Skip to content

In Which Mandos Is Unsympathetic Towards Australia’s PM

2017 February 3
by Mandos

AustralianFlag

(This is a quick hit from MANDOS. Just so you know.)

Australia’s PM just had a little pity party about Donald Trump allegedly yelling at him about the refugee deal. Well, Trump’s tweet on the matter is, taken literally, true, except the part about them being illegal immigrants.

The truth is that Australia bought a country in order to use it as a torture camp for people who have mostly been declared real refugees. These are people who are fully the responsibility of Australia, and Australia is only using extra-territoriality as a fig leaf to use them in its political drama. That Trump is very likely to be unsympathetic to the refugees doesn’t mean that the Australian PM didn’t deserve it.

For the sake of the victims of Australia’s policy, I hope the deal eventually survives, and they can get to the US, although some of them will be very damaged by their treatment and may not get the psychological support that Australia morally owes them, along with enormous compensation. They don’t deserve to be used as a prop in the invasion paranoia drama of developed polities. Let me put it like this: If “preserving your civilization” requires the erection of a torture camp, your civilization deserves to have died yesterday. And no, holding refugees prisoner on an island from which they can’t escape to a normal life in a destination country of their own choosing is neither safety nor honouring of the refugee obligation.

27 Responses
  1. EmilianoZ permalink
    February 4, 2017

    There was a quid pro quo. In exchange Australia would take refugees from Central America. Looks like some kinda refugee swapping. But why are they doing that?

  2. brian permalink
    February 4, 2017

    @emilianoZ Australia has a law that prohibits refugees that arrive by boat which these are. The arrival from US refugee program in Costa Rica would be plane.. .

  3. Some Guy permalink
    February 4, 2017

    It’s not clear what you are suggesting – Australia should just let in anyone who arrives by boat – as a country of 20 million people with billions of neighbours? And if they don’t they deserve to die?

    Would you deserve to die if thousands showed up looking to live under your roof and you turned them away?

  4. February 4, 2017

    Individuals who arrive by boat and are not refugees, Australia is generally able to deport. This fantasy of an Australia overrun by aliens is just that. The purpose of buying an island is to thwart people who would be difficult to deport for legal reasons even if apprehended. Not asked is why they would be difficult to deport. Australia offers these people return to their home countries. Those who could take that option, will already have. The immoral purpose of the island solution is to try to make life more miserable than return to a place of oppression. And to use people as human scarecrows.

  5. February 4, 2017

    By “die”, I mean metaphorically — to fulfill in actuality the paranoid fantasy of being overrun. I do not have the right to subject someone looking for shelter to known factors of psychological abuse, even at an individual level. These are humans exploited as demagogic props.

  6. Tomonthebeach permalink
    February 4, 2017

    Now Trump has initiated a witch hunt to ferret out who blabbed about his rude telephone behavior. Like the US, I have no doubt that the phone conversations of both Mexico and Australia are taped. Moreover, it is possible that there were others in the room in those “foreign” countries at the time of the call.

    Most likely, these presidents, even if alone during the call, did what any of us would do if a powerful person called us and started chewing on our ass without provocation. We would step into the front office and say something that starts like this: “You will never believe the phone call I just got from US President Trump….. (fill in your favorite expletives). Perhaps once he figures this out, Trump will call these guys again to tell them; “Your fired!”

  7. wkg in bham permalink
    February 4, 2017

    I’m having a little problem with the equation:

    Refugee Camp = Torture Camp

    Countries do have an obligation to provide refuge for those forced to flee their native land. Australia seems to be doing this (at great expense). The main distress appears to be boredom and hopelessness of the refugees.

  8. February 4, 2017

    The conditions under which the refugees are kept on Nauru are a crucible of abuse, inevitably so when someone is so completely under the power and dependence of someone else who does not feel any genuine responsibility towards them. It’s the classic Milgrom experiment made real and scaled up. That’s why this underplaying of what is going on there is so problematic: simply warehousing refugees for indefinite periods of time (for some, their whole lives, because their home countries don’t recognize their citizenship for political reasons, for instance) is not actually offering refuge. This would not stand were it on Australian soil rather than on the soil of a country completely dependent on Australia.

