Reaching new depths of dysfunction

The failure of Federal Parliament to agree on a plan to stem the tide of refugees represents a failure leadership on all sides of politics, particularly for the Coalition and the Greens.

Parliament reached new depths of dysfunction. Mercy was sadly lacking.

Reports of yet more tragic boat sinkings and further deaths underscored the need for urgent action but even despite this no agreement could be reached. I hope that all Canberra’s parliamentarians took a good look at the photos of the young men who lost their lives, shown on the front page of a major newspaper last week. It made for somber reading.

The failure of the Parliament to agree on a mechanism for off-shore processing is all the more regrettable considering that a Bill to re-dress financing of government programs in the wake of the High Court ruling in Williams v Commonwealth (the so-called ‘school chaplaincy case’) speedily passed through the Parliament with the agreement of all parties in two days. Nothing like healthy self-interest.

On refugees, the Coalition kept insisting on Nauru and the Greens for on-shore processing. No one was prepared to compromise to save lives. Political point-scoring and ideological purity triumphed over human tragedy. The Greens in particular made a bad decision here and it is a classic case of their failure to recognise that politics sometimes involves compromise. Given the Agreement between them, Government’s measures should have passed with Greens support.

As for the Coalition, Tony Abbott’s continued negativity and obstinance was lamentable and there must be plenty of MPs on his side who are unhappy with this outcome.

Let's pray that the winter recess brings a change of heart and a new policy compromise that stems the tide of misery from Indonesia.

Dr Karin Sowada is currently CEO of the Anglican Deaconess Ministries Ltd. She served as a Senator in the Commonwealth Parliament from 1991-93 and is a member of the Diocesan Social Issues Executive. Karin is also an archaeologist specialising in ancient Egypt.

Comments (71)

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  • Kevin Goddard
    July 3, 12 - 12:26pm
    Lately there has been so much talk and no real action around the topic of illegal boat people. It is more than just sad that, due to a politically motivated decision to eliminate the 'Pacific Solution, the new government adopted a process that not only encouraged 20,000 to risk their lives on the high seas, but also ( on Labor's own '4% fatality rate' ) 800 lives have been lost at sea in 4 years. How did the "Lucky Country' ever get to this position ?

    Watching last week's Parliament House and Senate so called 'debates' on the topic were excruciating in their ineffectiveness to arrive at an acceptable 'solution' - and hollow in the execution as many politicians seemed to be merely mouthing words in order to count down the clock before their 7 week "winter break". The general mood around our country was assessed as one of doom and gloom - and citizens angry that many more lives could be lost before Parliament returns in late August.

    It seemed that everything that could be said, had been said. And a pathetic attempt to outsource Prime Ministerial and Government responsibility to an invented "expert review" committee of 3 ( albeit not all impartial ) - seemed like the last desperate straw in order for the PM to avoid further scrutiny and questioning - at least for the next 7 weeks.

    I was feeling quite frustrated - until I read a fresh idea in this article about possibly onshore processing in Indonesia :

  • Stephen Davis
    July 3, 12 - 1:22pm
    We are not responsible for the deaths of these people period, however, bringing back the Pacific Solution will certainly help reduce the deaths.
  • Allan Patterson
    July 3, 12 - 4:53pm
    Things must be really bad for these people to risk their lives on a dangerous boat journey. The problem for us is that we don't put ourselves in their shoes. I can't help but remember that Jesus was a refugee and the old testament is full of commands on caring for the alien - treating him like one of your own. What an opportunity the Lord has given us to evangelise. The world is coming to us. Previous refugees have come to Australia and have become hard-working model citizens. I agree though that a solution needs to be found and it is probably in Indonesia and Malaysia that we need to work on orderly processing.
  • Stephen Davis
    July 3, 12 - 5:24pm
    Be very careful what you wish for Allan, I think you are not seeing the big picture here, look at what unfettered immigration has done to the UK and certain parts of Europe, the previous people who came to our shores embraced this country and made a very worthy contribution to it and still can but to just have this open slather mentality is irresponsible not only for this country but for its future as well, a lot of these boat people have been shown to have used deception and manipulation to get here and the more of these people we just let in, the less places there are for the genuine refugees who are applying to come here through the correct and legal channels. And what is this business about Jesus being a refugee?
  • Allan Patterson
    July 3, 12 - 11:05pm
    A solution needs to be worked on in the region, but until then, we need to show compassion. The reference to Jesus is when he and his parents had to flee to Egypt to escape the persecution, and certain death, at the hands of Herod
  • David Ashton
    July 3, 12 - 11:15pm
    "The failure of Federal Parliament to agree on a plan to stem the tide of refugees".... Stem? Who ever said that "stemming" this tide was the objective?

