Monday, May 10, 2010

The hordes cometh! (and so too do the facts)

abbott's asylum adOver the weekend we saw what type of Government Tony Abbott would like to run – one as much in spirit with Pauline Hanson as with John Howard. The advert talked about “real action” (a phrase that I wager has been through about 30 focus groups) on the economy, health and most importantly asylum seekers (those evil, illegal bastards).

It included this graphic:

A number of commentators have mentioned not only how absurd the image is – Bernard Keane in today’s Crikey newsletter pointed out that Indonesia seemed to be invading us through Darwin and was headed for Mt Isa, whereas Iraq was going straight for Margaret River. I guess we can only conclude from this that Indonesia is less worried about the Resources Super Profits Tax than is the Liberal Party, and that contrary to previous held beliefs, the Iraqi people like a good drop of Sauvignon Blanc.

Keane also noted that the image is odd given that it does imply there’s a hell of a lot of “push factors”, whereas I thought Abbott was saying it was all due to “pull factors”.

A few noted that it reminded them of the start of Dad’s Army:



For me it reminded me first of my old How and Why Wonder Book on WWII.

Just look at all those menacing red arrows, coming to defeat poor defenceless Australia – and look at the boat they’re attacking us with! My goodness if only they had had such vessels at Normandy, it would’ve been The Longest Morning, rather than Day…

The best line on the Liberal's advert came from Malcolm Farnsworth on twitter when he said he hadn’t seen such arrows since his Primary School teacher back in the 60s was explaining why we were in the Vietnam War.

And if we must be honest, the “threat” of invasion is as ludicrous as was the domino theory of communist expansion.

Bernard Keane also noticed the conspicuous lack of an arrow coming from China, which is odd, given they constitute the greatest number of asylum seekers coming to this country. Perhaps as well there needs to be an arrow coming from the UK, given the report in the media today that 33 percent of Brits have or are considering moving to Australia.

No doubt, in Tony Abbott’s mind that’s ok .

Interestingly today, in one of the most timely ever publications by the Parliamentary Library, comes this report on asylum seekers. It is titled:

Asylum seekers and refugees: what are the facts?

It is a good title, and the report carries a hell of a lot of weight, as the Parliamentary Library background notes are not partisan, and they are used for research by journalists who are actually after the facts. The report is clearly written and SHOULD be used by all journalists next time they file a story on the issue, or when they next are at a press conference and Tony Abbott throws out some bull dust about illegal immigrants, or when they next feel compelled to be the first to tweet that another asylum seekers boat has been intercepted (or whinge that the Government didn't release the details of the boat until too late in the day).

Everyone should absolutely read the report, but here’s a few choice bits:

Are asylum seekers ‘illegals’?

Generally speaking ‘illegal immigrants’ are people who enter a country without meeting the legal requirements for entry (without a valid visa, for example). However, under Article 14 of the UN 1948 Universal declaration of human rights, everyone has the right to seek asylum and the 1951 Refugee Convention prohibits states from imposing penalties on those entering ‘illegally’ who come directly from a territory where their life or freedom is threatened.

The UNHCR emphasises that a person who has a well-founded fear of persecution should be viewed as a refugee and not be labelled an ‘illegal immigrant’ as the very nature of persecution means that their only means of escape may be via illegal entry and/or the use of false documentation. The Refugee Council of Australia similarly notes the practical difficulties encountered by asylum seekers in obtaining the requisite documentation prior to departure:

  • Applying for a passport and/or an exit visa can be far too dangerous for some refugees; so too can be an approach to an Australian Embassy for a visa. These actions can put their lives, and those of their families, at risk. In such cases refugees may have to travel on forged documents or bypass regular migration channels and arrive without papers.

Asylum seekers irrespective of their mode of arrival, like others that arrive in Australia without a valid visa, are classified by Australian law to be ‘unlawful non-citizens’. However, the term ‘unlawful’ does not mean that asylum seekers have committed a criminal offence. There is no offence under Australian law that criminalises the act of arriving in Australia or the seeking of asylum without a valid visa.

But hang on? Tony Abbott tells me he will stop illegals now! So they haven’t done anything illegal, and yet everyone (the media included) can call them illegal? Interesting….

How about the old issue of queue jumper – talk back radio right wingers love this because it makes them sound like they aren’t racist:

Are asylum seekers ‘queue jumpers’?

There is a view that asylum seekers, particularly those who arrive in Australia by boat, are ‘jumping the queue’ and taking the place of a more deserving refugee awaiting resettlement in a refugee camp. The concept of an orderly queue does not accord with the reality of the asylum process. Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) notes that:

  • Implicit in this view is that Australia should not be bothered by people seeking protection under the Refugee Convention and that genuine refugees should go to other countries and wait patiently in the hope that Australia may choose to resettle them.

