Kevin Rudd has announced a radical plan to deal with the irregular arrival of refugees. Send them all to PNG, with the approval of the PNG Government.
I am going to put down my off the cuff feelings and recognise they may change between now and when I end this post.
Firstly, I am a Green and this is where this is a dangerous bit of writing. I may end up not agreeing with our Green Parliamentarians. I will accept the slings and arrows of outraged Political Correctness as well as the anger of SHY.
My initial reaction was “That is a cruel, cynical political move which will solve the problem.”
Then I had a second thought. All we have done with PNG is to send in the Miners. PNG is a country with little infrastructure and few skills. These refugees are mostly skilled, mostly literate and mostly keen to get on with their lives. PNG is NOT Australia. Yet it is a new nation which should offer many possibilities for motivated newcomers. This move will lift the level of education in PNG. The refugees will be prime new PNG citizens. They will create a new economy in this land of 7 million.
Hmmm – Maybe it is not all bad.
Let me look a little closer at this. I have heard some people saying that this is a cruel way to treat Refugees. Does this mean it is cruel to allow PNG citizens to live in PNG? Should we be importing the entire population of PNG to Australia because living conditions are better here? Yes, the current accommodation is not good. That is one of the situations which will be improved over the next few months.
There was a dude from Amnesty International (I missed his name) on The Drum this afternoon who said that the Rudd solution was rejecting all our obligations to refugees. Sorry, it doesn’t. Regular refugee arrivals will still be accepted. Our quota of refugees is untouched. The only ones affected are those who come as customers of the People Smugglers. In fact, it could well mean that the People Smugglers change their preferred route. Instead of the very risky Java-Christmas Island route they will begin to prefer an island hopping trip from Java direct to PNG. A much safer solution which will stop the deaths at sea.
The hidden costs of the Rudd Solution will be horrendous. That is a neat dog-whistle from the L-NP to those who do not believe in our Government spending money on refugees. Even if the costs are $2 billion a year, they will be less than we are currently paying to cope with this problem.
I’m afraid just looking at facts and consequences I find I am not horrified by this idea. It has good consequences for PNG. It releases refugees into a free society earlier. It removes a problem for Australia. It will save lives.
I know my leader, Sen Milne has spoken out against this idea. Somehow I do get the feeling there is a touch of the “hair-shirts” in this. The Greens leadership does seem to have a religious quality in its ideas. That it is their way or the highway. SHY has now just decided that this will be a “disaster”. The refugees being routed through the PNG system will not be held in camps for a long time. They will be processed and released. Something that is not happening here in Australia. It seems to me that this will be better for the people involved.
OK! I will say it. Subject to deeper thought and to possible convincing arguments from those opposed.
Thank you for this solution, Kevin Rudd.
(For another perspective, have a look here at “Ya Think”s blog” )
I have witten more on this subject. Feel free to visit more of my musings on refugees.