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Tony Abbott and the Syrian refugee crisis

Written By: - Date published: 8:49 am, September 10th, 2015 - 75 comments
Categories: australian politics, Europe, International, john key, national, Syria, uk politics, war - Tags:

Joe Hockey Tony Abbott

I posted earlier noting New Zealand’s and the United Kingdom’s change of position relating to the Syrian Refugee crisis.

Yesterday Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia known affectionately by many as dickhead also did something unusual.  He changed position from four days ago and acted in a humanitarian manner and announced that Australia would accept 12,000 Syrian refugees over four years over and above Australia’s refugee quota.  Three days ago he was not budging on refugee numbers.

The latest announcement is impressive.  On a per capita basis each year Australia is taking in three times as many Syrian refugees as New Zealand is.  It is hard to imagine how Abbott could be so much more humanitarian than smile and wave.  It makes New Zealand’s altered response look very weak.

The Australian generosity has been tempered by the selection criteria and by boorish behaviour by some Liberal politicians.  Families from persecuted minorities aka Christian families will be prioritised.  There was this classic put down of George Christiansen who is your typical conservative politician on the subject.

And backbencher Cory Bernardi reached peak idiocy by claiming that the refugees are arriving in Europe for “opportunistic” economic reasons rather than because they fear for their lives and that Abdullah Kurdi sent his family on a boat because he wanted dental treatment.  Bernardi must rely on Cameron Slater for his information.

At the same time as the announcement that Australia will take increased numbers of refugees Abbott announced aerial bombing of ISIS in Syria.  So he gets to stroke both sides of the electorate at the same time.

This appears to me to be a Crosby Textor tactic.  A local example is National’s announcement in the last budget of a $25 per week increase in the benefit for beneficiary families while at the same time onerous requirements were put on solo mothers to find work.  And the English backdown in relation to the Syrian refugee crisis is tempered by a refusal to accept any refugees currently in Europe or to take part in the European Union Refugee quota system that Angela Merkel is trying to establish as well as increased drone strikes on ISIS targets.  And the number announced sounds more impressive but it is for the total number of refugees taken over a number of years.

Paddy Ashdown has been scathing about the English announcement.  From the Guardian:

David Cameron has highly developed skills in the art of following where he should be leading. And so, after being taught an excruciating lesson in compassion, decency and leadership by Angela Merkel, and sensing himself behind opinion again, he has produced a plan to take in 20,000 refugees – over five years. Nothing better shows the PM’s tone deafness to the urgency of the situation than to announce this headline figure, and then add that it will take five years to implement.

Not only is this response calibrated more by political expediency than compassion, he has also indicated he believes the answer to the problem is more bombing. If the best part of two years of bombing with more than enough high explosive hasn’t solved this problem, how would Britain’s widow’s mite of a few extra bombs help? Military strikes against Isis are failing, not because we do not have enough high explosive, but because we do not have a diplomatic strategy on Syria that would make sense of the military action.

But let us first consider Cameron’s refugee “plan”. Not only is he offering a derisory number of places for refugees, but the prime minister chooses to help those who are already safely housed and fed in refugee camps outside Europe, rather than those who suffer (and die too) for want of these things inside Europe. Could it be that the toxic term here is not “suffering”, but “inside Europe”, because of the effect these words have on his backbench Europhobes? If so then – irony of ironies – the desperate and the destitute tramping towards us on the dusty roads of the Balkans are hostages to Cameron’s headbangers, just as he is.

The recent announcements by Abbott and Cameron could be called a win win.  There is something for bleeding heart liberals like me and raw meat for those who think the best solution is to bomb away.

That portion of the electorate who are both discerning enough to understand what is happening and principled enough to be upset are very small.  Basically activists on both sides of the political fence and a few political journalists.  So short term the damage to the base support is minimised although the cynicism created amongst the journalist class is a problem.

