New Zealand, asylum seekers and nonsense


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So, effective. The most important events almost agree, a few the crossbenchers need this handed, and a few human rights advocates, akin to former human rights commissioner Gillian Triggs, suppose it’s value doing simply to take care of the pressing Nauruan disaster. Even refugees on Nauru have informed Australian media they help it. And little doubt spending some model of this laws is completely obligatory in a political sense: it’s tough to see any manner the federal government would let refugees be settled in New Zealand with out having the ability to say one thing about “closing loopholes” that preserves the politics of insisting now we have an impregnable wall round us.

The politics, I get. However the coverage debate doesn’t make a lot sense in any respect. Think about what it asks us to consider.

It insists the likelihood that at some point, years from now, a refugee from Nauru would possibly be capable of enter Australia offers an incentive for individuals to go our manner on boats, whereas permitting them to settle in New Zealand doesn’t.

We settle for this assumption as a result of we’ve spent years telling ourselves that the primary goal of those refugees is to get to Australia. To not flee an insupportable scenario, and even simply to be resettled someplace after years in limbo in, say, Indonesia, however to return to Australia.

Right here, “attending to Australia” finally ends up sounding like some impartial, disembodied life purpose. It’s not that Australia simply occurs to be the obvious (and maybe solely) nation that really has the flexibility to resettle them that they will attain. It’s as if Australia has a novel attract that makes refugees danger their lives at sea. One way or the other, over years of repeating this, we’ve managed to persuade ourselves New Zealand doesn’t.

There appears to be no proof for this place. Does anybody doubt that if New Zealand had been nearer to the locations these boats had been coming from that they’d be heading for the North Island?

Tina and her son Mohammed live in Australia, but father Hani remains on Nauru.

Tina and her son Mohammed reside in Australia, however father Hani stays on Nauru.Credit score:Ben Searcy

Nobody has defined how, from the attitude of a refugee risking their lives on a ship, a brand new life in New Zealand seems any totally different from a brand new life in Australia.

Each time I’ve put the query to a politician the reply has been some model of “now we have recommendation to that impact”. After all, that recommendation isn’t made public so it may be invoked in a very unaccountable manner, and even misrepresented utterly and we’d by no means know. In the meantime, refugees on Nauru themselves – the identical ones who wish to see this laws handed – are telling Australian media they haven’t any need to return to Australia anyway and would fortunately be banned from coming right here if it helped them get to New Zealand.

However suppose I’m fallacious. Suppose New Zealand actually isn’t a pretty sufficient vacation spot for a refugee to encourage them to get on a ship. And suppose the one factor that may encourage them is the possibility to enter Australia by way of considered one of these “loopholes”. Why, precisely, do we have to legislate?


This week the Division of House Affairs informed us that in a lot the identical manner as it could possibly flag a Kiwi with a legal conviction so they’re banned from coming into Australia, it could possibly flag asylum seekers it needs to ban. That might place these individuals on a watchlist, which implies they might be recognized at check-in and wouldn’t be capable of get on the aircraft to Australia within the first place.

And even when someway they do, division officers informed Senate Estimates that they might seemingly be denied a visa on the grounds that they “illegally” entered our borders after they got here by boat (even when it’s unclear precisely what regulation they’ve damaged). The purpose is, we have already got layers of measures that cease chosen individuals from coming into Australia. We use them on a regular basis to maintain out suspected terrorists, for instance. You possibly can cross a invoice closing “loopholes” and “again doorways” in case you like, however they’re shut anyway so the sensible distinction this makes is tough to identify.

However suppose I’m fallacious once more. Suppose that having a sensible, operational ban on Kiwi-citizens-via-Nauru coming into Australia is not going to cease individuals getting on boats, however placing that ban in laws will. Who precisely are these waves of latest asylum seekers that may find yourself as New Zealand residents anyway? Aren’t we turning again boats that head in the direction of us? And isn’t this now bipartisan coverage? How are the individuals on these boats making it to us, being diverted to Nauru after which resettled in New Zealand, as an alternative of being returned to some Indonesian shore?

Break all this down and there’s far much less to this invoice than meets the attention. The reality is that our Parliament just isn’t debating a invoice of grave significance as some essential pre-requisite to ending the tragedy of Nauru. It’s engaged in an train of political self-importance; an try to eliminate a disaster that was at all times inevitable, whereas preserving the politics that created it.


The true objective of passing this regulation is to offer the phantasm that one thing materials has modified, that some answer has been unearthed when the truth is it has been there, abandoned, for years.

That this piece of theatre is such a political necessity tells us how mired and unthinking we’ve develop into, and the way ensnared in a politics of brutality we had been by no means going to have the ability to outrun.

Waleed Aly is a Fairfax columnist and a presenter on The Venture.

Waleed Aly is co-host of Ten’s The Venture and is a lecturer in politics at Monash College. He writes fortnightly for Fairfax.

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