Communist Party of Australia  


The Guardian

Current Issue

PDF Archive

Web Archive

Pete's Corner


Press Fund


About Us

Why you should ...

CPA introduction

Contact Us

facebook, twitter

Major Issues





Climate Change



What's On






Books, T-shirts, CDs/DVDs, Badges, Misc


Issue #1686      May 27, 2015


Abbott isolated amid world refugee crisis

The Australian Prime Minister still thinks he is backing a winner with his “stop the boats” policy. While countries of the globe’s economic “north” and “south” struggle to deal with an upsurge in the numbers fleeing hunger and persecution and conflict, Tony Abbott is channelling his long-time mentor, John Howard. “Nope, nope nope,” he said recently. “We have a very clear refugee and humanitarian program … we are not going to do anything that that will encourage people to get on boats … I’m sorry, if you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door.”

In this sanitised version of the reality confronting refugees, the wretched of the earth must wait their turn for however long in whatever circumstances they might find themselves for “processing”. Boarding a people smuggler’s ship is “queue jumping”. The presumption is that asylum seekers’ current conditions are bearable and safe and that their cases will be considered within a reasonable time frame. The people who used to make it to Australian territorial waters are accused of exploiting this country’s supposedly kindly and helpful authorities to settle in a wealthy country. The line is old, tired and discredited but is still carried by the corporate media; the tabloids and shock-jocks in particular.

In Europe, a wave of desperate people is seeking refuge following the collapse of the economy and social order in countries such as Libya. People’s memories are not that short. They realise it was the US and NATO that precipitated the crisis in Libya and several other countries across North Africa and beyond. There are no safe havens for these people and, while a policy of burning people smuggling boats has been adopted by European authorities, there is an acceptance that a program for settlement has to be negotiated by EU members. The process will be difficult. Many European countries have very high rates of unemployment and growing racist and fascist movements.

In our region, we have seen Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia adopt and then step away from a version of Abbott’s “turn back the boats” stance. After a brief application of his methods, the Malaysian and Indonesian governments have decided to give sanctuary for 12 months to the refugees arriving in their territorial waters. The latest surge in arrivals has been due to a humanitarian disaster across the Bay of Bengal region, including among the stateless Rohingya people from Myanmar.

Before the policy U-turn, it was left to the poor fishermen and community of Tamiang in Indonesia to properly express our common humanity with acts of generosity and welcome. “You know they were on the boats for so long, they lost everything, we felt pity for them,” one of the fishermen said. Compare this with the Australian prime minister’s oafish “Nope, nope, nope” comments.

Australia’s reputation with regard to the acceptance of refugees has been thoroughly trashed. Indonesia, which is not a signatory to the UN convention on refugees, has shown greater responsibility than Australia in recent times. Officials of the Indonesian and Malaysian governments have rightly criticised Abbott for failing to live up to commitments made to the international community.

There will be tensions at the regional summit set to commence on May 29 to consider the growing refugee crisis. The Australian government will be embarrassed about revelations of sexual abuse at the offshore processing centre on Nauru. A Senate committee has heard disturbing allegations involving employees of Transfield Services, the company contracted by the Australian government to run the detention facility.

Abbott & Co would much rather that Australians, particularly those of voting age, ignore the plight of the refugees in detention, currently starving in camps abroad or adrift on the seas in our region. This sort of tragedy will continue to play out as long as predatory capitalism and imperialism exist. But it is up to us to force the Australian government, given its added responsibility in creating a number of the humanitarian crises behind a large part the refugee exodus, to join with others in efforts to relieve the suffering.

Next article – Subjected to violent beatings in prison

Back to index page

Go to What's On Go to Shop at CPA Go to Australian Marxist Review Go to Join the CPA Go to Subscribe to the Guardian Go to the CPA Maritime Branch website Go to the Resources section of our web site Go to the PDF of the Hot Earth booklet go to the World Federation of Trade Unions web site go to the Solidnet  web site Go to Find out more about the CPA