The reality is that only a small proportion of asylum seekers are registered with the UNHCR.

According to the UNHCR, less than 1 per cent of the world’s refugees may be resettled in any given year.

Ok, let’s say it again: THERE IS NO QUEUE!

What about the whole boat thing – shouldn’t we be worried about all those boats – I mean look at the red arrows!!

Do most asylum seekers arrive by boat?

In Australia, the vast majority of asylum seekers applying for protection arrive originally by air with a valid visa and then apply for asylum at a later date while living in the community.25 Boat arrivals only make up a small proportion of applicants. Estimates vary, but it is likely that between 96 and 99 percent of asylum applicants arrived by air originally.26 However, those who have arrived by boat are more likely to be recognised as refugees.

So really, the Liberal Party advert should have a picture of a Qantas plane instead of a leaky boat…

Are boat arrivals ‘genuine refugees’?

Asylum seekers who arrive by boat are subject to the same assessment criteria as all other asylum applicants. Past figures show that between 70 and 97 per cent of asylum seekers arriving by boat at different times have been found to be refugees and granted protection either in Australia or in another country. For example:

  • under the ‘Pacific Solution’ a total of 1637 unauthorised arrivals were detained in the Nauru and Manus facilities between September 2001 and February 2008.31 Of those, 1153 (70 per cent) were found to be refugees and ultimately resettled to Australia or other countries32

Hang on, I thought the Pacific Solution stopped the boats… 1637 detained in Naurua and Manus? guess they walked there.

I know, these bloody refugees take the places of others more deserving:

Do boat arrivals ‘take all Australia’s refugee places’?

Successful onshore applicants (boat and air arrivals) only make up a relatively small proportion of the total number of refugees accepted by Australia each year—usually in the region of 17 to 20 per cent (except for 2000–01 when the numbers were higher due to an increase in the number of boat arrivals).

Over the last ten years, approximately 13 000 places have been granted under Australia’s Humanitarian Program each year:

  • 19 per cent of the 13 507 humanitarian grants in 2008–09 were to onshore applicants (including those who arrived by boat)
  • only 17 per cent of the 13 014 humanitarian visas granted in 2007–08 were protection visas granted under the onshore component.

I have to say at this point I am cannot think of a report that has completely demolished a policy as effectively, but let’s keep going:

Is Australia being ‘swamped by boat arrivals’?

Concerns in Australia over ‘unauthorised boat’ or ‘irregular maritime’ arrivals (commonly referred to as ‘boat people’) have occupied successive governments since the first wave of boats arrived carrying people seeking asylum from the aftermath of the Vietnam War in 1976.

In 2009, Australia intercepted about 2750 unauthorised people arriving by boat. Although the final numbers for 2010 are likely to be higher given a significant increase in boat arrivals (over 2000 in the first four months of 2010), comparisons show that the number of boat arrivals in Australia is small when compared to the flows of unauthorised arrivals in other parts of the world. For example, it is estimated that in 2006 over 72 000 persons and in 2007 over 51 000 persons arrived by boat on the coasts of Italy, Spain, Greece and Malta alone.

So to recap everything Tony Abbott, Corey Bernardi and anyone else in the Liberal Party has told you about asylum seekers is complete and utter bullshit. 

I am so glad this background note has been written, because now I know the media will repeat these lines in any report on the issue, and will treat the issue with the importance it deserves (ie bugger all given it’s all based on lies), because I am sure they wouldn’t want to ignore facts….


On the Resource Super Profits Tax – in my rant on Saturday I took issue with Wayne Swan’s ability to sell the message. I may have been a bit too harsh on him. As I said then, I think he has been a very good Treasurer. Yesterday he put out an excellent “Economic Note” (I posted this in the comments yesterday, but most would not have seen it). It takes down the Mining Companies’ arguments against the RSPT as well as does the above to the asylum seeker issue.

He, for example, shows what the tax paid will be under the RSPT:

effective rate1

That is at the moment, the bigger the mining companies profits, the less they currently pay in tax and royalties.

Maybe that is fair, if you live in upside down world, but geez I think you quickly come to see why big mining companies don’t like this RSPT – they’ve been sitting on a bloody nice wicket for the last decade and they want to stay there. And just think about that wicket, what did they do to create the mining boom? The creation comes from demand – or do you think that BHP has got so many good salesmen that it convinced China to start making steel?

The Economic Note is excellent reading, but few will read it – I mean after all it is an “economic note” by a Treasurer – hardly relaxing reading (though for policy wonks it is manna from heaven – we want more!). And so what we need is for Swan to sell this.