There is clearly a pattern here.  In Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand former positions were quickly abandoned when the focus group results were received.  In Australia and the United Kingdom military strikes against ISIS were also announced to make the rabid right feel better.  New Zealand is not in the same position.  I guess John Key will be hoping that the flag referendum will provide a sufficient diversion.

This is interesting politics.  Basically goldilocks politics where the overall position, an average of two conflicting policies, is not too hot, not too cold, and just right.

It is a sophisticated version of the compassionate conservative line that arguably won George Bush the White House in 2000.  I do not think that the left has as yet figured out how to respond.  As a matter of priority it needs to.

75 comments on “Tony Abbott and the Syrian refugee crisis ”

  1. dukeofurl 1

    The same tactic was used by Cameron in UK, the so called targeting of UK national ‘Jihardis’ by drone strikes. Its all public relations with an eye on their hard core right wing constituency.
    Since we dont ( as yet) have active military operations in Iraq ( or arent being told) maybe there will be more changes to GCSB and SIS legislation being prepared ?

  2. tc 2

    Great pic, Tony and his loyal muppets who just keep on providing entertainment and with the likes of Bernadi show Oz yet again what an old fashioned xenophobic born again bunch they actually are.

    Here’s what the OZ version of Joyce said and he’s the bloke looking up on the left
    “As an accountant myself, when you see an accountant walking across the border into Hungary from Syria when his life has been destroyed I feel a sense of empathy for him,”

    So christian accountants should be fine then and these refugees are coming from a conflict Oz begged the US to let them join in on.

    • mickysavage 2.1

      Haha can accountants feel empathy? Or are they like lawyers? 😀

      • tc 2.1.1

        Will not be much of that in Liberal ranks if they do not retain canning on the 19/9.

        Knives are being sharpened as ‘the infrastructure PM’ continues to poll badly and with efforts like this is it any surprise as he doesn’t enjoy great support in or outside canberra.

  3. Chooky 3

    …the refugee humanitarian crisis can not have been part of their plans or end game….i guess this is the irony of Empires…eventually the results of their warmongering have blow back ….and they are confronted with TRAGEDY and the defeated enemy peoples pleading at their gates

    …do they continue with their annihilation and risk being seen for what they are …or show compassion and realise their foreign warmongering policy was was a failure

    ‘Assange to RT: ‘US empire’ planned to overthrow Syrian govt years before uprising’


    “WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has opened up about his new book, ‘The WikiLeaks Files,’ speaking about the ‘US empire’ and telling RT’s ‘Going Underground’ program that Washington had plans to overthrow Syria’s government long before the 2011 uprising began.

    Speaking to ‘Going Underground’ host Afshin Rattansi, Assange referred to the chapter on Syria, which goes back to 2006. In that chapter is a cable from US Ambassador William Roebuck, who was stationed in Damascus, which apparently discusses a plan for the overthrow of the Assad government in Syria…”

    (Assad who was always the enemy of ISIS!…how do you explain that?.
    .. and thus far we are only hearing about Syrian refugees …what about the Libyan refugees?….Libya which was bombed by NATO at the behest of USA, Sarkozy and Cameron and now what was a high functioning, high standard of living country is utterly ransacked and destroyed by the West …. and taken over by ISIS)

  4. The lost sheep 4

    “I do not think that the left has as yet figured out how to respond. As a matter of priority it needs to.”

    Here’s a link regarding a report that came out mid-week on the UK Labour Party defeat. Most of it is equally applicable to the Left throughout the Western World…
    “Labour is today too often seen as an antiquated, class-based party rooted in the past…Labour is perceived as out of touch with the modern age…… the party’s identity is increasingly past its sell-by date.”

