Political personalities: Palmer and Merkel in their natural habitat

Who is Clive Palmer? What is the meaning of him? … He is a foolish passionate man, who has that endowment of the very rich, an erasure of the line between fantasy and reality, come along at a time when Australian political institutions had become sufficiently disarticulated to let him in with ease. Most people, especially those in the media, have become convinced that he is a man of no fixed character or beliefs, who rose to power through a rational political process. The reverse is the case. Palmer is a man with a coherent set of beliefs who is nevertheless a random product of an electoral process acquired in the fit of absent-mindedness.

— Guy Rundle, QE56 2014, p. 64

I have read two sensational political profiles in the last week of two dramatically different politicians: Guy Rundle’s Quarterly Essay on Clive Palmer and George Packer on Angela Merkel for the New Yorker. A great essay encourages readers to revisit and revise their opinions, and I am reconsidering my impressions not only of these two political personalities, but also the political systems that shaped them.

Palmer, the man about which Australian democracy circa 2014-5 improbably turns, is dismissed by many as a fickle showman, a buffoon with more money than sense. Rundle is clear-eyed to the man’s weaknesses and vanities, but finds a sincere constancy in his value system. Palmer’s compromises and apparent flip-flops are politics as it is supposed to be played, ground given where necessary but always in accordance with a coherent political ideology. The prevailing narratives about Big Clive are driven, Rundle argues, largely by the horror felt by a political elite that sees a more cut-and-thrust politics suddenly injected into the stable bipartisan order of professional politicians. More than a rendering of Clive Palmer, this essay is a critique of a broken electoral system defended by a self-serving political caste, “sealed off from the general public, with the process of becoming a politician deliberately mystified to keep the amateurs out”. But now Clive has flung open the door, “and god knows who will rush in”.

Angela Merkel is perhaps as different from Clive Palmer as it is possible to be. She is quiet, highly analytical, profoundly methodical and slow to commit to any course of action. It is appropriate, then, that Packer’s political profile of Merkel evokes a democracy facing the opposite crisis: rather than a sudden shakeup of party politics, the Germany described is utterly apolitical. “Merkel took the politics out of politics,” Packer quotes Georg Diez as saying, and he suggests that’s precisely what the country – paralysed by past guilt and afraid of big ideas – is looking for. The Merkel described here strives to be everything to every voter, and is motivated primarily by an instinct for power and a single central value: freedom.

It is unfortunate, but no fatal flaw, that neither Rundle nor Packer spoke with politician they profile. The essays are more like anthropological studies, eschewing the polished image presented in an interview for an analysis of the social and natural environment in which these personalities have developed. In Rundle’s case, the background is necessarily filled out in vivid detail so as not to be overshadowed by the showman in the foreground, this “man so utterly a creation of the Gold Coast that you can small the coconut oil and sand on him”. The Coast itself is a character in his critical history of Australian democracy, instrumental in the shaping of Palmer’s politics. Packer’s study of East Germany is muted and oppressive, simple but evocative, like the black and white portraits of Merkel’s evolution as a public figure that open the disquieting piece. Both essays are wonderful studies of the modern democratic politician in his or her natural habitat.


LatAm Political Economy, Australian Democracy: What I’ve Been Reading

I’m about to start Honours-level Economics so everything I read is being torturously parsed for possible thesis topics. Lots of thought-provoking stuff here. Also lots of Latin America. Scroll down, non-latinophiles. There’s a depressing one for you at the bottom.


Jeffery R. Webber writes a sprawling but fascinating analysis of Bolivia’s economic policies and contesting ideologies for Jacobin magazine. Western commentators tend to ignore the fact that president Evo Morales’ team have pursued fairly orthodox policy despite the country’s close alignment with Venezuela and much of the government’s socialist rhetoric. Webber draws on a number of interviews and a great deal of theory to craft a really interesting analysis of the prevailing tensions. I’ll be reading it again.


Eugenio Diaz-Bonilla demolishes the myth of a century of Argentine decline, at least in terms of quantitative economic indicators. There’s probably an argument to be made for a century of political decline, and I’m not sure the causation is as cut-and-dried as he seems to suggest, but it’s a myth I’d kind of reflexively accepted as fairly compelling. I like being made to sit up and rethink things.


