A possie in Aussie

February 17, 2010

Refugees prepared to risk death at sea: Fraser’s Cabinet documents

Filed under: Uncategorized — Nayano @ 1:01 pm

The Cabinet records of the Fraser government of 1979 have been released, and throw an interesting light on matters of asylum seekers in Australia.

Some documents relate to the boatloads of asylum seekers from Vietnam that were arriving in Australian waters at the time.

The writer of Memorandum 380, Indo-Chinese refugees [A12390, 380] shows astonishing prescience:

“This new situation has all the ingredients for one of the most controversial and divisive issues in Australia’s history. It could well become the dominant political issue during the remainder of the century.”


The writer identified the following issues to be addressed:

  • How many refugees could Australia accept without creating serious long-term social and economic problems and disruption?
  • How to maintain Australia’s international reputation and standing
  • How to maintain and be seen to maintain control over the entry of people to Australia
  • How to avoid coming to be seen as a natural or inevitable destination
  • And how to do all of the above without producing conflict with countries of transit

As a possible ‘answer’ to the issues, several options are proposed, including ‘Option “D”: deterring arrivals. The assessment of this option?

‘Given the element of compulsion and the fact that Vietnamese domestic policies have made refugees prepared to risk death at sea rather than to remain in Vietnam, this approach is unlikely to be effective.’


There is nothing new under the sun, nor in the sea, it seems.

Some of Australia's earliest boat people


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