In the above link, Shadow Immigration Minister Richard Marles discusses the Coalition’s relationship with Sri Lanka, after Tony Abbott’s announcement that Australia was giving Sri Lanka two boats to help combat people smuggling. Marles brings the actions of the Coalition into question, arguing that they should seek reassurance from Sri Lanka that they would only use the boats for humanitarian purposes. Dear Hannibal Lector, Please don’t eat the tasty humans. Signed the Labs.
Before we look to the Labs for moral superiority on Sri Lanka, let’s not forget that they also cooperated with Sri Lanka to prevent asylum seekers from reaching Australia. They used both covert and overt methods to achieve this:
- The Labs signed a memorandum of understanding with the Sri Lankan government in 2009, to combat people smuggling. While the agreement alone did not necessarily constitute violations of human rights and international law obligations, the Labs ongoing cooperation with the Sri Lankan government between 2009 and 2013 is highly questionable. The Labs provided operation support, training and aid (a.k.a. bribery) to disrupt people smuggling, amid emerging evidence of war crimes and ongoing human rights violations committed by the Sri Lankan government. After Abbott announced that Australia would gift two boats to Sri Lanka, former Foreign Minister Bob Carr admitted that the Labs considered similar support to the Sri Lankan government.
- The Labs became increasingly reluctant to question the possibility of war crimes and ongoing human rights violations in Sri Lanka. There was some inquiry into Sri Lanka’s human rights record when Kevin Rudd was Foreign Minister. There was less scrutiny under Carr. He made no statement about the impeachment of the Sri Lankan Chief Justice in January 2013, and he downplayed evidence of ongoing human rights abuses in the country. Carr’s neo-colonial, old-white-man delusions are evident in the link above when he says, “there are human rights concerns with Sri Lanka, but you’ve got to be careful about adopting one narrative out of the civil war that lasted 35 years”. While a range of experts have documented the ongoing human rights issues in Sri Lanka, Carr’s comments are a reflection of Australia’s increasing reluctance to engage critically with Sri Lanka on human rights issues, for fear of jeopardising border security. Many have argued that Australia effectively cannot criticize the Sri Lankan government too much if it wants the boats to stop, because the government of Sri Lanka is involved in allowing asylum seekers to leave.
- Carr asserts that Sri Lankan asylum seekers are economic migrants. We’ve heard it all before with Reds under Beds, Environmental Misanthropes and Pedophilic Homos. While Carr sounds like, and appeals to, suburban white trash, one expert on Sri Lanka acknowledges the complex reasons why Sri Lankan asylum seekers continue to seek refuge in Australia, “boat migrants expressed livelihood issues, concerns for their own and their family’s safety, fear of sexual violence, fear of being arrested and detained, discrimination in the job market, poor employment and educational opportunities, land acquisitions and exclusions, the need for medical treatment, the fear of war returning, harassment and interrogation by security forces, fear of reprisals for political activity or speech, the need to secure their family’s financial future and the need to rise above the financial hole they found themselves in. Carr deliberately ignores the complex and diverse reasons why people seek asylum, in favour of a false, simplistic and politically popular one.
- The Labs implemented ‘enhanced screening’ exclusively for Sri Lankan asylum seekers. This has denied many individuals a just and proper process to applying for refugee status. This ‘enhanced’ method offers asylum seekers limited legal advice, no transparency and no independent reviews. It also involves cooperating with the Sri Lankan government to send ‘failed’ asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka. The Labs continued to use enhanced screening despite criticism from national and international bodies including the Australian Human Rights Commission and the United Nations. On their visit to Sri Lanka in 2010, the Australian based non-government organisation, Edmund Rice Centre, found that “all asylum seekers returned to Sri Lanka (from Australia) in recent months are handed over to the CID, the Sri Lankan police and taken into custody…some are detained, some have been assaulted. One man who is still in jail has lost the hearing in one ear given the severity of the assault he suffered, and another has received damage to his sight”. This analysis contrasts Carr’s wild claims that no returned asylum seekers had been persecuted or tortured, in a statement he made to Senate Estimates Committee in 2012.
- Between April and July 2010, the Labs stopped processing refugee applications from Sri Lankan asylum seekers who arrived by boat. The United Nations responded by urging an immediate end to the government’s suspension, while some human rights groups argued that the Labs’ actions equated to racial discrimination. Nevertheless, the Labs ignored criticism and ‘enhanced screening’ has now been adopted by the Coalition government.
