Comment: Unpacking the ‘no advantage’ myth

By Kerry Murphy, Australian National University

In August 2012, the Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers created a new myth in the language of asylum seekers and refugees.

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That was the idea of “the no advantage principle”. It is a variation on the “refugee queue’ myth and is taking on a life of its own. This is because the Government is struggling to explain the fiction of “no advantage” as a fact.

In the Panel Report at 3.49- 3.50 it states:

3.49 Other IMAs not in need of moving to Australia would remain in Nauru until their refugee status is determined and resettlement options are finalised.

3.50 Irrespective of whether IMAs stay in Nauru for the period of their status determination or are moved to Australia, the same principle would apply to all. Their position in relation to refugee status and resettlement would not be advantaged over what it would have been had they availed themselves of assessment by UNHCR within the regional processing arrangement.

Thus the myth begins. The problem is there is no processing time for refugee cases anywhere on the planet. The case takes the time it takes. The reason why some wait years for resettlement is not due to any “queue” or “no advantage test” but simply about quotas. Australia has now increased the total program to 20,000 places, onshore and offshore together. So when the number of visas to be issued is reached in a certain year, other cases are left in an administrative storage until the next visa year begins.

The number of visas and the allocation to various regions can vary from year to year. Some years the priority has been on African cases, sometimes on the Middle East. It is not as if you receive a number and wait for your number to be called. Refugee A’s case may be identified to be in urgent need of resettlement due to the facts of the case, so A may be resettled more quickly than B who arrived at the UNHCR office the same day. Then the next year, C is resettled before B because C is from a minority at high risk due to the new circumstances in the country.

Whatever happens, there is a certain arbitrariness in the process which is why some people come on a boat because they believed that at least their case would be looked at sooner. Hence the “no advantage myth” was created to punish such people. The Minister is unable to say how long the waiting time will be, simply because there are no criteria for working that out.

The “no advantage myth” is now part of the deterrence strategy. It characterises the refugee who comes by boat as bad and makes them wait for an unknown period. You will wait in a tortuous limbo in Nauru or on Manus Island – Australia’s neo colonial centres for refugee warehousing. Or maybe you will wait in Australia on a restrictive bridging visa with no permission to work, wondering when the knock on the door will come and you will be shunted off to Nauru. At least the Temporary Protection Visa (TPV), for all its faults, allowed people to work and look after themselves.

Meanwhile the Opposition is working itself up into a lather over the numbers arriving. The main difference between the Government and Opposition policies is the TPV, everything else – Nauru, offshore processing, Manus Island, is the same. The TPV was introduced in October 1999 and after it was introduced, there was a spike in arrivals, not a decline. There is no objective evidence to support the view that the TPV had any impact on “stopping the boats”.

All the reports on it refer to the serious mental health deterioration it caused while refugees awaited their fate and a chance to reunite with families from whom they had been separated for years.

A flaw in the debate is the focus on ‘stopping the boats’ a main plank in the political debate and also the Panel Report. This is a complex area for policy, and simplistic solutions that fit into 30 second news bytes fail to respect the human rights issues or dignity of all the people involved in this area.

Good policy requires a balance to be struck between competing demands. Good policy does not cave into the populist chant which will only require Governments to become crueller in their treatment of people.

One other aspect of the Panel Report that is more realistic but harder to implement is the call for a regional solution. This is longer term and involves good political will from countries in the region, few of whom have signed the Refugee Convention or other Human Rights Conventions. This process will take a long time, which makes it unattractive to the 24hour news and 3 year election cycles.

Policy development will take longer, and not be the instant reactive policies we have seen in this area since 1989. Meanwhile the conditions for the refugees predictably deteriorate and become more complex and uncertain.

Kerry Murphy is in private practice as a solicitor doing migration cases.


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Australia 0-132 at lunch against Sussex

Phil Hughes made the most of an early life to scratch his way to a valuable half century in Australia’s tour match against Sussex at Hove.

