What if Indonesia won’t take back asylum shoppers?

The federal Coalition, led by Tony Abbott, has made much of their determination to put a stop to the perpetual invasion of asylum seeker boats making their way into Australian sovereign territory, on their way to the Land of Milk and Honey, which is how those seeking asylum, undoubtedly view Australia as being.

With the Rudd, and now Gillard Labor governments failing so pathetically on the asylum boats issue, it’s undoubtedly a major reason why the Coalition is so far ahead in the polls, and seems destined to become the new Australian government in September.

There’s no doubt that, historically, the Coalition has a far superior record than Labor when it comes to stopping the boats. Their “Pacific Solution” meant providing asylum seekers with only temporary protection Visas, having offshore detention at Nauru, preventing many asylum seekers coming to the mainland, and being prepared to turn boats around. This had a combined effect of slowing what was once a flood of boats in John Howard’s early years, in the late 1990s, to an eventual mere trickle from 2001-2007, once the Coalition government finally got their house in order.

Abbott has talked big, and made much of his apparent willingness to turn back boats to Indonesia, “when it is safe to do so”. But will it simply be a matter of the Coalition being able to reinstate previous policies? This would depend entirely on Indonesia once again cooperating with Coalition policy, as they were prepared to do so in the past.

Of course it’s true that most of the asylum boats are Indonesian, captained and crewed by Indonesian seamen, who probably have a primary job as being some of Indonesia’s endless number of fishermen or traders. These seamen-turned-people-smugglers are undoubtedly making a nice little earner for themselves on the side, ferrying asylum shoppers all the way into Australian waters, where they can be picked up by Australia’s HMAS Taxi Service.

Indonesia is an economically poor nation, or perhaps more correctly, an empire, made up of 17,000 islands (11,000 inhabited). It has an estimated population of 210 million people, made up of hundreds of different ethnic groups. There is 1,235,520 square miles of ocean is within Indonesia’s borders.

When looked at in this context, it’s probably easy to understand why, with its limited navy, stopping a few dozen fishing boats, each containing a few dozen people or more on their way to Australia, has probably never been a huge priority for the Indonesians.

But thanks to Julia Gillard and Christine Milne rolling out the red carpet for the asylum shoppers, all the way from Asia at the one end, to the great Centrelink offices in Australia at the other end, it’s no longer just Australia who has a bit of a problem.

Australia’s detention centres are now overflowing, and the budgeting for asylum shoppers has blown out by billions. But, thanks to Australia dangling such a great big juicy carrot for the asylum shoppers, Indonesia’s thirteen immigration detention centres are now full also.

Of course those bright sparks in the so-called “Expert Panel” Houston Committee recommended that if Australia actually INCREASED our legal refugee intake, it would have the effect of slowing down the stream of boats. So in August 2012, the Gillard Labor government substantially increased our legal refugee intake by a whopping 40% to 20,000 per year. So that’s 20,000 more culturally incompatible, mostly Muslim, third world immigrants into Australia every year.

The Houston Committee had also recommended reopening a processing centre at the island of Nauru, where the government there was once again happy to oblige Australia. But lo and behold, the Houston Committee has been proven disastrously wrong in their predictions.

Since reopening Nauru and increasing our legal refugee intake, now more boats than ever are coming. In the last financial year, people from 33 different countries have arrived via asylum boats, including from African sources Somalia, The Congo Republic, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Gambia, Mali and Algeria.

In reality, the effect of providing for asylum seekers works like what could be called The Seagull Effect. That’s because it’s very much like feeding chips to seagulls. The more chips you throw, the more seagulls will flock, looking for a feed of chips.

Tony Abbott has sworn black and blue that the Coalition will be able to work with the Indonesians, and that Australia will be able to tow boats back to Indonesia. Abbott has apparently made it a priority that he will visit Indonesia within weeks of his election, and work out a deal with the Indonesian president, promising God knows what to Indonesia, to ensure that they cooperate to stem the flow, and not make the Coalition look as foolish as Labor has on the boats issue.

But the Coalition may have a bit of a problem. Recently, Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Nadjib Riphat Kesoema said asylum seeker boats should be turned back to other countries, not to Indonesia.

“Indonesia is a transit country and also the victim of this situation. I think it’s not possible for the coalition to say that it has to go back to Indonesia because Indonesia is not the origin country of these people,” he said.

Unlike Australia, Indonesia has been smart enough not to burden themselves with being a signatory to the UN Treaty on Refugees. And they’re not likely to welcome added burdens upon their own country, as we’ve already created an asylum problem for them as well.

It may be substantially more difficult for Australia to turn back boats than it once was. Nowadays there are more women and children on the asylum boats, whereas previously it was mostly single men. And the asylum shoppers have learned a few tricks over the years, sabotaging their own boats, threatening crew, and using emotional blackmail against Australia. It’ll be interesting to see if turning back a boat will ever “be safe to do so”. Don’t be surprised if there’s another ugly “Tampa” incident or two. And that will put Abbott under considerable heat.