In contrast to the Labs’ rabid behaviour, many international non-government organisations have called for the Sri Lankan government to conduct a credible investigation into the events of the civil war. The United Nations, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Crisis Group, the International Bar Association, the International Commission of Jurists and Reporters without Borders are some of the groups calling for the Sri Lankan government to demonstrate tangible steps to ensure accountability for the violation of human rights and the laws of war. Many of these groups document the continuing human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, while Labor and the Coalition increasingly ignore these experts, emphasising instead that Sri Lanka is on its way to reconciliation. At the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) the conservative government of the UK was vocal about human rights in Sri Lanka, Canada boycotted the meeting, while Tony Abbott took on the Labs’ uncritical approach to Sri Lanka, demonstrating to the international community that is a total bogan.
In the interview contained in the above link, Marles explains that Labor does not share the Australian Greens (Greens) views about Sri Lanka. This forms part of Labor’s wider strategy of distancing itself from the Greens. On a range of issues, the Labs argue that the Greens are irrational, extreme and too idealistic. Accusations of cruelty toward refugees were thrown at the Greens, for their lack of support for the Malaysia solution. In childish tantrums more typical of the Coalition, the Labs appear to be increasingly indulgent in Green attacks, particularly when the Labs would like to justify their own lack of attention to human rights and environmental protections.
When the Labs were in power, we heard these attacks from a range of Lab sources including then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Gillard said, “at the end of the day, the Greens Party is fundamentally a party of protest rather than a party of government. The Greens Party is fundamentally a party that would prefer to complain about things than get solution”. Chris Bowen often clashed with the Greens on immigration and asylum seeker issues, once stating, “certainly, in electorates like mine and electorates across the country I think people do see the Greens as having extremist views, naive views”. Bowen lapsed into a self-indulgent, white trash version of a Shakespearean monologue, in the final Q&A for the year, when he said,
"Well, look, as we all know, this is a terribly difficult issue and we all want Australia to have as compassionate response as possible but at the same time save lives and we have seen too many deaths at sea. You know, getting the call to say there has been another boat sink and there is children drowned, if you stand on Christmas Island and look at the memorial to SIEV X and see the names, 351 people died, the majority of them children, sometimes it is just blank with an age because they don't know the name of the child who died anonymously. That is a terrible, terrible problem that we need to fix and it does take some tough decisions. Now, I would like to see Australia stick to its 20,000 humanitarian intake. That's something the previous Government introduced. This Government is taking it away. Because we can give more people a chance of a life in Australia. But I also do support what Julian would disagree with and Tara might disagree with, which are difficult decisions to try and discourage people to take those journeys by boat".
Bowen was melodrama. He attempted to take the moral high ground, disagreeing with other panelists, ‘bleeding hearts’, Tara Moss and Julian Burnside, whose rational views are undoubtedly closer to the Greens. For those of you who are particularly stupid and forgetful, Bowen may have appeared insightful and sincere. Bowen’s delusions make me wonder what is next for the Labs…maybe more lecturousness about the sanctity of marriage or some right to life lunacy?
Bowen was entertaining, but my favourite Lab attack came from Penny Wong, when she appeared on Q&A, 12 August 2013. Wong was involved in a heated exchange with Deputy Leader of the Greens, Adam Bandt. Wong arrogantly asserted that she loved being from Labor because she thinks Labor gets it right on taxes. Clearly Wong chose to ignore that Australian tax rates are very low compared to the OECD average and that any rational expert would argue that the Labs largely copied Howard’s excessive tax benefits for entitled middle-class, spoilt bitches. Wong’s attack played the popular ‘Green is Extreme’ slogan with vile arrogance and a bitter, motherly tone. In a scathing tirade on Bandt, she added, “you have spent the proceeds of your higher mining tax I think many times over with your spending promises”. It seems that articulate lesbians, of Asian decent, with child, also love to ‘stop the boats’ and ‘whack the tax’, while fighting hard for marriage equality, bitches. Yes, the Labs’ policies are in conflict with the Greens, both in terms of their views on Sri Lanka, and the treatment of asylum seekers more generally. And, on a range of other issues, the Greens policies are often evidence based and reflective of the views of international experts.
