Hills town of Inverbrackie would host one of the new “softcore” detention facilities. The nearby community immediately split on the issue.

Some people reflexively opened up. One woman gushed that she’d start a playgroup for the refugee children. The local mayor welcomed the cultural contribution the (mainly Afghani and Sri Lankan) asylum seekers would make. Many people were welcoming, even excited.

Then there were the gobsmacked people who knew they were upset, but weren’t sure why, so they blamed the suddenness of the whole thing. They’re floundering around talking about crumbling infrastructure.

Premier Mike Rann is in this group.

And then there those who use the phrase “these people”. As in “these people don’t fit in”. “These people don’t deserve those houses”.

“These people will entice more to follow”. “We don’t want these people here”. (This last group should be reassured that “these people” will still be locked up, most of the time.) 

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen is implacable. This is happening, it’s a Federal decision and a Federal responsibility, and families will move into the Inverbrackie army barracks by Christmas.

From here it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If the community does open its arms, start playgroups and welcome the addition to schools and sporting teams, workplaces and streetlife, this could be the start of a beautiful melding. We might even get a Sri Lankan or Afghani restaurant to mix up the existing pub-cheese-wine culture.

But if these traumatised people move into a town where someone has plastered signs up saying “no refugees” then this becomes an adversarial relationship. And that’s bound to lead to social problems, which artificially justifies the arguments that we shouldn’t have let them in in the first place.

There’s an unspoken (although clearly now spoken) rule that’s cropped up post-Vietnam. No matter how much you disagree with war, don’t denigrate the diggers. Attack the philosophy, the bigger picture, but don’t abuse the pawns of the broader scheme.

Let’s hope the playgroup faction wins out in the Hills. And let’s hope the anti-refugee campaigners have the decency to keep their arguments in the political sphere, and away from the innocent families whose lives are protected at the whim of our politicians.

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    • PaulB says:

      11:30am | 21/10/10

      The worst bit about the Mary-worship to me was the Australians carrying on at the Vatican like the whole thing was an Olympic event and we’d just won gold.  Celebrity culture at its worst.

    • Ted N says:

      07:46am | 22/10/10

      Good call. It’s sad that the grass roots achievements are being lost for this celebrity worship culture.

      I did have a big giggle when I saw that retired Nationals politician swanning around the celebrity circus after saying he was retiring to be with his family.

      You would hope that Mary, unlike Tony Abbott, and the rest of the fake Christians, would know their bible well enough to realise that when Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt to protect the Baby Jesus from a wrathful King Herod, they were illegal immigrants. It’s a little Monty Pythonesque to realise that if Jesus had faced the Liberals Australia’s immigration policy the Liberals may well have had the messiah killed! Thankfully God had better timing on Jesus’s arrival on earth.

      You would also hope that Mary would’ve read the story on the Good Samaritan also. She may have also told the Vatican that rather than clinging to their ostentatious amounts of gold and wealth that Jesus would have used the money, immediately to help the poor. Jesus despised greed.

    • PaulB says:

      11:30am | 21/10/10

      The worst bit about the Mary-worship to me was the Australians carrying on at the Vatican like the whole thing was an Olympic event and we’d just won gold.  Celebrity culture at its worst.

    • Khrystene says:

      12:01pm | 21/10/10

      My grandparents lived in Barracks near Minchinbury, NSW when they first arrived in AU in 1949. It was awful and tough and they scrimped and saved to get themselves a piece of land to get the hell out of there.

      They were forced to work in jobs allocated by the government for 2 years, to pay off their voyage to AU from Europe (originally from Poland, they came here from internment in Germany). The barracks don’t even exist anymore, not a trace is there to remind anyone of them. However, everytime I hear the phrase “these/those people” I think of them and their struggle and I feel a strong connection to “these people” and their plight.

      “These people” like my grandparents, will bring something to this country that is desperately needed. Whatever it is, be it tangible or intangible, it’s important for our society.

      My local area has seen an increase in the settlement of ‘processed’ migrants, which has changed the face of our city. It’s a beautiful and positive thing.

      PaulB seems to think Mary M isn’t comperably to an Olympic gold medal holder, and he’s right, she’s not.

      She devoted her entire life to others and fought for the betterment of the community. That’s something we can be proud of, no matter whether we’re religious or not. (PS: For clarity’s sake, I’m not a Christian and most certainly not a papist.) We should be proud of her as a woman, as an Australian, as a pioneer, with or without the approval of the Vatican.

