Scott Morrison and the politics of fear

Scott Morrison- Liberal Party shadow Immigration minister, family man, churchgoer- and increasingly it seems, Australia’s answer to Joseph McCarthy. In his role, Morrison has been at the forefront of the Coalition’s relentless pursuit, and manipulation of the issue of asylum seekers, particularly those arriving by boat. This week’s proposal, that communities be informed of asylum seekers moving in, and that asylum seekers be subject to so-called ‘behaviour protocols’ whilst residing in the community is yet another step in the continuing vilification of asylum seekers by the Coalition for political purposes.

One of the fundamental misconceptions about asylum seekers is that what they are doing is illegal, hence the popular term ‘illegal immigrant’. Yet under international law they are completely within their rights to seek asylum. However, Morrison and the Coalition actively seek to exploit this misconception. This week’s proposal is a particularly heinous example. What Morrison effectively proposes is lumping asylum seekers, primarily Tamils fleeing persecution in Sri Lanka or Afghani Hazara fleeing the Taliban, who have committed no crime, with murderers and sex offenders. And don’t think that Morrison et al don’t know that people will draw this link. Ever since the ‘Children Overboard’ affair in 2001, the Coalition has repeatedly and cynically exploited asylum seekers for votes. But this is a new low.

What then, specifically of Scott Morrison? He has been very effective on the asylum seeker issue. His methods have however been, to be generous, morally questionable. Firstly, he questioned the cost of flying asylum seekers to the funerals of loved ones who died in the Christmas Island boat tragedy. On a broader level, he has spoken of exploiting the issue of Muslim immigration for political gain. And now this. Clearly, the Honorable Member for Cook is either a politician with few qualms about how he wins votes. Or he has some sort of personal hang up with asylum seekers, whether that be their skin colour or beliefs. Or both. Regardless, he is clearly unfit as a potential future Minister for Immigration and Citizenship.


6 thoughts on “Scott Morrison and the politics of fear

  1. Dacka's Razor

    G’day, just came across your blog, which looks like it is a relatively new venture. Whilst I wholeheartedly encourage participation in the blogging community, I do feel some of your comments are off the mark. With this in mind, I kindly offer the following rebuttal of your post.

    McCarthyism, named after McCarthy, was the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. These accusations were made against US citizens, not asylum seekers, in the Cold War period so I’m not entirely sure how Morrison is channelling McCarthy given this context.

    On the notion of behaviour protocols, please don’t fall unquestionably for Tony Jones’ laughable attempt at a gotcha with Morrison on Lateline to form your opinion on this topic. As illustrated in The Australian’s Cut and Paste segment on 11th March 2013, we all are bound by behavioural protocols in all walks of life. They provide six glaring examples of behaviour protocols that apply throughout Australian life, including ironically the ABC itself. This can be found @

    In terms of the illegality of asylum seekers, you seem to be unaware of Australian migration law. An illegal immigrant is defined in Australian migration law as a person who enters or remains in a country without a valid visa or travel authority, that is with no or with fraudulent documentation. So according to Australian migration law, such people *are* considered to be ‘unlawfully’ or ‘illegally’ in Australia. This distinction has been law for quite some time and has not been changed by the current Government. As most “asylum seekers” wilfully destroy their passports, this act would qualify them to be considered as being “illegally” entering Australia.

    In the research paper “The Problem with the 1951 Refugee Convention”, which can be found in the Parliamentary Library, the authors critique the notion of the exile basis. The paper can be found on the Australian Parliamentary website @ and reads as follows

    “It is the principle of non-refoulement rather than a general obligation to refugees, wherever they are, that is at the core of the Refugee Convention. Rather than asserting the right of individuals to stay home or to return home and enjoy basic human rights, the Convention has thus institutionalised the notion of exile as a solution to refugee problems. Exile is an inappropriate solution to modern refugee problems and in an age of globalisation and regionalisation. The UNHCR advocates resettlement in third countries such as Australia *only in those cases where people cannot be repatriated, or cannot be settled in their (usually neighbouring) country of first asylum*.”

    Central to this criticism is the recognised concept of country of first asylum, which is defined in the Convention as being the first, usually neighbouring country to which a refugee flees. The world’s refugee camps are in countries of first asylum. How can Australia be considered the country of first asylum, given that these people often travel through several neighbouring countries before they embark to Australia?

    If they cannot be repatriated to their homeland, how is that they chose to come to Australia instead of other seemingly more culturally appropriate countries that neighbour their homelands?

