Malcolm Turnbull has announced his party will readopt a form of temporary protection visas for refugees who arrive in boats. Quite why refugees who arrive in planes and later claim asylum get treated differently was never explained in the past and remains unexplained now.

Even more inexplicable is why the temporary protection visa (TPV) would be adopted when all the evidence unequivocally showed it was a complete failure on every level, as Bernard Keane notes. Boat arrivals increased dramatically after it was introduced in 1999.  This included a dramatic rise in woman and children on the boats.  The human harm done to many refugees on TPVs is well documented.  The barriers placed in the way of effective resettlement for people who were lawful residents in our community were also obvious and counter-productive.

Presumably the only measure in which TPVs could be seen to have been ‘successful’ was politically, so presumably that is Malcolm Turnbull’s motivation. But it still a sad day when a blatantly ineffective measure is wilfully adopted purely for political appearances. (Laudably, Liberals Petro Georgiou and Judith Troeth have already spoken out against the move)

As both Greg Sheridan and Peter Mares recently pointed out, the only measure of the previous government’s which finally stopped the boats was pushing the boats back to Indonesia. This was also very dangerous – upping the ante for desperate people on boats – and a blatant breach of the Refugee Convention, as it clearly pushed refugees back into situations where they had no security against being returned to danger. I suppose we should be grateful the ‘Liberals’ are not proposing that policy again – at least not yet.

It would be nice to see the Liberals focus on the most obvious cause – the continuing brutality of the Sri Lankan government. Amanda Hodge has filed some quality pieces from the region of late, including this latest one noting that the Sri Lankan Navy has been blocking boats of Tamils trying to get to India. But this Navy, which was able to effectively contain Tamil Tiger weapons smugglers, obviously doesn’t mind if the Tamils are fleeing further afield.

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