    • Gregg says:

      12:44pm | 21/10/10

      Krystene, no doubt your parents have contributd to Australia just as many other post WW2 immigrants did on many major resource projects such as power stations and the Snowy Hydro Scheme and housing was in such short supply post WW2 that many immigrants and others working on the Snowy were initially housed in tents would you believe.
      Australia still has a huge annual number of skilled immigrants and also many skilled people using family visas as partners or would be spouses of Australians to come here and that does build our economy though with less and less industry immigration numbers have been under scrutiny and rightly so.

      Also for many decades now, Australia has had a refugee program and people arriving as a result do not always and often will not have the work or english language skills to allow for a ready contribution.
      Nevertheless, there has been something of a 50/50 mix of direct taxpayer support and organisations/individuals sponsoring true refugees who will be selected from UNHCR refugee and other NGO centres, there being many of them around the planet and where those seeking asylum could have headed to but with money they may have been rejected and they probably know it and hence the people smuggling queue jumping practice that our current government promotes.

    • Annarose says:

      06:57pm | 21/10/10

      ‘A refugee problem’ relative to whom? Australia takes in far less that what the UNCHR judges to be its’ ‘fair share’- both in terms of proportional to the population and proportional to GDP. In actual figures, Australia received 0.03% of the worlds’ refugee and displaced peoples population. All of these figures are sourced from recent UNHCR reports, incidentally- a source I find slightly more reliable than the newspapers informing Australians that we have a ‘refugee problem’.
      As for your terms ‘true refugees’ and ‘queue smuggling’, they do not exist in reality. Asylum seekers who have come to Australia by boat have exercised a legal and legitimate right under the UN Refugee Convention (Article 14.1), that is, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”
      ‘True Refugees’ is a redundant term because no-one is arguing that asylum seekers are yet true refugees. Thus the processing system, to determine the legitimacy of their claim. However, if they are granted refugee status, then they are indeed considered true refugees, their manner of arriving notwithstanding.
      At the end of the day, Gregg, it’s your opinion and I’m not going to change it. Just be careful of where you get your facts from, because I’m sure you don’t want to perpetuate extremely damaging and harmful assumptions and ideas about an incredibly vulnerable group of people unless your basis and evidence is rock solid.

    • Gregg says:

      02:13pm | 22/10/10

      @ Annarose,
      I too quite often post with reference to http://www.unhcr.org/4c176c969.html rather than use fabricated numbers.
      From that site and you will see figures to the end of 2009, there is
      ” At the end of 2009, 112,400 refugees were admitted for resettlement by 19 countries, including the United States (79,900), Canada (12,500) and Australia (11,100). The main refugee groups resettled in 2009 were from Myanmar (24,800), Iraq (23,000), Bhutan (17,500) and Somalia (5,500). “
      So relative to our population and taking account of our isolation which will have longer term impact re trading/GDP, we ain’t doing too badly at all.
      You may want to feel that queue jumping does not exist but also take a look at http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/60refugee.htm
      Our refugee budget of 13750 in total is split between refugees applying for the direct government program [ nominally 6000 ] and about 40,000+ applications annually.
      The remainder are allocated for sponsoring by organisations and individuals, a lot of those sponsored I would suggest also coming from the dire conditions of refugee camps where people are usually living in tents if lucky and dying of all sorts of afflications which can include physical attacks.
      Those people do not have money to pay people smugglers and are what I would term true refugees whether you would care to or not Anna.

      You may want to note from the Immi figures that with the numbers of the humanitarium program that as onshore visas go up - those who generally have come courtesy of the people smugglers - the offshore numbers go down, that’s for those in refugee centres, the total sum number being around 7000.

      So quite clearly all these much healthier looking specimens that have money are taking allocations that would normally be for people to be sponsored out of dire circumstances.
      I call that queue jumping whether you want to or not.

      Sure people have a legal right to claim asylum and people who have flown into Australia with various visas can apply for asylum and they will have a chance to put their case.

      There are also many UNHCR and other NGO refugee centres scattered about the planet and one could ask, why do both those flying into Australia and also people using people smugglers go to a refugee centre, they being in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
      Check the UNHCR data why do you not?

      I would hazard a guess that they do not see themselves as destitute as thos struggling to survive in refugee centres, they are not interested in subjecting themselves to those conditions and they may even fear rejection.

      True refugees may be redundant to your thinking but then perhaps you do not care as much for people dying and struggling to survive as you do for the more monied.
      I know full well where my facts come from btw and perhaps you may want to review the full picture so as the true refugees are not forgotten because of our government perpetuating an act of bastardry.