    And what tide? We receive a tiny percentage of the world total.

  • Karin Nicole Sowada
    July 4, 12 - 9:13am
    David - thanks for your comment. I do not object to people coming to Australia as refugees and you are right that we have a tiny percentage of the global total. However, the reality is that people are continuing to put themselves in peril by getting on leaky boats to come here. This is unsustainable and even one death is intolerable. Even this morning there is news of another boat in distress reportedly bearing nearly 150 people. Common decency and mercy requires a policy response from Government and it is disappointing that that this response could not be found by our political leaders.
  • Stephen Davis
    July 4, 12 - 9:15am
    I agree we need to show compassion Allan, no argument there but compassion needs to be tempered with common sense and responsibility, two things that seem to be increasingly unfashionable among us pew sitters in this day and age and I think this is a part of the reason that the church is in danger of losing its effectiveness in a lot of areas, too many Christians seem to base all of their arguments purely on emotion. In reference to Jesus being a refugee, technically, you are correct, I understand where you are coming from but then again He and His family had a good and genuine reason, unlike some of the people trying to get here. To David, percentages are not the issue here, it is the whole structure of what is going on, as I said in my last post, these illegals are filling up the quota and locking out the genuine refugees who are trying to get here the correct and legal way and that should be a concern but I don't see anyone on these blogs pleading that cause!
  • David Ashton
    July 4, 12 - 9:31am
    Stephen, that is not the case. They do not affect the quotas nor are they locking out any other refugees. That is the line the Howard government tried to sell us.

    The only way to stop the flow is for the situation in their home countries to change, which is highly unlikely. One alternative is to ship them back home immediately, which is both illegal and unfair.

    Many minority groups experience persecution and violence. In India, Africa, China, and South East Asia christians are threatened and killed every day. The governments of the states or countires they live in are often involved in this, and the only responses they have available are to fight back, flee or die.

    Would you suggest to these people that fleeing here without documents is illegal? Most often their government won't give them documents or permission to leave, even is they have the funds.

  • Stephen Davis
    July 4, 12 - 10:48am
    David, I think your comment about the Howard government is simply a throw away line, I do not want to get into a political slanging match here but whether you like it or not, when he was prime minister, the problems we had then in relation to this whole issue now pale into insignificance compared to the disaster we have now. We have the problem we have now because Rudd completely dismantled a system that was a whole lot more humane than what we have now. People are dying because they are either lulled into a false sense of security or they are simply wanting a change of scenery and are prepared to lie and cheat to get it. I am not saying that we should not accept refugees, I am simpy saying that there has to be some common sense and foresight applied to this situation, there has to be quotas, cutoffs and standards or otherwise you are going to have a catastrophy on your hands and this is exactly what we are seeing now. We cannot take everyone!
  • Kevin Goddard
    July 4, 12 - 11:18am
    They do not affect the quotas nor are they locking out any other refugees.

    This is blatantly untrue. What people object to is the fact that those impatient 'queue jumpers' get here and ( if accepted ) take the place of those who have been waiting in U.N. Refugee processing camps - and seeking to do it the legal way. The annual intake total of 13,750 granted asylum remains the same. It is quite obvious to see that during the past 4 years, a vast number of the 20,000 boat people have jumped to the head of the queue - and that means that thousands and thousands of refugees who have sought to do the right thing have been unfairly disadvantaged - and missed out - and are still waiting in the U.N. camps.

    Would you suggest to these people that fleeing here without documents is illegal? Most often their government won't give them documents or permission to leave, even is they have the funds.

    Anyone who has followed this problem carefully would have heard of testimonies that 95% of boat people destroy their documents once aboard - but only after they have used them to catch planes etc to get to South East Asian countries. Certainly appears to be a deceitful tactic - especially if they then want to claim their bona fides.

    We have the problem we have now because Rudd completely dismantled a system that was a whole lot more humane than what we have now.

    That should be self evident to all -except those with blinkered allegiances.
  • Kevin Goddard
    July 4, 12 - 11:23am
    MALAYSIA’S opposition coalition ( who could win govt at the election due by early next year ) last week attacked the asylum-seeker swap deal with Australia :


    NOTE this KEY statement by Regional security expert Ganesh Sahathevan :

    “The thinking that is widespread in this region is simple - that these ‘refugees’ are simply people seeking the comforts of living off the Australian system, that they are comparatively wealthy people who can afford to pay people-smugglers - but know that they would probably fail Australian Immigration’s tests for permanent residence,” Mr Sahathevan said.

