By JOHN MENADUE | 13 February 2019
Our discussion on asylum seekers is ill-informed. It’s a disgrace. Our politicians and our media have failed us. With boat arrivals stopped, people smugglers have turned to the air to bring asylum seekers to Australia in record numbers. Peter Dutton and the media have turned a blind eye to this breakdown in our border protection.
The “debate” on this week’s Insiders program was all about the politics and the politics of fear. We were incessantly warned that boat arrivals would start again if we did anything serious to support the 1,000 wounded souls that we have abandoned in Manus and Nauru. It is dishonest nonsense and propaganda to assert that the Australian Navy in cooperation with Indonesia cannot stop boat arrivals.
While boat arrivals of asylum seekers has stopped, asylum seekers are coming to Australia in record numbers by plane. In 2017/2018, nearly 28,000 asylum seekers came by air and claimed protection visas. That compares with 18,365 asylum seekers who came by boat in 2012/2013 at the peak of the inflow in the Gillard/Rudd years.
Table 1. Protection Visa Applications (Source: “Dutton Sets New Asylum Seeker Application Record”.)
As the government’s own data shows, non-boat arrivals have risen from 3,988 in 2007-08 to 27,931 in 2017-18. Yet the media and politicians show disinterest in an honest and informed debate about protecting our borders. Peter Dutton is not held accountable for his failure to protect our borders. Instead of telling us the facts on asylum seekers coming to Australia in record numbers by air, our mainstream media including the ABC allows Dutton to continue uncontested his appalling politicisation of the issue.
If only the media would look at Table 1 above, they might allow themselves to be better informed. Table 1 came from the Government’s own Home Affairs Website – Onshore Humanitarian Program.
Public life is more than just playing politics. Facts are important.
(John Menadue AO worked for Gough Whitlam, followed by a distinguished career in the public and private sectors. He headed the departments of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and Prime Minister and Cabinet, was Ambassador to Japan, and later CEO of Qantas. Now retired, John is a patron of the Asylum Seekers’ Centre in Sydney. This article originally appeared in John’s own blog, “Pearls and Irritations“.)