    • Annarose says:

      09:41pm | 22/10/10

      Having a generous humanitarian program is not the same as having a refugee problem, in my view. That was why I assumed you were referring solely to the asylum seekers who arrive in Australia without papers.
      A true refugee is someone who is
      “A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”
      I think you would find it very very hard to argue that the ethnic Hazara group of Afghanistan, quite a large proportion of Australia’s ‘boat people’ do not fit into this definition, especially given UNHCR’s reports!
      Therefore, your argument is who is “more” of a refugee, or has the most pressing claim to refugee status. But again, many Hazaras who have come to Australia by boat have had family murdered, daughters raped, friends and themselves tortured for being Hazara. This is not an exaggeration. Do you think that they should be returned to this situation?
      Also, keep in mind that just getting to Australia does not instantly grant asylum seekers with refugee status. They must be found to be a “true refugee” through quite a protracted process and through the internationally recognised definition.
      Obviously, I think the situation in refugee camps is heartbreaking and horrendous. Obviously, I am quite proud that in terms of this resettlement program, Australia is doing quite well. To make those judgements otherwise is to reduce this debate to a petty personal argument, which I’m not interested in doing. Especially because your actual intellectual arguments are rational and reasoned, so it would be a shame to turn this into name calling. However, what I disagree with is your argument that we should only help one set of refugees at the expense of others. When you do not know the personal situations of the asylum seekers involved- and unless you’re actually in contact with them, you probably don’t- I really don’t think you have the right to make that judgement call. If you were faced with a young man whose brothers had been murdered for the fact of being Hazara, who had been threatened with the same fate, whose government could not protect him, I think you would find it hard to return him to that context both ethically and legally.
      Finally you seem highly critical of asylum seekers who do not go through refugee camps. This is despite you describing the “dire conditions of refugee camps where people are usually living in tents if lucky and dying of all sorts of afflications which can include physical attacks”. How can you logically then argue that a parent should subject their family to that? Would you subject yours to that, if you were in that situation? By arguing that “lesser” refugees should be returned, you are focusing solely on the pull factors and not at all the push, which in my view won’t lead to any long term change.

    • Gregg says:

      08:32pm | 23/10/10

      Getting to the crux of what you say and that is
      ” If you were faced with a young man ......
      Finally you seem highly critical of asylum seekers who do not go through refugee camps…..... Sure there are attrocities that occur in many countries and not just against those either in refugee camps or those attempting to find refuge and if it was feasible to help them all without affecting our ability to maintain our own standards of health, protection and survival within a well structured society there is no reason why we should not.
      That it is not so feasible does not mean I have suggested at all that people be returned to a place where they may be subject to harm or death.

      Aside from doing what one could to comfort a person suffering such a loss, there are a number of things that could happen in meeting a young Hazara man if he was of a military age and one would be to ask whether he had considered what life opportunities existed for him in Kabul or from joining the Afghan National Army.
      If it was a negative response on both of those, I would then inform him of the UNHCR and refugee centres throughout the sub continent.
      I suppose if I met him when he was in Indonesia seeking a people smuggler, I would be interested in how he came to raise the funds to get from Afghanistan to Indonesia and still have sufficient to pay a people smuggler.
      I would also ask why with money available to him, he did not attempt to establish a life in neighbouring countries.
      As for the refugee camps and what may or may not happen, that will obviously vary with location and in the context of refugees from the sub continent region we do hear of more harm to those in African countries.
      But whether it be the subcontinent or Africa or elsewhere I do not think that we should at all dismiss the situation of people in those camps.

      Sure, Oz may be ultimately be the best option considered by many who have had the money and survived the sea trip and any diseases that could be contracted along the way. But are you saying Anna, that we should welcome them with open arms because they have had the money to do what people suffering far more cannot do?

      And that aside, lets return to why we in Australia do not have the violence of countries experiencing civil war or genocidal persecution and that is because we do have a society founded on well structured democracy and all that means in a legal context which extends to the fair go principle.
      Encouraging people smuggling and people who would use them is neither legal nor giving a fair go to those refugees in centres.
      We are also effectively undermining the global effort of the UNHCR
      Looking at what the outworkings are locally:
      . Loss of life at sea
      . Cost/personnel risks of interception at sea and that includes possible disease contraction as well as physical harm.
      . Ditto for all detention centre personnel.
      The onflow costs additional over normal costs to Australia and Australians, there being many who do it pretty tough already without adequate shelter, food, employment, health or dental care.
      And then what does all this do?
      If the instructions are going back that you just have to have a good story, hang in there and eventually you’ll have it far better with those stupid Australians paying for us, how many more are going to keep displacing the true refugees?
      If it is your view that we should accept every person arriving by boat, what if we get many boats setting off from the African coast line, even freighter loads of them!
      Sure not every story may be believed and already there will be a detention centre in WA to house 1600 people, just for starters!
      We already have another half dozen or so around the country, already break out demonstrations in Darwin and the roof situation in Villawood and the criminal boat crews whinging on not being brought to trial.
      What is the cost alone of caring for currently over 5000 people, not to mention that some have made legal claims while in detention and there has been pay out in total of several million $$$ and many more cases listed.
      Do you not say WTF is going on!
      Our system is already floundering and if the problems have not been bad enough with numbers of several hundred people in the one location, 1600 is going to be something else!