    This is an INCREDIBLE statement that TOTALLY contradicts LABOR’s view that the ‘illegal immigrants’ ( AKA asylum seekers ) are fleeing persecution.

    After passing through many ‘safe’ countries on their journey here, it seems that they are simply wishing to “UPGRADE TO BUSINESS CLASS” and ‘seeking the comforts of living off the Australian system’ paid for by Australian taxpayers.

    That idea of onshore processing in Indonesia is starting to look good.
  • Stephen Davis
    July 4, 12 - 11:27am
    Thank you Kevin, I feel a lot more at ease with my stance after reading your post, I am not 100% correct in anything but at least you have dug a bit deeper for the bigger picture and dared to use a bit of common sense and pragmatism - well done mate, there should be more like you!
  • Allan Patterson
    July 4, 12 - 4:37pm
    There is a very interesting and factual website - Refugee Council of Australia. If you look at fact sheets, myths about refugees, mythbusters, you will see the truth about refugees. And isn't a basic principle as christians to treat others the way we want to be treated? God has had mercy on us when we have not deserved it. Shouldn't we have mercy on others?
  • Stephen Davis
    July 4, 12 - 5:10pm
    Thanks Allan, but how much of this information is actually fact? We will never know because in some instances, these departments and other associated organisations are staffed by people who have political agendas so we have to be careful about spruiking something off a website as fact. Using your argument about mercy and treating people the way we want to be treated, if a robber came to your door and was threatening to kick it down and come inside and take what was not his, you would be quite happy to do just let him in because you are a Christian? We both know now that you would be screaming for the police and not worrying about what a Christian should do. You are simply using a blanket argument to justify your position. Of course we should show mercy and treat others the way we would like to be treated, that is a given as a Christian but once again, there is no big picture here, your argument is simply driven by emotion. I am happy to be proven wrong Allan, I do not claim to know everything.
  • Kevin Goddard
    July 5, 12 - 7:06am
    There also used to be another basic principle called "Honesty is the best policy". Apparently some illegal boat people don't know about it :

    "false alarm"
  • Stephen Davis
    July 5, 12 - 9:22am
    Thanks again Kevin, sadly I don't think the wider church is listening mate.
  • Kevin Goddard
    July 5, 12 - 11:48am
    Here's last week's SMH article on Julian Burnside's helpful suggestion for all to consider :

    Asylum seeker impasse 'pathetic': QC's plan to stop the boats

    I note from today's SMH that ".. Indonesian rescue agency Basarnas spokesman Gagah Prakoso said the passengers had REFUSED to be taken ashore in Indonesia... " What ? They refused help - and are dictating where they want to go ? These "passengers" are obviously NOT in immediate danger.

    They just seem to be chasing the easy dollars and lifestyle that Australia can throw at them - and leap frogging over thousands of worthy asylum seekers who seek to do the right thing by patiently awaiting their turn through the proper processing system.

    Navy vessels rescue "asylum seekers"

    Come on guys, admit it, there is a giant CON going on here. It's just another "The emperor has NO clothes on" farce - and not many are willing to speak out for fear of being stomped on. We shouldn't hide behind sentimentality - but look at the evidence. A lot of these current illegal boat people are cheating the system. Australia IS doing it's fair share with asylum seekers - we just shouldn't be allowing queue jumpers to take unfair advantage over those who seek to come the proper 'fair dinkum' way.

