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An open letter to the Prime Minister

Dear PM,

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Being a lad who Nature has endowed with a most simple disposition and unaffected simplicity (apologies to Francois Arouet), I do find it a little confusing that on one hand our mission in Afghanistan has changed from catching OBL (and his very small mob commonly known as the A team, I think) to fighting terrorism and bringing freedom and democracy (military style) to the hard working families of Afghanistan who have been brutally terrorised and dominated by the Taliban; yet those innocent souls who flee the evil Taliban, to the safety of our territory, are treated a little bit inhumanely, do you think?

In short, we bomb "our enemies" and then lock up or turn our backs on their victims, the very people we claim to be helping.

I'm confused.

Have you ever considered that sonnet by Emma Lazarus?

Kev mate, have your ever mused that this, the year of the Bull, would be an excellent time to spend a bit of political capital (think Christmas) – hey you earned it. Australians in general love you (but not that Mal guy – I suppose one must accept that it is impossible to expect that everyone will love you, but what can you do?) and your stock price remains at all time highs; well done old chap.

Go on Kev mate, show us your inner (real) man (you know, like Malcolm Fraser); be courageous (nope, don't drop your daks) and speak the truth to Australians. You do have the numbers to support the fact that overwhelmingly these poor refugees are just that – poor pathetic souls who have sacrificed everything and risked their lives for a safe and secure future for their children. Poor souls, not unlike us, who would probably be very grateful for our humanity and in turn strive to be good members of our community. A win win don't you think, Kev mate?

Politics is an "art" that exploits fear, as we all know – a weapon of the cynical who in turned are themselves motivated by the fear – the fear of losing office, and power.

Fear not dear Kev for you are destined for greatness; why not take the dilemma by the horns and show us you are not only an astute politician but a wise and humane soul – a true Christian; a role model for all those Australians who allow themselves to be manipulated by that Iron Bar of ignorance and stupidity. And to the many better informed genuinely caring Aussies, a true Leader with a beautiful and courageous mind.

Kev, I sincerely believe you could crack the most Noblest of Nobel Gongs, who knows? Anyway I'd vote for you and give you a big sloppy kiss as well – honest! – but you have to stop being frightened and just do it – OK.

Come on mate, take my hand and we'll hide over here in the corner and compose a most wonderful song of decency and humanity – then mesmerise and unite all Australians with your melody. And then amaze the world by actually staying true to the tune (shit hey fancy a pollie doing that); to the benefit of the common wealth and the Commonwealth. All you have to do is get the Tabloids on side, get them to repeatedly tell the people, dare I say it: the TRUTH – and the people will follow...mmmmm..that rings a bell – never mind.

Anyway mate, that is my dream – what's yours?

Cool chatting with you Kev and if you are over my way pop in and we'll share a Yanging beer or two – Oh f*ck, why not a sampan full?

Zai jian

PM (or "sh*t for brains" as my friends call me – and you're worried about your popularity).


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Yesterday two Afghan asylum seekers were shot by Indonesian forces as their boat was stopped. It is being reported that they were shot whilst trying to escape. They were on the high seas in international waters at the time. Escape - where? 

Today all phones in the Macassar Immigration prison are responding "disconnected". Even phones which are never turned off and whose owners were not on the boat.

However, a text message from a 17 year old Afghan boy who was on the boat tells us what happened.

SMS 8PM Saturday

My Name is Axxxx son of Mxxxx 17years. This not my mistake to get on boat- its unhcr who make me-  Y (Why) they announce my refugee status they promised that the complete process wont take more than six months but now its one year-i got no result- i cant tolerate anymore in detention centre.

Then finally i came with 61 people on boat after 5 nites we got on international water -they intercepted us- then they request 4 bribe -we gave them 50,000$ - after some minutes another boat came to stop us - we didnt-then they start shoting- after one hour conflict two of us got bollet injury - right now they r n hospital- dont know wether they r alive or no

Blowing your own kazoo

It's a pity, but predictable, that our erstwhile Prime Manipulator isn't approaching the problem with the same vibe of bonhommerie as your good self, Phil.  Howard's former followers don't  have the guts to publicly subscribe to his reffo policies, so he's really blowing a very short trumpet. An analogy would be Miles Davis' music being played on a kazoo.