Four (at least tangentially) on Venezuela this week. Political Violence at a Glance link to some potentially interesting data on the outsourcing of government repression; Francisco Toro looks at the long-term development impacts of hurling petrodollars at the poor; Hector Schamis criticises Latin America’s forgetful left [sp], who ignore Venezuelan repression when many of them lived through state repression and human rights abuses themselves. Greg Weeks’ 15 Annoying Things About the Venezuelan Crisis is short, sweet, and pretty damn accurate.


If you care about Australian democracy Chloe Hooper’s Lives of the Magnates will make you very, very sad.

Perspective Lost: The Uncivil Debate on Asylum in Australia

The polarisation of Australian opinion on the issue of asylum seekers has reached extraordinary levels. This is a result of the highly emotive nature of the issue, along with two other important factors: its successful securitisation, and high levels of confirmation bias on all sides.

The political elite, finding it easier to choose one side of the discursive war they are responsible for starting than attempting to end it, have pursued hardline policies.  All perspective has been lost, and the punishment of asylum seekers for having the temerity to cling to hope in a hopeless situation has become acceptable.

The full article can be read in the AIIA Queensland’s November newsletter, page 11.

A letter to Queensland Senators, on Temporary Protection Visa

It occurs to me that as an impassioned democrat I should, perhaps, draw on that great democratic resource: impassioned letter writing.

Next week the Australian Senate will discuss the Greens’ motion to disallow Temporary Protection Visas. I encourage you to contact your Senators and ask them to exercise compassion. Queensland’s Senators are:

Senator the Hon Ronald Boswell – The Nationals
(07) 3001 8150

Senator Sue Boyce – Liberal Party
(07) 3862 4044

Senator the Hon George Brandis QC – Liberal Party
(07) 3001 8180

Senator Mark Furner – ALP
(07) 3881 3710

Senator the Hon John Hogg – ALP
(07) 3843 4066

Senator the Hon Joe Ludwig – ALP
(07) 3229 4477

I sent each Senator the following email and will be calling their offices on Monday. Please join me.

Dear Minister,

I am writing to you in the hope that you will support the Greens’ motion to disallow Temporary Protection Visas.  In the hope that you will, together with your fellow Senators, reaffirm the values that make this country great: a fair go, mateship, support for the underdog. This is not a country that turns its back, slams the door shut, closes its heart.

But it is not only compassion that should convince you TPVs are a bad idea. They have no deterrent effect: it is well-established that their introduction simply led to increased numbers of women and children risking their lives on leaky boats. If they are not intended for deterrence, one imagines the intent is to punish those who have arrived by boat: a breach of international law, which prohibits the punishment of refugees for their mode of arrival, and an intent unworthy of this nation.

But perhaps it is not intended to punish, but merely to prevent refugees from putting down serious roots in this country, in the hopes that they will, one day, be able to leave. It is difficult to comprehend the value Australia gains from this policy: indeed, the Department of Immigration and Border Control, on page 5 of the Community Programmes Service Providers’ Newsletter #8 recognises the benefits refugees can bring to Australian businesses. “They provide employers with unique skills, international experience and diverse cultural perspectives”.

Knowing that these refugees are liable, every three years, to have their TPVs revoked makes investment in these unique skills less attractive to potential employers. It robs the Australian economy of a source of growth and may, in some cases, contribute to welfare dependency.

But perhaps this is a national security issue. In that case, I fail to see how keeping an often traumatised and certainly vulnerable refugee community on the margins of our society – discouraging them from integrating into the community, from embracing our liberal democratic values – can possibly make us more secure. Why breed discontent and resentment where we could embrace different perspectives and a demonstrated determination to survive and thrive?

For me, though, this is not about economics or national security. It is about compassion. Please, Senator, try, for just one moment, to imagine a world turned upside down. A world in which Australia is no longer safe for you and I, a world in which torture and hunger and persecution are suddenly a part of our day-to-day, a world in which we are forced to flee. A world in which the only sanctuary we find is temporary.

I would be consumed by fear.

But we were lucky, you and I, to be born into the Lucky Country. Please, remember the arbitrariness of this luck. We did nothing to deserve it. But we can, through our actions, earn it, and extend that luck to the most vulnerable among us.

Support the Greens’ motion to disallow Temporary Protection Visas.
Camden Luxford

In praise of a messy democracy: Transparency, freedom, and spy scandals

Christian Kerr writes in defence of an opaque security service in the Weekend Australian this week. There are two main thrusts to his argument: first, that democracy requires intelligence services that operate in secrecy. The second essentially conflates all those have defended the publication of this information with the actions of Julian Assange.

The first argument is the most powerful. Kerr writes:

The democratic state needs an intelligence apparatus to protect its democracy from threats from fundamentalists, absolutists and other enemies of liberty.

This is certain. What it neglects is that once in a while, the enemies of liberty make it to the highest levels of the public service or are democratically elected to positions of power. Or are created there (absolute power corrupting absolutely and all that). I am by no means suggesting that all intelligence operations be carried out in the bright light of public scrutiny, or that every decision to tap phones or recruit agents be public knowledge. The point is that, especially in the highly-securitised post-9/11 environment, overreach happens, and democratic discussion of the procedures used to reach decisions is valid and necessary. Sure, Snowden leaked details of operations, not procedures, but without the subsequent global outrage and embarrassment this debate would never have happened. These leaks have shone a hot bright light on the things that are carried out in service of the liberty we democratic citizens enjoy, and have inspired a debate about the lengths we should go to protect that liberty. Perhaps we will decide that the lengths gone to are actually just about right and nothing needs to change, but the act of debating it is healthy for our democracy.

Kerr’s portrayal of democracy as a “delicate balancing act” is telling. Seen this way, democracy is a fragile thing, best left in the hands of elite professionals and liable to be broken in the raucous hands of the mob. This simultaneously belittles the capacity of Australian citizens to make adult decisions in concert with their peers and – I put to you – overestimates the capacity of our politicians to do the same. Democracy via representation is inevitable given the size of modern states, but elections are only one small part of holding our representatives to account. Our democracy is robust enough to cope with citizen engagement on an ongoing basis, and this engagement requires transparency.

Kerr’s second argument – in which he essentially accuses all those who support the ABCs decision to publish the Snowden revelations of Assange-cultism – is weaker. He writes that Assange “divides the world into heroes and villains and is quick to purge and denounce those he decides are enemies”. This is true. Quick to dish criticism out, Assange seems unable to take it. He is a crusader; I suspect he has strong authoritarian tendencies, and is not the sort of person I would like to see running my country. Kerr’s horror at the release of WikilLeaks cables to the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, allowing him to crack down on internal opposition, is beyond justified. I share it. But I think that on balance, Wikileaks has done a lot for Western democracy – go figure.

To suggest that we “wide-eyed Wikifans” must, in supporting transparency and democratic debate, endorse all the actions of the Wikileaks founder is ludicrous. It does, however, square nicely with Kerr’s picture of democracy: we choose somebody to represent us and then do no more than cheer them on until we reach the next election, trusting that whatever they do behind closed doors is in our best interest.

Losing Control: UNHCR and Australia’s Contestation of the International Refugee Regime

An international regime comprises the “implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules and decision-making procedures around which actors’ expectations converge in a given area of international relations” (Krasner 1982, p. 186). The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) plays a key role in the maintenance of the international refugee protection regime (hereafter simply ‘the regime’). Nevertheless, regime formation remains a competitive field and other actors, especially states, are able to shape the debate in pursuit of their own interests.

This essay analyses UNHCR’s success in maintaining control of the regime with reference to Australian policies towards asylum seekers and refugees, especially irregular maritime arrivals (IMAs)[1]. I will begin by briefly outlining the development of the regime in the post-War period, and examining the fraught normative landscape in which it is embedded and the two broad areas in which the seeking of asylum has been constructed as an explicit threat to Australia’s national interest: security and economics. Later, I will examine the ways in which Australia has sought to circumvent the refugee regime and the extent to which UNHCR has lost control over the debate.