    But of course the UK Labour Party is indeed about to lurch both to The Left and back in time. Will this prove the above report right or wrong? Here’s an interesting poll that offers little evidence that The Left are responding successfully this time…
    “While 29 per cent of people think Mr Corbyn offers the best chance of boosting Labour’s election prospects, some 48 per cent name him as the candidate most likely to harm the party’s chances – up from 33 per cent in June”

  5. Chooky 5

    ‘Refugee crisis: Thank God for Germany taking responsibility – the rest of Europe appears to have forgotten the age-old lessons of history’

    by Robert Fisk , ‘The Independent’


    “Thousands of years of our history can be traced via the movements of refugees. Often, they have been welcomed, and the societies receiving them enriched. Yet the same mistakes keep being made. Robert Fisk hopes we get it right this time…

  6. Anno1701 6

    Abbott = Chickenhawk…

  7. CTNZ 7

    This is in response to your comment Mickysavage, “On a per capita basis each year Australia is taking in three times as many Syrian refugees as New Zealand is”. I agree that New Zealand should be increasing their per capita intake as we are amongst the lowest countries and with New Zealand’s annual refugee quota of 750 has not increased since it was first announced in 1987.

    However, in relation to the comparison of Australia’s intake to New Zealand’s, Australia has a much larger land scale , amount of resources and a higher GDP compared to New Zealand. Therefore, they are more suited to increase their refugee intake on the Syrian crisis.

    • mickysavage 7.1

      It does but we are the worst in the developed world per capita. And we are a very empty land.

      • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1

        And we are a very empty land.

        Are you sure about that?

        We presently produce enough food for ~20m people but doing so is destroying our environment. This would indicate that our maximum population level is quite a bit less than 20m. Sure, we’ve only got 4.5m now but what is the maximum number we can support while protecting the environment? I suspect that you’ll find that it’s not much above what we have now.

        • Chooky

          +100 DTB..however imo we do have a compassionate duty to take in refugees ….20,000? ( as opposed to new immigrants….and wealthy ones at that)

        • Ad

          You sound just like the rest of the 1%.

          Just using the Pacific as our own version of a gated community.

          • Draco T Bastard

            The rest of the 1%?

            Which particular 1% are you talking about?

            • Ad

              Just like the super-rich who don’t want those nasties getting into the Great Pure Space of the elite. Any excuse.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Right, so as per normal, you’re talking out your arse.

                Simple fact of the matter is that NZ, and the world, is limited and we need to take that into account when we decide matters. We can’t just let people in willy nilly.

        • marty mars

          “We presently produce enough food for ~20m people”

          Where has that figure come from?

        • weston

          plus it doesnt take much imagination to see that even a mere doubling of our traffic situation would be nightmarish

          • weston

            austalia should take the lot after all 17000 is just window dressing like ours disigned to make us feel better cant help but feel is all total bullshit

        • CTNZ

          New Zealand could increase its refugee intake by allocating more money to refugee re-settlement and lower the intake of immigrants as we should take a moral responsibility to these refugees. Although we do not want to lower our economy during the process of denying educated immigrants because then we won’t be able to help our own citizens as well as the higher increase of immigrants.

  8. Majic Mike 8

    CTNZ weak excuses ,Gutless futile propaganda.
    Australia takes 17× the number of refugees we do,nearly 4× per head of population.
    Now with the abbot announcment ,Australia will be taking 8× per head of population that includes our pathetic increase.

  9. Tracey 9

    Also of interest is that McCully as Security Council Chair derided the other SC members (I think he meant just Russia) for not doing the right thing about Syria… yet down here in the South Pacific, the equivalent of Uk and USA (Key and Abbott) strut about lording it over their lesser weaker neighbors…. anyone else see the irony?

  10. Majic Mike 10

    CTNZ why not call Abbott you could come up with a new line of attack.
    Abbott is a communist bleeding heart liberal.
    But because Abbott is so far behind in the poles ,he has to resort to buying some votes while maintaining his right wing base by bombing Syria.
    Pork barrel politics with a healthy slice of propaganda.

  11. Steve Wrathall 11

    “…the prime minister chooses to help those who are already safely housed and fed in refugee camps outside Europe, rather than those who suffer (and die too) for want of these things inside Europe.”