On the other hand, he's the only pollie on the telly who doesn't look like s/he's been rehearsing a script.  Then again, after all those years of practice...

Greens the true opposition

As Kevin and Mal fight for the position of leader with the toughest solution to the problem of asylum seekers, it becomes more and more apparent that the true opposition party is the Greens. Liberal and Labor are tarred with the same brush. We have been conned and our two party system is a making a mockery of our democracy.

A lazy media and major political parties that are unwilling to lead  on any subject that may cause a drop in the polls leaves us in a very sorry state.

Where are the statesmen we so desperately need?

We get to choose between dumb and dumber.

What really happens

This is an excerpt of Sabzali Salman's statement tendered in Darwin Magistrates Court on September 23, 2009.

I heard that Australia would accept refugees and were sympathetic to refugees. Ayoub also told me this. Ayoub told me that he was acting as the middle man for the people smuggler, as I would not be meeting him. I was told that the US$6000 would go to Sayed Ali for him to make arrangements for my travel to Australia. I gave to Ayoub two passport photos of myself and the US$6000. I was told by Ayoub that on the back of the photo he would record that I had paid for my travel. Ayoub recorded this so if I did not travel to Australia I would get my money back.

Ayoub told me that all future people smugglers that would deal with me would be able to recognise me from descriptions that had been provided to them. Ayoub told me never to ask questions about my travel to Australia. I was also told not to change any clothing which would alter my appearance as other people smugglers will be identifying me from a description of what I am wearing. About two weeks later I commenced my travel to Australia. I was collected from my accommodation by a man that I did not know. I can only say that he was Pakistani.

I was taken to the airport at Punjab and told that I would be travelling on a plane. I saw that with this Pakistani people smuggler was another Afghani man. I do not know his name. I was told that this other Afghani person would also be travelling with me on the plane to Indonesia. We went through the security check points at the airport with this Pakistani man and he walked with us to the plane. The other Afghani and I got into the plane without the Pakistani people smuggler. I do not recall what day this was or the name of the plane that I boarded. I travelled on this plane for about five or six hours, with a one hour transit stop. I arrived in an Indonesian airport.

I am not sure which Indonesian airport this was. It was early in the morning. The sun was not up yet but I could see that the sky was becoming lighter. At this Indonesian airport we were met by a man who was an Indonesian people smuggler [IPS]. This IPS did not tell me his name and I do not recall what he looked like. He took my plane ticket and the ticket from the other Afghani man and directed us to follow him. I saw this IPS man talk with the airport authorities. We were not detained by any authorities and were allowed to leave the airport. Outside the airport the other Afghani and I were placed into a taxi.

The IPS did not get into the taxi with us. The taxi departed the airport and took us to a location that I do not know. At this location we got out of the taxi. I saw at this location was an Indonesian man who was a people smuggler. This man directed us to follow him. We followed him to an accommodation building. This building was not a hotel or accommodation used by travellers. The building smelt and it was very dark. The accommodation I stayed in consisted of a narrow hallway with several rows that connected to it. The Indonesian man that brought me to this location spoke with a person on his mobile phone in a language that I did not understand. I was handed this mobile phone and a man spoke to me in the Afghani language.

This man on the phone told me to stay in the accommodation and not to go out or speak to anyone. I was told if I went outside I could be arrested and detained by Indonesian authorities. I stayed at this location for about two weeks. I did not see the Afghani man that travelled with me on the plane again. On the last day at this accommodation an IPS man that I had not met before came. This man took me and three other Afghani men who were also staying in the accommodation to a bus. I do not know who these other Afghani men were and they did not travel with me to Australia on the boat.