  • Stephen Davis
    July 5, 12 - 11:52am
  • Stephen Davis
    July 5, 12 - 12:30pm
    To David Ashton and Allan Patterson: have a read of this, now I do not know how serious it is but it could be a taste of things to come in Australia if the church and its constituents continue to resist seeing the whole picture.
  • Andrew Stratford
    July 5, 12 - 4:43pm
    Hi All
    come someone show me where it says it is illegal for a refugee to arrive in Australia by boat. The term "illegal boat people" has been used quite a bit in this blog - I would be interested to know factual basis for the term.
  • David Ashton
    July 5, 12 - 4:46pm
    Stephen, Muehlenberg is about as trustworthy as Rupert Murdoch.
  • Stephen Davis
    July 5, 12 - 4:47pm
    Thanks Andrew, I am not an expert but I believe the term has been coined to describe the fact that they are not entering the normal way you would expect, ie. come with passport, through customs etc. I think it is a term that has been loosely applied to anyone that does not come in via the normal channels.
  • Stephen Davis
    July 5, 12 - 4:48pm
    To David - so Muehlenberg is about as trustworthy as Rupert Murdoch? Mate, you can't be serious!?!
  • Andrew Stratford
    July 5, 12 - 5:04pm
    Thanks Stephen - If it is nothing more than a "coined term" I suggest we all cease referring to these mostly unfortunate, scared and desparate people as "illegal boat people".
  • Stephen Davis
    July 5, 12 - 5:38pm
    I take your point Andrew, but regardless of the term, technically speaking, they are still illegal arrivals, I cannot understand the unwillingness of Christians to dare to see the possibility that we just might have a bad policy in relation to this whole sad and sordid issue. Make no mistake about it Andrew, we are fast becoming an international laughing stock because our government cannot make a firm decision and show any leadership on this, they need to revert to the Howard policy which put a stop to this nonsense, if people want to come here then they need to apply through the correct channels. There are so many people now in our church ranks who seem to have this open slather mentality without a thought to the future of the country which in my view is pretty inexcusable.
  • Ben Stone
    July 5, 12 - 7:00pm
    I wonder what would an outsider - non-Christian think of some of the comments posted here? What would they make out of Christianity and Jesus based on what they read here?
  • David Ashton
    July 5, 12 - 8:14pm
    Stephen, I wouldn't have said it if I wasn't. I would suggest your choice of Muehlenberg might indicate a certain amount of bias. Is your anger at these refugees about their means of arrival or their religion?
  • Stephen Davis
    July 5, 12 - 8:25pm
    David, I knew it would not be long before I was accused of being biased or racist or some other unpleasantry, it has nothing to do with bias or anger for that matter, I am simply looking at the big picture here which is what a lot of other people in the church ranks simply refuse to do, an increasing number of Christians simply want to sit on the fence and not stand for anything, as for Bill Muehlenberg, I believe he is one of the most important people writing articles for our time, nobody is saying he is always right but he certainly is an expert at researching what he writes about which is a lot more than I can say for some other Christian commentators. It is not a sin to evaluate both sides of a story and I think we need to do that but I cannot see any evidence of it.
  • Stephen Davis
    July 5, 12 - 8:27pm
    Ben, I would like to think that they would see that Christians are capable of debating both sides of an issue and not be afraid to speak up about things that could be seen as controversial!
  • David Ashton
    July 5, 12 - 8:38pm
    I have not accused anyone of anything at his point. Conservative American bloggers are known for twisting the facts and outright lies. His "comment" was about Muslims and I wondered whether this was an issue for you.

    I would like Australians to think about a situation where we were being persecuted and needed somewhere to flee. To what lengths would we go to spare our families that persecution?
  • Andrew Stratford
    July 5, 12 - 9:23pm
    Most are not illegal arrivals. The vast majority are legitimate legal refugees who have a legal right to seek asylum in Australia. The facts are that after excessively long periods of rigorous Australia government assessment, the vast majority are in fact granted legal asylum because they were found to be legitimate legal refugees. Those that are found not to meet the required refugee status are sent back. There two problems here, illegal people smugglers extorting these vulnerable people, and second the slow government assessment process. It might also surprise you that asylum seekers arriving by aircraft are not forced into detention but are allowed in the community while their application is assessed. Another surprising fact is that far more asylum seekers arrive on aircraft than do by boats.
    I also agree with Ben - not much Grace or compassion shown here. And a few too many factual errors for such an important issue.
  • Stephen Davis
    July 5, 12 - 9:32pm
    Alright David, my apologies, not "accuse" but let's settle for "imply" shall we? I would not dispute your comment about some conversative bloggers but you cannot impute that to Muehlenberg, as I said, his articles are very well researched and well written. To clear up any further misinterpretations let me restate my stance on this.
    1. As a Christian I believe God made all men equal.
    2. I am all for supporting genuine refugees, the ones who are trying to come here through the proper channels. I do not support people who want to queue jump, or lie their way into this country and once they get here, get on welfare and make no meaningful contribution.
    3. I believe we have a duty to the future and well being of our country by having responsible immigration policies that encourage assimilation and participation in the Australian way of life.
    4. This is a country whose constitution is founded upon Christianity and I do not wish to see people come here who will seek to uproot that foundation.
    5. Christians need to speak up in controversial matters and not sit on the fence or hide behind a syrupy interpretation of Matthew Ch7 Vs1. It is not a sin to present all sides of a debate.
    6. I am not a racist, or a redneck or a bigot and I do not hate people from other backgrounds.
    7. I love this country and what it has given me and I will speak up for it despite that being an increasingly unfashionable trend within the church.