    Sorry mate, but as your blog is entitled theramblingsofapoliticalstudent, it would seem that you have quite a bit of study to go before your “ramblings” can be taken as serious comment on issues that you seemingly know very little about.

    Good luck with your continuing studies and blogging.

    1. ramblingsofapoliticsstudent Post author

      Yes indeed it is a relatively new venture, and I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. In relation to the McCarthyism comparison, whilst the specific issues pursued by the two clearly differ, I wish to make reference more generally to the manner in which the two exploited prejudices within the community for political gain. And yes, I agree that we are all bound by behavioural protocols in the form of the legal system. What I find objectionable is imposing additional behavioral protocols only otherwise imposed upon those convicted of serious offences with, in my view the sole purpose of further stigmatising them, again for political gain. As to the illegality of asylum seekers, yes I am well aware of Australian migration law, but it is my personal opinion that our international legal obligations, having signed up to the relevant treaties should trump this. You seem to base the premise upon the statement that “most asylum seekers wilfully destroy their passports”, but you fail to supply any concrete evidence of this beyond the anecdotal, which in my view brings the validitiy of the point into question. In relation to the Parliamentary paper, I would suggest that the individuals I have referred to are entirely appropriate to accept, given that as I outlined in the article they face continued discrimination in their home country as well as in transit countries such as Indonesia. You refer to culturally appropriate countries neighbouring their homelands, but in the case of Hazaras they face continuing threats from the Taliban even in Pakistan.
      As to me personally, my title is intended to, in the Australian spirit, be self depreciating. Yes, I am young and have much to learn about life, but all I really seek to offer is what I feel are comments justified by the facts. As you clearly are, I am well read and informed, and I suspect that our difference of opinion stems not so much from my lack of knowledge, but rather merely from our differing opinions on the issues.

      1. Dacka's Razor

        Thanks for responding, i know what it’s like to start off blogging and one of the best things is when others comment so I thought I would contribute to your blog by posting to get some dialogue going with you.

        Whilst I appreciate your stated angle for the comparison with McCarthy, I would reiterate that your comparison is slightly askew IMO, for as I mentioned, McCarthy was responsible for stirring up prejudices in society, but again he was focussed on trying to paint *existing* US citizens as being sympathisers of Communism, not new arrivals to the US.

        In this context I would argue that if you wanted to look at people who have stirred up prejudices against new arrivals who have been accepted as being legitimate arrivals here in Australia then the obvious choice would be Pauline Hanson, who tried to paint recent foreign arrivals as being detrimental to the national interests.

        If we look at this example of stirring up trouble for new arrivals *already* accepted in our country, then I would point you to Julia Gillard’s and the ALP’s recent demonisation of 457 visa holders, or “foreigners” as Julia Gillard called them, when she promised to put “foreign workers to the back of the queue” to protect “Aussie jobs”. Hanson herself lauded the PM’s sentiments, which seems to be something that has been ignored by members of the Left here in Australia and they have quickly moved on from this thought bubble for fear of the Opposition easily linking the two.

        The Liberals have steadfastly supported the success of the 457 program to provide immigrants with the stepping stone to joining us here in Australia legitimately, and rightly so. That’s how my own family came to Australia after WWII and I can’t see that there is a problem with the contribution that my grandfather and father made to their new homeland.

        In relation to behavioural protocols for “asylum seekers”, there are already existing behavioural protocols inside detention centres and they deal with how people relate to each other, how people relate to the people providing them services and how people deal with the system to which they engage.

        These behavioural protocols are part of the Government’s current migration policy.

        The reason I know about these behavioural protocols in the detention system are from second hand experience.

        My sister in law works for Customs and is part of the assessment process for people who when they are in released the community while they wait for their applications to be processed. These people would normally be in detention if the system wasn’t so completely and utterly compromised by the massive overload of people coming to Australia by boat.

        Additionally, another close friend is currently living in Darwin working for the Dept of Immigration in one of the detention centres up north, and she confirms that there are indeed strict behavioural protocols that govern not only the behaviour of the people in detention, but also the behaviour of those support agencies that look to support these people, of which she is one of many.

        What Morrison was discussing was the establishment, or rather the extension of these existing detention protocols for *people who would otherwise be in detention*. I will concede that he didn’t explain his position well in his initial doorstop, but he did clarify his position several times in follow up discussions with the media.