We were placed on a bus and we travelled for two days. At the end of the journey I got off the bus and was met by a new IPS man who appeared to know who I was. I do not recall what this man looked like or know his name. This IPS man placed me and the three other Afghani men into a taxi. I heard the IPS man speak to the taxi driver in a foreign language and I saw him pay the taxi driver money. The IPS man did not get into the taxi. We travelled in the taxi for about three hours arriving in a location that appeared to be a forest. We stayed at this location for one day in what appeared to be an open hut. I saw that there were other Afghani people in this location. There was an Indonesian man at this location and he provided me with food. About 11:00pm the next day the Indonesian man indicated to me and several other Afghanis to leave.

I was placed into a taxi. Several other Afghani people also got into the taxi. The taxi then travelled for about 30 minutes and we arrived at a beach area. I saw at this location there were about 15 Afghani people and a few Indonesian men. I saw that there was a small row boat on the beach near where they were standing. I was directed to get into this small boat with about two other Afghani people. We were taken out to a larger boat in the water. I saw that this small boat did this trip several times bringing more Afghani people to this larger boat. This large boat is the boat that brought me to Australia from Indonesia. When I got into the boat I saw that there were two Asian crew members. These Indonesian crew were both males, they were about the same height as each other.

One of them had long hair, clean shaved and appeared to be the same age as the other Asian crew member. I know that the Indonesian crew member with long hair is called Tahir and the other crew member is called Beny. I can describe Beny as being about the same height and age as Tahir. Beny had many tattoos on his arms and hand. I did not see any fishing equipment on this boat and I did not see any passengers or crew fishing from this boat. I only saw one life jacket on the boat we travelled to Australia in. I was provided with food and water. Beny and Tahir would sometimes provide this food to me, other times I was provided food by the other Afghani passengers. I saw Beny and Tahir both steering the boat. When Beny was sleeping, Tahir would steer the boat, when Beny was sleeping, Tahir would steer the boat.

I also saw Beni and Tahir maintain the engines of this boat often placing more fuel into it. After travelling on this boat for about five days and nights we were sighted by the Australian vessel. A short time after sighting the Australian vessel they deployed a small boat with several Australian people on board. These Australian people boarded our boat and searched the boat and took details of our names. I was given an identification number of 32 by the Australians. I saw these Australian people place our bags on top of the roof of the wheel house. The Australians supplied us with food and water. A rope was attached to our boat from the Australian vessel and we were towed.

The next morning we were supplied breakfast by the Australians. One of the other Afghani men on the boat could speak English. I do not know his name. This Afghani told me and the other passengers we were waiting at this location for another Australian ship to come and collect us. This Afghani man was also telling the other passengers and I on the boat that he had a document directing us to return to Indonesia. I did not read this document.

Prior to this Afghani man telling me and the other passengers what was written on the document I was happy and felt safe with the Australian people. [This paragraph was supressed by the court] "All the Afghani passengers and the two Indonesian crew members were directed to go towards the front of the boat," Mr Salman says in the statement. "Some Afghani passengers started to say, 'Do not send us back to Indonesia'. "I was afraid that if we returned to Indonesia on this boat, it would sink. "Other Afghani passengers also said they were afraid and thought that they would drown. "The Australian people were directing us and saying 'Sit down, sit down'." The next thing I remember is that there was an explosion and I saw that there was fire. I placed my arm in front of my face and jumped in to the water and I swam towards the Australian vessel. This was my first and only attempt to come to Australia.

So where is the crime?  Except the Australian navy who then proceeded to kick the refugees off the rescue vessels, lied about them setting a fire, then said they didn't, then we locked up the badly injured Beny and Tahir for not smuggling anyone.

What don't they understand

Marilyn Shepherd, why can’t Beny and Tahir understand Kevin Rudd’s "tough but humane" policy on Boat People?

All he is saying is “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”. The majority of Australians agree with Rudd and gave him a mandate to do this.


WE don't get to decide who comes here and we never have - the refugee convention and Australian law guarantees open borders for refugees to enter without fear of punishment.

In any event, while it is literally correct to describe the applicant as an "unlawful" entrant and an "unlawful non-citizen" that is not a complete description of his position. The nomenclature adopted under the Act provides for the description of persons as "unlawful non-citizens" because they arrived in Australia without a visa. This does not fully explain their status in Australian law as such persons are on-shore applicants for protection visas on the basis that they are refugees under the Refugees Convention.

