Sometimes we don’t get to decide who comes to this country

This week Scott Morrison invoked John Howard’s famous dictum “We will decide who comes to this country and the manner in which they come.” We should decide whether to turn back boats filled with asylum seekers and we should decide who gets a visa granting them the right to enter and live in Australia.

The right to determine who enters your country and under what conditions is one of the fundamental assertions of national sovereignty, and 99.9% of the time it does and should hold true. There is one occasion it doesn’t and shouldn’t: when people are fleeing persecution. International law provides that when a person is fleeing persecution they have a right to show up to any country and seek protection, and once satisfied their claim is genuine, the receiving country should provide protection.

There is a simple reason for this provision: without it people get killed. This is the extreme circumstance that the international community has decided trumps national sovereignty. And Australia is part of that international community and a signatory to the conventions that describe these principles.

To insist that we welcome those fleeing persecution is not ceding our sovereignty to Geneva (i.e. the UN) as Mr Morrison suggests but a recognition that we have already agreed there are rare circumstances in which we don’t and shouldn’t get to decide who comes to our country and the circumstances under which they come.


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Ray Zimmer
Ray Zimmer
9 years ago

And to refuse sanctuary to people fleeing persecution is unaustralian. They more than anyone deserve a fair go.

Sharon Buxton
Sharon Buxton
9 years ago

I’m not sure that we should have that much say all the time. We belong to Australia – we are it’s citizens not the other way around. We don’t own this country, it owns us. I know this way too simplistic, but I hate the fact that wealthy people (by world standards) believe they have an inherent right to protect their wealth by refusing entry to people who may not be able to enhance an already wealthy country’s financial or economic position and think giving $40 a month is the answer to an enormous selfish problem of the western world.… Read more »

9 years ago

We have a duty of care to democracy, to ensure that the people have well informed with factually based options on which to make their decisions. Truth is at the core of Democracy. Some participants in our recent election have chosen to divide inflame and misinform, thereby failing in their duty of care towards democracy through acts or omissions that could reasonably be seen likely to damage the very fabric of our democratic institutions. A fog of lies and confusion turned many away from a dreary mess of slogans and exhortations. To such an extent, that 1 million voters did… Read more »

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