    I hope this clears up any misconceptions about my view.
  • Stephen Davis
    July 5, 12 - 9:36pm
    Once again Andrew I think you are simply playing the compassion and grace cards to bolster your argument, but anyway, I am done now, I have spoken my mind and if people here disagree with that then I respect their God given right to do so. Good night, I am going to bed!
  • David Ashton
    July 5, 12 - 10:57pm
    Stephen, there is no queue and even if there was there is no way for these people to get on it. This notion of a queue has been debunked so many times.

    If a woman and her children came to your house claiming that they were being threatened by the thugs next door to her (people you knew to be violent), would you refuse to help them?
  • Stephen Davis
    July 6, 12 - 9:21am
    For heaven's sake David, of course I would help them but if 10,000 of them turned up on my doorstep with the same story, I am going to be a little bit overwhelmed and unprepared to help them all wouldn't you agree? They are not all running from thugs(dictators), and that notion has been debunked as well.
  • Andrew Stratford
    July 6, 12 - 9:51am
    Most are not illegal arrivals. The vast majority are legitimate legal refugees who have a legal right to seek asylum in Australia. The facts are that after excessively long periods of rigorous Australia government assessment, the vast majority are in fact granted legal asylum because they were found to be legitimate legal refugees. Those that are found not to meet the required refugee status are sent back. There two problems here, illegal people smugglers extorting these vulnerable people, and second the slow government assessment process. It might also surprise you that asylum seekers arriving by aircraft are not forced into detention but are allowed in the community while their application is assessed. Another surprising fact is that far more asylum seekers arrive on aircraft than do by boats.
  • Stephen Davis
    July 6, 12 - 12:47pm
    Andrew, if people are found to be genuine refugees, I do not have a problem with that, I thought I had adequately exlpained that. All I want to see is something better than the disaster we have now because at the moment we are getting thousands of people coming here and we need a proper process to deal with this and we need to have quotas, cutoffs and vetting procedures that get the right people here and save lives. I think that shows compassion and grace because the current dog's breakfast we have presently does not. When I say the right people, I mean those that will assimilate into our culture and way of life, learn English and make a meaningful contribution to this great country that the likes of you and me are blessed to live in!
  • Ben Stone
    July 6, 12 - 1:39pm
    I think you will find that most 'illegal immigrants' arrived by planes with proper paperwork and visa - but then overstay their visa and disappear into the community - they are the one that are staying in Australia illegally.

    As stated above seeking asylum in another country is not illegal.

    If my wife and daughters are at risk of being raped and murdered on a daily basis - I think I too will do whatever it takes to get my family out of danger as soon as possible.

    I do agree however more needs to be done on assimilation. Learning English and gaining employment skills for those who are physically able is essential but that's an entirely different matter. It would apply to all immigrants, not just refugees.

    I don't believe for a moment that Australia will become a Islamic country - not any time soon. Though our country is getting more and more secular (read Atheism and anti-Christianity) but it is not due to the refugees but rather the anti-Christian and pro-Atheism rhetoric in our society.
  • Stephen Davis
    July 6, 12 - 1:45pm
    That's fair enough Ben, I am sure a lot of illegal immigrants arrive in the manner you suggest, nobody would deny that. I hope you are right in your belief that Australia will not become an islamic country, however when I look at what has happened in the UK, parts of Europe and now the United States, I do get concerned and I think it is right to be concerned and people who are concerned should be able to be concerned without being made to feel like a second class citizen. These days it is almost a crime to voice your concerns about things of this nature and I think that is a big worry. Concern about something or someone should not be interpreted as being racist or bigoted or hate filled etc.
  • Kevin Goddard
    July 7, 12 - 9:58am
    It seems that even Muslims on Christmas Island are now questioning the bona fides of new "arrivals" ( is that PC enough for everybody ? ).

    " Imam Abdul Ghaffar says that sympathy for the new arrivals was dwindling within his community.

    He said the surge in asylum seekers, particularly the sight of babies and children on boats, made the island’s Malay Muslim population sceptical of their legitimacy…

    The mosque welcomes detained Muslim asylum seekers to prayers on Friday but Iranians are no longer allowed after complaints they were disruptive and disrespectful.

    Imam Ghaffar said Malay Muslims, who number about 300 on the island, began to question whether the new arrivals were genuine or merely seeking a better life for economic reasons...."


    "In the one month to yesterday, 24 asylum seeker boats have arrived at Christmas Island carrying a total of 1695 passengers..."

    Personally I think that Channel 7's revised "The Price is Right" show is to blame for the influx. Obviously they have misinterpreted Larry Emdur's call to "COME ON DOWN" as being the Labor Govt's new policy.