While attempting to distance the Labs from the Greens, Marles repeatedly emphasises that Labor does not demonise asylum seekers and that Labs’ policies are founded on compassion! Here is a list of their loving, Christian Lab behaviours I prepared earlier:
- Tough talking Carr and Rudd promised the public they would send asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea (PNG). They saw this as essentially to neutralise the Coalition’s political advantage on the issue of asylum seekers. Some experts described this as another move to outsource Australia’s responsibilities, by bribing the PNG government. Experts argue that Australia’s outsourcing of the ‘problem’ of asylum seekers is reflective of the wider move by developed countries, placing an unfair burden on the developing world for housing (caring for, and embracing) the world’s refugees.
- Mandatory detention and housing children in detention.
- Using offshore processing centers that the UNHCR recently recognised as unsuitable for human beings.
- Counting onshore and offshore refugees under the same banner. We are the only country that takes numbers that arrive as asylum seekers from the number of refugees we settle from offshore refugee camps. Experts recognize that this creates unnecessary conflict between those that come here by boat and those that are seen to be in the greatest need of our help (in refugee camps in Africa, for example). Counting onshore and offshore numbers together also fails to take account of global trends in asylum seeking. As a result, we often hear trashy white people justifying their racism toward asylum seekers, complaining that we are not helping the people in most desperate need. Suddenly these white, trashy people are also concerned about the elderly and the homeless, who, they argue, we have to help, before we help asylum seekers. I kinda want to vomvom when I have to listen to these people talk.
- Despite dismantling TPVs in 2008, the Labs voted for TPVs when in opposition during the Howard years. Last week, the Labs supported the Greens’ move to disallow the reintroduction of TPVs. However, Labor Senator Kim Carr’s statement, “TPVs is not to apply to any new arrival in Australia because they are being resettled in PNG, so TPVs cannot act as a disincentive – they’ll only apply to a cohort of people already in Australia” seems to indicate why the Labs supported the Greens. I wonder if the Labs would have voted for TPVs, if their crazed PNG solution had not already ensured that new arrivals would not be settled in Australia. While you might think it is paranoid or unnecessary to dwell on the past actions of the Labs, it is important to understand their motivations and to ensure better outcomes for asylum seekers in the future. Following the news that TPVs were to be disallowed by the Senate, Scott Morrison announced that asylum seekers will not be granted permanent protection visas until after the new Senate is sworn in, in July next year. While the Labs may bitch and scream about Morrison, their ‘no advantage’ principal also ensured that asylum seekers would not be granted refugee status anytime in the near future.
- Cases where individuals on TPVs were returned to dangerous situations, where they suffered torture or death, have been extensively documented by Robert Manne and the Edmund Rice Centre. “We know that of the asylum seekers removed by Australia back to Sri Lanka in the Howard years, nine were later killed”. Under Howard’s TPVs, the Refugee Council of Australia brought attention to the flaws in the document, Events in the Islamic Transitional Government of Afghanistan, used to justify sending TPV individuals from Afghanistan back home. To see an analysis of the misinformation contained in the document, click on the following link: http://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/docs/resources/reports/malley-afghan-1.pdf
- Asylum seekers’ security assessments, under both the Labs and the Coalition, often rely on flawed ASIO assessments of asylum seeker claims through the “lack of relevant and sometimes crucial knowledge of complex historical, social and cultural realities of an asylum seeker’s homeland”. The security assessment of asylum seekers have been formed in part by media releases from the Sri Lankan government and information shared by Sri Lankan authorities, the government accused of war crimes against its people. The Labs kept Sri Lankan asylum seekers with a negative/adverse security assessment in permanent detention, with no possibility to reassess these decisions. In August 2013, Australia was found guilty of 150 violations of international law, over the indefinite detention of 46 refugees. These refugees, with failed security statuses, were mostly Sri Lankan Tamils. The UNHCR has recommended alternative solutions to indefinite detention of security risk people. The persons in question have no idea of the grounds on which they were rejected. This leads some to argue that, under both the Labs and the Coalition, Australia’s ‘security assessment’ under domestic law is arguably incompatible with international law. As a result, we have seen indefinite detainees with exacerbated mental health problems and suicide attempts. Despite the Labs’ claims to be acting with compassion, the Australian Greens Bill of October 2012, to comprehensively reform ASIO processes and to eliminate indefinite detention, was not supported by the Labs.