        Morrison explained in more detail his position, and that of the Opposition, in a subsequent interview on Sky News, a transcript of which can be found @

        The pertinent statement by Morrion on the establishment of protocols for those people who are placed into the community, despite not being cleared or having their refugee status confirmed is this:

        Let me give you an example, let me give you an example. One of the issues that needs to be managed when people go into this temporary accommodation over a six week period is that there are a number of beds that are available in that temporary accommodation. Now an obvious behavioural protocol is that you would only have the number of people staying in your room that were supposed to be in your room.

        Now these sorts of protocols are helpful to people because when they’re going out of detention and they’re going out of the community, some guidelines that help them understand how they’re supposed to use those services, how they’re supposed to interact with the people providing them with those services, these are all commonsense things.

        So don’t put three people in a room for two, is essentially the behavioural protocols you’re talking about?

        If two people who are supposed to be in a room then there should be two people in that room. Now this is just a for instance David. What I’m suggesting is a behavioural protocol for people who would otherwise be in detention is common sense. Also what is common sense is that the department should know what is an appropriate form of accommodation for people to be put into. Now the government has no idea about what that is.

        You did also talk about police and communities being informed when asylum seekers live in the community.


        I know Tony Abbott when he’s been asked about it this week has said the government should be aware where they’re living. Are you still saying that police and communities should be aware where asylum seekers are living?

        Let me clarify specifically what I mean. Police should be notified in advance when we have people going into this first stage.

        When people are released out of detention, they go into this first stage of accommodation, they’re there for about six weeks and what I said very clearly was that when they go into that accommodation, if that accommodation is where other people are who are part of those facilities whether it’s aged care or universities or backpackers or whatever it is they’re using, then it’s not unreasonable for the other people who are in that facility to be advised that the government is using that facility for that purpose.

        Now the other point is that it helps the police in local areas and I’ve had this feedback David directly from police who are dealing with this issue. It’s helpful for them to know who is coming into their community.

        It’s helpful because that means they are in a position of knowledge to understand who’s about and how they can assist if they need to.

        These protocols I think help the people who are being released into the community as much as it’s putting common sense safeguards in place.

        But not beyond that initial say six week period they’re in some temporary accommodation?

        I never said anything beyond that six week period David that was the hysterical reaction of people who wanted to leap in and make all sorts of (interrupted by Speers)
        Here we can clearly see that Morrison was not comparing “asylum seekers” to murderers or paedophiles whatsoever, that was a case of hyperbolic verbaling of Morrison by those wanting to paint him as a racist.

        All he was proposing was that existing protocols be applied/extended to those that would otherwise be in detention if it were not for the complete collapse of Labor’s border policy, and in the absence of any existing protocols governing those on community release, he was proposing a sensible structure of governance to be developed.

        Again, i stress that the sole reason that these people are not in detention is not because they have been cleared from a security perspective and had their refugee status confirmed, but rather because of the fact that the Government has totally lost control of their own system and can longer house these people in detention. As a result of this policy failure, they are having to house these people in the community BEFORE their applications have been reviewed.

        You seem to put the rights of people who are not Australian citizens above the rights of those people who are Australian citizens. What of *their* rights?

        The situation at Sydney University was a complete farce and if you think that people who are legitimately living in that accommodation solely for the purpose of education, such as students, do not have the right to know that there are others living in that accommodation who would normally in detention then I would seriously question your judgement.

        I lived on campus whilst at Uni and as I was paying a high price to live in what was described and marketed as a secure location, especially for young women living away from home for the first time, I would want and expect to know if there were others living in that accommodation who were not part of the University community. That is not to say that we would demonise them, but rather would be aware of others who may not be covered by the additional behaviour protocols that we, as University students living on campus, were covered by.

        Your comment about the need for International Law to “trump” local jurisdiction does not readily
        consider that there are two modes of thought on this subject, that being Monism and Dualism in International Law. A discussion on these two concepts can be found on Wikipedia

        While I will recognise that Wikipedia isn’t the greatest reference, I urge you to give it a read, as it is in simple layman terms, not that you are a layman but rather that it sums up the complicated arguments well.

        WIKIPEDIA @ @

        Dualists emphasise the difference between national and international law, and require the translation of the latter into the former. Without this translation, international law does not exist as law.

        International law *has to be national law as well*, or it is no law at all.

        If a state accepts a treaty but does not adapt its national law to conform to the treaty or does not create a national law explicitly incorporating the treaty, then it violates international law. But one cannot claim that the treaty has become part of international law.

