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Showing posts from October, 2016

Banning boat arrivals

Three years plus a few months ago, shortly after Kevin Rudd replaced Julia Gillard as Prime Minister and Labor leader and shortly before the ALP was crushed at a federal election, Rudd announced a new refugee policy. No asylum seeker arriving by boat would ever be resettled in Australia.
A couple of days ago, in a policy move that's generating a lot more confusion and tea-leaf-reading than most, Peter Dutton apparently re-announced this policy. That's not exactly what happened, but I think it's the best way to understand it. Dutton was declaring that nobody who arrived by boat would ever be able to come to Australia on any type of visa, including family reunification or even as a tourist. This is an incredibly marginal, basically zero-impact policy change, and if the government really cared about doing this it could just do it. There's no need for fanfare, because the change is so minor. That's why it's better understood as an attempt to get the headlines sayin…

Dangerous questions

Last night Donald Trump was asked whether he'd accept the result of the election, and he refused to say. "I'll keep you in suspense", he said.

If you need someone to explain why this is terrible, you can read one of the many "I can't believe I'm having to say this" pieces that are out this morning about it. But the core problem is that Trump saying this makes it that much more likely that some of his supporters will resort to violence or intimidation on election day and in the days that follow, very probably targeted at people of colour.

It's extremely implausible that Trump is going to refuse to accept the result or lead any kind of agitation after the election. This is a guy who's publicly talked about what a nice life he can return to if he loses, and even mused about resigning immediately after being sworn in. He's going to become some kind of revolutionary leader? I can't see it. Even so, him saying this stuff makes violence aga…

Locker-room talk

Last week, video and audio was released of Donald Trump talking in 2005 about how being famous means you can treat women how you like, including kissing them without their consent or "grabbing them by the pussy", with impunity. There have been several cycles of outrage and apology since then, but Trump's first defence - and one he doubled down on a couple of days later in a presidential debate - was that this was just "locker-room talk", the kind of banter all men have when there aren't women around.

There's been a lot of outrage about this. There's no way this way of speaking about women is defensible, and it reflects a deeply ingrained attitude of objectification towards women in Trump himself and in the society that made him. 'Locker-room talk' is no defence because there is no defence. More than that, after a week of new revelations, we can be pretty sure that for Donald Trump this was not just locker room banter, because he appears to h…

Working out refugee policy

Australian refugee policy has a lot of moving parts, and it's easy to get lost in them. If you listened to the Guardian politics podcast this week, for instance, you might have heard some complaining about the lack of logic in Malcolm Turnbull pledging to accept 5000 refugees from Costa Rica, while continuing to refuse resettlement to the roughly 1200 refugees on Nauru and Manus Island. On the flipside, it's become a regular line on the right that we can't be too generous towards refugees without encouraging more to get on boats and so causing more deaths at sea.

Both of these arguments are confused and misleading. The reality is that Australia is fairly unique among countries in our relationship to the refugee crisis and policies responding to it. For the last year and a half, Germany has operated a generous policy towards asylum seekers which involves letting people who arrive at its borders enter the country to claim asylum, treating them quite well while their claims …