Far far fewer people in immigration detention in Australia

May 2nd, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

As unpopular as they are with some people, there is no doubt the Coalition’s turn back the boats policy has led to a massive reduction in both drownings at sea, and also in the numbers of people held in immigration detention.


So the number in detention has fallen from 13,000 under Labor to just over 2,000 under the Coalition.


And the number of children in detention is now zero, down from 2,000 under Labor.

Since 2013 not a single person has drowned at sea while trying to reach Australia.

Under the previous Labor Government a massive 1,138 people drowned.

The simple fact is the hardline policy has worked – it has reduced drownings and massively reduced the numbers in detention. The lesson is that putting the people smugglers out of business was in fact the most humane policy.

Australian High Court rules in favour of off shore detention

February 5th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The SMH reports:

The High Court has ruled that Australia’s offshore detention regime at Nauru and Manus Island is lawful, dashing the hopes of asylum seekers that detention centres would be closed and they would be settled in Australia.

This ruling will save lives. The hardline policy has stopped hundreds of people from drowning by trying to reach Australia.

Here’s the deaths by drowning by year:

  • 2015: 0
  • 2014: 0
  • 2013: 236
  • 2012: 421
  • 2011: 235
  • 2010: 168
  • 2009: 132

The drop to zero for two years in a row is not a coincidence. It is a direct reflection of removing the incentive for people to pay tens of thousand of dollars to people smugglers.

The full bench of the High Court on Wednesday ruled that the federal government has the power under the constitution to detain people in other countries, finding that its conduct was within the law.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been under pressure to allow child asylum seekers to stay in Australia regardless of the court’s decision. The Greens said on Wednesday that forcing their return amounted to “child abuse”.

No child abuse is when they drown at sea because they are incentivised to try and sail to Australia.

Shorten backs Coalition turn boats back policy

July 23rd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

OPPOSITION leader Bill Shorten has confirmed Labor will go into the next election promising to turn back asylum-seeker boats.

Mr Shorten admitted Labor had got it wrong on asylum-seeker policies when it was in government, acknowledging the large number of deaths at sea

He told ABC’s 7.30 program Labor was now determined to put people smugglers “out of business,” agreeing the Coalition’s policy of towing boats back to where they came from worked.

The evidence is indisputable.

Here’s the deaths at sea from asylum seekers by year:

  • 2015 – 0
  • 2014 – 0
  • 2013 – 236
  • 2012 – 420
  • 2011 – 231
  • 2010 – 164
  • 2009 – 132

The zero deaths in 2014 and 2015 are not a coincidence. The turn back the boats policy has almost totally discouraged people smugglers from attempting the crossing. It has not just led to no one dying at sea, but also reduced dramatically the numbers in off shore camps.

The total population in immigration detention centres has fallen from around 13,000 to just over 3,000.

As at 30 June 2015, there were 1,600 in the Nauru and Manus processing centres. A year ago there were 2,358 so almost a reduction by a third.

But Mr Shorten looks headed for one almighty fight with his party’s Left faction, which is opposed the policy and is expected to try to vote it down at Labor’s national conference this weekend.

“It’s not easy though, because it involves the admission, I think, that mistakes were made when Labor was last in government,” he said.

“For myself, if I want to be the leader of this nation, I have got to be able to face the truth, and the truth for me is that we have policies in place which give substance and support to people smugglers to exploit vulnerable people, where they put these vulnerable people on unsafe boats then people drown at sea. I can’t support any policies that do that.”

An excellent call. Why would you reject a policy that has reduced the drowning toll 100% and the numbers in offshore detention facility by a third?

So if they weren’t coming here, why are they appealing to live here?

June 8th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The asylum-seekers who were shipwrecked after attempting to reach New Zealand have apparently called on the Government to help.

The group of 65 are now in a detention centre at Kupang in West Timor, after being turned back by Australian authorities.

Now photographs and a letter have been circulated, apparently by members of the group.

Some photographs were taken on the open sea, with one apparently showing an Australian Navy vessel.

Another shows a group with a sign that reads, “Please try to understand our painful life New Zealand Government and save our life. Please”.

People scoffed at the possibility they were heading to NZ, but this indicates that is exactly where they did want to end up. Over 1,000 died trying to reach Australia by boat. Hopefully we will not end up with similar death tolls.

Labour leader Andrew Little said authorities should investigate whether the group were genuine refugees, and if so, consider processing them as part of New Zealand’s quota.

That’s a great way to encourage a huge upswing in people smuggling and people dying at sea in unsafe boats.

The great Australian experiment

April 28th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar


It is hard to think of a bigger proven disaster, than that of the Australian Labor Party’s boats policy. People will recall how John Howard’s hardline on asylum seekers arriving by boat with hated by the liberal left in Australia. They demanded an end to it, and when Labor won in 2007, they scrapped it.

You can see above what happened. The scrapping of Howard’s policy saw an exponential growth of people trying to arrive by boat. Not a 100% increase or even 1,000% increase but a 10,000% increase. Before they did a u-turn in 2013, the number had grown from around 10 people a month to 4,000.

But that was not the worst impact of Labor’s policy. It was the death toll. Their policy change may have been well intentioned, but it incentivised desperate people to pay thousands of dollars to people smugglers to try and get them into Australia onto unsafe boats. The so called humane policy turned out to be a lethal policy.


When say two or three civilians die in an overseas war zone, some are quick to say the Government is responsible for their deaths. Well what do you can it when a Government policy led to almost 1,200 human beings being killed. And not a quick death, but probably an awful panic stricken event as their boats sink in the middle of an ocean, and they slowly drown or freeze.

Sometimes correlation is not causation, but in this case it clearly is. Note that since the change of Government, there has not been a single drowning at sea, and the level of asylum seekers arriving by boats has fallen by a massive 99%.

Greg Sheridan in The Australian noted:

While Australia will still be one of the most generous societies in the world to refugees, they will arrive in an orderly and lawful manner and be chosen by Australian authorities.

Australia has the highest refugee quota per capita in the world.

The Abbott government will neither confirm nor deny the numbers, but in the past four weeks some five boats have been turned around or towed back towards Indonesia.

Operational secrecy has been central to the success so far.

Operationally, turning boats back is even more effective than transferring people to Manus or Nauru.

The arrival of people in Manus and Nauru often still triggers final payment for the people-smugglers, who continue to tell their customers that people housed on those islands will eventually get to Australia.

Failed illegal arrivals who return to Indonesia, on the other hand, demand their money back and tell everyone they know that the mission was a flop. Even if the boat is sound and the crew competent, they are met by the Australian navy and kept out of Australia.

And so the people smugglers are out of work, and you don’t get hundreds drowning out at sea.

Meanwhile, Australia continues to have, per capita, the largest permanent refugee resettlement program in the world. But these refugees are not self-selected nor chosen by illegal people-smugglers – they are all genuine refugees, and none of them drowns on the way here.


It is a salient reminder that good intentions are not enough. Bad policy can lead to people dying. Promoting biofuels for example led to mass starvations as third world nations changed their land from food production to biofuels. And taking a soft approach on boat arrivals led to an exponential increase in boats, and hundreds drowning at sea.

Labour’s alien invasion from Mars is getting closer

May 25th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour leader David Cunliffe did not respond to requests for comment, but during debate in Parliament last year called the law “tawdry” and said “there is exactly the same probability of an alien invasion from Mars as there is of boat people from Indonesia or ‘Wogistan”‘.

Crystal clear. Any talk of boat people coming to NZ is rubbish Labour said. But …

Under cover of darkness last Wednesday night, eight cars containing around 50 asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh slipped out of the mountain town of Cisarua, 60km south of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, and drove towards the coast.

The tension was palpable. They’d been holed up in a villa for weeks waiting for this moment, the first step on a long, treacherous journey they hoped would end in a new life in faraway New Zealand.

The passengers, all adults, had paid people-smugglers deposits of around $US500 ($585), with the remaining $US5000 ($5800) or so due if they reached their destination.

But their dreams were dashed at the last minute. Although corrupt officials had been paid off, according to sources, it wasn’t enough – police intercepted them and the group was turned around.

They are now back in Cisarua, the disillusioned walking away, the desperate vowing to give it another go in the next few days.

The Sunday Star-Times learned of the plan to send a boat of 50 asylum seekers to New Zealand during a joint investigation with Fairfax Australia.

We obtained video footage of the boats involved in the plan, listened to secret recordings of a money-changer talking about New Zealand as the best option now that Australia is “closed”, and, posing as an asylum seeker, contacted the smuggling kingpin.

How can this be? David Cunliffe told us that boat people trying to come to NZ had the same probability as an invasion from Mars.

No asylum boat has ever made it to New Zealand but the current operation is the third attempt in recent months.

Three attempts in as many months.

Rudd lurches right

July 22nd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Labour in 2007 campaigned against John Howard’s Pacific solution which saw boat people go to Naaru, while their claims for asylym were processed (but if they qualified, they could them come to Australia). Howard was demonised for this policy, but Labor’s replacement policies have been disastrous, with the number of boats and people attempting the voyage increasing almost exponentially, and many many people dying in the attempt.

Kevin Rudd has now come out with a policy that is to the right of John Howard’s. He has announced that all boat people will be sent to Papua New Guinea, regardless of whether or not they qualify for asylum.

