Refugee and Asylum Seeker Policy in the Federal Election Part.2

By: Charlotte Lever

Part 1: Introduction to topic, context and policies of Liberal, Labor and Greens.

Part 2: In this second half, I’ll be covering One Nation’s policy on asylum seekers, summarising the different policies by each party and provide some resources for you to explore and get involved further.

One Nation

One Nation has arguably the most divisive and controversial policies of any party or candidate in this election when it comes to refugee and asylum seeker policy. The notoriety of the party is due to the fact that since its creation in the early 1990’s, One Nation’s policy has been based around protectionism, nationalism and anti-immigration. In the past, One Nation has argued that Australia is a multicultural failure and all forms of migration, including humanitarian migration, should be drastically reduced.

Here are some of their key policy proposals:

  • One Nation proposes to reduce the humanitarian visas made available each year. They do not say by how much they want to reduce these numbers.

  • One Nation wants to remove Australia from the United Nations Refugee Convention (a piece of international law that sets out the rights of refugees and those seeking asylum) as it is ‘no longer in Australia’s interests’.

  • The party would like to impose a travel ban modelled on US President Trump’s policy. They state that a travel ban on people travelling or migrating to Australia from ‘known extremist countries’ should be put in place. No further detail is given on the party’s website.

Credits: Mashable/Giphy

Credits: Mashable/Giphy

The Medevac Legislation

The recent passing of the ‘Medevac’ legislation has been used by all the major parties to highlight their own policies going into the Federal election.

The Medevac legislation, which became law on 28 February 2019, allows for ill detainees on Manus and Nauru to be evacuated to Australia for treatment. The Coalition strongly opposed the laws, while the Greens and a number of independents voted for it. Labor also voted for the legislation after insisting on a number of amendments.

The Coalition promises to repeal the Medevac law if it secures a victory in next month’s election.

If you’d like to learn more about how the major parties have voted in the past and their policies towards refugees and asylum seekers during the 2016 Federal election, have a look at the Refugee Council of Australia’s Resource here.

The Verdict

Refugee and asylum seeker policy is an extremely thorny topic and one that is not only very complicated, but is often used by the major parties as a political football to capture votes and win elections.

When considering which party best reflects your views heading into this election, it may be useful to ask yourself:

  • Are the topics of border security and human rights mutually exclusive? What policies best meet my expectations of both?

  • Am I comfortable with policies of deterrence that have been shown to have an extremely negative effect on asylum seekers under Australia’s care, if this potentially means less people making a dangerous boat journey to Australia?

A simplified way of thinking about the three major parties and their policies on this issue is the Government on one side, Labor occupying the middle ground and the Greens on the other side.

The Coalition’s approach is based around 3 main policies: mandatory and offshore detention, temporary protection visas and boat turn backs. The logic of these policies is to secure Australia’s borders and reduce the people smuggling trade.

Occupying the middle ground is the Labor party who essentially agree with the Coalition’s policies of deterrence, but aim to balance this with a more globally minded, humanitarian view.

Directly opposite to the Coalition are the Greens, who see the issue as a humanitarian one. They want to radically change the Coalition’s 3 main policies and enact further changes, in an effort to ensure Australia is both acting in a humanitarian way and providing positive outcomes for all asylum seekers who are under Australia’s care.  

The Greens want to make the asylum seeker and refugee process more humanitarian. They aim to get rid of detention centres and temporary protection visas in an effort to ensure Australia is both acting in a humanitarian way and providing positive outcomes for all asylum seekers who are under Australia’s care.  

This election may not be decided on the issue of refugee and asylum seeker policy, but there is little doubt these issues will continue to remain prominent in Australian politics. Debates will continue on whether Australia’s deterrence policy is acceptable and if it meets international legal obligations and human rights norms.

Whoever you vote for in this election, make sure they reflect your views when it comes to policies on refugees and asylum seekers. And if there are no parties that you agree with in their entirety, there are other ways to get your view out there. How about contacting your local Federal member and letting them know how their party could address this issue in a better way? Or how about looking into the various community groups who are involved in the issue and seeing what they have to say?

Infographic about Australia’s refugee Intake. Credits: Refugee Council of Australia, UNHCR, Thomas de mAIZIERE/fACT cHECK

Infographic about Australia’s refugee Intake. Credits: Refugee Council of Australia, UNHCR, Thomas de mAIZIERE/fACT cHECK

Here are some great resources so you can do your own research too:

Timeline showing the history of Australian asylum seeker/refugee policy:

The Messenger podcast –

Australian journalist Michael Green trades voice messages with Abdul Aziz Muhamat, who arrived in Australia by boat in 2013 and has been detained on Manus Island ever since.