61 The Refugees Convention is a part of conventional international law that has been given legislative effect in Australia: see ss 36 and 65 of the Act. It has always been fundamental to the operation of the Refugees Convention that many applicants for refugee status will, of necessity, have left their countries of nationality unlawfully and therefore, of necessity, will have entered the country in which they seek asylum unlawfully. Jews seeking refuge from war-torn Europe, Tutsis seeking refuge from Rwanda, Kurds seeking refuge from Iraq, Hazaras seeking refuge from the Taliban in Afghanistan and many others, may also be called "unlawful non-citizens" in the countries in which they seek asylum. Such a description, however, conceals, rather than reveals, their lawful entitlement under conventional international law since the early 1950's (which has been enacted into Australian law) to claim refugee status as persons who are "unlawfully" in the country in which the asylum application is made.

62 The Refugees Convention implicitly requires that, generally, the signatory countries process applications for refugee status of on-shore applicants irrespective of the legality of their arrival, or continued presence, in that country: see Art 31. That right is not only conferred upon them under international law but is also recognised by the Act (see s 36) and the Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth) which do not require lawful arrival or presence as a criterion for a protection visa. If the position were otherwise many of the protection obligations undertaken by signatories to the Refugees Convention, including Australia, would be undermined and ultimately rendered nugatory. 63 Notwithstanding that the applicant is an "unlawful non-citizen" under the Act who entered Australia unlawfully and has had his application for a protection visa refused, in making that application he was exercising a "right" conferred upon him under Australian law.”

Those four paragraphs make the law pretty clear and that was upheld by three more judges in the Full Court of the Federal court in April 2003 after Akram had been deported.

Alan, I don't know which part of that you don't get but the reality is people seek asylum here every year and we don't ever have a clue who that might be.

We only get to decide who stays. 


Now as it is legal to be here 'unlawfully' which just means without a visa, then the fishermen have committed no offence have they?

Refugees are the ones with the problems, not us

Where are the statesmen indeed. It is refugees who have the problem, not us.

John Pratt's comment reminds me

John Pratt's comment reminds me of how the apparatus of globalisation in the neolib form of the last generation has effectively neutralised representative government. Commercial in confidence, dereg, private assumption of public ownership and scarce wealth, shadowy back room deals on defence, foreign policy and trade, sustained attacks on ecology and habeas corpus and "harmonised "security/ surveillance laws, are all apparatus introduced to erode accountability of politicians and big business and gag science and the public service. Thus is denied and removed from the people the chance of effective engagement with and participation in, a grassroots, bottom-up democracy.

toothaches and training wheels

The current asylum seekers problem woke me out of a nice political sleep induced by "training wheels" Turnbull's abject accident with Grech.

Clever Rudd had rescued us with fiscal stimulus, while the opposition sought desperately to find the way out of a broom closet they had been wandering about in for two years, like Moses' charges in the desert seeking a promised land.

But it's an inevitable correction that had to happen, in the same way that Grech was for Turnbull. The same mix of inexperience and overconfidence has now overtaken a PM lulled by a conquering two years and extended political honeymooning.

And as Rudd and Labor uneasily sensed, it was always going to come from the still- unresolved problem of asylum seekers. And it came at a time when Labor was just mastering the art of spinning rather than policy-ing its way thru issues. Growing confidence with the media minders led the government to perhaps shy away from continued study of International affairs and subtle changes going on over historical time and back away from a sour appreciation of the realties of a turbulent world.

We have the luxury of no land borders, and have grown comfortable in the notion that we can therefore always opt away from the grimy feudal old world "out there" that "others" have to suffer in, in the billions. We've forgotten that we are lucky generations and have come to take our fortune for granted as a sort of right we gained because we were some how more "nice" than everyone else. At the same time our lifestyle is so advanced that we are now out touch with both the sufferings of earlier generations of Australians and humanity in general.

We've lost the old Aussie sympathy for the underdog derived of a personal experience of real material adversity.

But it is the smugglers mate

For some reason these days saving the lives of people from the likes of the Taliban is a crime while those who send them back to be killed are our heroes.

