Brooding about Mark Latham and the Ruddster quite distracted the pond, and we quite forgot to mention the more loathsome reptiles going about the daily business of spreading fear and loathing in the usual way, so let's pause to briefly celebrate the work of that most bilious reptile and stirrer Greg Sheridan scribbling furiously Police failure creating a monstrous problem (behind the paywall so you never have to care).
Never mind that some monstrous policy failure allowed Sheridan into the country, and some even more monstrous policy failure which allows him to stay, what's really funny is that the reptiles at the lizard Oz have attempted to tighten up the paywall, demanding money with menaces.
You know the routine, first comes the line read Greg Sheridan so you can reduce your intelligence by ten IQ points on the spot, and then better still pay for the GS pleasure of reducging your intelligence by ten IQ points, and then, best of all, if you don't pay to read Greg Sheridan, you can save both your mind and your purse.
Faced with that choice, which way would you go?
Now truth to tell, all the pond wanted to know was whether the goose Sheridan raised the issue of Pakistani refugee Faward Ahmed, and the generous treatment bowled up to him courtesy of both parties and the Australian parliament, as reported by PM in Spinner's dream raises questions for immigation: Independents.
Now don't get the pond wrong. Good luck to Ahmed and good luck to Australian cricket - by golly, it needs all the help it can get, and importing a leg spinner seems the logical solution if there isn't a local one to hand, since the other one retired and lives on the proceeds of hair treatments.
But you see Ahmed came by plane and overstayed his visa and claimed asylum as a refugee on the grounds that he had been subject to death threats from Islamic extremists for being involved with an NGO promoting women's rights (as reported in the Indian press here, and indeed noted all over the sub-continent).
Fair enough. The pond loathes Islamic extremists and in particular their attitudes to women, in much the same way as it has little time for the Pellists and the Jensenists and their attitude to women.
But then the pond and Sheridan are coming at this hysteria over refugees from completely different angles.
You'd think that the news of the deal would send Sheridan right off. After all, think of the hypocrisy and the confused message it sends to cricket-mad people in the sub-continent - India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan ... a special act of parliament no less ...
Yes you too can be a kanga!
It turns out that Sheridan - I know, I know, you've guessed it already - doesn't once mention the extraordinary inherent contradictions and bizarre contortions the 'fear and loathing' crowd have gone through in relation to the matter of Ahmed ...
This boatpeople phenomenon is essentially a determined Muslim immigration. It is important to confront the sensitivities of this situation head-on. The overwhelming majority of Muslims in Australia are law-abiding and productive citizens. They should not be made to feel unwelcome or uncomfortable because of the necessary debate about this huge, unregulated Islamic inflow. But to dodge the debate because of that sensitivity is a recipe for continued, disastrous policy failure.
Yes but can anyone bowl a decent leg spinner? Even a decent off-spinner?
The case of convicted Egyptian terrorist Maksoud Abdel Latif illustrates how the security system is overwhelmed by the present numbers, but it is not the key policy question.
Assume that 40,000 of those who have arrived so far are Muslims, mostly low skilled and with limited English. Assume that eventually they will all stay in Australia, which is the only rational assumption if policy doesn't change radically. Then assume that, on a very conservative basis, each is responsible, eventually, for one family reunion immigrant, whether a spouse, fiance, parent or sibling. That is a cohort, so far, of 80,000 low-skilled Muslims with poor English predominantly from countries that have the most radical and extreme jihadist traditions in the world.
Oh okay how about a cutter or a seamer of the ball? Anyone know reverse swing?
Of course, most Muslims in any country are not extremists. But after the latest terrorist atrocity in London, former British prime minister Tony Blair, while acknowledging that most Muslims were moderates, commented: "There is a problem with Islam - from the adherents of an ideology which is a strain within Islam. We have to put it on the table and be honest about it. Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones. But I am afraid the strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies ... At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the world view goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit. So by and large we don't admit it."
Oh okay, what about a googly? Anyone bowl a decent googly? Anyone got a bosie or a wrong 'un in the kit bag? (yes the pond is indebted to some off the field assistance in asking these questions)
The numbers coming to Australia will continue to rise dramatically unless the people-smuggling industry is broken.