The core of the regime is the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, which defines refugees[2], outlines their rights, and provides UNHCR with its supervisory mandate. The Refugee Convention was produced during the post-War period of heightened concern for human rights and protection from persecution, in a context of almost exclusively European refugee flight (Loescher & Milner 2011, p. 190). The 1967 Protocol to the Convention universalised refugee protection and a range of other regional legal instruments have since been enacted, all of which have essentially  “protected” the definition of refugee as initially set out in the Refugee Convention (Canefe 2010, p.176). Australia is a signatory to both the Refugee Convention and the Protocol, entailing responsibilities under binding, treaty-based international law[3].

In any discussion of international refugee law it is important to keep in mind the values and norms that inform it. Albie Sachs (2010, p.47-52), former judge for South Africa’s Constitutional Court and once a refugee himself, argues the “core binding elements [of refugee law] were respect for human dignity and insistence on fairness of procedure and respectfulness of outcome” and identifies a “positive obligation to admit refugees, provide them with asylum and treat them in accordance with specific standards”. The Refugee Convention explicitly links the regime with the United Nations Charter and the Human Rights Conventions, similarly indicating a basis in respect for human dignity and individual worth.

The assertion that states and refugees (as represented by UNHCR) have different and indeed conflicting interests goes to the heart of the tension between order and justice in international relations and the uneasy relationship between established international norms.

For Hedley Bull (1970, p. 90) the granting of asylum to political refugees mitigates the “conspiracy of silence entered into by governments about the rights and duties of their respective citizens”, a conspiracy made necessary by the “basic compact of coexistence between states, expressed in the exchange of recognition of sovereign jurisdictions”. The granting of asylum implies a value judgement on the domestic policies of the source state and may be seen as an affront to sovereignty: indeed, during the Cold War, the West saw the provision of asylum to refugees from Communist states as a convenient means of delegitimising the Soviet model (Betts 2009, p. 55). More recently, Australia’s granting of asylum to 42 West Papuan independence activists in 2006 led to the withdrawal of Indonesia’s ambassador from Canberra (Hyndman & Mountz

2008, p. 261).

The norm of sovereignty is crucial to existing international order, and already sits in uneasy tension with the norm of human rights, despite attempts to reconcile them through concepts of popular sovereignty and responsibility to protect. The pursuit of human rights is, for Bull (1971, p.91) inherently in tension with – even threatening to – currently existing order in international relations.  An asylum seeker on the doorstep cannot be ignored the way human rights or humanitarian issues in a distant country can, and the legal obligation of non-refoulement forces states to make explicit protection decisions that imply a weakening of their own sovereignty and that of the source country. Refugees bring home the porousness of borders in a way few other issues do.

Beyond normative tensions, in the post-Cold War era of surging migration and increasingly complex and protracted civil conflict, states have increasingly seen the management of migration as a core national interest (Betts 2009, p. 54). In Australia, refugees, asylum seekers and especially IMAs have been constructed as a potential threat to the national interest in two broad areas: national security and economic wellbeing.

Securitisation as understood by the Copenhagen School is a discursive act by which the state, or elite groups within it, describes something as a security issue so as to gain control over it and justify the use of measures that would, in the absence of a threat to national security, be unacceptable (Wæver 1998). The issue is shifted outside the usual democratic process, and de-securitisation – a return to more moderate debate  – becomes difficult.

Despite the realities of a highly multicultural modern Australia, the national identity tacks West: the parliamentary and legal systems are derived from Britain, and the United States, through ANZUS, is our most important strategic ally. Despite the security offered by a lack of land borders, the Australian psyche has a deeply embedded sense of isolation amidst heavily populated and culturally distinct Asian neighbours (Walker, cited in Beeson 2003: 114). The arrival of boats laden down with non-Western asylum seekers was ripe for securitisation even before the unhappy coincidence of the Tampa, the 9/11 attacks and a federal election in the latter part of 2001.

Since then, “fear of the uninvited other” has been a permanent presence in the national debate on asylum, and has forced a pronounced shift in focus: the State, not the refugee, is in need of protection (Hyndman & Mountz 2008, p. 253-4). A new culture of reduced transparency about interdiction activities – for military “operational reasons” – points to continued securitisation of the issue (Crabb 2013).

