Malcolm Fraser's response to 'commercial' refugee voyages
Place of Publication
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Psychology and Social Science
Australia's former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was not the great humanitarian of Australian refugee policy many people have claimed in recent years. Such claims are held especially when painting a contrast with the hardline policies implemented by Prime Minister John Howard from 2001 onwards. Although Fraser achieved many things around the intake of Indo-Chinese refugees following the fall of Saigon, the combination of his “boat-holding policy”, his deterrent international broadcast messages about “queue jumpers” and his refusal to deal with five huge vessels sailing from Vietnam show that in relation to “boat arrivals” Fraser was similar to all Prime Ministers that came after him, hoping that “the boats would stop”. Fraser not only refused to deal with these five huge vessels, even after the UN stated that the passengers should be treated as refugees, he held them up as examples of “trafficking” when his “people smuggling laws” were presented, debated and passed in Parliament during 1980. Moreover, the policy patterns and directions set in place from 1978 to 1980, although they may well have been drafted by Australian immigration officials, confirmed the directions firmly maintained under successive governments from Fraser onwards. If Fraser would have employed a different response around immigration department initiatives, Australians may now well react very differently every time an asylum seeker boat arrives on their horizon.