A former senior officer of the Immigration Department spoke to me this week, on condition of anonymity, on the way the illegal immigration trade to Australia has become regularised, from Iran in particular. When he first got involved in this issue, Iranians and others would go to Malaysia, then on to Indonesia, and it would be months before they could find a people-smuggler. Now, he says, it is more often like a travel agent service, with everything arranged inside Iran.
Uh huh. But we can arrange exceptions if you're fast enough to knock the block off those bloody devious Englishmen? How about it? Can you produce a sharp bounce off a goodish length and maybe take out a jaw or some teeth? Are you a demon bowler?
Security against jihadist violence from a small but dangerous minority, though extremely important, is not the only problem. A huge force in people-smuggling now consists of people who came to Australia as boatpeople themselves. Similarly, boatpeople families are, according to sources in the bureaucracy, heavily involved in financing one-way trips to Australia for extended family.
Okay, perhaps you fancy yourself as a good all-rounder. Middle order batsman, nothing too flash, but solid. And you know how to generate a little movement off the pitch. Not much, just enough to tease the fish and catch an edge ...
Thus the boatpeople phenomenon entrenched in Australia is a big, organised crime industry.
There will be many consequences beyond this.The Immigration Department's figures, released last year, revealed that five years after arrival the rate of employment - not unemployment but employment - of Afghans was 9 per cent, while 94 per cent of Afghan households received Centrelink payments. From Iraq, 12 per cent were employed while 93 per cent of families received Centrelink payments. Overall, households that came under the humanitarian program had 85 per cent receiving Centrelink payments after five years. The family reunion cohort had 38 per cent, and skilled migration 28 per cent.
Yes, yes, don't listen to that man yammering over there in the corner. How are you with the gloves? Apparently there aren't too many good glove men down under. Can you bat a little and never drop a ball?
Taken together, these figures demonstrate the way in which the boatpeople phenomenon can overwhelm our immigration program. We are allowing, indeed attracting, a huge cohort of unskilled Muslim immigrants who have not been chosen by Australian policy or process. But there are almost no unskilled jobs, which is why we stopped unskilled migration in the 1970s. If it follows even remotely the European pattern, this cohort will be characterised by high unemployment, intergenerational welfare dependency, high crime rates, social problems across a broad spectrum and a minority tendency to extremism. For a nation to create this syndrome by avoidable policy failure, knowingly and with full foresight, is remarkable. Nonetheless, it is also wrong to dismiss short-term security problems.
You must be doing something right over there. Didn't the Australian team cop a right royal hammering from the Indians? And now they're going to cop a hammering in England, sure as seagulls on the field love a serve of chips. Are you a leftie? Can you move the ball away from right handers?
The Latif case illustrates this. ASIO told the Immigration Department Latif was a convicted terrorist. The Immigration Department sent a submission to the office of its minister, then Chris Bowen. Neither the minister nor the department took any action about the fact Latif was housed in a minimum-security facility. Later, after media attention, he was moved to a more secure detention facility.
Yesterday, the pro-refugee lobby was screaming that Latif's conviction in an Egyptian court under Hosni Mubarak lacked credibility. This is truly a bizarre position. Is it the refugee lobby's view now that only terrorists convicted in exemplary courts can trigger security concern?
Although ASIO is not primarily at fault in the Latif case because it eventually did flag his presence to the government, the case illustrates the impossibility of ASIO's task. About 80 per cent to 90 per cent of boatpeople arrive without documents. Among people-smuggling networks, it is widely known what the correct stories are to tell, indeed the correct form of words to use, to trigger protection under the refugee convention; these are widely promulgated and practised at length.
Notionally, ASIO subjects all arrivals to a security check. This process has broken down and is now all but meaningless. The convention prohibits approaching the country someone is allegedly fleeing for identity or security checks.
Now don't worry about any of this jibber jabber about checks. The only check that really matters is how you do out on the field.
You know the way to win. Bowl better, bat better, field better, catch better. How are you at catching? Remember there's some buggers out there can't bat, can't bowl, can't catch ...
So what can ASIO possibly do? It can run the name that the boatperson gives through its various databases, and the international databases to which it has access. It can watch and listen to the boatperson while they are in custody in Australia which, given the way the system is overwhelmed, is increasingly a short period. And, in quite rare cases, it can try to match bio-data, fingerprints, facial patterns and so on, with international databases. The Latif case demonstrates that even when putting the name through a database raises urgent red flags, the system is still too overwhelmed to respond meaningfully. But the broader idea that the tens of thousands of illegal arrivals have been subject to security clearance is farcical.