      Compare that to with how the system was operating in an orderly manner and people undergoing a selection and approval process before travel to Australia with services available this end to assist with their assimilation.
      How do you assimilate bulk numbers of peoples, most likely to have limited english ability and education/training and those that do will not have ready accreditation for Australia.
      Normal skilled visa applications take months if not years.
      Already, resources being applied to the asylum seeker issue are causing substantial delays with skilled and family visa processing.
      So pulling in those that need support at one end and delaying those that can help the country is going to create a fine mess.

    • howy says:

      12:03pm | 21/10/10

      I’d say Mary would be campaigning over in places like Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Somali for peace and Biblical principles so that thousands of people don’t feel the need to leave their home countries in the first place. And we certainly know that Mary wouldn’t be sipping lattes, reading Chomsky, legalising abortion, rebranding marriage and planning to close down Christian schools in Australia.

    • Khrystene says:

      12:15pm | 21/10/10

      I daresay she’d love a bit of Chomsky.

    • Render unto Caesar... says:

      12:22pm | 21/10/10

      Yes, but the question is if she’d push the boats back out to sea, or instead offer/campaign to take in and help these desperate, displaced people.

      Probably a question you don’t want to answer, huh?

    • Charlie says:

      02:08pm | 21/10/10

      She’d probably also like the government of her country not to demolish a country to the extent that its people have to flee to the nearest safest state (hmmm reminds me of something somwhere).

    • nosthow says:

      12:08pm | 21/10/10

      All I can say Tory , in a most unbiased way., is that the Asylum Seekers must be now relieved that a Labor government is in power. Had Abbott won many would have been driven back into the sea to face possible death. Shame on Abbott for that. When asked during the election campaign who would choose which boats would be driven back he squirmed and said ” umm errr uuum errrr the navy will tell me which ones ummm errrr ” ! Say no more folks ! Welcome to Australia Asylum Seekers - the genuine one I mean.

    • Eric says:

      12:14pm | 21/10/10

      I am so tired of a self-appointed moral aristocracy lecturing us all about how to behave with regard to illegal immigrants.

      If the refugee advocates listened instead of spewing sanctimonious trash, there might be a meaningful discussion. As it is, you ignore what we say, so why should we listen to what you say?

    • iansand says:

      12:39pm | 21/10/10

      Perfectly correct.  It is as bad as a bunch of self proclaimed moral guardians claiming inspiration from an imaginary friend lecturing us about how to behave with regard to other human beings.

      Eric, the sooner you actually meet and talk to these evil aliens the sooner you will take a step on the path back to humanity.

    • James1 says:

      12:48pm | 21/10/10

      The day you can tell the difference between an illegal immigrant and an asylum seeker, then that conversation can be had.  If you can’t even define words and use them properly, why should we listen to waht you say?

    • Kika says:

      01:33pm | 21/10/10

      Eric, it’s simple. We don’t participate in your discussions because it’s been said and done and your point doesn’t change. The fact is, you are wrong.

    • Eric says:

      02:13pm | 21/10/10


      Both iansand and James1, have a record of dishonesty and ignorance in regard to what I have said.

      James1 lied about my attitude to Julia Gillard, falsely claiming that I had gone insane because she was a woman. Iansand lied about Climategate, falsely claiming that it was all about just a few emails.

      The two of them are prime examples of a self-appointed moral aristocracy that ignores everything we say.

    • iansand says:

      02:25pm | 21/10/10

      Charming, Eric. 

      I don’t think Climategate has much of an influence on the influx of refugees.

    • The Badger says:

      02:57pm | 21/10/10

      Iansand - not yet, but wait for it when those small island nations close by start going under water.

      Eric - You must start getting that terminology right and using the proper words consistently. It is making your point very difficult to understand.

    • iansand says:

      03:22pm | 21/10/10

      The Badger - Climategate is the email “scandal”.  The only way that would precipitate an influx of refugee would be people attempting to escape from the gormless blatherers who go on and on about it.

    • James1 says:

      03:31pm | 21/10/10

      I may have got the wrong impression of your feelings about Julia Gillard, Eric (for which I apologise), but you have sidestepped my point nonetheless.  Can you tell the difference between an illegal immigrant and an asylum seeker, or are you deliberately attempting to deceive?