    Actually, come to think of it, by removing the successful "Pacific Solution" whereby nobody drowned, Labor HAS made that their policy - albeit with a 4% chance of perishing at sea.
  • Stephen Davis
    July 7, 12 - 1:02pm
    I read this myself this morning Kevin, another thing I have wondered as well, our young men are over in Afghanistan doing the dying and we have these young, fit Afgan men "Coming on down"(to steal your phrase LOL), why are they not still back home helping our fellows to liberate their country from the islamic tyrants that are riding roughshod over the Afghan people? Funny though, nobody is interested in bringing that inconvenient little truth up either!
  • Kevin Goddard
    July 8, 12 - 10:19am
    Does anyone else remember that line from "War of the Worlds" about the constant invasion by aliens : "And still they come !" I was reminded of it when I read this :

    ANOTHER boatload of Sri Lankan asylum seekers, this time 31 men and one girl, have completed their long journey to Christmas Island.

    The 32 passengers were transferred from their small fishing vessel to the islands Flying Fish Cove this morning after their boat was intercepted late Friday.

    They are the latest in a surge of asylum seeker arrivals which is seeing boats being intercepted almost every day and, in some cases, twice daily.

    Yesterday 38 Iraqi men, along with four Indonesian crew, were transferred to the island from Customs vessel the ACV Triton....
    On Thursday, 162 Middle Eastern asylum seekers arrived after being picked up by the Navy on Wednesday when they claimed their vessel was in distress about 50 nautical miles south of Indonesia. The passengers were told to return to Indonesia but they refused.

    The latest arrival this morning means passengers from 25 boats have arrived in Australia since Friday June 8....

    Talk about a GROWTH INDUSTRY.


  • Kevin Goddard
    July 8, 12 - 10:28am
    [ While Ros Burgess waits for her account to be re-activated, she has asked me to post her comment so that she too can join in the on-going discussion. ]

    " The article linked by Kevin [ link ] has some of the most sense I’ve heard yet about the refugee situation and boat arrivals. It ticks a lot of my boxes. I believe we (Australia) should increase our refugee intake. There is a huge global refugee problem, and we should play a part in addressing this.

    The linked article proposes an approach which is regional, with an Australian-run processing centre in Indonesia, with Indonesian cooperation. The approach it proposes (unlike the Malaysia solution) does not involve handing people over to countries which are non-signatories to the refugee convention.

    Australian processing in Indonesia should provide a deterrent to people getting onto unseaworthy boats, because they can be processed directly from Indonesia into Australia.
    If only we had such visionary people running the country !

    I do have some concerns, though. Would Australia be able to secure the necessary cooperation from Indonesia ? The author thinks we would, because it would also be in Indonesia’s interests. Secondly, I can envisage such a system being swamped by sheer numbers, with resultant difficulties with Indonesia, and also resumption of boat arrivals and boat tragedies. "

    - Ros Burgess
  • Colin Murdoch
    July 9, 12 - 12:43pm
    The failure of Federal Parliament to agree on a plan to stem the tide of refugees represents a failure leadership on all sides of politics, the Labor Party, Greens, Indepedents and Coalition.

    Parliament reached new depths of dysfunction;absolutely!...However, this does not mean we should be playing the mercy card here.

    No one wants to see lives lost, but if we continue to be weak and run with policies that are not working, it is the responsibility of the Government of the day to stop playing politics, swallow their pride and be prepared to backflip on policy like they have on other issues and do regularly, stop playing politics and projecting the blame on others while demonstrating a paralysed constipated unwelcome heartbreaking leadership for a PM, and return to a solution that stemmed the boats coming to a trickle; compared to what we have seen since the Labor Party came to power and changed policy.

  • Stephen Davis
    July 9, 12 - 12:46pm
    Another pew sitter with some common sense and the ablity to look beyond the emotion - well done Colin, I am sure that there are others out there as well? Just means that I don't have to sit my myself at church any more!
  • David Ashton
    July 9, 12 - 1:44pm
    Stephen, I find that dismissal of our comments as "emotional" offensive. This is not something that one can consider merely with cold logic - assuming of course one is being logical!

    One's perspective is incomplete without emotion, and it does not mean that emotion is clouding it. Compassion is an emotion, and this situation requires compassion. It does not mean it is weak and confused.