    Yes, that’s right. A genuine refugee stops at the first safe country. A migrant who then turns up their nose at the modest pickings in Turkey or Jordan &c.and strikes out for the more bounteous offerings in Northern Europe is rightly described as a welfare shopper. Paddy Pantsdown scolds Cameron for not favouring the latter & incentivising more hazardous ocean-crossing.

    • Tracey 11.1

      Are you a real refugee? i ask cos you seem to have lots of insights into how real refugees should behave and think.

      • McFlock 11.1.1

        Steve’s a real something, that’s for damned sure.

        He’s an expert on how safe Jordan and Turkey are for Kurdish refugees, refers to not even being able to get replacement teeth as “modest pickings”, and calls perilous and difficult journeys “welfare shopping”.

        If I had to describe steve, I might lose composure and use all the words that upset Family First.

        • cogito

          “perilous and difficult journeys “welfare shopping”.”

          Beware beware….

          “Aylan Kurdi’s father potentially ‘people smuggler’
          An Iraqi woman says the father of a three-year-old boy whose body washed up on a Turkish beach was a people smuggler.

          A photo of the drowned toddler’s body drew international outrage and attention to the refugee crisis in Syria.

          Aylan Kurdi’s father told the media the captain of the ship jumped overboard when it hit a wave, and then capsized.

          Zainab Abbas’s two children were killed on the boat, and her cousin has translated her story to Australia’s Channel 10.

          “It was Abdullah Kurdi driving the boat,” she says. She says she was assured the trip would be safe as the driver of the boat was going to bring his “two kids and his wife” as well.

          She is now pleading for the Australian government to give her asylum.”


          • McFlock

            still doesn’t contradict where they were from or whether he was trying to get his family out of Turkey.

            So still a perilous and difficult journey, Not welfare shopping or an afternoon jaunt on a boat.

            • cogito

              “Not welfare shopping”

              Of course not, LOL.

              “or an afternoon jaunt on a boat.”

              Just suspected people trafficking leading to multiple deaths.

              • McFlock

                Oh, not “suspected” people trafficking. Traffickers were definitely involved, even by the article you linked.

                But I’m still not clear on what your point is. Is it that smugglers might have cut their costs by having an inexperienced and desperate refugee “captain” the boat? Or that Aylan’s dad thought he’d pay for a family daytrip to Greece by smuggling a few refugees? Or that Aylan’s dad planned to drown his family and a few refugees to get away with it?

                I don’t see how those suppositions, or any other variation, affect the central point: innocent people are dying even after leaving the immediate peril of a war zone simply because the world does not have the systems in place to handle the intercontinental transit of a large number of refugees.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Economic migrants caused the unrest in the first place, so that they’d have refugees to hide amongst. No really, I seen it on Fox.

      • joe90 11.1.2

        Check out his twitter account – he’s a white nationalist.

        • Tracey

          A great reason not to read his twitter account then. He does seem to just spout stuff and run… oblivious to his own privileged situation.

          • Steve Wrathall

            So, no attempt to rebut my point that Europe’s open-door policy produces drownings, just like Australia’s has ended drownings by removing the people smugglers’ inventive. Just the normal vitriol.

            White nationalist? Where’s that one come from?

            • Tracey

              why ask me? I didn’t label you that?

              Have you been a refugee, you haven’t answered my question.

            • McFlock

              removing the people smugglers’ inventive

              [assuming “incentive”]

              Australia should be commended for preventing drownings with intensive maritime surveillance.

              Paying people smugglers to turn around, and detaining refugees in camps with sexual assaults and beatings, on the other hand, should be condemned.

              Concealing the problem of abuse in the camps by making it illegal for people to report those abuses is downright wicked.

              The boats are still operating. People are still trying. They just get picked up by the navy. People smugglers collect cash from the Australians, as well as the refugees.

              • Tracey

                I thought they paid smugglers to take the people back home… opening up a potential incentive to take money from people, float them across, and then get money from Australia to take them back. THATs capitaism at its best baby.