      This may surprise you, but I actually respect you for your consistency.  What disappoints me is your lack of consistency when it comes to this issue, and particularly in relation to clear and honest definitions.

    • Eric says:

      04:33pm | 21/10/10

      James1 - Thank you for your response. I acknowledge, now, that you are at least open to reasonable discussion.

      I cannot personally tell the difference between an illegal immigrant and an asylum seeker, just by looking at the. But then, it is not my job to do so. That’s up to people who are trained for that duty.

      It is sufficient to know that the two types do exist - and that both arrive on our shores, uninvited. The official tribunals which are meant to make the determination cannot be trusted - and so we have controversy.

      My point, in this and the earlier thread, is that one side is simply refusing to listen to the other. I know all the pro-boat-people arguments, but the “refugee” advocates have no idea, whatsoever, of what motivates us, their opponents.

      This is a failure of academia and the media. There are few open minds in the elitist establishments - and so they remain ignorant and impotent.

    • Joe says:

      12:28pm | 21/10/10

      I presume you are talking about Mary Mackillop here. Her full name doesn’t appear to be in the article…
      Note to non-Catholics;  when Catholics talk about Mary they mean Jesus’ mother. After all that is who Mary Mackillop is named after and used to pray too all the time( have you seen the huge rosary beads she always wore?). I do wonder what Mary of Nazareth would make of modern Australia though…

    • The Badger says:

      12:39pm | 21/10/10

      Mary would no doubt pick up the boat-phone and give Dr. No a piece of her mind.

      oops, Abbott didn’t get to implement the boat-phone as he failed to convince the independents of the merit of his policies especially with regard to his “christian” beliefs.

    • Carnegie says:

      12:40pm | 21/10/10

      I think it instructive to look at current events in Europe in assessing what our future might look like. The social democratic “experiment” (completely lacking any pragmatism) has resulted in millions of 1990’s asylum seekers now being threatened (by Angela Merkel for example) to integrate or else and just over the border in France we have had the “burqa banning” & now people rioting in the streets (over a proposed increase in pension age) because they have finally realised there is a financial cost involved in “social policies” - talk about closing the gate after the horse has bolted.
      The very least we owe ourselves in an open and honest debate about these issues and the costs (both social and financial) before it is too late!

    • James1 says:

      01:32pm | 21/10/10

      That completely mischaracterises the rioting in France.  It is about the proposed austerity measures, a part of which is increasing the pension age from 60 to 62.

      Furthermore, Europe actually has a big problem with actual illegal immigration, whereas you are talking about a tiny number of refugees and asylum seekers, which are completely different categories of migrants.  Never let facts get in the way of your argument though - if you used facts you would be an intellectual, rather than an “Aussie battler”.

    • Martin Milne says:

      01:54pm | 21/10/10

      The demonstrations in France are down to people refusing to pay the bill for the failure of rampant laissez-faire economics, not social democracy. It was these policies and the faith in the free market that led Europe to the brink of Economic collapse. Governments in France, Germany and the UK are now attacking wages, jobs, benefits and pensions to pay the bill for saving the banks that caused the problem in the first place.
      As for the attacks on multiculturalism and the burqa, it is the normal tricks of governments when they are in trouble to find a convenient scapegoat. It is the Muslims now, just as it was the Jews in the 1930s and asylum seekers in Australia when John Howard was PM

    • Carnegie says:

      03:54pm | 21/10/10

      @Martin Milne,

      Pardon me Martin if I don’t just take your word for it (and blame it all on those big bad capitalist and few tricky conservativwe govts).
      If everything you say is true why not have a very good look at what has occurred in Europe over the past 2 decades?

    • Leto says:

      12:40pm | 21/10/10

      STOP THE BOATS! is possibly the most ridiculous slogan I have ever heard, and it made me ashamed to be Australian.

      People are people. We all want the same things in life. Let them all in.

    • Beau says:

      02:57pm | 21/10/10

      That really is very naive. No, we don’t all want the same things in life. Islam is an intolerant religion that demands submission or death. (‘Islam’ actually means ‘submit’). Yes, most Muslims are peaceful, but they will remain quiet and compliant when the fundamentalists go on the warpath and demand Sharia Law in Australia.

      Our own ‘tolerence’ will eventually be our undoing.

      Welcome to Inverbrakistan

    • Onemack says:

      12:44pm | 21/10/10

      The putative and unrecorded thoughts of a long dead do-gooder are of little interest or relevance to modern Australia; surely!

    • molly says:

      12:51pm | 21/10/10

      mary would tirelessly   work with the newcomers and help the people understand
      their plight as she did with many people we would not call street people who she looked after, the prisoner s in the jails she visited and like wise.

