‘Australia is lapping us on refugees’

Bernard Lagan gives Jacinda Ardern a factual slapping on the differences between her virtue-signaling and Australia’s reality when it comes to refugees.

When Ardern and her Australian counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull, met on a rainy Sunday in early November at Kirribilli House, his official Sydney residence, Turnbull displayed a studied warmth that lacked any flashes of entitled impatience. The New Zealand Prime Minister returned the love. But not for long.

Ahead of a second meeting between the pair, in the Philippines in the middle of the month, Ardern let fly over the 600 male refugees and asylum seekers Australia has shipped to Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, declaring “harm is being done” and “we don’t see what’s happening there as acceptable”. She said New Zealand would give $3 million to aid the men, most of whom are refusing to leave the island’s now-shuttered Australian detention centre. Why? Three new centres in the nearby town of Lorengau, built at the expense of the Australian taxpayer, are ready to receive the asylum seekers. They are all open facilities, where no one is detained.

It was a surprisingly ill-considered intervention by the New Zealand leader, who had already renewed John Key’s offer for New Zealand to take 150 of the men. There she might have wisely left it.

Australia can’t accept New Zealand’s offer without breaking its core vow: that no asylum seeker coming on a people-smuggler’s boat will be allowed in. With New Zealand citizenship, they would be free to enter Australia. The Australian Labor Party has the same policy.

By continuing to hector Australia, Ardern has antagonised the Turnbull Government and demonstrated a shallow appreciation of the realities Australia faces in deterring people smugglers. The seaborne asylum-seeker traffic to Australia peaked in 2012 when more than 17,000 arrived. The number reached just under 5000 in one month. Nearly 2000 have drowned at sea trying to reach Australia in a dozen years. The flow – and drownings – stopped only when Australia began turning back boats and shipping to its offshore detention centres those who made it.

The Key and Bill English governments knew that some of the boats turned back by the Australian Navy had New Zealand as their ultimate destination.

Lest anyone consider Australia closed to the neediest, it is worth remembering that in the past year, the country accepted 22,000 refugees, most referred to it by the United Nations refugee agency. New Zealand? Its annual quota is a miserable 750, which might increase – Winston Peters permitting – to 1500 under the new Government.

Sorry, Fitz, but Australia is lapping New Zealand.

This is the problem when you base your entire political ethos around bumper-sticker slogans and virtue-signalling. Very quickly reality rears its head and bites you on the bum.

 

-Noted

 


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