                • Steve Wrathall

                  What are the alternatives?
                  Sink the boats?
                  Tow them back to whereever, offload the people and sink them-How much will that cost in terms of operating a naval vessel?
                  Or just give up like Europe?
                  Condemn them all you want. Australia is following the least bad option.

                  • Tracey

                    I note you haven’t answered my question up there ^^^^ have you ever been a real refugee?

                    • Steve Wrathall

                      I am a citizen, voter & taxpayer and have every right to comment on public policy decisions that affect the country I live in. I do not subscribe to the identity politics that says you must belong to a duly recognised class of victim in order to have any valid opinions on the issuance of government support to that victim class. Your question is irrelevant. The evidence and arguments I have given speak for themselves regardless of who types them.

                    • Tracey

                      evidence? 1 youtube link?

                      do you understand that refugee has a specific meaning?

                  • McFlock

                    “the least bad option”.
                    Well, except for actually treating people with dignity. And keeping them safe when/if you detain them. And maybe not just shifting the problem onto neighbouring countries. And maybe not making it illegal to bring conditions in your camps to public attention.

                    But even with those inadequacies, no, it’s not as bad as (say) just shooting refugees on sight.

                    • Steve Wrathall

                      So, The “give up like Europe” option.

                    • McFlock

                      “give up”?
                      What’s to “give up”?

                      If people were simple economic migrants, as you suggest, it would be no big deal to just put them into the regular migrant process and deport unsuitable migrants.

                      Your “immigration” problem is that these people are genuinely in danger in their country of origin, and frequently in transit countries, so even emotionally-stunted liars like you know that it would be counterproductive to your goals to just send the refugees back to be killed.

                      “Give up”? No, we won’t give up. We won’t give up our humanity just because you don’t understand it. We won’t give up our concern, even if you don’t share it. And we won’t give up our bleeding hearts, even if cocks like you don’t see any money in it.

                    • Tracey

                      thnx mcflock.

                      i dont know why steve has this notion that the drowned kids are the reason for a call to increase our refugee numbers… when the calls started before these children died.

                  • weston

                    more like the most selfish and short sighted option

            • joe90

              Where’s that one come from?

              UKIP, Farage, LibertyGB, Whittle….

              • Steve Wrathall

                None of these organisations or people are “white nationalists”. Seriously, are such pathetic attempts at smear all you have when someone tries to engage in rational debate on the how letting in those who force their way into your country only enriches people smugglers.

    • dv 11.2

      Steve, so that what Key’s mother did?

    • Tracey 11.3

      “A migrant who then turns up their nose at the modest pickings in Turkey or Jordan &c.and strikes out for the more bounteous offerings in Northern Europe is rightly described as a welfare shopper. ”

      So you favour all nations, including us, paying into a fund that sets these folks up in the closest safe place away from their endangered home? You should have just said,

      But when you use terms like “welfare shopper” and “genuine refugees” it appears to be opinion rather than substantiated facts not inviting rebuttal, cos opinions, are well, opinions aren’t they, as opposed to reasoned and substantiated argument of a differing point of view.

      Like the other day when you claimed a person endangered his wife and children cos he wanted new teeth. Although you posted a link, it didn’t substantiate your claim but propagated it. Seemingly ignorant of the assertion he lost his teeth via torture…

      • Steve Wrathall 11.3.1

        How he lost his teeth is irrelevant. He was safe in Turkey and the reasons for risking his family in getting into Europe did not relate to safety but material considerations.

        • Tracey

          You were the one who brought up his teeth, so to speak. Can you post your proof that he was risking his family for new teeth? Proof, as opposed to an assertion by someone?

          Well, the West has to take some responsibility for shoving its affluence down the throats of the world for so long as the ultimate measure of happiness and success… afterall if you are right, these folks are just responding to the advertising.

          • McFlock

            Actualy, one tooth might be neither here nor there, but three or four in a row I’d be starting to consider that an essential healthcare need.

