In a speech overnight in London that is getting a lot of attention in the media back home in Australia, former prime minister Tony Abbott has told UK Conservative Party luminaries that Europe needs to get much tougher on border protection. 'Misguided altruism' is 'leading much of Europe into catastrophic error', he said. 'No country or continent can open its borders to all comers without fundamentally weakening itself'.

Why is Abbott making an argument about Europe's refugee crisis? Because his experience as PM, and Australia's experience with the refugee problem, is unique: 'while prime minister, I was loath to give public advice to other countries whose situations are different; but...because Australia is the only country that has successfully defeated (people smuggling)...our experience should be studied.'

But how applicable is the Australian example? Lowy Institute Non-Resident Fellow Khlaid Koser addressed this issue in April ('What can Europe Learn From Australia About Stopping the Boats?'):

In at least three ways, the EU can learn from Australia's efforts to stop the boats.

The first lesson is resolve. Australia's asylum policy, in my opinion and that of many others, pushes legal and ethical boundaries. But it is at least (and at last) consistent and predictable. This is an important message to convey to would-be migrants and the smugglers who transport them. At the very least the EU should ensure that its internal regulation on asylum, the Dublin Convention, is implemented properly.

Second, Australia's quota for resettling refugees should be an embarrassment to the EU. Australia resettles more refugees than the entire EU area of over 500 million people. Resettlement may not satisfy the growing demand for entry into the richer countries, and probably would not reduce the number of people seeking asylum in Europe, but at least it demonstrates solidarity with some of the poorer countries of the world which continue to shoulder the burden of the global refugee crisis.

Third, Australia's policy is based on research, not guesswork. It was striking that one of the 22 recommendations made by the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers in Australia was to conduct further research, and the Government has taken this recommendation seriously. This has resulted, for example, in a far more thoughtful and effective approach to combating migrant smuggling than simply apprehending and penalising operatives, as currently proposed by the EU.

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