The podcast gives an invaluable insight into the experience of seeking asylum and the conditions in the Manus Island detention centre.

ANU’s Policy Forum Pod – The Policy and Politics of Refugees and Asylum Seekers

A deep dive into Australia’s policy responses to refugees and asylum seekers over time, with some very experienced guests from ANU’s faculty.

SBS – A History of Australia’s Offshore Detention Policy

A recent article from SBS that details Australia’s offshore detention policy since the 1990’s.

Robert Manne – ‘Australia’s Uniquely Harsh Asylum Seeker Policy – How Did It Come to This?’.

A thought provoking article on the how’s and why’s of Australian asylum seeker policy from public intellectual Robert Manne.

Factsheets – Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW.

Detailed and easy to read factsheets on everything from international refugee issues to policies applying to asylum seekers both in Australia and in offshore detention centres.

Parliament of Australia, ‘A Comparison of Coalition and Labor Government Asylum Policies Since 2001’.

Does exactly what the title says – gives an extended background into the policies enacted by the two major parties since 2001.

Human rights advocates have been at the forefront of calling for alternate policy around refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. For two examples see:

Amnesty International, ‘A Better Plan: Human Rights-Based Policies for the Protection of Refugees and People Seeing Asylum’.

Australian Human Rights Commission, ‘Pathways to Protection: A Human Rights-Based Response to the Flight of Asylum Seekers by Sea’.

Journalists and advocates have also been at the forefront of reporting on conditions in offshore detention.

The Guardian’s ‘Nauru Files’ are a set of leaked incident reports from the detention centre, filed between 2013 and 2015.

The Kaldor Centre at UNSW has categorised a number of reports into conditions in offshore detention by both Government and civil society groups, which can be accessed here.

Credits: UNHCR

Credits: UNHCR

Who’s Impacted by this?

The potential stakeholders that have an interest in policies surrounding refugees and asylum seekers is almost limitless; it includes various religious denominations and church groups, hundreds of community and advocacy groups and medical and health related peak bodies, the media, among many others. Some of the major ones include:

  • The Government (Coalition)

  • the Labor party

  • the Greens

  • all elected members of Parliament

  • Local and State governments

  • The Australian Human Rights Commission

  • Amnesty International Australia

  • The Refugee Council of Australia

  • Various arms of the United Nations including the UNHCR

  • The Governments of Papua New Guinea and Nauru

  • the citizens of Manus Island, Nauru and Christmas Island

  • the Indonesian government

  • The 915 asylum seekers and refugees in offshore detention on Manus and Nauru

  • the 30,000 asylum seekers on visas currently residing in Australia

Digital rights: what you should know (cause they already do)

This article is brought to you by Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA). (EFA) is a non-profit national organisation that exists to promote and protect digital rights (civil liberties) in Australia.

Want the short version? Check out the digital rights scorecard at the bottom of this article.

Image   Matthew Henry    via Unsplash

Image Matthew Henry via Unsplash

Why you should consider digital rights this election:

Yes, you may think ‘well, how bad can it really be’ or ‘they’ll do what they want anyway’ but we do have power and a right to have our privacy respected. This is one way to uphold the strength of our democracy (this is about your civil rights) and it’s way easier to protect it than to undo damage once it’s done.

Your privacy online, your right not to be tracked, to secure communications, to being forgotten, are issues you can vote on.

Key facts to get you started:

  • This study on Digital Rights in Australia, found that 57% of respondents “were concerned about their privacy being violated by corporations” and 47% “were also concerned about privacy violations by government and other people”.

  • Professor David Vaile, a teacher of cyberspace law at UNSW, says that “Australian data privacy laws are generally weak when compared with those in the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union”.

  • According to the State of Digital Rights report (2018) “About 70 separate pieces of legislation have been introduced since 2001, including mandatory data retention, mass surveillance and intelligence sharing.”

So what is really going on when it comes to your digital rights?

This is just one example of what a lack of these protections can look like:

ICYMI China is using big data and artificial intelligence to fuel their social credit system that is being used to monitor and shape (through incentives and punishment) the behaviour of its citizens.

