Matching Grant Challenge
BruceMatch
We’re slowly making headway in our annual fund drive, but not nearly fast enough to meet our make-or-break goal.  On the bright side, a generous CounterPuncher has stepped forward with a pledge to match every donation of $100 or more. Any of you out there thinking of donating $50 should know that if you donate a further $50, CounterPunch will receive an additional $100. And if you plan to send us $200 or $500 or more, he will give CounterPunch a matching $200 or $500 or more. Don’t miss the chance. Double your clout right now. Please donate.

Day 17

Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.

Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.

CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.

The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.

Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive  books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)

pp1

or
cp-store

To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683

Thank you for your support,

Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel

CounterPunch
 PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558

The PNG Solution

Harshness Before Sense

by BINOY KAMPMARK

This is patently sinister.  Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea, is destined under the “regional agreement” between PNG and Australia to become an expanded detention centre which may house upwards of 3000 individuals.  (Shades of an Asia Pacific Gulag Archipelago come to mind.)  These individuals might well have been processed quietly through Australian channels by Australian authorities.  If it had been news, it should have been embedded in the back pages.  But this Labor government is desperate.  Very desperate. So much so that anyone without a visa who arrives in Australia will never (emphasis on the word never) settle in Australia.[1]

Those are the words of a “restored” Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.  Rudd has made it clear that the Refugee Convention, ratified in 1951 is an anachronism on stilts. Nothing new there – he parrots a long standing lament of wealthy states who would rather wish the convention might be done away with – or at the very least “revised”.

Much of this behaviour on the part of the prime minister is probably histrionics – to change the convention through the channels of the United Nations would require General Assembly approval.  Poorer states are unlikely to be joining richer states in attempting to curb global flows of individuals – for them, the richer the state, the greater the burden by necessity.

Hence, we face the next disturbing rationale.  If the convention can’t be changed, it won’t be heeded.  Naturally, one way of doing so is to re-label those who arrive in Australia in advance, a case of premature adjudication if ever there was one.  Ignore the refugee advocates and the professionals as much as possible – what would they know?  Foreign Minister Bob Carr has been most typical of this, claiming that those getting on boats and heading for Australia are “economic” migrants.

The response to Carr has been strident.  Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs has found little basis to the claim.  Former liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser is up at arms at the suggestion, calling Carr’s claims “total nonsense” and “fantasy”.  “I think a lot of people [who] might have felt some relief that Kevin Rudd was back in charge will now have that very heavily tempered by Senator Carr’s most intemperate remarks.”[2]

Applicants for asylum assessed and found to be legitimate refugees are entitled to stay in the country that duly processes them. To send them off shore, as it were, constitutes a violation of its principles.  It amounts, as some advocates have rightly noted, to an “outsourcing” of the burden imposed on a country.

Furthermore, let’s consider the country: developing, as close to, in structural and economic terms, a failed state as any in the Asia Pacific.  It is known for producing refugee applicants, not recipients.  The Australian Refugee Review Tribunal has actually granted refugee status to people leaving the country on grounds of persecution.  To speak of equitable “burden sharing” in this context, the term used by states in the European Union, is nonsense.

The “PNG Solution” will also be a disaster on another level. Not only will it violate a key principle of refugee law – that refugees cannot be sent to a place where they are put at risk – it will create another enormous social problem. Hundreds of Iranians, processed on PNG soil, is a recipe for social catastrophe.

As Marina O’Sullivan of the Castan Centre for Human Rights explains, domestic violence is rife.[3]  Ethnic tensions are ever present.  The “human rights” infrastructure is simply not in place.  Then there is that matter of the High Court, which found in 2011 that arrangements of this sort violated international refugee obligations.

Should he win the elections, will Rudd care?  This is hard to know given the distinct hollowness of Australian politics.  Australia is a land jam packed with regulations, controls and a mania for “security”.  Its electoral system, at least in so far as it determines the fates of governments, hinges on marginal seats in the outer suburbs – the “Rooty Hill” factor.  But this policy, unless it is challenged in the High Court, risks making Australia not merely an inept international citizen, but a callous one whose words at international law are empty sentiments rather than genuine policy.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Notes.


[1] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/federal-election-2013/kevin-rudd-to-send-asylum-seekers-who-arrive-by-boat-to-papua-new-guinea-20130719-2q9fa.html

[2] http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/fraser-brands-carrs-economic-migrants-as-total-fantasy-20130703-2parp.html

[3] http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/the-png-solution-as-harsh-as-it-is-unprecedented-20130721-2qccz.html