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Mr Trumble’s dumb deal

The Obama-Turnbull ‘refugee’ swap was a disastrous idea

11 February 2017

9:00 AM

11 February 2017

9:00 AM

President Trump was right. It was a ‘dumb deal’, dumb for both Australia and the United States. First, it was only when it became obvious that Donald Trump, against the wishes and the very confident predictions of the elites would become President, that Malcolm Turnbull and Barack Hussein Obama decided to present him with a very sly and improper fait accompli. This was to reveal the secret deal they made in September when they expected a smooth transition to Mrs Clinton. So why was it suppressed until after the election? Was it because they feared it could become an election liability for her?

Just as they failed even to concede the possibility that Trump could triumph, the commentariat are now misinterpreting the Trump-Turnbull telephone conversation, aided by amateur psychology and a denial of Obama’s transgressions. But as Greg Sheridan points out, when Obama used the occasion of the 2014 Brisbane G20 to launch an unprecedented, undiplomatic, unfriendly and ‘oafishly rude’ public political attack on Tony Abbott, without even the courtesy of advising Abbott, this grossness was ignored by the commentariat. The difference was Obama is the elites’ favourite son.

Once they recovered from their absolute astonishment that Trump would be President, Obama and Turnbull decided to reveal their secret deal. Obama was no doubt delighted to do so. Instead of treating the ‘lame-duck’ time between the election and the inauguration as a caretaker period, Obama did everything he could to taint, spoil, undermine and even block as much as he could of his despised successor’s mandate. Forgetting what he had done when he wanted to be re-elected, Obama even pulled the rug under Israel at the UN.

Then he tried to manufacture a major diplomatic incident with Russia, granted $500 million to a UN climate fund, tried to unblock $220 million for the Palestinians in defiance of Congress, ordered Cuban refugees be sent back to the communist murderers and torturers in Havana and banned offshore drilling. Despite the fact that almost one in three of those released from Guantanamo Bay resume their terrorist activities, Obama was still trying to transfer prisoners from there only days before Trump’s inauguration.

Knowing all this, and Trump’s very clear mandate to control illegal and dangerous immigration, Turnbull still unwisely pushed for the Manus/Nauru deal not only to be published, but that the new President be required to honour it. Concern about future relations, if not propriety, demanded at the very least he wait for Trump to consider something which had been hidden from him during the election debate. Above all, why taint relations with the new administration knowing this would be seen as undermining the President’s clearly enunciated policy for which he obviously has a mandate?

The second reason why this is a dumb deal is that when President Trump surprised the elites − again− and immediately set about putting his agenda into effect, a wise prime minister would have realised the game was up, and offered the President time to consider the deal afresh. This would have allowed them to talk about matters of fundamental importance, and not about this folly. Instead, it was presented as the most important issue in the world, which it clearly is not. An exasperated President ended the call early and consequently nothing else was discussed.

Third, this is an asylum seeker swap, although both Obama and Turnbull pretend it isn’t. In return, we are to accept asylum seekers from some of the most dangerous parts of Latin America. The brutal crime wave in Melbourne is just the latest example of how poorly our politicians are in managing refugee immigration. As with the mess that Malcolm Fraser’s notorious Lebanese concession created, it’s clear most politicians cannot be trusted on this.

Fourth, this deal goes directly against the basic principle that governments must never incentivise people smuggling. The most obvious way to do this is to let their clients land in Australia, as the Rudd and Gillard governments so foolishly did. Then opposition leader, Tony Abbott took to the 2013 election a new and firm policy of protecting the borders, even turning back the boats. The elites were unanimous in declaring this impossible and likely to lead to hostilities with Indonesia. But just as John Howard did, Abbott, almost alone in the West, succeeded superbly.

If letting illegal immigrants into Australia will revive people smuggling, so obviously will sending them to the United States. But against all commonsense, the Turnbull government has embarked on this madness. The people smugglers will point to this, telling their clients Australia will do similar deals with other first world countries.

Little wonder then that the British and Americans have voted for the principle that immigration must first be consistent with the welfare and security of the people of the country. As for Manus and Nauru, where the people smuggler clients are still subsidised at enormous cost and are free to come and go, there are no refugees, unless two principles apply.These are that anybody who claims to be a refugee is a refugee and that ‘Once a refugee always a refugee’.

Just consider the facts. Instead of queuing as legal immigrants, they were delivered by criminals, Indonesian-based people smugglers. They arrived on commercial flights and as tourists to Indonesia, a safe country where they were not persecuted. At this point then, they had surely lost their status as refugees. Many of them have since ‘lost’ their passports; an indication that they are prepared to hide and even misrepresent their status and perhaps their origin to the Australian authorities. It is unlikely that those who have ‘lost’ their passports will pass the ‘extreme vetting’ that the American administration wisely indicates will be applied. Will they perhaps then miraculously ‘find’ their passports?

Illegal self-selected immigration requires firm action by government, whatever the elites or the various national and international human rights bureaucrats and the commentariat may say. Indulging in swaps to move the problem around is no solution. It is infantile.

As Tony Abbott has demonstrated, firmness works.

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