    If, for example,Egypt becomes an Islamic state as it seems it might, the Coptic church there is likely to face increased persecution. What should they do? The time it takes to get permission to migrate could mean they might be dead by the time they get it.
  • Stephen Davis
    July 9, 12 - 2:09pm
    David, I never once "dismissed" your comments at all so don't pull this "I find it offensive" nonsense with me! All along I said that you and others were only focusing on the emotional aspect of this scenario and while there is emotion involved, I reiterate that it is only a part of the response. As for using the Copts in an attempt to bolster your flabby argument, nice try mate but we know all about the Copts and the persecution they have endured is well documented and not given to the type of hand wringing used in this discussion. Also the Copts have a very strong religious commonality with us over here so they would be a far better choice of person to settle in Australia. Once again, for about the ten thousandth time - I am not against refugees or immigrants!
  • David Ashton
    July 9, 12 - 4:53pm
    Apparently you now dismiss them as "flabby", whatever that means. You win, Stephen; discussion is pointless.
  • Stephen Davis
    July 9, 12 - 5:03pm
    I never set out to win anything David, simply to point out the big picture.
  • David Ashton
    July 9, 12 - 5:12pm
    The big picture??
  • Stephen Davis
    July 9, 12 - 5:27pm
  • Allan Patterson
    July 9, 12 - 7:41pm
    If I were sitting in one of those camps with little prospect of ever getting out, with my family in danger, I think I might take great risks to improve the situation. It's ok for us in such a rich and peaceful country to ignore the pleas of others. James has something to say.. judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumps over judgement! Even enemies are to be given food and drink and those in prison to be visited. Emotional I may be, but the greatest of all is love.
  • Stephen Davis
    July 9, 12 - 9:51pm
    Ok Allan you seem to be indirectly implying that because I choose to take a big picture view and exercise a little common sense and responsibility as well that I will be shown no mercy because in your eyes I am not merciful? Are you also accusing me of ignoring the pleas of others? Emotional you certainly are but little else with it!
  • David Ashton
    July 9, 12 - 10:02pm
    I want to know why your approach is "responsible" and ours isn't. I would also like to know from where in scripture do you draw your attitude in this case. To me you sound hard-hearted and lacking in compassion.

    What is the "common sense" you refer to?
  • Russell Powell
    July 10, 12 - 8:19am
    (Moderator) Friends, can we please stick to talking about the issues rather than each other? The vast majority of people who read this piece and the thread will not comment. We owe it to them to show a discussion conducted in a friendly and informative manner.
  • Stephen Davis
    July 10, 12 - 9:15am
    Russell, I am trying to stick to the issue but I keep having to defend myself against accusations of hard heartedness and lack of mercy and lack of compassion. I have tried consistently to stick to an approach that also takes common sense and responsbility into account as well as emotion but other contributors seem to have a problem with that.
  • Stephen Davis
    July 10, 12 - 9:17am
    My approach is responsible David because I am not basing it simply on emotion as you and the other contributors seem to be doing!
  • David Ashton
    July 10, 12 - 9:25am
    Stephen you haven't been arguing your case responsibly. You simply can't accuse others of of emotionalism - you have to prove it. I haven't accused you of anything by the way - I have asked whether something is the case with you.

    Your own comments seem to be emotional, and you seem concerned about the religion of the asylum seekers. Perhaps the parable of the good Samaritan is relevant here.
  • Stephen Davis
    July 10, 12 - 9:55am
    David, this is the last post from me on this matter, I have stated my case quite clearly a number of times and I am more than comfortable with it. While I have disagreed with you and a number of others regarding the overall approach to this I certainly respect the rights of yourself and the others to disagree with me and criticise me as you see fit, that is what a debate is all about. Take care and all the best!
  • Kevin Goddard
    July 10, 12 - 3:01pm
    At the risk of causing apoplexy to some contributors, may I bring attention to today's Piers Akerman BLOG :


    One interesting statistic stood out :

    Late yesterday, polling by the Labor-aligned Essential Media revealed that almost 80 per cent of Australians did not believe any political party was genuinely concerned about the plight of asylum seekers and were simply playing politics.

