Julian Burnside QC shows the usual Leftist myopia to Australia's refugee problem
I am almost certainly wasting my time in putting up any reply to anything a Leftist says and Burnside's track record makes that particularly so in his case. But I have 15 minutes to spare so I will proceed:
Burnside criticizes the way Australia treats "boat people", people who thought that they could crash their way into Australian residence by exploiting the reluctance of Australians to treat anyone in poor circumstances harshly. And Labour party governments under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard did treat boat people considerately.
But that treatment simply meant more and more rickety boats ending up on Australian shores. And Australians didn't like that. Polls showed that a big majority wanted the flow to stop and even for existing arrivals to be sent back. Australia accepts vetted refugees and others in huge numbers every year at great stress to our infrastructure so it is hardly unreasonable to reject another big inflow of unvetted arrivals.
And Tony Abbott got a big electoral endorsement to stop the boats coming and proceeded to do so. But he achieved that in the only way that would work: By being tough on boat peole. He was assisted in that by a declaration from Leftist leader Kevin Rudd in the dying days of his regime that no boat people ever would be given Australian residence.
But what to do with the boat people already coming under Australian jurisdiction? To give them Australian residence or any comfortable life would simply restart the flow. So a residue of boat people is deliberately treated restrictively as a warning to others. It is that harshness which Burnside criticizes. And Burnside omits that Australia has an open offer to all of them to fly them back to their home country. Very few have taken that option. So they are in a limbo of their own making. They have food and accommodation at the Australian taxpayer's expense so it is not surprising that they do not want to go back
At this point Burnside will righteously explode that they risk their lives if they go back. They do not. They all had refuge the minute they crossed their country's borders -- mostly into Pakistan. And many are still in Pakistan. But a minority of rich ones decided that life in Pakistan was too harsh for them so boarded airliners to take them thousands of miles to places in Indonesia where they could hop onto the pity boats. They are simply economic migrants, not refugees. They could go back to Pakistan if they really wanted to but they prefer the "harsh" treatment that Australia offers.
So Burnside is just virtue signalling. He does not address the situation that the Australian government has been forced into.
The irony is that, being affluent citizens of their home countries, many of the boat people could probably have qualified in time to come to Australia as legitimate immigrants. They were just arrogant and impatient. We are better off without them
The top politicians in this country are guilty of major criminal offences, but they are unlikely ever to be tried for them, says lawyer Julian Burnside.
“I think it’s pretty clear that Australian prime ministers and immigration ministers are guilty of criminal offences against our own law,” says the Melbourne-based QC. “The problem is that no one can bring a prosecution for those offences without the approval of the Attorney General. Take a lucky guess what the Attorney General would say.”
In a new documentary, Australian human rights barrister Julian Burnside examines the harsh treatment of refugees around the world by western democracies.
The offences he has in mind involve the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers – deliberate and unnecessary cruelty that amounts, he argues in the documentary Border Politics, to torture.
Since 2002, Australia has been a signature member of the International Criminal Court, and as a result, he explains, “there is a series of offences [in Australian law] that mirror the offences over which the ICC has jurisdiction.”
It was compulsory for Australia to introduce those laws, and some were well overdue. “Until then, believe it or not, genocide was not an offence under Australian criminal law,” he says. “But it is now.”
In Border Politics, which is getting a limited release nationally, Burnside – who says he does not enjoy travel – roams the world to see how our treatment of asylum seekers stacks up. The short answer: terribly.
“The way we are seen overseas is really worrying,” he says. “It’s vaguely embarrassing to be in another country and disclose that you’re Australian. It’s like, I guess, being in another country and disclosing you’re American, because of Trump.”
He traces the root of this systematic abuse of people we are obliged take in (under a raft of international conventions but most crucially the UN Convention on Human Rights) to 9/11.
Genuine tragedy though it was, it has been ruthlessly exploited ever since by politicians on both sides of the divide to whip up anti-refugee hysteria, and to depict those seeking asylum as somehow inherently criminal.
Under the laws to which Australia is a signatory, they are not. But, arguably, our political leaders are.
But surely the politicians would say they are only reflecting the will of the people they serve?
“That’s right,” he says. “That’s the Jim Hacker approach to leading the country, when he said in Yes, Prime Minister, ‘I’m their leader, I must follow them’. And that is exactly what we’ve seen in recent years in Australia.
“Since the Tampa episode the Coalition has repeatedly called boat people ‘illegal’ even though they don’t commit an offence [in coming here as refugees by boat], and they call the exercise of pushing them away ‘border protection’. So I think the majority of the public think that we are being protected from criminals, which, if it was true, would make sense. But it’s false. The public has been persuaded to go along with dreadful mistreatment of people who are innocent and who are, almost all of them, genuine refugees.
“I think that’s terrible. Deceiving the country into doing very bad things to innocent people is something this country shouldn’t do. And it’s absolutely meaningless to try and find out what the public think about it because the ‘it’ is something about which they have been misled for so long.”
Border Politics debuted at last month's Human Rights and Arts Film Festival, where it preached to the converted. But, Burnside readily admits, the ideal audience as it plays more broadly is something else entirely.
“People who disagree with me,” he says. “I’ll be doing some Q&A sessions after screenings and I reckon people who disagree with me should come along and challenge my views. If they’re so confident that it’s right to mistreat innocent people, let them come along and explain why and challenge me.
“Unless you’re someone who thinks mistreatment of innocent people is OK, I think the case for proper treatment of boat people is overwhelmingly strong,” he adds. “And I’m perfectly happy to be challenged on that.”