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Ed Cowan also has 50, with the opening pair batting through the first session to get Australia to 0-132 at lunch on day one of the three-day fixture.

With David Warner smashing 193 for Australia A this week, there is plenty of pressure on Hughes (70no) and the other batsmen to perform and cement their spot for the third Test at Old Trafford starting next week.

Cowan (57no), who is captaining the side in the absence of Michael Clarke, is fighting to win his place back for Manchester after being dropped for the second Test at Lord’s.

Coach Darren Lehmann wants batsmen scoring big hundreds, and there are no excuses for the Australians against an attack that’s not throwing a lot at them, and on a tiny field with a lightning-fast outfield.

After Australia won the toss, it wasn’t convincing from Hughes early on, but importantly he survived.

He was dropped at second slip in the seventh over off the bowling of Chris Jordan when he was on 22.

Sussex fast bowler Jordan (0-39) had his measure for much of the first 10 overs.

Hughes edged past the slips on a number of occasions and was lucky to miss a few pokes outside his off stump.

But before lunch he started to find his groove, and has 11 boundaries.

So far this Ashes tour, Hughes has batted in every position in the top six.

Versatility-wise it’s good for the 24-year-old that he’ll be considered anywhere in the line-up, but it also reflects his vulnerability.

Hughes made a mature 81 not out in the first innings at Trent Bridge, playing an assist role to Ashton Agar.

But since then he’s looked ordinary in making 0, 1 and 1.

Cowan had a few sketchy moments early, but settled in nicely to find the fence eight times.

The 31-year-old looked more content to bat time, unlike his rash moments at Trent Bridge.

Pressure will be on Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith who are due in at No.3 and 4.

Both have a half century each from the first two Tests, but their positions are far from sewn up.

Former England spinner Monty Panesar had figures of 0-35 from nine overs and holds out hope of playing Ashes cricket if Graeme Swann gets injured or the home side decide to play two spinners at any stage.

Australia selected 20-year-old Ashton Turner to make his first-class debut.


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North Korea dismisses talk of reform

Kim, believed to be in his late 20s, took the reins of power in December following the death of his father, longtime ruler Kim Jong-Il.

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Speculation of impending change was fuelled earlier this month when the communist regime sacked prominent military chief Ri Yong-ho and replaced him with a little known general and promoted Jong-Un to the top military post of Marshal.

The secretive nation also made a rare announcement last week that the young ruler is married, in a major departure from the past when the private lives of his predecessors were kept under wraps.

Seoul commentators claimed the changes may have been implemented to set the stage for possible efforts by Swiss-educated Kim to open up the country to political or economic reforms.

But a spokesman for the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea, which is in charge of cross-border affairs, blasted such hopes as “ridiculous” and “ignorant” in an interview with state-run KCNA on Sunday.

“The puppet group (the South)… tried to give (the) impression that the present leadership of the DPRK (North Korea) broke with the past. This is the height of ignorance,” he said.

“To expect policy change and reform and opening from the DPRK is nothing but a foolish and silly dream, just like wanting the sun to rise in the west.”

He also accused Seoul of trying to impose its capitalist system upon the North by “trumpeting reform and opening”, adding, “there cannot be any slightest change in all policies” of the communist state.

Kim inherited from his father an economy in ruins after decades of mismanagement, and a malnourished population dependent on foreign food aid.

Educated in the West, he has been seen as potentially more receptive than his father to undertaking sweeping reforms which would open up the nation’s crumbling economy.

However, the International Crisis Group (ICG) thinktank said last week that there was nothing to suggest that Kim would take measures to improve the lot of his impoverished people in the isolated state.

The Brussels-based ICG said that economic reform — however necessary to the country’s wellbeing — would contradict the centrally-planned system espoused by Kim’s father and grandfather.

Inter-Korea ties have been particularly icy since the South’s conservative leader Lee Myung-Bak took office in 2008, repeatedly urging the North to reform and saying reunification was imminent, despite complaints from Pyongyang.