For example it has been reported that millions of travellers were blocked from buying plane and train tickets due to being classified as “discredited”

Read more: How China Is Using “Social Credit Scores” to Reward and Punish Its Citizens

So, what are your digital rights?

Digital rights are like all human rights but rights but...well, online. That means the rights you have or should have every day carry over to whenever you use your phone, laptop or even when you fill out a form with a company or government agency.

Some of these human rights are the cornerstone of the internet: you have the right to privacy online and that you can move and talk anonymously without government or corporate surveillance (i.e. watching what you do, making a note of it and potentially using it against you in some way).

Sometimes our digital rights are less person-based and more about the entire community. For example:

  • Do you believe you should have more say in your digital rights than a big tech corporation that can invest a lot of money lobbying government?

  • Would you like to be assured that you can walk around your local area without every move being captured by surveillance?

  • Do you assume that basic rights we expect in our everyday lives (like hate speech not being tolerated) should be replicated online?

Digital rights aren’t just about your activity online.. it’s a big ‘Big Brothery’ TBH:

Privacy isn’t just about what happens when you’re alone browsing Instagram; you have a right to privacy in public, but this is under threat by the growing use of mass surveillance.

If you go shopping or to a sports event, your face will likely appear on a CCTV camera. Not a big deal?

Facial recognition software stands to change this.

Would you know if a fashion store was using facial recognition software to target advertising to you?

Something easily done by tracking your in-store movements, is noting which items you showed an interest in, and then sending an email newsletter to your email account a few days later showing those items on sale. If in future these kind of capabilities are deployed, do you believe you should have to opt-in or opt-out of such ‘loyalty program’ targeting? These are the kind of policy questions facial recognition throws up.

Unless it’s regulated effectively, mass surveillance and the data it collects has the potential to undermine democratic freedoms long entrenched in Australian society and culture. If privacy policy is overly balanced in favour of corporate or government interests, you stand to suffer.

Mass surveillance online:

Another form of mass surveillance is created through tracking your online behaviour.

Every time you go online, your internet provider tracks your digital metadata (the data packets your device sends and receives ) and stores it for two years in case the Government requests access. Do you know which government agencies can access this data and for what purposes? More and more government departments and agencies are getting access to your information - places like Centrelink, local councils, police and information gathering departments, right down to the Taxi Directorate (no, really). Check out this list form 2016 to get more of a sense of this.

How does it go from a bit of data to knowing what kinda dog you have or who you might vote for?

Just to be clear, a lot of personal information about you can be inferred from understanding which websites you go to and how much data you transfer to and from those sites. Information you might normally never give away. However, this information about you can be inferred because your online behaviour will be statistically similar to another group of people about whom these things are known. Your voting behaviour, key psychological traits, your pro/anti alt-right position, your creditworthiness, all of this can theoretically be statistically inferred from your digital metadata. Are you okay with that?

In Australia, there’s no “privacy mode” to avoid this. Unless you get a VPN, and we really recommend that you do, you will be tracked.

It’s not a crime to be online, so why are your activities being recorded?  

The laws government are exempt from:

ICYMI the Australian Government are exempt from many privacy laws you may assume apply to them like the Privacy Act and the Spam Act… so, yes, this is why they can randomly text you. This exemptions were justified under the banner of protecting our democracy. You can check out some arguments for and against this here.

Privacy Vs Safety & Security: Where do we draw the line?

In 2018 the government passed what have been described as “controversial” encryption laws.

These laws, AKA the Access and Assistance Bill, basically give authorities like police and security agencies the power to access encrypted data (e.g. your whatsapp messages).

The government argues that these laws will enable them to combat “terrorism, organised crime and child predators”.

Digital rights agencies & cyber security experts are concerned that the laws, which were rushed through parliament, are problematic because “it's not possible to create a "backdoor" decryption that would safely target just one person”. In other words, it opens up the threat for people to take advantage of this and access a large amount of data.

At the time this happened, the president of The Law Council of Australia remarked “We now have a situation where unprecedented powers to access encrypted communications are now law, even though parliament knows serious problems exist”.

A flow-on effect of the laws is the threat that startup tech companies may feel compelled to move operations offshore; potentially undermining the potential of emerging industries (and future jobs) for Australians. “We must ensure that the Australian technology industry is not being held back by unnecessary legislation ,” said Electronic Frontiers Australia Chair Lyndsey Jackson.

Realistically, this topic requires its own article but now you know a bit about why these laws might be discussed in the election.

where do companies fall into this?