    But, of all parties, the Greens were regarded as the least genuine in finding a fair and reasonable solution.
  • David Ashton
    July 10, 12 - 3:35pm
    Apoplexy? Nausea.
  • Michael Canaris
    July 10, 12 - 6:03pm
    I must admit to having been more taken aback by your linking to Julian Burnside QC earlier in this thread.
  • Lisa Byrnes
    July 11, 12 - 12:43pm
    In recent months I have been visiting asylum seekers in detention and I must say that some of the comments on this thread have been distressing, not to mention offensive to my dear friends and to those who seek to help them. It's difficult to know where to begin to dispel the many myths that are being repeated here. In answer to Karin's original comments, I would say it's better not to come to a compromise than come to one which would multiply the misery of asylum seekers. Australia is already failing comprehensively to fulfil our international obligations in this area. What I'm hearing from some comments is fear and a desire to 'protect our patch'. Before this thread is closed I would like to issue a challenge to those who think negatively towards refugees who arrive by whatever means including boats to visit Villawood Immigration Detention Centre and meet one or two face to face. Hear their story and then see if you can still speak the same harsh words. We have an obligation as Christians to show mercy and seek justice for the vulnerable and oppressed. Matthew 20:31-46 seems pertinent here
  • David Ashton
    July 11, 12 - 2:59pm
    Amen Lisa.
  • Allan Patterson
    July 11, 12 - 3:50pm
    Thank you Lisa
  • Lisa Byrnes
    July 11, 12 - 5:19pm
    Thank you very much David and Allan. It means a great deal.
  • Roslyn Burgess
    July 12, 12 - 3:35pm
    While we ought to have a fair and compassionate attitude to asylum seekers and refugees – and I think the attitude of many people and of some Christians needs improvement - it’s not clear how that compassionate attitude might translate into public policy.
    If you build a highway, people will drive on it. In this case, the highway is the ‘easy’ entry to Australia via boat, and those driving on it are people smugglers. This is not something that should be encouraged.
    Julian Burnside (see links quoted previously) has said
    The problem as I see it with the Nauru solution and the Malaysian solution is that each of those two ideas only cut into effect once people have got on boat. If they're serious about saving lives they stop people getting on the boats in the first place

  • Ron Bennett
    July 12, 12 - 11:33pm
    Interesting discussion to say the least - maybe if we had the same passion in our parliment or churches we might be doing better?

    I think the one thing we should acknowledge is that at the heart of all mankind is sin/wickedness (Matt 15:19 or Jer 17:9). So, to have a grace filled discussion on this topic is always going to be hard. Whether it is understanding that some of us do feel "trodden" on by the people smugglers who see us as a "free ride" or easy ticket to a better life or having compassion on those who are coming from a country we can never understand (especially seeing how we live?).

    Lisa #65 - I think it is a little unfair to suggest that it is simply a "fear and desire to protect our patch". I work in a big organisation and have been overseas to disaster zones and have seen first hand how people live there. I have seen and experienced their compassion which can be a double edged sword at times.

    The one thing that has always disappointed me is that we do not do enough. Enough to protect ourselves from encouraging this to happen more and more but at the same time, enough to show that it is worth the wait in the line for a proper time.

    Just my 2c.
  • Kevin Goddard
    July 15, 12 - 9:57am
    Read all about it - Julia Gillard has announced to media outlets that she will announce a REVERSAL of Labor's 'Boat People' policy TODAY !

    I was struck by the irony of the front page story in the early editions of today's Sunday Telegraph ( page 2 in later editions ). See, Julia Gillard CAN make a decision - even if it's based on pure self interest of course. Unfortunately, she hasn't time ( or the ability - or the numbers - or the will ) to solve that other "Boat Policy" issue that is beguiling our nation - you know the one where that 'dreadful' John Howard successfully brought an end to people risking ( and losing ) their lives at sea. NO - not that important issue - not that one.

    Instead, Julia is going to announce ( to a wide-eyed unquestioning leftist media ) that ....

    PRIME Minister Julia Gillard will today announce the opening of Garden Island naval base to cruise ships in a bid to boost tourism in Sydney -- just days after snubbing Australia's biggest city.


    Wow - YET this is a 180 degree shift of her position in March when "the federal government ruled out opening Garden Island to more cruise ship berths". Couldn't see any votes in it then.

    IF ONLY Julia could put this much effort into back-flipping on her OBSESSIVE and PRIDEFUL refusal to admit that Labor got it wrong with the 'boat policy' that REALLY counts!

  • Kevin Goddard
    July 15, 12 - 1:22pm
    Sems that Mark Latham has joined the debate :

    NSW LABOR leader John Robertson has been blamed by his own party for the government's failed asylum seeker policy.

    Former leader Mark Latham said Mr Robertson had "wrecked" Labor policy on asylum seekers after he had established the group, Labor For Refugees, when he was Unions NSW boss in 2001.

    The group pushed for an end to offshore processing of refugees and an end to mandatory detention.

    Mr Latham said during a caucus meeting of the NSW Right faction he argued against Mr Robertson's push for a softening of policy on dealing with boat arrivals which he described as going further than what the Greens are now pushing for today.

    "Asylum seeker policy is about what works and what doesn't work," Mr Latham told the Paul Murray Live program on Monday night.

    "The fact that Robertson 10 years ago didn't have the common sense to know that getting rid of the offshore processing would lead to people drowning . . . he's got to take responsibility for it.".....