- As I indicated earlier, the Labs removed TPVs when they took power, but they later created the ‘No Advantage’ principal. This replicated some of the inhumane conditions of TPVs. ‘No advantage’ meant that many asylum seekers in the community were unable to work. ‘No advantage’ also meant that asylum seekers were denied family reunion, at least for the time of ‘no advantage’, which was probably a matter of at least five years. Let’s create an underclass of citizens. Yippee! ‘No advantage’ was the recommendation of the ‘expert panel’ on asylum seekers. Of course, none of those on the panel were actual experts in providing a comprehensive humanitarian solution to asylum seekers, and many have argued that there are already a number of regional agreements that could have been used by Australia as a model for properly addressing the issue. However, who needs to employ experts when you can use pseudo experts to justify your political goals. Like TPVs, ‘no advantage’ would leave asylum seekers in limbo for many years.
- As mentioned above, the Labs introduced ‘enhanced screening’ for Sri Lankan asylum seekers, despite condemnation from expert bodies such as the Human Rights Law Centre, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the United Nations. ‘Expert panel’, ‘enhanced screening’ just staying . To understand some of the problems with ‘enhanced screening’, it is worth emphasising that even under the ordinary first check of an asylum seekers claim for refugee status (and I note that enhanced screening is not as comprehensive as an ordinary process), many applicants are initially rejected. While both Labor and the Coalition often argue that this indicates that Australia is too generous (and the system for refugee determination is flawed), experts recognise that political pressure on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (formerly the Department of Immigration and Citizenship) from the government encourages asylum seekers’ claims for refugee status to be rejected. The independence, and legal and technical expertise of the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) ensures that often those first round failures are reassessed as genuine upon review.
- The Labs perpetuated the lie that Australia grants protection to a greater percentage of asylum seekers, in comparison to other countries. By playing with statistics, Carr implied that Australia is more generous than other nations. Carr also scrutinised the work of the independent RRT. This led former RRT members to reject claims that the review process was too soft. One RRT member accused the Labs of trying to influence the findings of the independent body.
- The Labs tried to make deals with countries that are not full signatories to the Refugee Convention, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and PNG. The High Court basically told the Labs to get fucked over the Malaysia Solution, which resulted in vicious Lab attacks on the High Court and the Greens. The Labs still appear as mad as monkeys at those who chose not to cooperate with their attempts to violate human rights.
- Again facing conflict with the High Court, the Labs attempted to take Howard’s amendments to the Migration Act even further. They tried to ensure that asylum seekers arriving by boat (on the mainland) were barred from the refugee status determination processes that apply to those that arrive via other methods. The Labs attempted to deny asylum seekers procedural fairness in access to the refugee determination process and the High Court pointed out that the Labs were acting illegally.
As you can see, no persecution by the Labs here?!
As evident in the Marles interview, the Labs love throwing around words like generous and compassionate because it makes them, and their voters, feel like decent human beings. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of paternalistic, pseudo-Christians who would have failed Philosophy 101, lecturing me about how much they care to save people from drowning at sea.
Tony Kevin, former Australian Ambassador, argues that exaggerating the danger involved in travelling to Australia by boat provides a smokescreen, to help us ignore the real reasons why boats occasionally sink. Kevin emphasises that 97.3% of embarked asylum seekers were safely detected and intercepted on their way to Australia and 99.2 of boats arrived safely. He argues that if we really cared about asylum seekers dying at sea, we would ensure that the identification, interception and rescue of asylum seekers became our priority. I wonder if the lies we tell ourselves about caring about drowning asylum seekers are methods we use as individuals to disguise both our desperate grasp on privilege and our conscious/unconscious belief in our own racial/national superiority.
In contrast to the Labs, the Coalition are less indulgent in compassion chit chat. They don’t mind drinking from the chalice of blood. Here, I’m thinking about Julie Bishop’s desire to send Sri Lankan asylum seekers back to their country, without examining their claims, or Senator Barnaby Joyce’s similar disregard for human rights and the Refugee Convention, in favor of talking tough. “If you want to show strength, if you want to be decisive, then send the Oceanic Viking to Columbo and you really will have made a strong statement”, he said, back in 2009. Meanwhile, in the real world, the Greens attempt to deliver an agenda focused on creating a safer, more transparent system of international mobility that protects the rights of migrants, serves shared economic interests and quells public anxieties about migration. The Greens help to cast migrants less as scapegoats, more as vital members of the community.