      These people in this town of which i wish i was one, will find they grow closer to goodness and light just by acting the way mary Mc, would of

    • Adam Diver says:

      01:14pm | 21/10/10

      This article is close to a new low (other than anything printed by Conroy). Linking the assylum seeker debate to Mary Mackillop, surely a simpler link would be Jesus himself, or perhaps even God who is overseeing the current mess.

      Despite that the premise of this article is already being debated on a similar piece today I felt it was neccesssary to comment again, just so that one side of the argument will continue to hear the legitimate worries of a large number of the society for which these people choose to flee.

      Now it might be hard to follow, considering I am using emotionless logic, common sense and current trends to make these points, but alas I will attempt to sway your opinion nonetheless.

      1. There are an estimated 300 million refugees in the world, most in various refugee camps. No matter what commitment Australia makes we will make practicaly no difference to this global problem.

      2. Australia has a quota for the number of refugees we do take. The number (I believe at about 13,000) can be debated another time. Now everyone who arrives here by boat and is successfully processed, not only cost us a lot of money, they reduce the quota by one. Refugees in camps just went back 1 in the queue for our X amount of spots. So queue jumping is a legitimate concern.

      3. Now the relaxation of border protection laws has led to an influx in arrivals. These arrivals make a dangerous journey across the ocean with a reported 170 not making the journey. Whether you liked the previous treatment of refugees or not it saved lives. Which brings me to my next point

      4. The treatment of refugees. I understand the humanitarian grounds against mandatory detention and other previous measures but an asylum seeker surely is better of in a detention centre with security, entertianment, food, water and shelter provided for them. If not then exactly what are they escaping from?

      5. Also it was reported that 70% of recent Sri Lankan assylum seekers have returned to thier homeland to visit relatives. Must not fear death now?

      6. Security. Of course thier is a security risk in accepting people from other countries. Hell we have police checks if you want to coach a sporting team these days. Not having Identifying Documents surely qualifies you for mandatory detention so that you can be accesses thouroghly.

      7. Social Cohesion. If you think we are a great big happy country were we all get along, and respect each other and appreciate our differences you are just being naive. If you take the approach that we are a racist country who does not like multi-culturalism you would have to explain to me why so many people are trying to come here. We have a culture and a belief system in this country, one that has made it democratic, prosperous and safe. Unfortunately some cultures will not assimilate into this framework. (Yes I said assimilate how else do you have a single defining culture for a country). If they are unwilling or unable to give up these cultures, religions or customs they should not be allowed into this country. For example we treat men and women as equals. Many of our assylum seekers have never heard of such a notion.

      8. I also want to make a point about the refugees ability to manipulate both the media and the justice system. It is truelly remarkable considering where they come from. Or perhaps its the refugee activist and lawyers who give them such advice and representation at tax payers expense. Please stop putting them up to stunts, it only hurts thier cause more.

      Look I could continue on, but simply I want to summise it as this - there are legitimate issues in this debate, belittling one side as racist is both wrong and lazy. Your compassion is credible but misplaced.

    • fairsfair says:

      03:30pm | 21/10/10

      Adam, totally agree with every single word you have written. I don’t know how to articulate to other people that I am not racist, I do have compassion for those seeking asylum in our country, but I want to ensure that the few people that we are able to supply a better life - are in genuine need. Carnegie states in an above post that we need to have a frank discussion on this matter. Responses to his post essentially call him an idiot. Where do you go with that? It is like beating your head up a brick wall.

    • James1 says:

      03:36pm | 21/10/10

      On point four, I wholeheartedly agree.  An Afghan friend of mine spent 18 months in Baxter a few years ago, and she found the conditions greatly superior to the refugee camp in Iran where she had spent the previous eight years.

      On social cohesion, those so stridently opposing the presence of other cultures - even where they abide by our laws - are the main source of the lack of social cohesion.  At least where I live, they are.

      Also, where did you source that estimate for refugees worldwide?

    • Gregg says:

      05:43pm | 21/10/10

      Adam, if you are going to put a factual case, and I often do myself, please get the facts right.
      1. I do not know where you got 300M from but the people who ought to know the best, the UNHCR put the global figure at 15M, a split of about 10M in their own centres and 5M cared for by other NGOs.
      In addition there are some 27M or so other people they refer to within their own countries uprooted by conflict and 1M Asylum Seekers.
      But do not take my word and check http://www.unhcr.org/4c176c969.html

