The Tampa affair
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Wednesday, 07 November 2001

The following was oublished in the Australian Financial Review of & Novemebr, 2001.

Clearly constitutional monarchisits will not have one view on these matters- no should they. But many suporters asked me my view, which was the subject of this opinion piece . In offering this, I stress it is not ACM's view-it is the view of one ACM supporter.

There were two reactions to the government’s handling of the Tampa incident. 
One was the overwhelming support of the public.  The other was the overwhelming
condemnation of the nation’s opinion leaders."

"Rather than this dichotomy, the nation is better served by consensus.
Self-government, federation, the world wars and post war immigration are
examples.  It is of course in the nature of any elite that they believe
themselves endowed with greater wisdom.  Unfortunately that is not always so. 
The infatuation of many with Marx is an example.  In France in the sixties there
was an extraordinary and now embarrassing adulation of Mao’s Little Red Book! 
Australia’s elites were at their best in the eighties in achieving economic
reform.  The Government and opposition were in agreement and the nation accepted
their leaderships, at times reluctantly.  But when a great part of the elite
tried to impose a cultural agenda – a new flag, reconciliation beyond the
practical, and the republic – they failed.  And the public got it right over
East Timor, while the elites were in denial.

More recently almost all of the opinion leaders were motivated by compassion for
the unauthorised entrants.  But the public believed those already in the queue,
in the refugee camps, living in fear of persecution and who have observed all
the proper rules must surely have priority.  This is not playing the “race
card”.  It is confirming the obvious – that Australia decides the rules about
who is to come into this country.  And those rules are fair and generous – and
they are not at all discriminatory.

Most critics did not accept the popular fear that what was a trickle could
easily have become a flood.  Australia is a very attractive country, and the
chances of a favourable assessment were – at least until Parliament finally
agreed to act – very high.

So without the government drawing the line, the influx would have grown until
the total number of unauthorised entrants would be substantial.  The charge on
the Federal Budget would be in the billions.  At some point, some of the opinion
leaders who are now so critical of John Howard would begin to think the
unthinkable.  That is, that the flow of ships from Indonesia would have to be
stopped.  Would that point be at 100,000 people, 200,000, 400,000, or half a
million?  At what stage would the opinion leaders decide that open entry was no
longer a viable policy?

At some stage the flow would lead to significant and serious instability in
Australian society.  It is not hard to think of examples in other countries.

So when would John Howard’s usually verbose critics have drawn the line?  Most
were unusually coy about indicating the number of unauthorised arrivals they
would propose.

Pressed on this, Senator Stott Despoja, indicated she would increase the quota
by the amount of … 4000!  (ABC TV, 25 September).  That wouldn’t put a dent in
the trade.  I do not know what quota Senator Bob Brown  and the Greens propose,
but given his and the Democrats opposition to the government’s actions, you must
begin to wonder what ever happened to “zero population growth”.

A few critics opt for virtually open entry.  Republican leader, Greg Barns said
(Sydney Morning Herald, 26 September) Australia must “lift its refugee intake
massively.”  He approves of the free movement of people as an extension of
globalisation.  And he thinks there’s no need for Australians to be consulted on
this.  Both Labor and the Coalition must “lead and educate public opinion, not
pander slavishly to it.” 

In any event, a clear signal has now gone out to the smugglers that they will no
longer able to deliver what they have promised – free entry to Australia where
there would be a strong likelihood that a generously funded refugee status would
be granted - whether or not the client is a genuine refugee.

It is estimated around four or five thousand clients in the pipeline.  These are
people they have induced to come to Indonesia or possibly Malaysia with the
promise of easy entry into Australia with generous assistance from the
Australian taxpayer.  The smugglers are under enormous pressure to test
Australia’s resolve before the monsoons.  It is patently ridiculous to say that
because of movement from this pipeline, the policy has failed.  And it is
defamation bordering on the criminal to suggest that because an unseaworthy
vessel sinks in Indonesian waters with a tragic loss of life, and with possible
Indonesian police involvement, this is the fault of the Australian government or
of the Australian people."