    The number of people arriving by boat on Australia even before the policy were well within Australia’s capacity to select “true” refugees and deport the rest inside existing Australian law and agreements. Far from the stupid fantasy of being overrun. The policy being followed is just classic racist demagoguery from which the Australians state cannot back down as it has spent unimaginable sums per refugee maintaining this policy.

  9. February 4, 2017

    The expense would be much less if the refugees were actually given refuge on Australian soil. That is because they could have (and the majority would have) become net economic contributors eventually. The idea of refugees, even unskilled refugees, becoming necessarily on the whole permanent, expensive wards of the state sucking at the teat of the burdened native taxpayer is one of those “nationalist” tropes that does not stand scrutiny. The refugees on Nauru are huge burdens, because they are expressly denied any possibility of self-betterment.

  10. Webstir permalink
    February 4, 2017

    30,000 foot view:

    I’m pretty sure we’re witnessing the faint glimmerings of the breakdown of previously established Western political norms due to overpopulation meeting the realities of resource scarcity. We call it right wing populism, but it’s really just tribalism — the banding together of in-groups to defend what they feel is theirs from the “other.”

    This is where the “globalists” were always so short-sighted. Did they really think that when: resources started getting scarce, economic growth slowed due to scarcity, jobs became scarce due to decreased economic growth, and all this while population continued to sky-rocket — that we’d all just get along?

    The entire economic (capitalism) & moral (protestant work ethic) foundation upon which the western world is based obviously leads us to this inflection point — I’ve got mine, times are tight, go find yours somewhere else because I’m prepared to fight to keep what’s “mine.”

    Times aren’t going to get any less tight until there is a drastic reduction in population because we’ve used up all the low hanging fruit. The peak oil prophecies are beginning to come to pass.

    Put enough rats in a cage … they begin to canabalize one another.

    See recently: http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2017/02/perched-on-wheel-of-time.html

  11. EmilianoZ permalink
    February 4, 2017

    Thanks, Brian.

    Maybe this refugee swap has been around for some time. Now I remember watching “Lantana” and being surprised by the presence of Latino culture in Australia. At the beginning of the movie the main characters are taking a dance class and the dance is something like salsa. And a Celia Cruz song is used for the end credits. So, it looks like Australia is getting good music from the deal.

  12. David permalink
    February 4, 2017

    EmilianoZ,

    The Latin community in Australia is not something new and it dates from
    the fall of the Allende government of Chile in 1973 where something
    like 30,000 political refugees were taken in by the Whitlam government (1972-75).
    Whitlam was probably one of the few Western leasers who was sympathetic to the
    Allende government. Other political refugees soon followed from Argentina and other
    South American countries during the time of the “dirty wars” of the 70’s.

    Yes, Salsa is pretty popular, for a few years, I lived in a small city in the state of Queensland where Salsa dancing was one of the three or four most popular things to do on a Saturday night.

  13. Kfish permalink
    February 4, 2017

    Australian checking in. Australia’s refugee internment program is barbaric and horrifyingly expensive. The refugees are kept on an island in Nauru so that (according to the government) they can’t claim that they’ve reached Australia and therefore have rights under the Refugee Convention of 1951. Refugees (including children) are frequently kept there for years and routinely develop severe mental problems from living in limbo. Suicide attempts and sexual assault (from guards and other refugees) are widespread.

    Nauru is also handy for keeping journalists out – visa fees for Nauru are now $8,000 each and the one journalist who has been let in so far has significant ties to the right-wing Liberal National coalition that’s currently in government.

    Turnbull himself is a centre-right politician who is at war with (and losing to) the extreme right wing of his own government and is generally regarded as a complete pushover. Left-leaning Aussies dislike him for being right-wing; right-wingers dislike him for being weak. Most Australians thought that Trump kicking Turnbull around was hilarious.

  14. Senator-Elect permalink
    February 4, 2017

    Excellent post.

    Webstir: Except, resources aren’t scarce. If we had competent economic policymakers, we wouldn’t have millions of unemployed and underemployed people looking for someone to blame and finding immigrants the easiest target. Again, our elites have caused all this. Unfortunately, the little people will be the ones suffering for it.

  15. Webstir permalink
    February 4, 2017

    @Senator-Elect says “resources aren’t scarce.”

    If resources aren’t scarce, then why, for example, are we fracking? Why tar sand oil? Why do they call it “tight” oil? Why the water treaties in the west? Why the massive, and extremely costly, water adjudications throughout the west? Why desalinization plants gulping down already scarce hydrocarbons? Why the clean water act? Why the endangered species act? Why are species going extinct at 1000x the baseline rate? I could go on if you’d like me to.

