Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Best Thing Australia Can Do For The Global Refugee Crisis: Exit the Refugee Convention

Tony Abbott has managed to underscore his astonishing ineptitude in crafting a message for his audience on the largest possible stage this week.

Julia Gillard has followed up with a cringe -worthy interview for Al Jazeera where she appears to confuse the conditions on Manus Island with the benevolent welcome camps she found when she came off the boat herself in Adelaide.

But I really wish we could have a proper debate about the real issues here. Both Gillard and Abbott have failed dismally to grasp the moral nettle of the issue.

But behond all the commentary I've read to date sits a very core issue that's never really grasped either. And I think this is why it's proven such an intractable issue for us.

In essence, the disparate ideological positions are driven by the reality that Australia is tryjng to pursue an "orderly queue" by giving primacy to the UN resettlement stream ahead of irregular onshore arrivals.

That in itself isn't bad or regressive policy. The problem is that basically only the US, Canada and Australia take refugees from this stream.

Basically every other country on earth fills their refugee stream with irregular arrivals applying directly for asylum in that country.

Let's be clear. This is directly enabled and encouraged by the Refugee Convention under which an asylum seeker's best option is to transit at whatever cost to the wealthiest nation with the highest intake numbers.

This is very specifically NOT the Convention's original intention. Something needs to give. Either we need to re-work the global regime to give far more primacy to the UN resettlement stream or revisit the convention wholus bolus to remove the incentive for irregular trans-border movements.

For all the right wing hysteria it boggles my mind that we've never had an Andrew Bolt op-ed saying "Australia should withdraw from the refugee convention as an attempt to precipitate its reform." Then we could simply say "you can't apply for asylum to Australia IN Australia." So the boats.

Add a caveat for political asylum seekers should they arrive here with a valid visa and another that alowed for mass arrivals in the event of a real crisis in any of our neighbors.

Then we triple our intake from the UN stream. So we're being generous to the larger body of refugees, and nobody needs locking up anywhere, and we get this xenophobic mess out of the forefront of the national consciousness.

How's that sound?