            ISTR Wrathall didn’t say the man wanted new teeth, he said he “wanted his teeth done”, which made it sound like he was a month late for his two year checkup.

          • Steve Wrathall

            So you’re not even denying that the reasons for many migrating are economic, but blaming us for being so successful economically?

            The claims come from his sister . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3e7hJRnEb8

        • mickysavage

          Typical. Attack the individual with an unsubstantiated slur in an attempt to denigrate all 7 million refugees.

          • Steve Wrathall

            This is the “individual” case which is being used to emotionally blackmail us into make bad decisions. It needs to be examined.

            • Ad

              The “emotional blackmail” has been good for us.
              The truth of why we feel emotional about it bears little to do with the facts at all.

              The framing of the dead boy by the MSM is simply forcing a little wedge for immigrants from the poorest into the richest countries. Sure they’re politicising it, and successfully playing our emotions like Rachmaninov on a black grand piano.

              Good. It’s done its’ job. Policy wasn’t working. Sometimes, media politics works better.

            • Tracey

              maybe our bizarre foreign policy and knee jerk rush to say yes to the USA has led us to contribute to what you choose to see as an individual case.

            • mickysavage

              So hundreds of thousands of deaths in the civil war, millions displaced and you attack a call for a humanitarian response attacking the bona fides of an individual case?

        • Anne

          Might I suggest this lowly specimen of humanity called Steve Wrathall be subjected to torture and have his teeth pulled out one after the other without anaesthetic. Lets imagine what that will do to his mouth and the probable infections he has since had to endure. Then when he flees the people torturing him – and loses his entire family in the process – then lets punish him all over again for daring to seek dentures for his no longer existent teeth.

    • McFlock 12.1

      … or someone in Libya just bought more weapons for the war there.

      Surely it’s easier to smuggle from Turkey to literally anywhere on the Med coast, rather than from Libya?

  12. Bill 13

    Well, 12 000 people over four years certainly isn’t my idea of ‘impressive’.

    As Paddy Ashdown notes of Cameron’s 20 000 over five years, it’s derisory.

    In very rough numbers, Australia has a population about one third that of the UK, so if the 12 000 Abbot speaks of is ‘impressive’, then Cameron’s 20 000 must be kind of okay.

    You might want to reflect that the UK would be looking at somewhere in the region of 250 000 if it was at all serious about refugees…so say about 100 000 in the case of Australia and maybe 25 – 30 000 for NZ.

    There’s nothing Cosby and Textor about a government making the minimal concessions it reckons it can get away with, while looking to continue on its preferred course of action (In this instance, killing people in the countries the refugees are coming from).

    So take in ‘some’ refugees (and for god’s sake don’t anyone mention the poor bastards we’ve flung into the middle of nowhere with no services or support) while ratcheting up the war crap.

    Am I to seriously believe that some liberals have been ‘bought off’ or mollified in any way by any of this shit? Because if that’s the case, then we’re fucked – well and truly fucked.

    • mickysavage 13.1

      Impressive only in that it is better than what we or the English is doing and that it is a lot more than I thought Abbott would do.

      • Bill 13.1.1

        I see where your coming from, though I just see crap and inadequate as crap and inadequate. Hmm. I guess there’s always impressively crap and inadequate?

  13. infused 14

    You should actually read some more sources. Shit loads of these people are coming purely for economic reasons.

    Also, Steve is the only one talking sense here. You all have your heads in the sand… all refugees.. jesus. far from it.

    Watch the EU over the next 10 years. It’s going to have a lot of trouble.

    • McFlock 14.1

      Watch the EU over the next 10 years. It’s going to have a lot of trouble.

      you’ve made that sort of dire prediction before.

      But your predictions are derived more from Eric Cartman than any real basis in reality.

      My personal belief is that Europe will continue on as always: a few genuine terrorist cells here, a few sad individuals appropriating the language of power to validate their own pathetic pleas for attention there. Europeans will continue on, so will European terrorists, but without Europeans shitting a global brick every time like the yanks do.

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