      2. Australias program is 13750 though that may not include a quiet special number of 500 that Senator Evans just before the election arranged specifically for some people in Indonesia.
      There is a split of that number and again you can access the facts easily enough @ http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/60refugee.htm there also being a heap of information if you care to look at the immi site.
      You will see that refugees are running at about 6000 p.a. and that is a separate program.
      Of the other 7750 you will see there is a mix of onshore and offshore and that is where when offshore numbers rise, those granted to people offshore may fall and the offshore people in that category generally get visas through being sponsored by organisations and individuals but yes in principle a person using a people smuggler can be thought of as a queue jumper.
      5. Just like you should not believe everything you see written on the Punch, especially when it references another author with unknown authenticity of facts being claimed or a posters name is Marilyn, so you should not always believe other reports.
      That 70% which has been floating about seems to me a little odd given that Sri Lankans have not been arriving here all that long and it does still take considerable time for Protection Visas to be issued.
      8. I do not know that it is asylum seekers themselves that are manipulating the media or just whether media people do what is normal for them and will flock to something that will be ” news ” and then we get many stories without the full facts and that is something we all should be wary of.

      Personally, I do not have anything against Australia’s refugee program and it would be ideal if all developed nations had the ability to help out more of the really needy and I think of the many starving and malnourished we often see in camp situations all over.
      It is criminal that a government of a developed nation is to be manipulated to such an extent that true refugees are being ignored because people with money are paying people smugglers.

      Be it Nauru, East Timor, Indonesia, PNG or wherever but preferably closer to peoples home countries which is UNHCR policy, that is where Asylum Seekers should be sent to from Xmas Island so as our structured policy is not going to become structureless.

    • Gregg says:

      01:20pm | 21/10/10

      Tory, should we be so gob smacked that you have ignored the truth of the situation and that so many in the media refuse to give truth a good airing?
      ” But if these traumatised people move into a town where someone has plastered signs up saying “no refugees” then this becomes an adversarial relationship. And that’s bound to lead to social problems, which artificially justifies the arguments that we shouldn’t have let them in in the first place. “

      Why not mention the 27M true refugees in various UNHCR and NGO centres around the planet or better still do an article on Australia’s refugee programs and how the government promoting people smuggling is undermining not only those programs but also the people charged with the difficult tasks of managing those programs.

      And it goes further than that for whilst it is likely to be many years if ever that many people using people smugglers will have attained skills or have had existing skills accredited so as to contibute to Australia, we will not only be enlargening our welfare class of people but already the immigration programs for skilled people applying for skilled or family visas is being greatly affected by processing tomes being significantly extended.
      Yes, the Gillard government is in effect causing Australia’s skill base balance to be eroded by promoting queue jumping by people who have the money to do it.

      The existing refugee program sees a planned assimilation of families and individuals into different communities all around Australia, just as would happen with those sponsored by organisations and individuals, all those people being in dire need, having no money and often going hungry if not starving to death or dying from other diseases and they are the people Mary McKillop and I dare say normal generous Australians would want to help.

      Why Tory, do you and other journalists choose to ignore their plight?
      Is it because their story has no sensationalism aspect to it, not sexy enough or what?
      Mary McKillop I feel would hang her head in shame as I do for all of those people our government does not have the will to do something about and is prepared to take the easy road at taxpayer expense.

      Yes, because the government is promoting the consigning of true refugees to having to spend longer with their plight if they survive, I can understand you claiming and claims of:
      .  They’re floundering around talking about crumbling infrastructure.
      . And then there those who use the phrase “these people”. As in “these people don’t fit in”. “These people don’t deserve those houses”.
      For what of the true refugees and they aside from our own poor people?
      . “These people will entice more to follow”.
      ” If the community does open its arms, start playgroups and welcome the addition to schools and sporting teams, workplaces and streetlife, this could be the start of a beautiful melding. We might even get a Sri Lankan or Afghani restaurant to mix up the existing pub-cheese-wine culture. “
      This has happened generally in Australia and may even be called by some multi - culturalism but whether that will happen with what is supposed to be temporary accommodation and establishment of a welfare class is another matter.
      Meanwhile we have the refugees abandoned and queue jumpers in bulk imposed on a community.

      ” And let’s hope the anti-refugee campaigners have the decency to keep their arguments in the political sphere, “
      And another very conveniently forgotten reason for offshore processing was so the lengthy onshore appeals processes were not going to be clagging up our immigration appeal/judicial systems with subsequent costs, again to taxpayers.

      It would certainly seem the sign is up there now in Neon lights for all people smugglers ” Send the message far and wide, the Australian government is betraying its own people and will provide you with a wholesome new ligfe experience “
      The cost people smugglers charge may even come down through competition and that will only lead to more and more on the seas.

      How many so called asylum seekers will have to be arriving per month before the government attempts to apply some band aids and where next will be refurbished for them?
      Lets hope the government does not arrange building insulation for the refurbishments.