        Citizens cannot rely on it and judges cannot apply it and as such National laws that contradict it remain in force.
        The other thing that I will raise is that the UN Convention of Refugees is *not* law, but rather a *convention*, which opens up another can of worms in that while Conventions are meant to be observed, but area only “gentlemen’s agreements” that can and have been ignored throughout time.

        Whether this is right or wrong is not the issue, but rather it signifies the rather grey area that this Convention resides in relation to both domestic and international law.

        On the “anecdotal” evidence of “asylum seekers” destroying their papers, again I would point to my two examples of second hand knowledge that I provided above, as well as several articles in The Australian from last year that address this very subject.

        The anecdotal evidence as you put it has been provided by the “asylum seekers” themselves, and is supported by Immigration officials such as my sister in law and good friend working within the Dept of Customs and Dept of Immigration respectively.

        First article – Asylum con sees papers torn up

        An Iranian refugee who arrived in Australia in 2010, who wants to be known only as Sam, admitted destroying his passport on his boat trip from Indonesia.

        “There were rumours on the boat when we were travelling to Christmas Island that (the authorities) would identify people with a passport and they’ll be sent back home,” Sam said.

        “That’s why I ripped up my passport and threw it away. I’m speaking on behalf of most asylum-seekers that it’s not that they want to confuse the government about their identity, it’s that they get the wrong impression from the smugglers.”


        Second article – Lost at sea: 37 of 3237 boatpeople had passports

        Of the 3237 asylum-seekers who admitted to flying to Indonesia on a passport, 3200 did not have any travel documents when they arrived in Australia.

        People-smugglers routinely advise their clients to discard their identity documents before arriving in Australia.

        The information is based on admissions made by asylum seekers during their initial entry interviews with officials (such as my sister-in-law and friend working in the detention centres)


        In relation to the notion of not being safe in neighbouring countries, I do take your point that there may still be dangers and problems for some of these countries such as Pakistan but I would argue the toss with you about discrimination in places like Indonesia and Maylasia, which are some of the most populated Muslim countries in the world.

        Perhaps the discrimination they face in those countries is not based on their political beliefs but rather their culturally specific form of Islam, which is markedly different to that observed in those countries I mention. I base this on the fact that I have several friends residing in those countries who confirm to me that there is a degree of animosity displayed for these differing perspectives of Islam that reside on both sides of the fence.

        Finally, I totally agree with your notion of the Australian spirit of self deprecation but I do feel that your take on “facts” does seems to be somewhat coloured by the sources that you may likely be getting these “facts” from and your political leanings.

        Your piece IMO is not a factual account of the situation but rather your opinion based on your analysis of information and other peoples opinions. This is an important distinction.

        While we can have a difference of opinion, I think that the contrary positions that I have presented above indicate that not only are we differing in opinions but also our sources of information and depth of analysis of that information.

        I would urge you to read even more widely than you do now, even if it is from the side of the ideological divide that you may not like, or appreciate. I try to do this as much as possible because it allows us to have a small window into the way of thinking of your “opponents” (for want of a better word) and understand their arguments better.

        Doing so will also provide you with better angles to write from, acknowledge differing points of view and forming sensible rebuttals of those points of view from the basis of fact not inflammatory rhetoric.

        I hope that you continue to develop your writing and thinking on these complex yet important topics, just as I continue to try to do with my own.

        Keep on punching and fighting for what you believe in but more importantly keep on questioning everything, as it will hold you in good stead.

        Cheers… Dacka

  2. Ian

    There’s something eerie about your response Dacka. Can’t quite put my finger on it… ‘damning with faint praise’ is the nearest I can get.

    You demonstrate a surprising ignorance of culture if you think asylum seekers can just set up shop in the first ‘friendly’ country they get to. The place they seek refuge must be a signatory to the UN Convention (otherwise there is nothing to stop them being abused and harrassed). The only countries in that position between here and Afghanistan are Cambodia and East Timor. Are you seriously suggesting our asylum seeker problem should be offloaded to desperately poor countries like that?

    Re ‘rights of non-citizens’ being more than Australian citizens, sorry mate, another straw man. I didn’t see that anywhere in RoaPS’s statement. And as to international law trumping domestic law, are you saying that Australia should not be a world leader? That we should turn in on ourselves and become an international pariah (which we would do by seceding from the Convention)? That would be even worse than North Korea (or even the US refusing to recognise the International Court in the Hague). Australia is one of the richest countries in the world. We have nothing to fear from a few pathetic refugees who make it to our shores. And please don’t introduce leaky boats into the argument; if we wanted to prevent drownings at sea, we’d fly them in from jakarata. Simple as that.


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