Former Howard government immigration minister Phillip Ruddock said back in April “What we are dealing with is a situation very much more difficult because of the numbers involved and the expectations,” he said. Meanwhile Labor insists that the Coalition will not be able to stop the boats.

The Australian Protectionist Party maintains that Australia must withdraw from the outdated UN Treaty on Refugees, and put a stop to the asylum boats farce once and for all. The boats can certainly be stopped. All it takes is political will.

Indonesia won’t agree to coalition policy to turn asylum seeker boats around, ambassador says”, Adelaide Now, 31 May 2013
Indonesia says asylum policies won’t stop boats”, ABC News, 2 November 2012 (George Roberts)
Interview with Peter van Onselen and Paul Kelly, Australian Agenda, Sky News”, Tony Abbott, 21 April 2013
Asylum boat arrivals strain Australian detention centre capacities”, News.com.au, 6 May 2013 (Gemma Jones)
Jakarta may lock up boatpeople”, The Australian, 23 July 2010 (Stephen Fitzpatrick)
Offshore processing won’t make a difference: Indonesian detention centre boss”, AM programme (ABC News), 2 November 2012 (George Roberts)
No room for towed back detainees”, The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 October 2012 (Michael Bachelard)
Australia to boost refugee numbers”, The Telegraph (UK), 23 Aug 2012
Republic of Indonesia”, Encyclopedia of the Nations
Iranians now Australia’s leading nation of asylum seekers”, News.com.au, 1 April 2013 (Jessica Marszalek)
It’s time to rock the boat on offshore processing”, The Punch, 14 February 2013(Paul Power)
Fears raised of new asylum surge as two African boats intercepted in two days”, News.com.au, 27 May 2013 (Gemma Jones)
Indonesians will help us turn the boats back, says Tony Abbott”, News.com.au, 3 June 2013 (Lanai Scarr)
The consequences of turning boats back: SIEV towback cases”, Crikey, 7 November 2011 (Amber Jamieson)
Asylum-seeker stats reveal success of John Howard’s policy”, The Australian, 12 September 2012 (Cameron Stewart)
Howard Government” [Asylum seekers section], Wikipedia
Australia will be paying $70,000 for each asylum seeker that arrives”, News.com.au, 3 June 2013 (Gemma Jones)
Coalition faces tough job to stop the boats: Ruddock”, ABC News, 12 April 2013 (Simon Cullen and Jane Norman)
Abbott abandons his ‘stop the boats’ promise”, Brendan O’Connor MP [Minister for Immigration and Citizenship], 11 April 2013
Tony Abbott admits ‘danger’ of turning back boats policy”, The Australian, 21 April 2013 (Rick Morton)
Smugglers cram more women, kids on to boats”, The Australian, 8 May 2013 (Paul Maley and Paige Taylor)


  1. UN Treaty on Refugees ….. Tear it up and be done with it. Its purely a method of genocide to every western country.

  2. Every dollar spent processing illegal arrivals is one less dollar for health, education, aged care and research. These people arrive with little or no skills and no job prospects, therefore all the bleeding hearts and idealistic youth spend their tax dollars on supporting them instead of homeless Australians although the asylum seekers have paid not one cent in tax!

  3. In the seven years since the Labor government took power, more than 33,000 people have arrived or attempted to arrive in Australia via boat, 25,600 since the last federal election.( Big Pond Money) Thousands of goodly people in refugee camps the world over follow Australia’s application process and are at the head of the queue. People Smugglers and the people who pay them, pervert justice and are queue jumpers. An estimated $1,044,167,000 was spent by Australia in 2012 managing these criminals. Here is the solution: Any person who attempts to pervert justice by attending to Australian shores without following legal channels, will immediately, no questions asked, be put upon the next available consumer air service and transported to the nearest international terminal of origin. No airline would refuse $2500.00 per airfare paid by Australian taxpayers. Cost? Only about $1.25 million. More appropriately, let us then spend the resultant savings upon people and families at the front of these queues. Upon Education, Sports, healthcare, infrastructure manufacturing and lowering taxes. Let’s use the savings to create jobs so more hard working immigrants can be processed through the front, at the fair rates of pay Australia stands for, building a better life for all Australians.

  4. The NRMA of our northern waters- our patrol boats-need to employ mechanics on board with sufficient tools and repair equipment on board for when boats ‘break down’. Carry fuel and food on board to supply them,then bid them farewell. This takes away any excuse to not turn the boats around,and in all likelihood, is far cheaper than sending them to detention, followed by Centrelink.

    As for Indonesia not accepting the boats back, well they did come from there……..
    The cost to care for each ‘refugee’ should be deducted from Indonesia’s aid handout(why we give them anything, I don’t know).

    As a voter and a taxpayer I feel I have a right to know how many refugees have been returned home, and how many we’re still paying for.

    Finally, I don’t care if they’re here legally or not. Getting here thru the ‘proper channels dosn’t make them any less Muslim. They’re still incompatible with our culture, customs and way of life. The silent majority do NOT want them.

  5. Also. Any further boats to come should come out of the aid australia pays to them

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