Two other questions are central. One, are we dealing with a genuine refugee exodus or is this just determined immigration? The refugee acceptance rates in Australia are much higher than those in UN camps overseas or evaluations made by other countries. About half the applications are rejected at their first evaluation but then the vast majority of these are accepted on appeal, especially in the courts. There are multiple, lengthy layers of appeal in the Australian system. The courts handle these questions with integrity, but the overall elite legal/social atmosphere is extremely sympathetic to claimants. Once a claimant has disposed of identity documents and tells the correctly formulated story, there is no way of verifying, or falsifying, it. Therefore the courts overwhelmingly give the benefit of the doubt to the claimant.
You see, the best way to get the benefit of the doubt is to show you can really spin the ball. Really, really spin the ball ... that'll send Greg Sheridan into a spin of love and he won't mention cricket once. Not once ...
Decades of involvement in refugee questions have convinced me of the absolute subjectivity of these judgments. There is probably a need for legislative change here.
Second, can we do anything about the situation in policy terms? Laurie Ferguson's cri de coeur this week that the issue was killing Labor in western Sydney was accompanied by an important statement from Ferguson. These concerns were not expressed by rednecks or racists, he said, but by people of all backgrounds in his electorate, including immigrants - Muslims, Asians, everyone. Former Labor minister Gerry Hand, now resident in Melbourne's western suburbs, similarly reports that no one is more hostile to the boatpeople phenomenon than immigrants who have gone about coming to Australia in the regular fashion.
Indeed. Which is why you should come by plane, it's the only sensible thing to do. There's no way any decent Aussie airline would charge you extra for your cricket kit. Bring a couple of pairs of boots ... if you trundle in hard, you'll always wear out the boots ...
Can Tony Abbott, and his immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, change all this in office? Morrison, Abbott's most successful frontbencher, has effectively won the debate on the government's performance because the facts were on his side - this is a woeful policy failure. But the challenge of fixing it will be immense. Because the Gillard government has applied a succession of confused half-measures, all of which have been ineffective, they have demonstrated the government's lack of will, strategic confusion and operational incompetence. Forcing the people-smugglers to unlearn these lessons will be very hard work indeed.
Now don't worry. Tony and Scott love a good cricketer. Anyone who can help defeat the Poms is a friend. Just don't go anywhere near Indonesia. They don't really like cricket in Indonesia. Funny kind of country. In the sense of funny peculiar. Don't get upset. It's a Tamworth joke. They love cricket in Tamworth. Same as Tony and Scott. They vote for cricket in a trice. It sends a message to the sub-continent ...
The opposition's approach has four pillars: turning back the boats where possible; offshore processing where possible so the reward of getting to Australia is unavailable; temporary protection visas with no family reunion rights and work-for-the-dole requirements for minimum welfare payments; and regional co-operation.
Abbott and Morrison's regional co-operation is the opposite of Labor's. Gillard's vision of regional co-operation is fast processing and rapid resettlement so that people don't need to take boats. This is a disastrous approach. It will guarantee many, many tens of thousands more people using smugglers, and it is unappealing to the region.
Yes, all that and possibly more, but remember an ability to handle a six stitcher opens doors better than saying sesame seeds on a singularly sickening serve of fast food. Which you'll develop a taste for in due course ...
The Abbott-Morrison vision is the opposite: regional co-operation to deter and exclude illegal arrivals. The region is highly sympathetic to this as it is what almost all regional countries practise themselves. Nonetheless, Labor's epic policy failure has created a monstrous problem for Australia. If it is not solved Australia will be changed fundamentally in a way that no Australians want.
Except of course the ones that want a decent Australian cricket team.
Oh okay, it might consist of people from India and Pakistan, but where's the harm in that? After all, we pride ourselves on our multiculturalism ...
And so incidentally, we come to the end of Greg Sheridan's epic rant of fear and loathing, prejudice and biliousness, and with not one mention of the Australian cricket team's urgent need for new recruits.
Come on down y'all, and never mind the sickening prejudice and the fear and loathing you might encounter.
Spin that ball and all will be well ... and let's hope you change the nation in wanted ways ... like putting an end to vile prejudice, except when it comes to thrashing the Poms ...