It is legal to claim asylum in Australia. You can ask.  The left has been yelling this from rooftops for a decade, and it is true. Anyone can ask for protection.

What they always get wrong, what they don’t want to understand, is that Australia can say no. That is Australia’s right, and the right of every country, because We decide who comes into this country, and the circumstances in which they come, as JWH said. The left has never understood this.

This is the basis of the asylum claim-protection visa equation.

Asking for a protection visa is not a bad thing for Australia or the person asking. In fact, that people ask for asylum in Australia is a sign that we are still a compassionate nation (otherwise they wouldn’t waste their time asking for protection because they wouldn’t want to come here).

It’s remarkable that Michael Pascoe, writing in The New Daily, doesn’t understand any of this. He should understand because the concept isn’t that difficult.

More remarkable still the case he lays out against Peter Dutton. He says Dutton is failing to protect our borders because people are arriving in Australia by plane and then asking for protection.

When you read Pascoe (if you must), it would seem that the only solution to the problem the details is to abolish protection visas and cease all appeals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. That has a lot going for it. But that’s not what he really wants. What he really wants is to bash Dutton and Morrison.

Pascoe’s theorem

Pascoe makes the case that “for all the government’s tough-on-asylum-seekers rhetoric, protection visa applications have blown out to record numbers on Peter Dutton’s watch”.

So much wrong in just one sentence.

Even scant analysis highlights how silly his argument is, so let’s keep it simple: stopping asylum seekers who arrive by boat with no papers has no link to people who arrive by plane (with a passport) and then seek protection from Australia.

None. At. All.

Pascoe should know that. It isn’t that hard. But having started the argument, he couldn’t stop.

He should have.

Remember the first rule of holes: to stop digging. Pascoe kept digging … and digging …

The first rule of holes

Here we go … para two:

The people smugglers are doing more business than ever. The difference is that their clients are arriving by plane rather than boats and are less likely to be genuine refugees.

No, if you arrive by plane you have a ticket and the government has allowed you in for the purpose of the visa.

The Home Affairs Department website shows 27,931 protection visa applications were made in the latest financial year by plane arrivals.

The previous record number of asylum seekers was 26,845 in the 2012-13 financial year when 18,365 protection visa applications were made for boat arrivals and 8480 for those who came by plane.

Aha … now it gets interesting because boat arrivals are now zero, and while it appears that planned boat arrivals might be interchangeable, they aren’t.

If you arrive by plane, you have the means to get a ticket, transit through airports and be accepted by the Australian authorities as having the means to meet the obligations set out in your visa application. If you arrive on a boat with 100 other people and have nothing, you would seem to not meet the criteria established above. Plane and boat claimants are different.

Over the weekend, the federal government continued its campaign of trying to paint Labor as “soft” on border protection, feeding compliant media outlets with allegations that admitting a relatively small number of asylum seekers from Nauru and Manus Island on medical grounds would mean people convicted of murder and rape could enter Australia.

Labor is soft on border protection. They changed the Howard laws and 50,000 arrived by boat. Around 1200 didn’t arrive. They drowned. Because Labor was soft and their compassion resulted in unintended consequences.

But in the past four years since the government “stopped the boats” [only one boat has arrived, so consider them ‘stopped’, Michael, really, you needed scare quotes?], 64,362 protection visa applications have been made by unvetted individuals who have arrived by plane while Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton were the relevant ministers.

No, they were vetted.

That compares with a total of 44,581 protection visa applications for boat arrivals over the previous five years.

See previous.

Morrison and Dutton not to blame

This has nothing to do with Morrison or Dutton.

It’s Australia being a signatory to refugee conventions that gives the claimants their authority. Would Pascoe prefer that we not allow people the right to seek asylum? Certainly a lot of people would prefer that … One Nation voters for a start, a group Pascoe doesn’t hold much regard for.

To get to the nub of the immigration problem, it’s best to stop reading Pascoe here because what he did was cannibalise an article from a former Department of Immigration deputy secretary, Abul Rizvi. Rizvi’s column is at Pearls and Irritations, a website run by a former Whitlam advisor, John Menadue. It’s a good site, far Left, but worth reading if your interest is public policy.

Do read the whole thing.

Rizvi lays blame at the feet of Morrison and Dutton for not adequately resourcing the department at the border, although how they could determine who should come in on a tourist visa knowing they would ask for protection is not covered because it is an impossible task and the people who later claim protection would lie about their true intentions.

Immigration is underfunded, Rizvi says

Rizvi makes the case that Australia is basically being overwhelmed by people claiming protection because Border Force lacks the resources at the border to stop unmeritorious claimants making it to Australia.

