This effort takes the cake for invention. The headline on Sky News reads ‘People smugglers monitor upcoming Australian federal election”. The first paragraph then states that “Indonesian people smugglers say they’re watching the outcome of the upcoming Australian federal election, in hopes a change in government could lead to an ease in border protection laws”. The story maintains that a number of fishermen who have previously smuggled asylum seekers spoke to the Australian newspaper1. Of course they would. This demonstrates the desperation of the Murdoch media to try the same old lame formula to get their tame political party re-elected, so the handouts can continue. In the last paragraph of the story they state that the Labor Party won’t soften border protections1, so this is a story about nothing. It is pure drivel. It makes you wonder how the journalists who write this stuff can look at themselves in the mirror without feeling a profound shame, and wondering how their career has brought them to this.
The Coalition government makes a huge song and dance about having ‘stopped the boats’. However, they haven’t stopped; mostly what they did was stop the flow of information about them2. Given the government’s rhetoric, you would expect that the number of asylum seekers would have decreased dramatically over the term of this government. However, in this you would be mistaken, as the number of asylum seekers applying for protection has blown out to record numbers during Dutton’s tenure as Home Affairs Minister. This is because while boat arrivals may have decreased, plane arrivals have increased. The Home Affairs department’s website shows that 27,931 protection visa applications were made in the 2017-2018 financial year by people who had arrived by plane3.
In the past four years, 64,362 protection visa applications have been made by plane arrivals alone, whereas in the five years prior to that 44,581 applications had been made by boat arrivals. It is predicted that the 27,931 financial year record will be broken in 2018-2019, and this is suspected to be because of chaos in Dutton’s department, because it is reducing frontline staff and IT contractors. The outsourcing of the visa processing function will simply make the problem worse. This problem is that the delays in visa processing are increasing dramatically, and it is this delay which is the product the people-smugglers sell. This is because those who arrive by plane seeking asylum are not detained in concentration camps like those set aside for boat arrivals. Plane arrivals are allowed to live in the community and in many cases are exploited as cheap, often underpaid, labour or indeed, as sex-workers while their application is processed3.
So, while the number of boat arrivals may have decreased, the number of plane arrivals has increased dramatically. Who would have thought that making the life of boat arrivals a perpetual misery, made arrival by plane a much more attractive option?