An open letter to Joel Fitzgibbon.

Created 30 June 2015 | Edited 23 July 2015

Joel, as a voter in your electorate, your support for the BODE (bugger off; die elsewhere) policy on asylum-seekers saddens me.

You claim that the boats have been stopped and lives saved, but can you substantiate your assertion? From my perspective, I can't tell whether the boats have truly stopped. All I really know is that information about the boats has stopped.

If the boats have stopped, then have lives been saved? To prove that, you'd need to show that people are no longer leaving their homelands to seek asylum and aren't dying in their homelands.

If the boats have stopped and people are still leaving their homelands to seek asylum, then are those asylum seekers now taking risks greater than they would have faced in trying to get to Australia? Presumably, getting to Australia was their least-risk option; unless you can provide evidence that they chose to take greater risks than they needed to.

If the boats have stopped and asylum seekers are now taking greater risks, then presumably more are dying. Unless you can provide evidence that greater risk leads to lower mortality.

To sum up:
If the boats have stopped, then it's not likely to have done any better than move the deaths;
If the boats have stopped, then the deaths have probably increased.

You say that you want to "break the people-smugglers' business model". As Sinclair Davidson put it: "Breaking the people smuggler's business model means breaking the people; that is policy design, not some unintended consequence."

Taking your words at face value, to break the people-smugglers' business model with the bonus of minimising risks to asylum-seekers, Australia could compete with the smugglers. That idea started as a joke, but Jesters do oft prove prophets.

The proposal has merits:

Unfortunately, it's unlikely to attract the bigot vote.

The last I heard, Australia was spending almost as much on our trickle of asylum seekers as the UNHCR spends on millions of people. I'd support spending ten times as much, if it gave me reason to take pride in my country. We might even find that decency is more cost-effective. If we don't give it a go, how will we ever know? Unfortunately, decency is unlikely to catch the votes that you seem to be hunting.

No matter what we do or fail to do. No matter why we do or fail to do it. We remain responsible for the consequences of our actions and of our failures to act. I'm far from proud of what we've done to, and failed to do for, people who came to us for help. I am ashamed.

For most of the last couple of decades, Labor's policies on asylum seekers have been led by the Liberals. After all these years of following, is Labor capable of formulating a policy truly its own? If you can come up with a decent policy, rather than a cynical vote catcher or a sop to voters terrorised by years of scaremongering, then I might consider giving you my first preference again at the next election.

David Boxall

Response from the office of Joel Fitzgibbon, 20/07/2015 3:07 PM


This is of course a very difficult and emotive issue.  Your comments have been noted.


Should we try to stop the boats?

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