    • Kika says:

      01:36pm | 21/10/10

      I’m sure she’d also be quite vocal about the corruption, criminality and coverups which have plagued the Catholic Church for the past 40 years or so. She was a well known whistleblower, and no doubt she’d be pretty ashamed over what’s happened in her Church globally in recent years. Especially the fact that the abuse scandals were covered up and the child abusers being shifted from one parish to the next.

    • Sadiq farris says:

      01:45pm | 21/10/10

      Mary McKillop is now in Zoo Magazine in lingerie and a nun’s oufirst.
      Mary Mackillop Is St Mary Of the Cross but she never visted Kings Cross.She lived all her life in Victoria and South Australia in the Victorian Era.

    • P. Darvio says:

      02:08pm | 21/10/10

      Mary I guess would have to concentrate on protecting the refugee children from the marauding paedophile Christian priests like she had to do 100 years ago.

    • BK says:

      09:55pm | 21/10/10

      Julia had better pray to every saint that she can think of that more boats don’t appear.

    • franklin says:

      11:00am | 22/10/10

      Perhaps Mary Mackillop would consider the asylum seeker issue as a question of fairness and need.

      A great number of the asylum seekers entering Australia’s migration zone are able bodied men coming from Afghanistan. They are able to pay people smugglers many thousands of dollars (newspaper articles cite a cost of $10,000 to $15,000 per person) although the per capita income of Afghanistan is around $800 per year or about $2 per day.

      In contrast, the most desperate refugees in the world are single women and children living in squalid refugee camps in Africa and Asia. They live in abject poverty and are forced to deal with hostile locals, an almost total lack of economic opportunities, frequent gender based violence, high rates of crime and food shortages. They are obviously unable to pay many thousands of dollars to people smugglers.

      It greatly offends the sense of fairness of many Australians that able bodied men paying many thousands of dollars to people smugglers can claim places in Australia’s refugee resettlement program ahead of those in much greater need, especially women and children found by the unhcr to be refugees in great need of resettlement. The very few places available in Australia’s refugee resettlement program should be allotted based on need, not financial ability to pay people smugglers.

      So, where would Mary Mackillops (and Tory Shepherds) sympathy lie:  with those desperate unhcr refugees livng in abject poverty in squalid refugee camps or with those asylum seekers paying many thousands of dollars to people smugglers to travel around the world with the sole aim of settling in an affluent western country.

    • Gregg says:

      02:24pm | 22/10/10

      Exactly franklin, as I have posted elsewhere and I really wonder sometimes not just what is in peoples minds but where have they got their heads for the desperate refugees dying and struggling to survive, not having any money are a far cry from what we see arriving courtesy of people smugglers.

      Then we will have people disputing that those using people smugglers are jumping the queue but you only have to look at http://www.immi.gov.au/media/fact-sheets/60refugee.htm and you will see how when onshore processing goes up the opportunities for those offshore goes down.
      You can call it anything else you want but it is still getting yourself a place in lieu of many millions of destitute refugees in tent city centres, that’s if they are lucky enough to get a tent.

      I am gob smacked at how we can have prominent supposedly professional journalists overlooking the facts and the known conditions and I believe that for journalists to retain any vestige of credibility they need to do some explaining.

    • Catching up says:

      12:47pm | 22/10/10

      I do not think we need wire around the centres to protect us.  I believe we need the wire to protect the refugees from us.  If we did not invade Vietnam, we would not have the boat people problem.  Same if we did not invade Iraq or Afghanistan, they would still be in their own countries.  Sri Lanka refugees is different, we did not invade them.  Therefore, my message to people who do not want refugees, you should encourage our country to keep out of other peoples wars. 
      The sad part about the present debate, is those who are baying the loudest, will probably never meet a refugee face to face.

    • Eric says:

      01:42pm | 22/10/10

      We did not invade Vietnam. We helped the South Vietnamese government resist aggression by the North Vietnamese.

      Yes, we did invade Iraq and Afghanistan. But not Vietnam.

    • franklin says:

      11:58am | 26/10/10

      Russia invaded Afghanistan but for some reason Afghani asylum seekers do not turn up there and apply for protection, even though Russia is a UN member states and signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees. And there are several countries bordering Afghanistan and other countries near by that are UN member states and signatories to the UN Convention on Refugees.

    • Book Worm says:

      04:12pm | 22/10/10

      Have any of the above commentators read Christopher Caldwell’s book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe”  - I’d suggest the for’s and against all read it and then comment.  Then read the UNHCR Convention and the 1967 Protocol.  Australia is hamstrung in many ways regarding refugees and it is time all UN conventions are reviewed.


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