In economic terms, asylum seekers and refugees are often painted as semi-permanent welfare recipients who contribute little to the economy and occupy immigration places that would be better left for skilled migrants (Stevenson cited in Parsons 2013, p. 1). Little data is collected that disaggregates the long-term contribution of refugees from that of migrants, and the research base is subsequently thin (Parsons 2013, p. 2). As a result, public debate is ill-informed and the stereotype of asylum seekers as ‘economic migrants’ and ‘queue-jumpers’ is easily perpetuated by government figures. UNHCR has failed to adequately communicate with the Australian public in an attempt to counteract these stereotypes.

In response to these perceived threats to national security and economic wellbeing, Australia has sought to prevent and deter IMAs. Mathew (2002, p. 665), discussing the Pacific Solution[4], identifies the following potential violations of Australia’s treaty obligations: the possibility of refoulement, discrimination between asylum seekers, detention of asylum seekers, and the prevention of family reunion. The first three will be discussed here.

Refoulement of refugees to a country in which they may be exposed to torture or persecution is expressly prohibited under Article 33 of the Refugee Convention and is a principle of customary international law. This includes chain refoulement (return of a refugee to another country from which refoulement occurs) and, according to various conclusions of UNHCRs Executive Committee (ExComm) and Article 3(1) of the General Assembly’s Declaration on Territorial Asylum, also extends to rejection of asylum seekers at the border (Mathew 2002, p. 666-7). The Adan case found the UK could not send a person back to a country without the “same degree of protection from risk of torture as in the United Kingdom” and Suresh vs Canada highlighted that “diplomatic assurances are not to be trusted” (Simeon 2010, p.10-11).

In terms of international jurisprudence the new Australian government’s determination to “turn back the boats” is, therefore, highly problematic. Indonesia, the departure point for most asylum seeker boats, is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention, although under customary international law it is bound to adhere to non-refoulement. Still, given the realities of divergent state capacities and the existing refugee pressures on both Indonesia and Malaysia, a strong argument exists that refugees or asylum seekers in those countries may not receive the same degree of protection they would in Australia.

Issues of discrimination between asylum seekers are more contentious: the Refugee Convention requires non-discrimination between asylum-seekers on the basis of race, religion or country of origin; the introductory note by UNHCR expands this to other prohibited grounds of discrimination as outlined by international human rights law. Mathew’s (2002, p.669) argument that conceptions of ‘protection elsewhere’ – by which asylum seekers who could have sought asylum in a country they passed through on their way to Australia are not offered protection – constitute illegal discrimination is difficult to sustain given the discrimination is not on the identified grounds. However, she highlights ExComm’s efforts to delegitimise the ‘protection elsewhere’ concept and this is, if nothing else, a clear example of the ongoing contestation between UNHCR and states over the regime.

Discrimination is also displayed in the new “By Boat, No Visa” policy, which denies settlement in Australia to all IMAs regardless of their assessed refugee status. While this policy seeks to tilt the balance in favour of processing from within host countries through Australia’s established Humanitarian Program, the absence of a similar penalty for onshore applicants who have arrived by plane and overstayed visas is clearly discriminatory based on mode of arrival. Although this is probably not prohibited under international law it is arguably contrary to the values of fairness and equality in which refugee law is embedded.

Long-term detention of asylum seekers[5] is more clearly in breach of international law and has been explicitly criticised by UNHCR and rights groups, including the Australian Human Rights Commission (2012, p. 5-6). Article 31 of the Refugee Convention prohibits the imposition of penalties  “on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened … provided they present themselves without delay … and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence”. Here three ‘escape hatches’ may be found to justify detention of IMAs: the protection is extended to refugees not asylum seekers, there is no elaboration on what qualifies as a penalty, and a threat to life or freedom is required to justify illegal entry. As for the first, Goodwin-Gill (2003, p. 193) argues this protection from penalties must be extended to asylum seekers or be rendered completely meaningless: asylum seekers are potential refugees, and have the right to have their status determined. For the second, Nowak (citied in Goodwin-Gill 2003, p. 197) in his commentary on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has claimed that “every sanction that has not only a preventive but also a retributive and/or deterrent character is … to be termed a penalty” (emphasis my own). Offshore detention is part of a policy package explicitly describe by the government as necessary to deter IMAs. As for the third, notions of “good cause” certainly allow for individual consideration of circumstances (Goodwin-Gill 2003, p. 194), which is not to be found under present arrangements. None of these three escape hatches serves to justify policies of long-term detention.