Rizvi says people smugglers are behind the increase because they know the system is underfunded and can’t cope. Also, that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is too costly for the Australian Government to pursue every case. The latter is true and if there’s a strong case for it remaining it has nothing to do with Immigration where it has covered itself in something that certainly isn’t glory.

This is what Rizvi says happens:

… a surge in ‘unmeritorious’ protection visa applications does not occur by accident or by chance. It requires a significant degree of organisation as our visa system is complex as are our workplace laws. For such a large increase in ‘unmeritorious’ protection visa applications to occur, people smugglers need to understand the paralysis the Home Affairs Department has created in the visa system through massive application backlogs. But they must also:

  • recruit potential low skill overseas workers by convincing them of the ‘attractive’ jobs they will get in Australia;
  • get the workers through the Home Affairs’ visitor visa processes;
  • past Australian airport liaison officers stationed at relevant airports (eg at Kuala Lumpur and Singapore);
  • past Border Force officers at Australian airports;
  • transport them to likely unscrupulous employers and ensure they collect their ongoing ‘commission’ from the workers and/or employers;
  • lodge protection visa applications on behalf of the workers so they can work in Australia legally;
  • appeal the negative protection visa decisions at the AAT so overall time in Australia is extended to possibly more than 2-3 years.

That seems really, really complex and nowhere near a sure thing. There are lots of points of potential failure in this flowchart.

Also, there’s no evidence that this is what happening other than Rizvi saying that’s what’s happening.

The problem with this thesis … no evidence

If Rizvi is correct – a bloody big ‘if’ – there are a lot of points where the trade can be stopped, including prosecuting Australian employers who used smuggled labour, in which case the whole system collapses bigly. The most bigly bit being that the employer in Australia is out of business. If it’s a farming operation, that seems like a lot of risk for not much reward.

But he also offers no evidence that this is happening.

Instead, his evidence is an appeal to his authority. Rizvi used to be a deputy secretary Immigration until 2007 so you should believe him, that’s the argument and it’s not good enough.

Moreover, his authority and knowledge of operations was greatest a decade ago when he worked in the department. The world has changed a lot in 10 years. So, no, Rizvi needs to do better than that.

But Rizvi explains:

People smugglers bringing in vulnerable people to work on farms, sex shops, etc is not a new phenomenon.

Experienced immigration officers have understood this risk for at least two decades. But the current Home Affairs Department has few experienced immigration officers left, with many having been driven out by the current leadership.

As with people smugglers bringing in people on boats, the key to minimising a surge in ‘unmeritorious’ protection visa applications is to minimise the value of the product people smugglers can sell.

Removing protection visas would seem to meet that criteria as well. The product would be gone. Pity that’s not the solution suggested. Or abolishing the AAT for immigration matters – a real money saver.

Wait, wait, there is some evidence

If you’ve ever watched a border security program on TV you would have seen the raids on farms to catch illegal workers. Typically the workers have arrived on tourist visas and start working, as is this example from Western Australia in 2015 although there are dozens more:

Twenty-two-year-old John, who entered Australia on a holiday visa earlier this year, was told about the “kangaroo call” on the first table grape farm he worked on, near Robinvale, in May.

This code was to warn workers that Immigration Department officers had arrived to track down illegal workers.

“I was told when I started on this farm that when they say ‘kangaroos’ you had to run,” John said.

Soon after his arrival one of the farm owners rushed to the area he was working to say “the kangaroos were coming”.

John had been picking grapes alongside other illegal workers, from Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam. They scattered into bushes, fields and to the nearby river.

He claims they found refuge in a large empty storage bin in the paddock and were not detected.

This makes more sense because a tourist can blend whereas someone smuggled into Australia who then claims asylum the official system and needs to be contactable as their claim progresses.

In the past week, for example, Border Force highlighted raids on illegal workers in Australia on tourist visas, not protection visas.

 

If Rizvi and Pascoe want to make the case against the government, they’ll need better evidence than appeals to authority (Rizvi) and a rehashed article and bile (Pascoe).

Oh, and cancel protection visas … they’re ripe for rorting.

Who does the assessing

There is one final point.

Rizvi and Pascoe highlight that plane arrivals are less likely to be found to be genuinely in need of protection. This is held up as a bad thing.

It is. But in the way they suggest.

You see, when claims made in Australia are assessed they are assessed by the Australian Government.

Claims offshore are not.

It would appear that Australia applies a tougher test. If that’s the case, allowing endless and costly appeals to the AAT and our legal system – which we pay for – further supports the argument that we need to take the honey off the table. That honey is protection claims made in Australia.