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Afghans ‘met Taliban leader in Pakistan jail’

The representatives visited Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a powerful Taliban military chief who has been described as the insurgents’ second in command, and discussed peace negotiations with him, the official said.

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Baradar, whose 2010 arrest in Pakistan was blamed for sabotaging peace initiatives, is the most important Taliban leader held in prison and was known as a trusted aide to the militants’ elusive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

“Afghan government officials and members of Afghan embassy in Pakistan held secret talks with him (Baradar) in prison two months ago in Pakistan,” Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, a member of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council told AFP.

“They talked to him about peace negotiations.

“The Afghan government has also asked the Pakistani authorities to release him because he has shown interest in peace talks with the government of Afghanistan,” Qasimyar said.

At the time of his arrest the Afghan government and the former UN envoy to Afghanistan said his detention had adversely affected efforts to talk to the insurgents in a bid to end the decade-long war.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry confirmed Friday that it was in talks with Afghanistan on Baradar’s release, but a senior security official told AFP that no decision had been reached to free him.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has long sought to negotiate with the Taliban but the Islamist militia has in public refused to deal with his administration, branding it an American puppet.

Earlier this year the Taliban also announced they had abandoned contact with US officials aimed at securing a prisoner swap as a first step towards peace talks in the Gulf state of Qatar.

Pakistan has said it will do anything required by Kabul to support an Afghan-led peace process, but there is a wide degree of scepticism in Afghanistan and the United States about the sincerity of the former Taliban ally.

The United States leads a 130,000-strong NATO force against the Taliban, who were toppled from power in a 2001 invasion for harbouring Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.


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Soward to stay in London

Playmaker Jamie Soward has promised to stay on and help London Broncos restore some pride in the remaining weeks of the Super League season.

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The struggling Broncos signed the Australian on a short-term contract in June with a hope he could propel them into the Challenge Cup final.

Those dreams were ruthlessly shattered by Wigan as the Londoners, who have endured a torrid league campaign, were thrashed 70-0 in their semi-final at Leigh Sports Village.

That led some cynics to suggest Soward, who is joining Penrith Panthers next season after being released by St George-Illawarra Dragons earlier this year, may not see out the season in the capital.

The 28-year-old insists that will not be the case.

He told Press Association Sport: “No, I’m not that kind of person.

“We were pretty embarrassing, I’m embarrassed – we had prepared good all week.

“But we’ll go home and prepare for Leeds on Thursday.

“It’s about respect now, trying to get some respect and pride back in the jumper.

“For all the people here, the owner David (Hughes), trying to show them some pride for the next couple of weeks.

“It’s not even about getting off the bottom of the table, just playing for pride.”

London have won just three of their 22 Super League fixtures this season and are three points off Salford at the bottom of the competition.

Problems surfaced in June when captain Craig Gower quit the club and his replacement as skipper, homegrown product Tony Clubb, recently said he also wanted to leave because he was “sick of losing”.

This has come against a backdrop of poor attendances at the Twickenham Stoop and uncertainty over where the club will be located next season.

Once again, there have also been questions over whether the whole concept of a Super League team in London is viable, particularly with the competition considering a restructure.

Soward, even though he will not be there next season, feels that attitude is much too defeatist.

He said: “For England to compete against Australia consistently you have got to grow the game.

“There is no point having it all up north, you have to have it everywhere.

“It is easy to say London finished last (get rid of them), but how are you going to beat Australia and be competitive?

“There are some good youngsters here, and this is part of the experience.

“Wigan are a well established club with lots of depth and they showed how to play for 80 minutes.”

Aside from some good possession early on, the error-prone Broncos were never in the contest against the Warriors, conceding 12 tries to suffer defeat by a record margin in a Challenge Cup semi-final.

Pat Richards set an individual record by scoring 30 points with 11 goals and two tries.

Soward said: “The first 15 was how we wanted to start but when you play against a good side like that you can’t play like that – penalties, missed tackles. We’re all guilty of it.

“It snowballed after that.