It is certain Australia makes a large contribution to resettlement through its Humanitarian Program, and that loss of life on perilous boat trips to Australia is a tragedy that must be addressed in some way. The Expert Panel commissioned by the Australian government in 2012 concluded some kind of deterrent was in fact necessary, balanced with an increase in the annual offshore intake, a streamlining of the family reunion mechanisms and an increase in aid and technical assistance given to host states throughout the region. This recognises that, short of the enactment of draconian deterrent measures unworthy of a developed democracy that espouses human rights, desperate individuals and families who are unable to lead dignified, safe and stable lives in host or transit countries will continue to risk their lives in an attempt to reach Australia. The policies outlined in the Report of the Expert Panel (2012) seek to deter IMAs within a framework of human rights and respect for the regime, while providing a gateway for increased refugee intake. Nevertheless, the newly elected Abbott government has announced the reduction of the country’s humanitarian intake by 6,250 places a year, to 13,750 (Lake & Siagian 2013) and has pushed ahead with the PNG Solution. It would seem only hard-line policies with a deterrent goal are politically viable.

Australia is not alone: the global North has tended, as a group, to perceive asylum seekers as threatening to its interests and to pursue policies of prevention and deterrence that are clearly adversarial to UNHCR understandings of the regime (see Canefe 2010 for a discussion of EU policies). Furthermore, global North states have encouraged ‘institutional proliferation’, creating new international forums and regional groupings that shift the discussion of refugee issues outside UNHCRs immediate control (Betts 2009). This proliferation is not per se detrimental to the maintenance of a rights-based regime in the form UNHCR prefers; indeed, Canefe (2010, p. 206-7) has stressed that international regimes are necessarily complex creatures: international legal order will never be achieved “by any given set of primary rules” and secondary rules, third-party forums, hybrid organs, and legislative and executive experimentation at the national or regional level are inevitable and important. However, this complexity is potentially detrimental, and current developments demonstrate a “deficit of required political will” leading to undesirable variation (Canefe 2010, p.183-185). Importantly, the regime “requires the engulfing effects and synergy with other accountability regimes such as human rights and humanitarian law and practices that enhance the life chances of outsiders, marginal groups and vulnerable populations at a global scale” (Canefe 2010, p.209). This is certainly not being achieved: tensions between human rights and sovereignty encourage states, via elaborate contortions, to abide by the letter of the law but not the values that inform it, and efforts to shift the focus from the life chances of the vulnerable to the economic and strategic security of the State have been highly successful.

The refugee regime demonstrates little of the convergence of expectations characteristic, for Krasner, of an international regime: UNHCR, individual refugees, host states, donor states and source states perceive their interests in wildly divergent ways and pursue them in different forums and via different interpretations of international law. It is difficult to see how UNHCR could regain control of the regime. Within Australia, the polarisation of a debate in which both sides accuse their opponents of being complicit in deaths at sea, a new climate of militarised secrecy, and a dominant social discourse that paints IMAs as security threats or economic migrants undermines the values on which the entire refugee regime is built and threatens to delegitimise the regime in the eyes of the public. In such an environment, UNHCR would seem to face an insurmountable task.


2012. “Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers.” Australian Government.

2012. “Community arrangements for asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons: Observations from visits conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission from December 2011 to May 2012.” Sydney: Australian Human Rights Commission.

Beeson, Mark. 2003. “American Hegemony: The view from Australia.” SAIS Review 13(2):113-131.

Betts, Alexander. 2009. “Institutional Proliferation and the Global Refugee Regime.” Perspectives on Politics 7(1):53-58.

Bull, Hedley. 1971. “Order and Justice in International Society.” Political Studies 19(3):269-283.

Canefe, Nergis. 2010. “The fragmented nature of the international refugee regime and its consequences: a comparative analysis of the applications of the 1951 convention.” In Critical Issues in International Refugee Law: Strategies toward interpretative harmony, ed. James C. Simeon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Crabb, Annabel. 2013. “Asylum seeker policy: we’re all mad here.” In The Drum.

Goodwin-Gill, Guy S. 2003. “Article 31 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees: Non-Penalization, Detention, and Protection.” Cambridge University Press.

Hyndman, Jennifer and Alison Mountz. 2008. “Another Brick in the Wall: Neo-refoulement and the externalization of asylum by Australia and Europe.” Government and Opposition 43(2):249-269.

Krasner, Stephen D. 1982. “Structural causes and regime consequences: regimes as intervening variables.” International Organization 36(02):185-205.

Lake, Rebecca and Sandra Siagian. 2013. “A call on Australia for asylum-seekers’ human rights.” In Jakarta Globa. Jakarta.

Loescher, Gil and James Milner. 2011. “UNHCR and the Global Governance of Refugees.” In Global Migration Governance, ed. Alexander Betts. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mathew, Penelope. 2002. “Australian Refugee Protection in the Wake of the Tampa.” The American Journal of International Law 96(3):661-676.

Parsons, Richard. 2013. “Assessing the economic contribution of refugees in Australia: a review of literature.” Brisbane: Multicultural Development Association.

Sachs, Albie. 2010. “From refugee to judge of refugee law: a tentative introduction to some off-the-cuff remarks.” In Critical Issues in International Refugee Law: Strategies toward interpretative harmony, ed. James C. Simeon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Simeon, James C. 2010. “Introduction: the research workshop on critical issues in international refugee law and strategies towards interpretative harmony.” In Critical Issues in International Refugee Law: Strategies toward interpretative harmony, ed. James C. Simeon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wæver, Ole. 1995. “Securitization and Desecuritization.” In On Security, ed. Ronnie E. Lipschutz. New York: Columbia University Press.

[1] Many other factors, including UNHCRs own organisational pathologies, can and do play a role in international regime formation and maintenance, but an exploration of these factors is beyond the scope of this essay.

[2] The 1951 Convention as amended by the 1967 Protocol defines a refugee as:

“A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

[3] Certain principles of refugee protection, including and especially non-refoulement, are considered customary international law. This is important for analysis given most of Australia’s neighbours are not signatories to the Refugee Convention.

[4] The Pacific Solution was a package of policies enacted by PM Howard in 2001, dismantled in 2008 under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and recently resurrected by Prime Ministers Gillard and Rudd in modified form as the Papua New Guinea solution. Mathew’s analysis therefore remains relevant.

[5] Short-term detention is allowed for processing and health checks, but long-term detention is only acceptable where a genuine national security threat exists or in the face of a sudden and massive influx (Goodwin-Gill 2003, p. 195)

Carbon Pricing in Australia: The Creeping Red Threat


Tony Abbot has described the Carbon Tax thusly to the Tasmanian Liberal Party conference:

“Let’s be under no illusions the carbon tax was socialism masquerading as environmentalism”
— From ABC News, emphasis mine.

Ah yes, that age-old socialist policy prescription of using price signals to attempt to correct negative externalities in the market.

The creeping red threat is even apparent in the highest echelons of the Australian economics profession, with thirty of 35 economists surveyed by Fairfax supporting carbon pricing and emissions trading schemes over direct action (or no action). The bias towards socialist policy is being instilled in our undergraduates:

BT Financial’s Dr Chris Caton said any economist who did not opt for emissions trading “should hand his degree back”.
— From Sydney Morning Herald

And that bastion of International Socialist Thought, The Economist, has also come out in favour of carbon pricing, even attempting to import our previous government’s socialist measures into its home economy:

“The supposedly left-wing Ms Gillard, even allowing for her handouts, is making price signals central to Australia’s carbon plans. If only Britain’s supposedly free-market government would do the same.”
— From The Economist, emphasis mine

But never fear, the Liberal Party are here to stop the slide and return us to free market orthodoxy by … directly paying for emissions reductions.

(Jamie Hanson puts it even better over at New Matilda)