    So please, do enlighten me. And as reality checker says, “please do show your work.”

  16. reslez permalink
    February 4, 2017

    Australia’s leaders have been running a high immigration policy contrary to the wishes of Australian citizens for the past several years. This policy has inflicted significant costs on citizens, from vastly inflated housing prices in the cities to overstrained support services. Australians are now the 3rd most indebted people on the planet, a level which doubled since 2000, thanks largely to the housing bubble caused partly by rampant foreign speculation. The anger these policies have generated is now being deflected onto a few hundred refugees. Meanwhile politicians get to pretend their hands are tied because of racism. Racism is the best enemy, isn’t it folks? It’s incurable, beyond anyone’s control, and the people who possess it have no money and no power which adds up to three easy reasons to despise them.

  17. different clue permalink
    February 5, 2017

    @reslez,

    Was this foreign housing bubble speculation driven by rich foreigners of all kinds, or by a preponderance of one single kind of rich foreigners, or a crucial few kinds, or just who?

  18. February 5, 2017

    Webstir: I spent a lot of the 90s and 2000s gazing worriedly at Peak Oil-type web sites and theories, and I came away from the experience with the understanding that things were both worse and better than they sound — simultaneously. Climate change is a much more sound bet than technical limits on resource consumption and other forms of environmental damage. Namely:

    1. It turns out that technology is indeed unpredictable and arguments from “well, we’ll invent something” are not bad ones, even if you can’t guarantee it in advance. Almost all predictions of when and how human civilization is going to collapse are worth very little in themselves. As well, almost all cost estimates of the transition are wrong in one way or another, both the optimistic and the pessimistic ones. Too many variables.

    2. A lot of the environmental destruction and vastly inefficient use of resources comes from inertia and entrenched interests, and we can accomplish many or most of the same things we do today using much less energy than we are.

    3. Overpopulation is a problem because of the way we use resources, principally.

    4. Despite all of these, we are not going to do anything about it and are going to suffer some sort of dieoff event, but the cause will be principally gross social and political limits rather than physical. The dieoff event may not be sudden or catastrophic in nature, but unfold through an extended dystopic period.

    There is certainly going to be a theoretical physical limit to growth (in terms of energy and other resources), but whether we’ve hit it remains to be seen and is hard to tell until after the event. However, my bet is on it not mattering at the moment. Also, as I said, climate change is the more imminent limits problem, although some of that too is avoidable technologically if the choices are made deliberately to disfavour fossil fuel production. (As you may have noticed, we are doing the opposite). Since some of the negative effects are happening far faster than predicted, we may be in for a ride on that front, but again, population is only part of the problem because of our choices in other domains.

  19. February 5, 2017

    Australia’s leaders have been running a high immigration policy contrary to the wishes of Australian citizens for the past several years. This policy has inflicted significant costs on citizens, from vastly inflated housing prices in the cities to overstrained support services. Australians are now the 3rd most indebted people on the planet, a level which doubled since 2000, thanks largely to the housing bubble caused partly by rampant foreign speculation. The anger these policies have generated is now being deflected onto a few hundred refugees. Meanwhile politicians get to pretend their hands are tied because of racism. Racism is the best enemy, isn’t it folks? It’s incurable, beyond anyone’s control, and the people who possess it have no money and no power which adds up to three easy reasons to despise them.

    In other words, if this is true, the refugees are being used as a scapegoat for a property bubble, that in no wise in a country like Australia could be a necessary effect of immigration. (Australia has ample scope for a housing policy that can handle more immigrants without cutting off housing supply, has ample capacity for building modern and efficient services, etc.) If this is so, it’s even eviller than I thought originally.

  20. Montanamaven permalink
    February 5, 2017

    Haiti’s Clinton Problem in Jacobin last October recalled Bill Clinton’s awful order to keep Haitians with AIDS in a camp in Guantanamo.

    “Bill Clinton continued the Bush policy of keeping refugees at Guantanamo indefinitely. But Clinton introduced a new policy as well: testing the Haitians for HIV, and segregating those who tested positive. In doing so, he created “the world’s first HIV detention camp.”