I think he has been doing ok in terms of getting the Budget message out the looked positively chipper being interviewed by Laurie Oakes on Sunday), but Swan has got to dig deep and find it within to sell this tax to the electorate – point out the economic benefits.

Maybe Swan should look to George Megalogenis on Sunday’s Insiders for some good lines:

GEORGE MEGALOGENIS: Just to pick up Joe Hockey [he had just been interviewed] on a couple points – on the Royalty Regime, WA and QLD do not sign cheques for Victoria out of their royalties.

So the current system doesn’t give money to all of Australia, just the mining states….

The reason why the Rudd Government is moving to a Super Profits Tax is royalties kick in before money is earned from mining projects, so only the really big mining companies can get going, the miners who know they’re going to  generate a profit.

What’s that? The current system favours big mining companies? Gee who are the ones whinging the most at the moment I wonder?

And the royalty is, everybody agrees – the mining council agrees, the opposition would agree if they took time to consider the detail – royalty is a bum tax, it’s not a good tax.

One of the reasons why they’re imposing the tax the way they are is to make smaller miners more viable because they don’t have to don’t have to stump for the royalty before they get going…

Hmm smaller miners viable, you;’d almost think their big competition – the big miners – may be against the tax purely because they don’t want to have to compete with others…

BARRIE CASSIDY: They may not have sold that part of it before.

GEORGE MEGALOGENIS: They haven’t sold that part at all, but basically what they’re looking to add is another couple of rungs to the mining ladder – small to medium sized companies – there are  err 80 odd companies they’re negotiating with and the ones who are bagging it are 5 or 6 – ie the ones who can always jump the royalty and make a profit anyway.

That’s the first point, the second point is they are taking $9b out of the industry – they do want to slow down this boom. If you let this boom run unchecked you get two things happening: If the thing goes up like this [steep assent], and when China stops for a year or so buying our stuff we go down like that [step descent]. Now the thing that Australia could never manage in the past were terms of trade shocks. It could never do it. Now this is the first effort I think at a public policy level to recognise the inherent weakness of our model.

All I know is that George Megalogenis made some excellent points, and when I see him talk, and I read the economic note, I just shake my head and wonder how brilliantly Keating would have sold this policy.

Oh and one last thing for Swan to think about – this tax which apparently has killed the mining industry, can’t be that bad. Today BHP shares went up 4 percent, Rio Tinto went up 5.87 percent and Fortescue went up 5.04 percent.

Hmm that doesn’t seem to fit with the doom and gloom narrative….


Sammytansey said...

Can someone explain how the RSPT pays the royalties?

Does this effectively result in bigger mining companies paying the royalties of smaller mining companies?

What stops the states from being greedy and raising their royalty rates knowing that it will be offset by the RSPT?

Grog said...

[What stops the states from being greedy and raising their royalty rates knowing that it will be offset by the RSPT?]

A good question Sammytansey, I don't know to be honest - although perhaps the refund on the RSPT is set at the current royalty rate - but I am only supposing.

I'd suggest the hope is that in time the states will be convincesd to dump their inefficient royalties, and instead get a share of the RSPT.

But I can't see them doing that unless forced to.


L said...

That’s the first point, the second point is they are taking $9b out of the industry – they do want to slow down this boom.

I'm sadly unconvinced that anyone on the Opposition frontbench is even capable of understanding the idea of counter-cyclical economic management.

HillbillySkeleton said...

Nah, the Red arrows mean they're all coming to Australia, from the aforementioned countries, to vote Labor! And that should horrify everyone! said...

The Labor Party should also keep pointing out that over 90% of the 'Illegals' who came here under Howard ended up being granted refugee status anyway. They just had to go through hell again, first. Nice.
Btw, did you see media Watch last night? They had that tool, David Oldfield on calling for the electric fence around Christmas Is. to be turned on...only when he's inspecting it with Tony Abbott I say!

HillbillySkeleton said...

Oops! I meant 70%.

Kate said...

Grog, as I don't have the credentials (intellect) to do this, could you run your eye over Paul Murray's opinion piece in today's West Australian? Its typical of the campaign against the super profits tax over here. austrav

Grog said...

I had a quick look Kate - geez, he's not exactly calm and reasoned!

It's true about the PRRT being the long term bond rate plus 5%, but I'm not sure of the whole intricacies of it, and how it compares to the RSPT.

But as for the article as a whole, it smacked to me of a truck load of hyperbole.

The other thing is all the commentators/critics make mention that the PRRT didn't aply to existing projects, which meant it was ok, yet all the projects that seem to be "shelved" under the RSPT are propose ones, so there's a bit of a logic fail there somewhere. If it was so bad, wouldn't miners be talking about upping sticks completely?