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Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics, The Neighbours.

Tony Abbott is onto to something. Then again I don’t get the feedback from the focus groups. I think it side-splitting, one of the funniest things I have ever heard.

It is always salutary to recall previous times in other places. He apparently believes that the migration smuggling, – the dreaded people smugglers – represent a national emergency requiring a special military response.

Maybe this is the game changer and Tony Abbott takes out the election. Then the problem is what will be his next “great big stunt” will be – have I got the baby talk and sloganeering in key?

ABC News Online reports:

The Coalition has unveiled plans to put a military commander in charge of the job of stopping people smugglers and securing Australia’s borders.

Under the proposal, named Operation Sovereign Borders, the commander would be appointed by the Chief of the Defence Force and would report directly to the Immigration Minister.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said people smuggling was a “national emergency”.

He said a Coalition government would ask the Defence Force to appoint a three-star commander to lead a joint agency taskforce to deal with people smugglers and border protection.

He said Operation Sovereign Borders would be put in place within 100 days of the Coalition taking government and would involve all 12 agencies with direct involvement in border security.

“This is one of the most serious external situations that we have faced in many a long year,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Brisbane.

It is not funny at all that people are losing their lives, primarily I believe that the fishing boats are overloaded. Even as Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott, should not be getting offside with the leaders of neighbouring countries, since if he were to become PM he would be dealing with them. I suppose that people will understand that these things are said in an electoral environment, still Mr Abbotts comments reflect on the Australian people’s attitudes and understanding of our neighbours.

His statements seem to lack responsibility and judgement that might be expected of Prime Minister. His messaging has proved successful to some extent in the past, but perhaps polling reflects attitudes of the Government’s performance. Fundamentally,it is a resort to violence in its way giving permission at a future time for others to respond in kind.

Al Jazeera reported from Indonesia:

What real difference would a military response by Australia have, presumably as a deterrent effect. As this report suggests the real problems are the conflict at home, as mentioned Afghanistan, and the slowness and failure of uptake of the UN refugee processing.

Now Climate Change is a crucial long term global emergency – but don’t talk about real problems. As a medium, the political system is not immune to corruption, both the subtle forms arising from the use of political technique and propaganda methods, and the cruder forms of leadership failure of which this performance is an example. The Government’s advertising steps over the line.

Ultimately, it is for democratic citizens to establish what standards, including all forms of media that engage in the democratic discussion, they will accept and what they won’t.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, is engaging in “expectations management” in relation to PNG Solution ( with echoes of “the final solution” – of which there have been several) in the context of the Manus Island scandal, the tragic drowning of asylum seekers, and reports of further sailings of refugee laden vessels from Indonesia.

Perhaps, we should expect our political leaders to tell the truth, regardless of the political game and the political stakes in marginal electorates. That would be unusual, and therefore unlikely.

So now we have the Rudd PNG detention deterrence versus the Abbott military deterrence, both of which are supposedly directed at the “people smugglers”, who by time the often overloaded boats sail have pocketed their money, at least in part, but which will impact the asylum seekers and refugees. My guess is that economic incentives, if it could be done, would be the least costly and most effective option. What neither option addresses is the need to avoid further cruelty, to people who have been caught up in the refugee movement process, and may well be traumatized by that and their prior experience. That state may well apply to people who might be cast as undeserving human beings or otherwise framed as the other.

  • Sarah Joseph, The PNG Solution: Cruel to be Cruel (The Conversation)
  • When you think about refugees, Think Again (Amnesty International)
  • Robert Reich – Why Republicans are Disciplined and Democrats Aren’t (Truthdig)

    Republican discipline and Democratic lack of discipline isn’t a new phenomenon. As Will Rogers once said, “I’m not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”

    The difference has to do with the kind of personalities the two parties attract. People who respect authority, follow orders, want clear answers, obey commands, and prefer precise organization and control, tend to gravitate toward Republicans.

    On the other hand, people who don’t much like authority, recoil from orders, don’t believe in clear answers, often disobey commands, and prefer things a bit undefined, tend to gravitate to the Democrats.

    In short, the Republican Party is the party of the authoritarian personality; the Democratic Party is the party of the anti-authoritarian personality.

    In “Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics” (Cambridge University Press, 2009), Jonathan Weiler, professor of international studies at UNC Chapel Hill and his co-author, Marc Hetherington, use statistical models to determine whether someone is a Republican or Democrat. It turns out that the best predictor of party affiliation is someone’s score on an authoritarian personality scale that measures many of the traits I mentioned above.

    This means Republicans will almost always be more disciplined about voting and messaging than the Democrats. Which gives the GOP an advantage in times like this, when the two parties are at war with each other — and when so many Americans, angry and confused, are looking for simple answers.

    The thing is that the refugee question does not have a simple answer. If it does, it has escaped me, which I suspect is true for those who are far better informed. To some extent politicians have to pretend such an answer exists. Fair enough. However, the dangers of such approaches and political positioning have to be understood.

  • Top News: Abbott unveils response to Rudd’s PNG plan: Operation Sovereign Borders (guardian.co.uk)
  • How I will stop the boats: Abbott (smh.com.au)


(Via Radio NZ International and Wendy Bacon on Twitter) The PNG Opposition Leader described the agreement signed last week as as one “between two madmen”. Humour is infectious.


John Quiggin posed  what I thought was a good question: Is there any solution to the refugee problem? So the posted the following comment, summarizing some of my thinking, such as it was and perhaps stating the obvious:

I have been trying to come to terms with the problem as posed, as least in general terms. Contrary to Tony Abbott the refugee problem may start off as local but becomes an international problem, and it is not in every instance merely a local problem. Obviously, it needs to be understood in broad outline from the place of conflict, to displacement of people to refuge, often crossing borders and then to movement to final destinations.

Mapping that out in a schematic way, it is reasonably straightforward to identify some general elements of the solution. Firstly, if possible, reversing the flow of people, if partially back to their homelands. That requires conflict resolution and sustainable peace, which in turn may require, if temporary, furnishing external resources. Equally, if now, in the immediate future mitigation of climate change is urgent to forestall conflict and population displacements. Secondly, refugees are place into a decision environment that is extreme it is important to facilitate processing of claims. Thirdly, political rhetoric that furnishes dehumanization presages, as we are witness to, violence. “Border control” is an example of coded language. Fourthly, given that the burden of settlement, should ideally be equitably shared, if possible, settlement within Australia is a crucial issue. I don’t know people from Western Sydney, so I don’t know what they are on about.

I was interested by the comment (but others as well) in regard to empathy and social distance. So finally, now this is possible, we should allow refugees voice, and listen to their stories. Here, for example, is Santino Refer previous post).

This explanation did not attract any comments, either positive or negative, so I conclude it was not judged either relevant or important.



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