    Conditions in the HIV camp were horrific. The facility was a “leaky barracks with poor sanitation, surrounded by razor wire and guard towers,” and numerous detainees were housed in tents. Many of the refugees were gravely ill with AIDS, and the crowded facility was characterized by fear, squalor, and uncertainty.

    After being held for more than a year, some of the refugees began a hunger strike. (The military retaliated by putting the leader of the hunger strike in solitary confinement.) Communications home had to be smuggled out. As one refugee wrote in a letter to her family, “I have lost in the struggle for life . . . There is nothing left for me. Take care of my children, so they have strength to continue my struggle . . . I have lost hope. I am alone in my distress.” Another recalled:

    We had been asking them to remove the barbed wire; the children were playing near it, they were falling and injuring themselves. The food they were serving us, including canned chicken, had maggots in it. And yet they insisted that we eat it. Because you’ve got no choice. And it was for these reasons that we started holding demonstrations. In response, they began to beat us. On July 18, they surrounded us, arrested some of us, and put us in prison, in Camp Number 7 . .&nbsp. Camp 7 was a little space on a hill. They put up a tent, but when it rained, you got wet. The sun came up, we were baking in it. We slept on the rocks; there were no beds. And each little space was separated by barbed wire. We couldn’t even turn around without being injured by the barbed wire.
    In the tiny, cramped cells, “there was no privacy. Snakes would come in; we were lying on the ground and lizards were climbing over us. One of us was bitten by a scorpion . .&nbsp. there were spiders. Bees were stinging the children, and there were flies everywhere: whenever you tried to eat something, flies would fly in your mouth.”

  21. February 5, 2017

    US policy regarding refugees has of course also been awful in a lot of ways.

    In order to curb the European far right, Europe’s mainstream leaders are basically considering erecting internment camps in Libya. Which already basically exist in the form of a preview of awful they’re going to become when they’re scaled up. This will be much worse than the Turkish solution, which wasn’t great but at least the Turkish public seems to care.

  22. Webstir permalink
    February 6, 2017

    Mandos, you said:
    “There is certainly going to be a theoretical physical limit to growth (in terms of energy and other resources), but whether we’ve hit it remains to be seen and is hard to tell until after the event.”

    So, how much evidence do we need until we know “whether we’ve hit it.” I’d say the fact that we are currently experiencing a mass extinction event is a pretty indicator. What more than this? How many canaries in the coal mine have to die?
    Analogously, if a child has cancer that has spread to the point of inoperability, is the child’s physical growth that still occurs prior to death really “growth.” Or is it simply a physical anachronism?

  23. Webstir permalink
    February 6, 2017

    @Montanamaven:
    Just wanted to say hi. Missoula expatriate here living the insurgent life in N. Idaho.

  24. Webstir permalink
    February 6, 2017

    Mt. maven
    ps … just recognize the moniker from Cowgirl blog.

  25. February 6, 2017

    So, how much evidence do we need until we know “whether we’ve hit it.” I’d say the fact that we are currently experiencing a mass extinction event is a pretty indicator. What more than this? How many canaries in the coal mine have to die?
    Analogously, if a child has cancer that has spread to the point of inoperability, is the child’s physical growth that still occurs prior to death really “growth.” Or is it simply a physical anachronism?

    For better or for worse, environmental destruction is not quite the same as an inoperable tumor. (In any case, I know at least one person with a tumor that is considered uncurable but is continuing to live a normal life accomplishing things, enjoying personal growth, and doing good in the world, etc, and surely that counts. Does that a child without a tumor is inevitably going to die of a disease of old age if not killed in an accident, etc. mean that everything that happened in between isn’t really growth?)

    I suspect we’ll know we’ve reached the physical limit when humans experience a mass die-off without having gotten an interplanetary civilization off the ground. However, like I said, we may encounter a very real social limit before that, because we won’t use the capacities that we have to improve our situation, and thus experience a dieoff anyway.

  26. Montanamaven permalink
    February 6, 2017

    HI webstir,
    Like your ideas! I Haven’t been writing for awhile. Just too hard to express myself with friends in a LA/NY bubble. With no tribe, it’s been lonely out here. Thought it might be time to find some on line friends again.

  27. Webstir permalink
    February 6, 2017

    MtMaven:
    Welcome aboard. I think you’ll find Ian to your liking. He’s definitely drawn me in.

Comments are closed.