The key thing to know here, is that no matter what kind of government tracking might exist on your online or real-world behaviour, it is nowhere near as comprehensive or all encompassing as how companies like Facebook and Google track you. The government doesn’t know where you are right now, Google and Facebook do. The Government doesn’t have all of your private images on their cloud storage, Google and Facebook do. Your private messages, your emails, your search history - the government will never have anything like those quantities of data on you. But the government can regulate the companies that do.

And that is why you should vote for a party that cares about your digital privacy.

What can you do this election?

Vote for your digital rights.

Digital Rights Watch has created a scorecard that provides an overview of what the parties (in their view - of course you should make up your own mind and check out what each party proposes) will do for your digital rights.

Have a look to see who matches what you want most and make your voice heard. Click here to learn more about their methodology.


Refugee and Asylum Seeker Policy in the Federal Election Part.1

The policies surrounding refugees, asylum seekers and border protection have been a salient issue in Australian politics since the early 2000’s. The history of political responses to these issues is confusing, complicated and is often emotionally charged. Because of this, it is often hard to determine what action each major party is proposing to take, and why. So to help you get a handle on these issues, I’ve summarised what the major parties are proposing going into the election.

Read More

Ping pong and politics: why every vote counts

By Richard Schonell. April 19th 2016.

the hilarity

Yes Johnathan - the genius of it all boggles our mind too.  Source:

Yes Johnathan - the genius of it all boggles our mind too. Source:

Queensland’s local government elections held a month ago revealed two things about the state of #auspol: one, it can be hilarious, and two, every vote counts.

Lets start with the funny.

Here at Y Vote we definitely don’t condone informal voting, however we never shy away from applauding good showmanship.

One elector from Townsville demonstrated flashes of brilliance when he attempted to vote for Johnathan Thurston (aka the king of North Queensland) even though he wasn’t on the ballot paper, inadvertently confirmed that every stereotype about Queenslanders are true.

Not to be out done, the good people of Toowoomba got on board the #Kanyeforpresident train and voted for Yeezus. 

But the funniest thing to go down by far was the drawing of a ping pong ball from a bucket to resolve a dead heat between two councilors from Croydon shire.

Yep. That's right, they used ping pong balls to decide the outcome of an election.  

What’s even funnier is just how prepared Queensland was for such a contingency.

Under the Queensland Local Government Electoral Act 2011, which sets out the laws that all local government elections must abide by, the returning officer (the person responsible for counting the vote) is required to draw a marble or something similar from an ‘opaque container’ in the event of a tie.

Feel free to check out section 97, subsection 8 if you don’t believe me. 

Right there in black and white. QLD has surely lost its marbles... or other similar things.

Right there in black and white. QLD has surely lost its marbles... or other similar things.

Hilarious as it is, the fact that we have laws like this underscores just how close elections have been in the past and will continue to be in the future.

While it isn’t all that surprising that elections are tight in places like Croydon Shire, which has a tiny voting population of just 195, we still see results that come down to the wire in much larger electorates.

The 2013 federal election for the seat of Fairfax was a case in point.

Even though Fairfax has a voting population of more than 90,000 people, the result came down to a margin of seven votes after preferences were fully distributed. Following a recount, Clive Palmer managed to win by just 27 votes – and this is what the country has been stuck with ever since.

every vote counts

However, there is nothing particularly unusual about tight results.

Is this similar enough to marbles?

Is this similar enough to marbles?

In Australia’s short history we have had a number of elections decided by 10 votes or less. Probably the most exciting of all was the federal election for the seat of Ballarat in 1919, which saw Edwin Kerby defeat the sitting member Charles McGrath by a single vote.

But elections don’t have to be anywhere near that dramatic for a small number of determined voters to have a major impact, as the Queensland Local Government elections demonstrated.

One of the most interesting results on the day was the election of Greens councilor Jonathan Sri in the Gabba Ward.

This marked the first time a Greens representative has ever secured a majority of votes in any election for any level of government in Queensland. What made this result all the more remarkable is that the Gabba has been a Labor stronghold for as long as it has existed. Labor needed a 14% swing against it to lose, which is exactly what happened. 

In the end, the Liberal-National party candidate actually won the most primary votes, with the Greens candidate winning on preferences after securing 6,823 votes compared to Labor’s 6,457 – a difference of just 366 votes.

This just goes to show that there is no such thing as a safe seat if the voters really want change. 

Got a topic or person you'd like to see interviewed? Shoot us an email and we'll see what we can do!