I have been on about this people smuggling crap for years now. There is no people smuggling in any real sense of the word, just refugees requiring transport.

I put it this way. Afghan Hazara's family is killed, his village destroyed and he flees. He asks a man "will you help me flee" and the man says no. Man sends him back into the not very loving hands of the people who murdered his family and destroyed his village.

Afghan Hazara's family is killed, his village destroyed and he flees. He asks a man "will you help me flee" and the man says "that will be a pleasure, $1000 bucks please". His offer is accepted and hours later the man is in Pakistan or Iran applying for false documents, then he is in Indonesia where he avoids the police, gets a boat and comes to Australia.

So who is the criminal here?

We have distorted and twisted the issue to such an extent now that the murderers and persecutors are called the "guv'mint" of Afghanistan and we pay them foreign aid while locking up the few that manage to escape.

Last year we paid the UNHCR about 40 cents per person per annum to care for the 3 million Afghans displaced in Afghanistan, we paid them 51 cents for same people in Pakistan and $1 per person in Iran.

We accepted only 1185 Afghan refugees in our so-called program which is a sick hoax in anyone's language with 4 million refugees and over 3 million internally displaced because of a war we started.

There is always this bit of nonsense we are paying for, though.

I particularly like the AFP's role in caring.

Indonesian Police & Immigration Authorities - Corruption

Frequent reports are made that money is a get out of jail free card in Indonesia. Some detainees tell stories of other prisoners who paid prison guards a sum of money in return for their freedom.

There is also a deep discomfort when asylum seekers and people smugglers are locked up in prison together. This bewilderment turns to despair when smugglers are released after a week or two, and asylum seekers are left to languish in prison for months on end. Whether this is brought about by payment of bribes is unclear, but this is certainly the notion held by many of the asylum seekers.

Australian Federal Police - Focus on People Smuggling

Many of the detainees we met told us that they had met with agents of the Australian Federal Police. It quickly became apparent that many AFP agents had spent time with detainees all over Indonesia, but interviews had not covered any ground aside from information relating to people smugglers. AFP agents were interested in names, contact details, the logistics of the smuggling operation and the current whereabouts of the smugglers used by the asylum seekers. Most of the asylum seekers appeared cynical about these interviews, and found the AFP’s dogged pursuit of people smugglers almost a cause for amusement. This is not to suggest that smuggling of people is not a very serious issue; more, it highlights the asylum seekers’ view that the pursuit of smugglers with a view to shutting down their operations is naive. Most believe that it is impossible to shut down smugglers before first stemming the reasons why people need to be smuggled. Simple principles governing any black market will dictate that where these is need for covert movement of people, there will always be services available. Punishing the human cargo is not an effective method of closing down smuggling operations.

This truth was beautifully summarised by MTJ, a 24 year old detainee at Makassar, who stated that “it’s not possible to close the ocean way. You must first kill the reason why refugees leave their home”. This statement is undeniably true.

The asylum seekers are also quite nonplussed that the AFP seem unconcerned with their plight and the difficult circumstances they find themselves in. They have never had an opportunity to discuss their protection concerns, the safety of their families or any other issues of importance to themselves or their families. After discussions of smugglers have concluded, the asylum seekers find themselves talking to the AFP officers’ retreating backs.

Further Comments

The major complaints by asylum seekers were made against the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the Indonesian immigration authorities and police and Australian Federal Police (AFP). Complaints against IOM and UNHCR were universal. Complaints against other agencies varied in their frequency and gravity depending on the individual experiences of asylum seekers.

Clearly, in recent weeks, Australian involvement in the Indonesian regime has gained international attention and criticism.

There have been announcements of agreements with the Indonesian government, whereby Australia will channel funds in to Indonesia to support a program of detention of asylum seekers. Whether processing and meaningful resettlement prospects will feature as a part of this arrangement remains to be seen. In any event, it is vital that Australia not abrogate itsresponsibilities to asylum seekers under international law, hand-balling responsibility to Indonesia, which is not a party to the Refugees Convention.

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