Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Get tough or prepare for a flood

By Philip Ruddock - posted Thursday, 15 October 2009

As an island continent, Australia is uniquely positioned to ensure that the government of the day determines migration programs that reflect the desires of the Australian community; namely, to accommodate migrants with skills, those with close family ties, and humanitarian entrants with a high need for protection.

From time to time some people believe that they can bypass reasonable checks and selection criteria to obtain an outcome to which they might not otherwise have been entitled. People smugglers have seen opportunities to profit in these circumstances.

While all governments loudly proclaim that they determine who enters and settles in Australia, they should be judged by their record rather than their rhetoric.


Like its predecessors, the Howard government was faced with the challenge of unauthorised border arrivals. Yet for almost half a decade it managed to bring people-smuggling to an end. There are a range of measures that can be taken to contain people-smuggling. Some involve high levels of international co-operation and others involve domestic policy settings.

The Rudd Government would have Australians believe that the pursuit of international co-operation is sufficient. The deployment of immigration officials and police abroad, dialogue with other nations and even advertising campaigns are not new strategies. The Howard government used them all. In reality, however, the only measures that worked were domestic in character.

These included the return to Indonesia of a number of vessels destined for Australia, the implementation of the so-called Pacific solution with the co-operation of Nauru and Papua New Guinea, and humane mandatory detention for those who reached Australia.

The detention enabled the consideration of claims for protection or other reasons to remain in Australia, as well as character, security and health checks. It meant detainees were available for processing and for removal if necessary.

Further, if a detainee was found to be a refugee, temporary protection was offered rather than a permanent migration outcome, to limit the consequential family reunion.

Border security was, is and always will be difficult public policy.


The Rudd government appears to have walked away from its responsibilities and the promises it made during the last election campaign to maintain robust border security. This abdication of responsibility is putting people's lives at risk, forcing them into the hands of people-smugglers whom Kevin Rudd himself has described as "the vilest form of human life".

The Rudd government maintains that the increased number of unauthorised boat arrivals is unrelated to its winding back of the Howard government's border security arrangements. It argues that softening border controls has not become a pull factor for illegal immigration to Australia. Rather, it points to increased push factors due to a global increase in displaced people and refugees. This argument is seriously flawed.

During the Howard administration the UN High Commissioner for Refugees identified more than 24million people as refugees. Its most recent reports suggest that number has fallen to little more than 11 million.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

First published in The Australian on October 14, 2009.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

88 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Philip Ruddock was attorney-general and minister for immigration and multicultural and indigenous affairs in the Howard government, and is the Liberal member for Berowra.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Philip Ruddock

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Philip Ruddock
Article Tools
Comment 88 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy