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Monday 17 Dec 2018 | 14:38 | SYDNEY
Monday 17 Dec 2018 | 14:38 | SYDNEY

Incoming government brief: People-smuggling



13 September 2013 11:45

It looks like the incoming government has an early foreign policy problem to deal with, given Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa's unusually sharp language on the Coalition's asylum seeker policy.

But the Indonesian Foreign Minister also gave the new government an opportunity. The ABC reports him as saying that 'Indonesia would have to differentiate between the political campaign Mr Abbott was trying to win and what the reality would be once he is sworn in.'

Now, Abbott clearly can't be seen to break faith with Australian voters over this issue, but Natalegawa is giving the Coalition a chance to adopt the kind of posture Lowy Institute Fellow Khalid Koser recommends in his briefing to the incoming government:

If we have learned nothing else from the last few years, it is that this is a complex problem that defies easy solutions.  And now the election is won, the new government has an opportunity to create the breathing-space it needs to get it right.  This is the time for measured policy-making not knee-jerk political posturing...

...People-smuggling is a transnational phenomenon that cannot be managed on a unilateral basis. Equally it is too insignificant an issue to risk jeopardizing economic or trade or other bilateral, regional, or global partnerships. Development assistance should aim for grander goals than reducing immigration or facilitating returns.  Regional neighbours are potential trading partners, not just transit countries.  Engage the international community to provide a roadmap rather than a roadblock.

People-smuggling is a global scourge, and should not be an Australian obsession.  There are lessons to learn from approaches adopted elsewhere in the world. Global cooperation serves Australian national interests. Australia should contribute to multilateral efforts to stem people-smuggling. The goal of the government should not be limited to reducing irregular maritime arrivals to Australia; it should be to help undermine the global crime of people-smuggling.

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