This could well help him win the election, as Labor’s failed policy was indefensible. However will his own party and activists support such a policy? The next few weeks will be interesting.

Boat was heading to NZ

May 7th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A classified report has confirmed that the boatload of Sri Lankan asylum seekers who arrived without warning on the West Australian coastline last month had been sailing for New Zealand.

It diverted from its course after the captain decided weather and other safety issues were too risky to continue beyond Australia. …

Last year, 10 members of China’s banned Falun Gong movement were rescued north of Darwin after their boat broke down en route to New Zealand.

After officials explained the dangers of continuing their voyage, the group decided to apply for asylum in Australia.

This is why regional co-operation on this issue is sensible.


So much for no boat people wanting to come to NZ

April 10th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A ramshackle fishing boat carrying 66 suspected asylum seekers from Sri Lanka has arrived in Australia – carrying passengers holding a sign saying “We want to go to New Zealand”.

The overcrowded wooden fishing vessel carrying men, women and children was spotted off the coast of Geraldton, about 400km north of Perth in Western Australia.

It is believed to be the first boat to have travelled so far south in recent years. Most asylum seekers arrive near Christmas Island, more than 2000km north, where they are usually intercepted.

The boat, thought to have been at sea for 44 days, was spotted by two local men testing the motor of a dinghy about 500m offshore.

It was met by customs and police officers about 12pm yesterday and towed into harbour.

Photographs show a group of passengers holding a sign with the words: “We want to go to New Zealand. Please help us”.

A New Zealand flag was flying on the boat.

While I admire their good taste in choosing New Zealand over Australia, these journeys are very dangerous.

The passengers included four babies and a pregnant woman.

Could easily have been tragic.

Thoughts on the asylum seekers deal with Australia

February 12th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

A few thoughts:

  • Isn’t it amusing that when Helen Clark agreed to take some boat people who were seeking asylum in Australia she was lauded by the entire left for her humanitarian gesture yet when John Key agrees to do much the same, but annually, he is condemned by the exact same people. And yes, the Tampa refugees were treated as part of the quota also.
  • How can one criticize this deal for encouraging queue-jumping yet also advocate that Australia should resume onshore processing which has been shown to massively encourage boat voyages and queue jumping.
  • Personally I think there is a legitimate criticism that this deal may encourage queue-jumping, but probably not significantly enough to actually lead to a group of people deciding to make a boat voyage they otherwise would not have.
  • There is a surprising lack of sophistication in understanding our relationship with Australia is not purely a transactional one. The decision by the NZ Government helps Julia Gillard (and any successor)  in what is arguably her most difficult domestic issue. That will not be forgotten.
  • The notion that Australia bullied NZ into this is ridiculous. In fact as reported it was a NZ initiative
  • What is surprising is the lack of focus on a centre-right NZ PM helping out a centre-left Australian PM. It’s a nice example of not letting domestic politics interfere with having a strong relationship.
  • I’m surprised also no one has cottoned on to Gillard making an unprecedented early announcement of the election date, almost certainly being because Key the same thing in 2011.
  • Personally I think taking in refugees is one of the better things a country can do, so long as they are able to integrate well into their new country and that the level is sustainable. Note that Australia takes in 20,000 to our 750. I’d like that to increase at some stage in the future when our economy is stronger. But I think it is best increased through the UNHCR process, not through increasing the number in the bilateral agreement with Australia
  • You have to love Labour’s strong clear policy on this issue. They are outraged of course, but when asked what they would do, the answer is “Shearer said if elected, Labour would discuss the policy with Australia.” – you can’t make this stuff up.

Howard’s solution is back

August 16th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The politics of the Australian Government’s decision to reopen offshore processing facilities for asylum seekers on Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island will not be silenced despite the Opposition’s indication it will support new migration laws.

As Immigration Minister Chris Bowen yesterday moved amendments to allow the measures proposed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s expert panel on boat people, the Opposition tried to exploit her move as “capitulation” and to blame the Government for the deaths of 1000 people at sea.

Its attack was given force by the news that 67 more asylum seekers are feared to have perished in the Indian Ocean after the departure of their boat in late June and no evidence of their arrival in Australia.

Since Friday Australian patrol boats have intercepted seven vessels with more than 350 people on board.

The Howard era policy worked. It was effective, and as the message got out that boat people would not make it to Australia, the number of boats dwindled to almost nothing. Labor’s solution has been an unmitigated disaster, and their eventual capitulation shows this.

More than 22,000 people have sought asylum since Labor came to power in 2007, opening Gillard’s struggling minority Government to a debilitating attack from the Opposition and all efforts at reaching compromise blocked by both Liberals and Greens.

They only have themselves to blame.