At CHOGM, Australia appeared alone in its lack of criticism of Sri Lanka. British Conservative PM, David Cameron, made a statement that Sri Lanka must act to address the well-documented war crime and human rights allegations. When in power, former Labor PM, Gordon Brown, tried to stop Sri Lanka from holding CHOGM. Earlier this year, the United States used the United Nations platform to warn Sri Lanka that it may be forced to investigate war crimes independently, if the Sri Lankan government did not conduct an independent and credible enquiry. These moves by Britain, the US and Canada (who boycotted CHOGM because of Sri Lanka’s questionable human rights record) are notable because they are a sign that international laws and other international agreements are under threat from Labor and, more aggressively, the Coalition. It seems particularly worrying that, at least on the issue of Sri Lanka, Australia is adopting a more extreme and unhumanitarian response than our conservative ‘allies’.
Tony Abbott made it clear at CHOGM that he, like the Labs, is willing to cooperate with a regime accused of war crimes and ongoing human rights violations against its own people. Abbott blindly seems to be relying on the word of the Sri Lankan government and its representatives who appear in denial about the commitment of any crimes. Admiral Thisara Samarasingle, now High Commisioner for Sri Lanka, in Australia, and then Sri Lankan Navy Chief of Commands in the Eastern and Northern regions at the end of the Civil War, continues to argue that “the Sri Lanka Navy did not fire at civilians during any state and all action was taken to save lives of civilians from clutches of terrorism”. He says it and Abbott appears to believe it.
On providing the Sri Lankan government with the gift of two boats, Abbott said, “let’s be absolutely crystal clear, this is about saving lives at sea”. I am reminded of those excruciating people that ask the most inane question, ‘if Christianity is destabilised, how will people know the difference between right and wrong’? I wonder if the behaviour and thought processes of modern Abbott-Christians can be exemplified using the recent Peta Credlin incident. On leaving court, after she avoided punishment for drink driving charges against her, the glamorous Credlin, Chief of staff to Tony Abbott said, “justice doesn’t have to be done, it has to be seen to be done”.
Imagine if we implemented Abbott’s fundamentalist foreign policy domestically, cooperating with men in households of domestic violence. Maybe Abbott could supply the husbands with makeup so that they can tidy up their wives after they’ve beaten the crap out of them? What lies does our government tell themselves and us, to justify their behaviour? I wonder what would actually have to happen in Sri Lanka for the Australian government to properly acknowledge past and current human rights violations. Abbott is our gun slinging, bogan Prime Minister, in an environment where persecuted people have become secondary to an invigorated national security imperative. What concerns me is that, on the other side of popular politics, the Labs have adopted an approach to asylum seekers that similarly lacks respect for human rights. If the Labs don’t change, Australia will become an increasingly revolting place.
 See Howie, Emily, http://groundviews.org/2013/09/08/causes-of-boat-migration-to-australia-from-sri-lanka-a-rejoinder-to-emily-howie/ , p. 102. Also, where is the CPA’s claim that “you cannot get out of territorial waters without the navy letting you out”
 See Howie, Emily 2013, Sri Lankan Boat Migration to Australia, in Groundviews.
 Glendenning, Phil 2010, AAP Australian National News Wire 19/5/10
 (Sydney Morning Herald 1/9/10, ‘Fewer Boats from Sri Lanka’, by Yuko Narushima; The Age 7/7/10, ‘Sri Lanka has improved but people still vulnerable’, by Farah Faroughe and Matt Wade).
 From ‘Gillard Labels Greens a Party of Protest’ from PM (ABC), 20/2/2013.
 From ‘Gillard Labels Greens a Party of Protest’ from PM (ABC), 20/2/2013
 Manne, Robert and Corlett, David (2003) Sending them home: Refugees and the New Politics of Indifference, Black Inc Books, Collingwood.
 See their reports from 2004 and 2006, Deported to danger 1 and Deported to Danger 2
 Phil Glendenning 2010, AAP Australian National News Wire 19/5/10
 Deport to Danger 2 report. Available online
 p.707 Dark Justice
 P.705 of Dark Justice…what are these alternative solutions?
 p. 688 Dark Justice: Australia’s indefinite detention of refugees on security grounds…more details?
 (See 8/11/09 ABC Premium News).
 (Quote 25 March 2013 BBC UK) Need to find this link?
 Where does this come from?